Penn State: Nittany Lions Ready to Welcome Maryland to the Big Ten as a Rival

James Williams@WordmandcAnalyst IIIMarch 4, 2013

Are the Maryland fans ready for Penn State?
Are the Maryland fans ready for Penn State?Patrick Smith/Getty Images

My colleague at The Washington Examiner and good friend Rick Snider wrote a passionate and wonderful column about the end of the Maryland-Duke rivalry. I have no doubt Maryland will miss Duke in basketball but that was a one-sided rivalry.

Duke's rival is North Carolina and while the Blue Devils played some games over the years against the Terps that were classic battles, it was never a real rivalry.  

In the 20 years that I have lived in the Washington, D.C. area, I have not seen a true rival of the University of Maryland. Don't get me wrong, the school has passionate fans and alumni, but there is not one member of the ACC that is their bitter rival—a school that lives to beat Maryland every time the two sides face each other in any sport.  

To me, a true rival challenges you in all sports, both men's and women's, from football to field hockey.

I come from the University of Florida, where beating the University of Georgia in everything from football to intramural Frisbee means something.

So can Maryland find that rival in the Big Ten?

Well, just about 200 miles north of College Park, the folks in State College, Pa., home of Penn State, have one of the most successful athletic programs in the nation. Nittany Lions fans are ready to welcome Maryland to the Big Ten in 2014 as possible long-term rivals.

Steve Jones is the play-by-play voice of Penn State football and men's basketball. We talked about the possibility of a Penn State-Maryland rivalry.


JW: Is Penn State excited about the addition of Maryland?

Jones: When Maryland and Rutgers were added to the Big Ten, this is exactly what both the conference and Penn State wanted—a chance to have geographic rivals. Maryland makes the most most sense as Penn State's rival as I see it.

We share a common border that goes almost from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. The bitterest rivalries, like Ohio State-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma and Alabama-Auburn are more intense because the fanbases are close to each other. I think Maryland fits well in the Big Ten, and starting up a rivalry with Penn State will take some time, but I am betting it won’t take too long once we start playing each other in 2014.

We do have a history as Penn State and Maryland did face each other for the first time 1917 and they played on and off until 1994, mostly in football, but times have changed and the new chapter is about to begin. We will be members together in the Big Ten, and that will make each time we play more meaningful.  


JW: Why will the rivalry develop quickly?

Jones: Let’s start with the fact that over 32,000 active Penn State alumni live in the Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia area. There is a very good possibility that in some families maybe the husband went to Penn State and the wife attended Maryland that could make for an instant rivalry.

We will be in the same division, so there will be home-and-home games in all sports. Add to that on almost every roster of both the men's and women's teams in all sports at Penn State, we have at least one, if not more, players from Northern Virginia, Washington and Maryland.  

Let’s just say it’s is a very good start when you have fans in Maryland’s area cheering for the Lions on campus in College Park at sporting events against the Terps. No doubt that is what grows a great rivalry, fans cheering for the visiting team in your arena. 

In November 2010, we drew almost 80,000 to a football game against Indiana at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland just a few miles from College Park. Imagine what it will be like when we face Maryland?  

Penn State has one of the most passionate and best fanbases in all of college sports and when attending a Lions' road game in any sport that is only two-to-four hours away, our fans will travel in good numbers.      


JW: Will the existing professional rivalries help move things along?

Jones: It won’t hurt. I mean you have the Capitals, Nationals, Redskins, Ravens, Wizards and D.C. United all with bitter rivals with their pro counterparts in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia so how hard do you think will it be to add Penn State to that list?     


JW: How does the Big Ten Network figure in this rivalry?

Jones: Well the network is going to give Maryland fans a real history lesson on the conference and that is always good. The network does a great job of covering both football and basketball, giving the fans plenty of great information on all the teams in the Big Ten.

But another key point is they will also broadcast a number of Olympic sports that may not get as big an exposure as they should. So fans will have a greater access to more sports and can see the Terps and the Lions playing against each other in women’s volleyball or men’s lacrosse, allowing the entire conference to watch both our programs as we begin to form that rivalry.  

So as I said, the rivalry between Penn State and Maryland may take some time, but I really feel that once we are facing each other as members of the Big Ten, things will get interesting fast.  

All quotes in this story were obtained first hand in a phone conversation with Mr. Jones.