What if Rutgers joins the Big 10?
As I’ve said from the begging of this whole process, the Big Ten isn’t going to be thinking small, and whatever it does in expansion, it’s going to make absolutely sure that every penny spent making expansion happen comes back dressed up like a $100 bill. Rutgers might just be a step, if it joins the misnamed conference, but it’s not going to be the be-all-end-all.
To be able to move forward, Texas is off the table, and actually, it was never really on the table. It made for great content and great discussion for a few days, but the Big Ten head honcho types talked about talking about Texas joining the conference, and that was enough to get everyone buzzing.
Never mind that that there was never a proposal, or discussions in any way, between the two parties, and forget that Texas has no real interest in making the move; just talking about the possibilities, and the idea of Texas joining the Big Ten not seeming that crazy, was enough to show that the Big Ten wasn’t just going to add Iowa State and move on.
If the Big Ten really does add Rutgers, more money would be made because of a conference championship game, the league would be balanced, and the TV market angle makes a ton of sense. Forget that Rutgers sucks at basketball and would bring nothing to the Big Ten in hoops, and forget that the football team has been great at beating up the mediocre but hasn’t really turned a corner on a national scale (even though it’s a far, far better program than it was just a few years ago). From a fan’s point of view, adding Rutgers barely moves the needle. The Big Ten knows this, and that’s why it’s not going to stop there.
I believe the Big Ten, in its perfect world, would bring on three programs. There has been talk of five, but that seems like too big a jump and a 16-team league might be too massive and almost counterproductive. There would almost be no way for much football interdivisional play if there were two divisions of eight. Rutgers would be a good fit, Missouri from the Big 12 would be a natural geographic rival with Illinois and Iowa, and Pitt would bring aboard another decent-sized market and good programs, although Syracuse might make more sense academic-wise and would be tremendous for basketball and helping with the New York market.
So, basically, Rutgers might end up making sense, but it could be just a piece of the overall puzzle … if it happens.
Talk of Texas or Notre Dame becoming a member of the Big Ten makes a lot of headlines. Rutgers actually makes a lot of sense.
Keep in mind throughout this process that the Big Ten is looking to attract more than just a football program to compete with the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan. It’s also seeking an institution with the high academic institutions to match the rest of the league members. Check. And a market to spread the brand and get the Big Ten Network into more homes. Check. Rutgers’ campus is within the New York metropolitan television market, which is flush with graduates from Big Ten programs, a major selling point.
If the rumors about the Scarlet Knights becoming the final piece of the Big Ten’s expansion puzzle have legs, it could be an ideal marriage for the conference on so many important levels. Will it be equally beneficial to Rutgers? It depends. Financially? Absolutely. The University will receive significantly more revenue than it currently does as a member of the Big East, and selling tickets becomes a whole lot easier when the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, and Wolverines, among others, are visiting Piscataway instead of Louisville, South Florida, and Syracuse. The Knights would instantly get a bigger national platform and more exposure than at any point in its history. Those are all positive developments, but how does it impact the program’s progress on the field?
The only downside to this discussion for Rutgers is if it becomes a lesser version of Boston College, that former Big East school which would have a clearer path to a BCS bowl game by simply staying put. Greg Schiano and the Knights have been targeting a league title and the major bowl game that comes with it ever since coming off life support five years ago. Those goals are eminently attainable in the eight-team Big East. In the Big Ten, though, it might never happen. If the offer comes from Jim Delany, Rutgers will have decide to decide if it wants to remain a bigger fish in a smaller pond or run the risk of forever being a second-tier football program, with deeper pockets.
1) It would seem that if Rutgers were to join the Big Ten, the league would be telling the rest of the nation that the New York TV market trumps a raft of other considerations.
At first glance, the notion of the Scarlet Knights leaving the Big East – a geographically appropriate conference – for the Ohio States and Michigans of the world is absurd. It’s worth pointing out that Rutgers Athletics has not enjoyed smooth sailing in recent years. President Richard McCormick and the school’s board of governors were found to have displayed insufficient vigilance in their oversight of the athletic program, particularly the extent to which various side deals were arranged with coach Greg Schiano. A stir was also raised in 2008 about the hiring of the son of then-athletic director Robert Mulcahy, who was later pushed out by McCormick (in December of 2008) under a cloud of suspicion.
The $102 million expansion of Rutgers Stadium has encountered numerous delays and hitches, with the most troubling element of the project being that private fundraising targets were not met. This development led the university to cobble together other more public forms of resources, which can never be a good thing for the larger public commons in and around the state university of New Jersey. Have outrageous wrongs been committed at Rutgers? Not when compared to the rest of the college football landscape. But does the Scarlet Knight program represent a flourishing force and a model of a healthy athletic department the Big Ten would want to add? Hardly.
2) This drum needs to be banged again and again: If New York TV money is so powerful that Rutgers’ many departmental deficiencies don’t stand in the way of a move to the Big Ten, it’s hard to see how academic integrity can honestly be cited as the primary reason for this would-be transition. So much human energy is being spent on this issue; what about ensuring that the money currently being fought for in big-time collegiate sports could instead be disbursed to other pursuits, within or beyond the realm of our major state universities across the country?