Maryland doesn't have a lot in the way of local rivalries. The Terps and Penn State aren't exactly competitive - UMD would roll in basketball, PSU in football - and they almost never play. UVA isn't a true rival, and Charlottesville is a couple of hours down the road. Georgetown and George Washington are competitive and real close, but only have basketball and rarely play. Quite simply, the state of Maryland just might not be big enough to house two competitive programs.
Except, maybe, in football with Navy. Even though it's a service academy, Navy's had a great string of success under Paul Johnson and, more recently, Ken Niumatalolo (whom was suggested as a potential Ralph replacement). They're a competitive football program, are in the state of Maryland, and are less than an hour away. With little else in the way of rivalries, it seems pretty basic that the two would play a lot.
That's why it's a little tough to explain why the 2010 season opener will only be the second time the two programs have met since 1966.
It's not like they didn't try it lately; in 2005, there was a game in the Baltimore Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium, the most neutral and largest venue they could find, and it was spectacular. There was a great atmosphere and it was a great game that both teams benefited from (remember the Ball screen?).
Well, Niutamalolo and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen appeared today at a Baltimore Ravens practice for press reasons, and both seemed in favor of making the rivalry long-term.
"To have an in-state rivalry, I think it just helps the whole state," Friedgen said Tuesday... "People can rally behind each school. It just brings the whole state together. Having it in Baltimore just accentuates that."
Asked if he would like to see the teams play more regularly, or even annually, Friedgen said, " I would like to see it happen on a yearly basis. It's good for both schools. I like playing the first game, too. I'd rather play them in the first game or the last game than in the (middle) of the season. It's something that we really should try to strive for."
Said Niumatalolo, "We need to play more. You have two great institutions so close together, there's a history involves. Hopefully we can continue this series. I know we're looking forward to it and Maryland is looking forward to it."
Of course, there are some mitigating circumstances, at least in the near future. Maryland's already got three non-conference opponents lined up for 2011 and potentially further down the line if Texas becomes a reality: an FCS school, a premier opponent (Notre Dame, Texas), and West Virginia, which has been restarted. Generally, the next opponent would be a gimme low-major, like Florida International or Eastern Michigan. Replacing that game with Navy would really bolster Maryland's strength of schedule, but it would also make 6 wins significantly harder to achieve.
Regardless, I say get it done. Even if Maryland doesn't have one true rival, a hybrid rivalry of Navy in football, Johns Hopkins in lacrosse, and Georgetown in hoops would do just fine for me. Now we just need to get working on that last one.