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Benson brothers disagree on Maryland's move to Big Ten; Todd: "I feel like they sold out."
November 19, 2012 - Cory Giger
Brothers don't always agree, and when it comes to Maryland bolting from the ACC to the Big Ten, Todd and Shawn Benson have very different viewpoints about their alma mater.
Todd hates the move. Shawn likes it.
"No, I don't think it's a good thing for Maryland," said Todd, an Altoona Area High School product who was a standout defensive lineman for the Terps from 1978-80. "Why move to another conference?" Todd added. "I don't understand why they would even want to, other than money."
That's what the move -- which takes place in 2014 -- is all about. For both sides.
The Big Ten gets to expand its TV reach into the Baltimore and Washington D.C. markets by adding Maryland, and if Rutgers is added to the league today, as expected, it brings New Jersey and potentially New York viewers into the mix.
That's potentially a boatload of money for the Big Ten and its member schools. And that's what Todd Benson dislikes about the whole ordeal, believing money is not enough of a reason on its own for Maryland to switch conferences.
"It gets down to the question: Is it sport, or is it entertainment and money," Todd said. "I would like to think that it's just sport, especially when you're talking about it's supposed to be [college athletes].
"They go move to another conference for only one reason -- that's money. To me, I feel like they sold out."
Shawn Benson, a guard for the Terps who started his final two seasons (1982 and '83), admitted he initially had the same reservations as his brother when the Maryland news was announced Monday. But unlike Todd, Shawn quickly came around to believing the move to the Big Ten will be a good thing for Maryland.
"My initial reaction was they're only doing it for the money and the holy dollar speaks completely and sometimes overcompensates for tradition and things of that nature," said Shawn, an AAHS product.
"But let's face it, to be competitive at the collegiate level from a football and basketball perspective, if you don't have top-notch facilities -- and it takes money to have those facilities -- then you're always going to be playing catch-up."
Shawn first thought of Maryland's tradition in the ACC -- particularly in basketball, playing the likes of Duke and North Carolina -- the fact that his alma mater was a charter member of the league and that he earned a 1983 ACC championship ring with the Terps.
"I was like, 'Aw no, this can't be," Shawn said of the move to the Big Ten. "But after really taking a more rational approach to it, I think in the long run it's probably going to be a good thing."
For Shawn, unlike Todd, the notion of "show me the money" is a positive for Maryland.
"With all these four or five major BCS conferences, who knows what could happen in the ACC going forward?" Shawn said. "At this point, I think it's ultimately going to be a good thing for all athletics at the university. So I'm coming to grips with it."
Todd and Shawn Benson are part of the first family of football in Blair County. Brothers Brad (Penn State) and Troy (Pitt) also played Division I football, and Brad went on to play for the New York Giants, while Troy played for the New York Jets.
The two Bensons who played at Maryland also disagree on whether the Terps can compete in the Big Ten.
"They don't compete in the ACC now, so the answer right now is no," Todd said. "I'm still rooting for them. I hope they do well. I don't know that they will, but I hope I'm wrong."
"I think we'll be able to compete in the Big Ten," Shawn said. "It might take a little time, and probably even a little more time than to have success at the ACC level, but I'm very encouraged by [coach] Randy Edsall and some of the kids he's been able to recruit. And I think the recruiting can even be a little bit better going into the Big Ten now."
Todd Benson also said he's encouraged by Edsall, who's in his second season with the Terps. Maryland is just 4-7 this year but has had terrible luck with four quarterbacks going down with injury.
"I'm willing to give Edsall and his staff more time because I think they're doing good things," Todd said.
The brothers also disagree about whether Maryland and Penn State can become good rivals. The Terps have beaten PSU just once in 37 meetings (the series is 35-1-1), but Shawn played in one of the closest and most meaningful games.
The Nittany Lions, behind Todd Blackledge, beat Boomer Esiason and Maryland, 39-31, during their national title season in 1982.
There were some other close games between the two programs -- which haven't played since 1993 -- but that's not enough for Todd to be convinced it can become a good rivalry.
"There are no rivalries that are going to stem from this," Todd said. "The only one that I can see maybe -- and again maybe, a pure long shot -- would be a Penn State rivalry. It's the only good thing that can come from it."
Phil Sipes of Hollidaysburg, a 1986 Maryland graduate who broadcasts Golden Tiger football games, sides more with Shawn Benson when it comes to the Terps' conference switch.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Sipes said. "When you think about all the history and tradition that Maryland's had in the ACC, it's really tough. But knowing the way the environment is right now and knowing what's going on at Maryland specifically and what they're getting from the ACC today as opposed to the past, I think it's a no-brainer.
"At first it was kind of a shock and it was like, this isn't a good thing. But then the more you look at the numbers, the figures behind it, I think it's really a great fit for Maryland, to be honest, from an athletic standpoint and an academic standpoint."
Sipes believes Maryland can enjoy success in the Big Ten and pointed out his alma mater has won more bowl games (11) than several current members of the league. He also points to Maryland's strong basketball tradition and believes that program will fit in very well in the Big Ten, which has emerged as the nation's premier basketball league in recent years.
"They will be a great addition to the Big Ten basketball-wise, without a doubt," Sipes said.
From athletic director Dave Joyner:
"Penn State welcomes the University of Maryland to the Big Ten Conference with tremendous enthusiasm. Maryland is a fantastic addition and to an already outstanding family of Big Ten institutions. Our two institutions have a long history of collegiality and athletic competition and we're excited about future meetings as conference partners. We look forward to this new era for the Big Ten."