CHICAGO – The addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten was sudden and shocking in Big Ten country.
And it was the same in New Jersey and Maryland when followers of those two teams learned they were about to become members of the Big Ten.
It was like an engagement announcement from a couple no one even knew was dating. Or maybe the engagement of two people no one ever expected to get together.
The Scarlet Knights and Terrapins will begin playing in the Big Ten this fall.
“I was definitely surprised,” Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown said at the Big Ten football media days on Tuesday.
“It happened so fast and came out of nowhere. At the time, a lot of alumni were asking a lot of questions. But in the long run, I think it will benefit us athletically, academically and revenue-wise,” he said.
Brown has had more exposure to the Big Ten than many other players and fans from the two new schools.
His dad, Clark Brown, was Michigan State’s starting quarterback for 11 games in 1983. And he grew up 20 miles west of Pittsburgh and attended several Penn State games.
Rutgers defensive lineman Darius Hamilton, who grew up in West Paterson, New Jersey, says hearing his team was joining the Big Ten was “definitely a surprise.”
“When I was younger, I didn’t know anything about the Big Ten,” he said. “The older I got, I learned a little more about it.”
Most of the people around him were Big East or ACC fans, but he looked to the south to find his favorite team.
“You’d see the ACC and Big East (on television), but I made sure I found a way to watch the Florida Gators every Saturday. They had a lot of swagger and passion. I was a Gator baby. Everything in my room was orange and blue.”
Florida recruited Hamilton but he chose to stay home and go to Rutgers. “It ended up being a homebody decision,” he said. “My top two teams were Rutgers, which I fell in love with during the recruiting process and Florida, which I was already in love with.”
Michigan State junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun has become familiar with Big Ten football, rivalries and traditions during his time in East Lansing.
But the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year admits he didn’t know much about the Big Ten when he came to Michigan State from Middletown, New Jersey.
“I had no clue Michigan and Michigan State were two different schools. But when I got here it was quickly brought to my attention,” he said.