Whenever Julie Hermann speaks, the Big Ten office listens, intently.
Just in case the conference needs to get into damage-control spin mode.
The Rutgers athletic director has been nothing short of a lightning rod whenever she's in the news. Hermann has been on the job barely a year, and she's already been involved in a career's worth of controversies. This isn't exactly what the Big Ten needs as Rutgers is set to join the conference, along with Maryland, on July 1.
Hermann's latest public statement is at least only amusing in its absurdity.
"What I can promise you, one of the things we're working on most, is when you come see us at ball games, starting with High Point Solutions Stadium, you have a world-class, Disney World experience," Hermann told the fans during a facilities tour last week. "That's important to us."
Perhaps she's taken up residence in Fantasyland® because, if anything, High Point Solutions Stadium will be the site of countless massacres for some time to come. In 2014, the Big Ten will roll out the red carpet for the Scarlet Knights by sending Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin to Piscataway, New Jersey.
To be sure, Rutgers and Maryland were not invited to the B1G based on their athletic prowess in any sport, least of all football. It was a play for TV eyeballs by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who wants to plant his conference's flag in two major metro areas on the heavily populated Eastern Seaboard.
Returning to reality, away from the Happiest Place on Earth, neither Rutgers nor Maryland should expect to be much of a factor in the Big Ten championship race in the near future. In fact, with both teams assigned to the East Division in the realigned B1G, they figure to be cannon fodder for Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and soon-to-be unshackled Penn State.
|Rutgers/Maryland Big Ten Schedules (2014-15)|
|Penn State||@ Penn State||@ Indiana||Michigan|
|Michigan||Michigan State||Ohio State||@ Ohio State|
|@ Ohio State||@Indiana||Iowa||Penn State*|
|@ Nebraska||Ohio State||@ Wisconsin||@ Iowa|
|Wisconsin||@ Wisconsin||@ Penn State||Wisconsin|
|Indiana||@ Michigan||Michigan State||@ Michigan State|
|@ Michigan State||Nebraska||@ Michigan||Indiana|
|@ Maryland||Maryland||Rutgers||@ Rutgers|
|* at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore|
Coming off a 6-7 season in the watered-down American Athletic Conference, Rutgers is in no position to challenge for the division title, never mind the Big Ten championship. And it remains to be seen if its inclusion in a major conference will allow Rutgers to keep more in-state recruits or actually make them more susceptible to poaching by the B1G powerhouses.
Maryland arguably is in worse shape than even Rutgers, which at least went to eight bowl games over the last nine seasons. The Terrapins have not had a winning record in the ACC since 2010, after the surprise firing of Ralph Friedgen (who, coincidentally, was just hired by Kyle Flood to be Rutgers' offensive coordinator this offseason).
So neither team should expect much from their Big Ten football experience, other than opening the vaults to take in a boatload of cash. For now, they're just along for the ride.
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