After days of rumors, Rutgers confirmed Tuesday that it was joining the Big Ten, becoming the conference’s 14th team only one day after it was announced that Maryland would also join the conference.
Rutgers University president Robert Barchi, athletic director Tim Pernetti and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced the move in a Tuesday afternoon press conference. Rutgers’ jump from the Big East to the Big Ten will likely mean an increase in revenue as the school hopes to capitalize on the conference’s lucrative television contract and national stature.
After the Rutgers Board of Governers faxed in its application Tuesday morning to join the conference, the Big Ten Council of Presidents unanimously voted to approve the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers, founded as Queen’s College in 1766, becomes the conference’s oldest university.
“The Big Ten includes America’s most highly regarded academic institutions, known for both their athletic success and academic achievement,” Barchi said. “This is exactly the right conference for Rutgers. Our university is one of the nation’s leading research universities and our student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the playing field.”
Barchi called it “a historic day for Rutgers University.” Pernetti said it was “a transformative day.”
“The Big Ten conference is the ultimate academic neighborhood to live in,” Pernetti said. “And we’re not in that neighborhood, with like-minded institutions, peer schools. This is not just about collaborations on the field of play, this is about a collaboration at every level.”
Though Maryland announced it would join the Big Ten on July 1, 2014, an exit policy with the Big East has handicapped Rutgers in determining a date to join the conference. The Big East requires 27 months’ notice before a team departs, though the Scarlet Knights are in discussions to negotiate a deal to leave earlier.
The additions of Rutgers and Maryland, along with Nebraska joining the conference in 2010, has expanded the Big Ten footprint 200 miles east and 300 miles west in the past two years.
There are significant financial bonuses in the deal for both Rutgers and the Big Ten. Each Big Ten university earned $24 million last year from The Big Ten Network, the most lucrative television network in college athletics. With the addition of the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins, the network will enter the New York City and Washington, D.C. markets, a move that ESPN estimated Monday could bring the conference and its member schools up to $200 million in extra revenue.
Delany, however, said the Big Ten’s desire to exploit the East Coast market has been “a little overplayed.”
“The assessment by us was really one that there had been a paradigm shift in conferences, and we were maybe slow to take it up,” Delany said. “We lived with 11 members for 22 years, we weren’t necessarily seeing ourselves at 14 or 16 members when we added Penn State in 1990. We weren’t seeking the New York market, we were seeking a great institution located in an adjacent state with a prosperous academic and athletic approach. It wasn’t a TV play.”
The relationship between the Big Ten and Rutgers has been an ongoing one, Delany explained, with conversations dating back several years. Pernetti described the relationship as “the perfect storm of relationships.”
“Our job starting today at Rutgers is going to be to help create new value for the Big Ten conference,” Pernetti said, “to bring new things to the party that’s going to help further this conference as the greatest conference in college sports.”
The announcement culminates a quick climb for Rutgers athletics, and particularly the football program. Rutgers was 0-21 in the Big East from 2000-02 before then-head coach Greg Schiano lifted them to six bowl appearances from 2005-11.
The Scarlet Knights are 9-26 all-time against Big Ten football opponents and have never faced Michigan. They also have the designation as the first victor in college football history — Rutgers beat Princeton, 6-4, on Nov. 6, 1869 in the first-ever intercollegiate football game.
Rutgers joined the Big East in 1991 and it has won six Big East team titles in that time — three coming in baseball and one apiece in women’s basketball, men’s soccer and men’s track and field.
Similar to Maryland, the Rutgers athletic department cut six varsity sports — men’s tennis, men’s lightweight crew, men’s heavyweight crew, men’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s fencing — in 2006. Pernetti said the university intends to focus on bolstering the 22 varsity team it still fields before looking to reinstate any of the teams it cut in the last decade.
The eventual progression for the Big Ten appears to be a 16-team conference, but for today the conference is content to celebrate its most recent addition.
“It’s the perfect place for Rutgers,” Pernetti said. “For athletics, the Big Ten conference is the model, it’s the ultimate. It’s ahead of the curve, and it’s set the bar in so many areas.
“For us it means stability in an unstable time, it has secured our future as an athletics program and a university.”
— This is a developing story. Check back to michigandaily.com for updates.