While the 10th-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team has strong ties to the ACC as one of two member schools to win a national championship, the announcement on Monday that the Terrapins would be joining the Big Ten in 2014 means a homecoming of sorts for Coach Brenda Frese.
Frese was named national coach of the year at Minnesota in 2001-02, when she directed one of the more dramatic turnarounds in the history of the sport. In Frese’s first season, the Gophers went 22-8 to set what was then a program record record for wins, rose to No. 14 in the rankings (at the time was the highest in school history) and finished 11-5 in the Big Ten, one season after winning all of one conference game.
Frese left Minnesota after one season for Maryland and has guided the Terrapins to a national championship in 2006 as well as four appearances in the region finals, four seasons of at least 30 wins and nine consecutive winning seasons.
“I have really strong Big Ten ties having been there and coached in the conference,” said Frese, whose coaching career also includes four seasons as an assistant at Iowa State. “I’m thrilled about the fact that I feel like we’re going to be able to bring our Maryland name and brand really be able to extend to a broader audience, nationally, globally.
In terms of women’s basketball, the addition of Maryland to the Big Ten gives the conference even more cachet as it tries to grow the sport and compete with other power conferences such as the SEC, ACC and Big East.
Once the move to the Big Ten becomes official, the Terrapins will be one of two programs in the conference to have a women’s basketball national title. Purdue also won a national championship in 1999, and a number of Big Ten schools are on the rise, including Northwestern under former George Washington coach Joe McKeown.
“From our end nothing’s changed,” Frese said. “We’re going to have the same style of play. We’re going to recruit the best student-athletes out there and continue to seek to win championships.”
The new conference affiliation affects only four players on Maryland’s current roster: freshmen Malina Howard, Chloe Pavlech and Tierney Pfirman and sophomore Brene Moseley, who has three years of eligibility remaining because she’s redshirting this season with a torn ACL. Maryland’s other players are juniors or seniors.
Some players said they initially were skeptical of the move, especially given the reigning ACC tournament champion’s traditionally heated rivalries with Duke, North Carolina and Virginia, but that in the broader picture of winning another NCAA title, joining the Big Ten can do nothing but increase the school’s profile.
“That’s the competition in the ACC, but when you look at where you’re trying to go, you’re willing to overcome a conference,” Moseley said. “You’re willing to say, ‘Okay I’m not really concerned with the ACC, I’m more concerned with the NCAA,’ and I think that’s what we’re really concerned with right now. Yeah, it’s nice to have an ACC championship, but not a lot of schools can say they have an ACC championship and a Big Ten championship, and I think that’s how we’re looking at it right now.”