College football realignment: Rutgers makes it official, joins Big Ten conference

Rutgers president Robert Barchi (right) and athletic director Tim Pernetti (middle) and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany (left) pose for a photo at a press conference announcing the move of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights from the Big East conference to the Big Ten conference at the Hale Center. (Patti Sapone/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE)

Rutgers ended days of speculation on Tuesday when it announced that it would, indeed, be following Maryland in joining the Big Ten conference.

At a campus news conference attended by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Rutgers President Robert Barchi and athletic director Tim Perenetti, the school announced its decision, cashing in on the investment former coach Greg Schiano insisted the school make in its football program.

Now, a mere decade after the program was seen as a total, irrefutable joke, the Rutgers football team will be seen on the extremely lucrative Big Ten Network, and the rest of the athletic department will be funded with that money.

“The Big Ten is really where Rutgers belongs,” Barchi said.

Whereas Maryland was a charter member of the ACC, helping build the conference from scratch in the 1950’s, Rutgers had only been playing ball in the Big East since 1991. With teams falling out of the conference faster than non-SEC schools have fallen out of the top-five in 2012, Rutgers was looking for a way out.

It was a matter of money, of course, but also one of competition.

“It’s a transformative day for Rutgers University,” Pernetti said.

You can say that again. In 2002, Schiano’s second year in charge, the Scarlet Knights finished 1-11 in what was painted as the perfect picture of futility.

Like Maryland, Rutgers does not plan to join its new conference until 2014. However, to even enter the Big Ten so early will necessitate lengthy negotiations, as the Big East requires at least 27 months’ notice before departing if the exit fee is to remain at $10 million. There is plenty of precedent for an early exit, however, as schools such as West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt, have all negotiated an earlier exit.

Is the increased buyout fee in exchange for an early exit worth it?

That seems pretty cut and dry: Last season, the Big East television payout was roughly $6 million per school.

The Big Ten, on the other hand, paid each of its members roughly $24 million, or four times the amount Rutgers’ current conference can dole out.

For an athletic department that was forced to cut six varsity sports in 2006, including men’s tennis and crew, that is a difference that is hard to ignore.

The administration didn’t, and now the Big Ten has a brand-new foothold in the New York market, which is what Jim Delany, the Big Ten conference commissioner, had been looking for all along.

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