Multiple times over the past three years, the Big East Conference has been on the brink of extinction. Rutgers’ move to the Big Ten may finally signal the end for the 33-year old conference.
But the Big East’s loss is the Big Ten’s gain. Long considered the best combination of academics and athletics in the country, the Big Ten is now entering the New York City market. And it comes just one day after Maryland brought the Washington metro area into the picture.
The conference’s council of presidents unanimously approved Rutgers’ application for membership into the Big Ten Tuesday. Rutgers becomes the 14th member of the Big Ten and the third in the past three years, joining Nebraska and Maryland over the past 30 months during a seismic shift in intercollegiate athletics.
“The Big Ten Conference is pleased to announce that Rutgers University will soon join the conference family,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. “The additions of Rutgers and the University of Maryland further expand the Big Ten’s footprint while helping solidify our presence on the East Coast. Both institutions feature a combination of academic and athletic excellence and will prove a great fit for our future.”
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, must pay a $10 million exit fee to the Big East and give the conference 27 months notice before it leaves. But the Scarlet Knights will be joining the Big Ten, along with Maryland, for the 2014-15 season. Violating the 27-month agreement means Rutgers could face a fee in the neighborhood of $20 million.
“This is a historic day for Rutgers University,” Rutgers Director of Athletics Tim Pernetti said. “It is an honor to join such a prestigious conference and begin our partnership with the outstanding institutions in the Big Ten. There is no finer conference in the nation that combines top-notch academics and athletics.”
The university’s decision ends a relationship with the Big East that began in 1991, when Rutgers joined the conference as a football-only member. It began competing in the Big East in all other sports in 1995.
The reasons for joining the Big Ten are both financial and competitive. Rutgers will rake in a hefty amount of money from the Big Ten’s network television deals, the richest in college sports, as well as its own Big Ten Network.
The Big East’s current TV package pays Rutgers just over $6 million a year.
Rutgers and Maryland’s move to the conference is expected to generate more income for each of the 14 schools in the Big Ten. Currently, the 12 members of the conference receive more than $24 million a year due to the Big Ten’s lucrative TV deal.
Nebraska only received a partial share – $14 million – during its first year in the league and the same is expected for Rutgers and Maryland. But the two schools will reap the rewards of being affiliated with the Big Ten in future years.
Sports Illustrated estimated that the 14 Big Ten schools will receive $32 million in 2014-15 all the way up to $43 million in 2017.
In 2014, a four-team college football playoff is coming, and the Big East did not receive an automatic tie-in to the system. The playoff is expected to bring a TV deal well north of $500 million. That should help the Rutgers’ athletics department, which has been losing money in recent years.
Rutgers’ athletic budget for the 24-sport department is $60 million, but almost 50 percent of that figure came from university subsidies and student fees.
Rutgers and Maryland are both strong academic institutions and members of the Association of American Universities, a group of the country’s 60 leading research institutions. Nebraska is the only Big Ten University that is not an AAU member.
“The Big Ten includes America’s most highly regarded academic institutions, known for both their athletic success and academic achievement,” Rutgers President Robert 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.”
Critics of the move are on both sides of the aisle. Big Ten fans are screaming, asking why two programs who have zero ties geographically or otherwise to the conference are joining century old members Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio State.
Ohio State has never played Rutgers or Maryland in football.
Rutgers’ supporters are left wondering why they’re abandoning rivalries that date back decades. Now the Scarlet Knights will be venturing off to cities such as Champaign, Iowa City and Lincoln for road trips.
But it isn’t just Rutgers who’s at fault for severing ties. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have all jumped ship in the past year and joined other conferences. Syracuse and Pitt join the ACC next season, while West Virginia started competing in the Big XII this year.
San Diego State, Boise State and SMU are just some of the teams that the Big East is welcoming into the league next season to make up for the other departures, so long distance trips were going to be a part of Rutgers’ upcoming itineraries.
ESPN reported that the Big Ten divisions will be realigned. Illinois will move to the Legends Division and Rutgers and Maryland will join the Leaders Division.