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Maryland Joins Big Ten

Terrapins Ready for New Rivalries
For my visiting girlfriend -- a Connecticut native with a master's degree from Maryland who accompanied me to the Michigan-Iowa game -- the hour-long discussion of Leaders, Legends, Rose Bowls and The Game was decidedly foreign. But for my family -- filled with graduates of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern -- it was just another Saturday night during the greatest time of the year.

Big Ten football was an obsession growing up. My elementary school had "Green & White Fridays" -- a weekly celebration of Sparty that I rebelled against by wearing a Jalen Rose practice jersey or any other maize-and-blue article of clothing I could find. People cared about the Lions, Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings in my hometown, but Lansing-area residents obsessed over Michigan State sports.

The same obsession exists in Ann Arbor, where I spent my college years working in the sports department of the student-run radio station and writing about the Wolverines for a magazine and Rivals.com-owned website. When Michigan won a big football game, State, South U. and Main streets were electric. A big loss, and Ann Arbor's busiest business districts became ghost towns.

I haven't spent a ton of time in College Park since moving to Baltimore more than five years ago, but I get the sense that the environment there is very different than what I grew up with in Michigan. But I think that could begin to change once Maryland's move to the Big Ten becomes official in July 2014. Having six pro teams less than 40 minutes away from campus will probably prevent College Park from operating like Iowa City or Champaign or Lincoln, but I could see the campus -- with more bars and restaurants added -- becoming the Evanston of the East.

My advice to Maryland fans is to take as many Big Ten road trips as possible. Witness the insanity that is Madison (my buddy Chris Korman, a Sun sports business reporter and a former Indiana and Penn State beat writer, says it's the best Big Ten town). Enjoy the fratastic environment of East Lansing on a fall Saturday night. Make the three-and-half-hour drive north to State College or the 11-hour trip west to Bloomington to see two of the most picturesque college campuses in the country. Feel the palpable hostility and listen to a nonstop barrage of F-bombs that come with a visit to Columbus (though you may have a different experience at OSU if you're not wearing maize and blue). Or -- bias alert! -- enjoy a weekend of perfection in Ann Arbor.

The Big Ten is a different animal than the ACC, and I'm sure it will take Maryland fans some getting used to. But what Terps fans will miss in 60 years of ACC tradition will be made up for in new rivalries with schools Maryland probably has more in common with than the Dukes, Wakes and Miamis of the world. Instead of huddling around a laptop, you'll get to watch almost every football and basketball game on Big Ten Network. Yes, Maryland is using the Big Ten for financial security, and the Big Ten is using Maryland for geography and TV money. This is the reality of college sports today. But can you really be upset with joining a league that will allow you to watch more games on TV and, thanks to better finances and more exposure, potentially raise the profile of your entire athletic department?

So welcome to the Big Ten, Maryland fans. I hope you're ready for a new college sports experience.
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