The Terrapins football team closed out its final ACC schedule with a 41-21 win at N.C. State on Nov. 31 in front of an announced 43,023 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium. But when coach Randy Edsall’s team travels to Penn State on Nov. 1 this season, they could be welcomed to Beaver Stadium by about 100,000 raucous Nittany Lions fans.
The Terps’ transition to the Big Ten Conference — which becomes official on July 1 — will come with several logistical changes to the program’s makeup. For one thing, players will have to adjust to games in front of the conference’s larger audiences.
“Nobody has ever played in a stadium that big on a regular basis,” Terrapin Club donor Barry Gossett said. “That can be a different experience. … The players [will] probably be awestruck when they go out there the first time.”
Terps broadcaster Johnny Holliday added: “Those places are frenetic when it comes to supporting their football team. It’s going to be the lions against the Romans. It’s going to be very, very tough.”
Last season, Terps fans failed to fill Byrd Stadium, inciting criticism of the fan base. When Boston College beat the Terps in the final ACC game in College Park, 29-26, an announced 32,147 were in attendance.
“When I was in school 100 years ago, that was the deal, to go all the games,” Gossett said. “That was the social outlet. … It would be nice to have the students come support all of the teams.”
Holliday said he doesn’t see the same problem manifesting this season. In fact, Terps fans might have trouble acquiring tickets, Holliday said.
“Other schools got such a fan base in this area,” Holliday said. “They’re going to gobble up the tickets, which means that a lot of Terrapin fans will be shut out. Maryland fans better start getting the tickets and make sure they’re going to see these games.”
Larger crowds will coincide with even greater television audiences. The teams’ Nov. 15 clash against Michigan State will be broadcasted during prime time on the Big Ten Network.
“They appreciate the opportunity to do different things,” Gossett said. “To play against, in many cases, better teams and better quality programs.”
After 61 years in the ACC, many fans initially expressed outrage at this university’s decision to leave the conference for the Big Ten. With the move becoming official in just a few days, Holliday said the negativity toward the move has mostly dissipated.
The higher-profile games and heightened exposure associated with the Big Ten may be factor in the Terps fans’ peace with the move.
On Nov. 1, 1975, a stadium-record 58,973 fans packed Byrd for a game between the then-No. 14 Terps and then-No. 9 Penn State. The teams’ lone matchup this season will be in State College, Pennsylvania, but in coming seasons, the Nittany Lions will return to the stadium they helped fill more than any ACC opponent.
And it’ll be for Big Ten games rather than nonconference bouts.
“People are now accepting it a little bit more after the initial shock wore off,” Holliday said. “I hope they’ll support this team in this conference the way they supported other teams in the ACC.”
Big Ten commissioner held a press conference Tuesday regarding scholarship policy: