BALTIMORE — Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany stood near the front doors of the Under Armour Brand House on Monday morning, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses, a Maryland logo stamped on one lens and a Big Ten insignia on the other. He removed the shades by the time he reached the lectern to speak, looking out at a new fan base for the first time and instinctually seeking to connect.
In his opening remarks, Delany told the crowd he had eaten dinner at Kooper’s on the Baltimore waterfront Sunday night, “a fabulous experience in preparation for today’s meeting,” he said.
This wasn’t Chicago or Columbus or Madison, but Delaney relished the newness of the setting. He was doing business on the Atlantic on Monday, helping to usher in Maryland at the first event in a two-day celebration of the school’s official move to the Big Ten on Tuesday.
“Maryland’s DNA matches up beautifully with the DNA of the rest of our universities,” Delany said.
How Maryland’s genes match up on the athletic front in the first year remains to be seen, but there was no lack of enthusiasm during the festivities. The school’s cheerleaders pranced on the building’s steps while the school’s band, the Mighty Sound of Maryland, played the same tunes as it did while a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Fans and alumni came in droves to see the unveiling of Under Armour’s re-branded Maryland apparel, taking photos of the new uniform and T-shirts stamped with the Big Ten logo. The conference’s mascots all gathered at an alumni event at Nationals Park ahead of Monday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies, with Maryland’s coaches doing radio interviews and signing autographs in the background.
“It’s been such a foregone conclusion for like two years, some people forget that there’s actually a formality to it,” Maryland men’s basketball Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Of course, for two years, I’ve been recruiting as a Big Ten coach, even though we were playing in the ACC. But this is good to have this today.”
The festivities also formally mark the return of women’s basketball Coach Brenda Frese to the Big Ten, and the former Minnesota coach professed Monday that “I grew up in the Big Ten.”
Coach Randy Edsall called the move “energetic” to his football program.
“It kind of rejuvenates you. It kind of gives you that little burst of energy. Not that you don’t have that, but it kind of gives you more,” Edsall said.
Still, the transition won’t be all pomp and circumstance. The school is still embattled in a multimillion dollar lawsuit in the wake of exiting the ACC, and now it joins a long list of schools in the Big Ten that have luxurious athletic facilities and robust budgets.
For Edsall and his staff, it means expanding its geographical recruiting range (Maryland has received commitments from players in Texas, Florida, Ohio and New Jersey in June alone), while Turgeon and Frese are among those that will have to scout and evaluate teams in an entirely new conference.
The challenges ahead were an afterthought Monday.
“The other thing the Big Ten likes to think about themselves,” Delaney said, “is a conference that begins on the Colorado border, now moves to the Atlantic Ocean, touches the Canadian border and comes down to the middle Atlantic.”