In 2012, college wrestling saw the Big Ten become bigger, while the Mid-American Conference grew beyond its traditional Great Lakes states roots.
In September, the MAC welcomed the wrestling programs of the University of Missouri, University of Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion. Two months later, the Big Ten announced the addition of the University of Maryland and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
With the addition of the Mizzou Tigers, UNI Panthers and ODU Monarchs — all who joined as “wrestling only” affiliate members — the MAC now has nine wrestling programs, making it the third largest Division I wrestling league in the U.S., behind the Big Ten and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) in terms of number of schools.
In addition to growing in size, the new members also expand the geographic scope of the MAC, which now extends further west with the addition of Missouri and Northern Iowa, and towards the East Coast by welcoming Virginia-based Old Dominion.
All three programs joined the MAC with five-year agreements. Missouri and Northern Iowa will participate in the MAC conference championship – but not in dual-meet competition — for the 2012-13 season; all three schools will be full-fledged MAC competitors starting in the 2013-14 school year.
Each of the new members brings a unique history to the bigger MAC. Missouri wrestling, which traces its roots back to 1923, had been a long-time member of the Big 12. The century-old Northern Iowa program – which grabbed the team title at the 1950 NCAAs — had been part of the Western Wrestling Conference, while the Old Dominion wrestling squad, launched in 1957, had competed in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
The week of Thanksgiving, the Big Ten set the table to welcome the Maryland Terrapins and the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. The two new member schools are expected to begin competing in the conference in all sports – including wrestling – in the 2014-15 school year.
The two Eastern schools become the thirteenth and fourteenth members of the Big Ten, which now extends from Lincoln, Neb. in the west to New Brunswick, N.J. and College Park, Md. near the east coast, reaching sizeable, lucrative media markets in the mid-Atlantic, including New York City and Washington, D.C.
Maryland was a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 1953. Although most Rutgers sports teams compete in the Big East conference, its wrestling program is currently in the EIWA.
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