G’day mates and welcome to the first full day of the new Big Ten. As everyone now knows, the Big Ten officially announced that Maryland and Rutgers will be joining in the conference in the latest round of conference expansion. Pretty much ever sports media outlet in the country has weighed in on these announcement, OHD was no exception as Vico laid out his view on Monday, and the majority of the opinions have been critical of these additions for the main reason that neither of the schools are big name athletic powerhouses.
Personally I am split in terms of my opinion on this expansion. I had actually liked the idea of adding Maryland since the first round of expansion talks but I am not exactly thrilled with Rutgers; I had actually hoped that if this happened the other school that would be added would be Boston College. Now before people accuse me of being some Jim Delany flunky or something, I will state that I am a traditionalist and would have preferred that none of this expansion and had happened and we had stuck with the conferences as they were. However the reality of the situation is that college sports have changed, not really for the better, and conference expansion was an inevitability.
As many people have stated there are a lot of negatives associated with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers. The biggest concern is that neither of these teams are marquee names and neither draws huge crowds to their games. It is suspected that the Big Ten made this move in large part to try and break into the DC and New York City markets but neither Maryland or Rutgers have huge followings in those cities and they are considered to primarily be professional sports towns.
There are however many positives of adding these times, starting with academics. While most people assume that Big Ten expansion is based solely on athletics but that isn’t true, conference expansion must be approved by the university presidents and you can be sure that they are going to take academics into consideration since Big Ten membership also includes membership in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation. The CIC Is made up of Big Ten members and the University of Chicago, which used to be a member of what became known as the Big Ten before they dropped varsity sports. The CIC is dedicated to increasing research and academic collaboration between its member schools and one has to only look at the major growth in Penn State’s research and grad school programs since joining to see the benefit of being part of the group. Maryland and Rutgers are both very good academic schools; the most recent US News rankings have Maryland tied for 58th and Rutgers at 68th in the country, OSU is ranked 56th. These two schools fall solidly in the middle of the Big Ten pack and adding them will increase the research and education opportunities available through the CIC. Additionally this move adds two more states whose Congressional delegations will be advocating for federal research dollars to go to schools that are part of the CIC, this can only do good things.
Maryland and Rutgers will also help strengthen many of the non-revenue sports in the Big Ten. Both schools have very good women’s basketball programs, though I am not a fan of the overly physical nature of Rutger’s style of play. The addition of these two schools and the recent addition of Nebraska have gone a long way toward improving the Big Ten in this sport and once Maryland and Rutgers begin conference play the Big Ten will likely be the deepest women’s basketball conference in the country. Maryland also brings good programs in women’s field hockey, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, and wrestling and okay programs in baseball and softball. Rutgers also adds a strong wrestling program, making Big Ten wrestling even more ridiculously good; the current Big Ten has 10 teams ranked in the top 25.
Of course none of those sports pay the bills and while Maryland brings a pretty good men’s basketball program, football is the money maker and neither Maryland or Rutgers are huge names. Rutgers is a plucky little team that has really exploded onto the national scene in the last decade but that has been in the Big East which hasn’t exactly been viewed as a top conference. Still, when one looks at what Rutgers has done in the past decade and how far they’ve come, it would be foolish to assume that they can’t continue that growth once they get the benefits of being in the Big Ten, both in terms of money and exposure. Maryland has been a rather stagnant football program but they have a huge upside. There are a large number of good football recruits in eastern-Pennsylvannia, Maryland, and northern Virginia and joining the Big Ten will open up more recruiting for the Terrapins. More importantly, Maryland has an alum who is the head of Under Armour and who is willing to donate money, look at what Nike money did to Oregon, that could be Maryland in the future.
It is weird thinking about Maryland and Rutgers as members of the Big Ten and a lot of people have said this was a desperate move on the part of the conference. I actually am okay with it and I think if we look back in a decade or so we will see that it has worked out for the better, now we just need to get those two schools to improve the marching bands.
Huge Weekend for Volleyball
The #15 Ohio State women’s volleyball team hit the road this weekend for a pair of important Big Ten games. On Friday night the Buckeyes visited #21 Purdue who beat OSU 3-1 in Columbus a month ago. Purdue opened set one strong, jumping to a 6-2 lead and forcing an Ohio State timeout. The Buckeyes slowly chipped away at the deficit before tying the game at 14. OSU kept the momentum, going on a 7 to 3 run that gave them all the momentum as the cruised to a 25-19 first set win. Purdue once again jumped out to an early lead in set 2 only to see Ohio State rally and take the lead. The Buckeyes looked to have the set, up 24-19 but the Boilermakers scored 5 straight to tie the game and force extra points. Despite Purdue having all the momentum, OSU responded and pulled out a 29-27 set win. After the intermission it was all Ohio State as the Buckeyes rolled over Purdue 25-11 in set three to complete the sweep. Senior Mari Hole had her 16th double-double of the year with 17 kills and 10 digs. Junior Kaitlyn Leary added 14 kills while fellow junior Davionna DiSalvatore led the team with 11 digs.
On Saturday the Buckeyes were in Bloomington to take on Indiana. OSU looked like they were headed for another sweep as they took the first two sets 25-18 and 25-21. The Hoosiers had other ideas and pulled out a win in a back-and-forth set three, 28-26. Set four was another back-and-forth affair that saw 11 ties and 4 lead changes but Ohio State managed to take the set 25-23 for the 3-1 match victory. Mari Hole earned herself a place in Buckeye history by becoming the 20th OSU player to record 1,000 kills in her career. Hole transferred from UCLA after her sophomore season and needed less than two years to reach the 1k mark, becoming the third fastest Buckeye to hit that mark.
This was perhaps the best road weekend of the season for Ohio State as they dominated a ranked Purdue team that had handed them an embarrassing loss in Columbus a few weeks ago; OSU may have been ranked higher but sweeping a ranked Big Ten team on the road is always an impressive accomplishment. The Buckeyes did a good job of keeping focus on Saturday against a lesser opponent and while another sweep would have been nice, a 3-1 road win is more than acceptable. The pollsters agreed that this was a good weekend and rewarded the Buckeyes by moving them up to 14th in the polls. OSU closes the regular season with a trip to top ranked Penn State on Wednesday and then gets the anti-Michigan weekend going by hosting the Wolverines on Friday on senior night.
Women’s Hockey Visits the Schott
After a week off, the #8 Ohio State women’s hockey team got in on the anti-Wisconsin action as they hosted the Badgers for a big weekend series. While this was a home game for the Buckeyes, it was not played in the familiar confines of the OSU Ice Arena, rather the team traveled across the Olentangy to play in the Schott for the first time ever.
Friday night’s game got off to a slow start as neither team managed to score in the first period. Wisconsin finally go things going with a goal early in the second period but Ohio State answered only a minute later. The Buckeyes then took a 2-1 lead midway through the period but the Badgers tied it up a couple minutes later with a goal on a penalty shot. Wisconsin retook the lead for good with just four minutes remaining in the third period thanks to a short handed goal and an empty netter in the closing minute to seal the 4-2 upset.
Ohio State got off to a faster start as sophomore Taylor Kuehl scored a goal midway through the first period. Kuehl scored again midway through the second period, her 11th of the season. Another Buckeye goal midway through the third put OSU up 3-0, Wisconsin would score on a power play later in the third but it was too late to matter as Ohio State came away with the 3-1 victory.
Missing out on the series sweep was disappointing but OSU did a good job rebounding from a tough Friday loss to put on an impressive Saturday performance and come away with the victory. Splitting the series was good enough to keep the Buckeyes at 8th place in the polls as they prepare for this weekend’s series at Princeton.