Two major announcements have been made this week regarding the annual Big 33 Football Classic between Maryland and Pennsylvania and both developments should help Maryland become even more competitive in the contest.
The first announcement, which was made official on Friday by the Big 33 Scholarship Foundation, which runs the event, is that the 2017 contest will move from its traditional date in the mid June to Memorial Day, Monday, May 29th. The contest will continue to be played at Hersey Stadium in Hersey, Pa.
Since it returned to the game in 2013, Maryland has been hurt by early college reporting dates for some of its biggest Division 1 talent. Many players who would like to participate in the contest and represent their state have been forced to miss the contest because they have been required to report early to their college programs.
Last year, for example, Franklin star wide receiver Steven Smothers committed to Team Maryland, participated in the local practices and even reported to Hersey with the squad. A few days prior to the contest, however, his NCAA eligibility was approved and he had to leave Hersey immediately and report to West Virginia. Other high profile stars have passed on the contest all together because of conflicts with their college reporting dates.
Pennsylvania has experienced similar problems, but with 500 schools to choose from, compared to just 250 in Maryland, it still had 18 Division 1 players on last year’s roster compared to just four for Maryland.
“Over the past few years, it has become difficult for players to participate in the game when it was held in June due to more and more student athletes having to report to college in early,” said Big 33 Executive Director Dave Trimbur. “We believe moving the game to Memorial Day will allow the best players to become a part of history and play in the Big 33 Football Classic.”
In addition to the earlier game date, Maryland should also get a boost from a decision made by the Baltimore Touchdown Club and the Maryland Football Coaches Association, which manage Team Maryland, to allow players from Washington, D.C. schools onto the Maryland roster.
It only increases the pool of schools by 12, but does open the door to some significant Division 1 talent, especially from WCAC powers Gonzaga and St. John’s College. Many of the other prominent WCAC schools, such as DeMatha and Good Counsel, have been in the mix because they are located in Maryland.
“Most of the players who compete at the D.C. schools are Maryland residents and these teams play in leagues with programs located in Maryland. Because of this, it is a good fit for these players to have an opportunity to play for Team Maryland in the Big 33,” said Scott Ripley, Senior Vice President of the Baltimore Touchdown Club. “Our board will manage the roster so that it fairly reflects both regions. The goal is to open the door to more local talent.”
The 12 D.C. schools now eligible to send players to the Big 33, in addition to Gonzaga and St. John’s, are Archbishop Carroll, Ballou, Caesar Chavez, Friendship Collegiate, KIPP, Maret, Paul Charter, Sidwell Friends, St. Alban’s and Woodrow Wilson.
The 2017 game will mark the 60th anniversary of the Big 33 Classic and it will be the fifth year since Maryland returned to the contest. PA leads the new series 3-1, with Maryland’s victory coming in 2014. The all time series between the two border states is also in PA’s favor, 9-3. During the game’s history, Pennsylvania has also competed against Texas and Ohio.
Last year’s Super Bowl was also the 50th anniversary of the NFL’s title game and there has never been a single Super Bowl played that did not include at least one Big 33 alum.