NCAA Football: Will Rutgers Apply for Membership in Big 12 Conference?

Jeff KalafaAnalyst IIIJuly 11, 2012

Can Rutgers Football prosper in new Big East Conference?
Can Rutgers Football prosper in new Big East Conference?Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

As strange as it sounds for Rutgers, following the path of former Big East member West Virginia and applying for membership in the Big 12 Conference may be the best move to keep their floundering football program financially sound.

I don't think anyone at the state university of New Jersey wants to talk about just how unstable the athletic program is, mired in a situation largely brought on by the continual collapse of the original Big East Conference.

Rutgers already has one big strike against itself; according to a USA Today report, it leads the nation in athletic subsidies among public schools. This means that each Rutgers student is paying nearly $1,000 a year in student fees to keep the athletic department on its feet.

Strike two: It appears that once the new college football playoff system takes place in 2014, the new Big East Conference loses its automatic bid to a major college bowl. 

Strike three: It appears that the new Big East television contract will be much less lucrative than originally thought.

It's getting pretty difficult for Rutgers to keep putting out a big-time product on a small-time budget.

All these financial problems would disappear if either the ACC or Big Ten invited Rutgers to join their conference, but it hasn't happened yet, and it may never.

Both know that offering a membership to another school means cutting up the pie in two more slices because they'd likely be seeking to have an even number of teams. 

It's hard to imagine the Big Ten would say to any school except Notre Dame "here's a check for $25 million, expect one every year."

But the Big 12 Conference currently has 10 teams and needs to add two more to be allowed to have a conference championship game.

It aggressively sought West Virginia and shown it's open to teams out of the region.

Would the Big 12 make sense for Rutgers? It would.

The new Big East Conference includes San Diego State (2,420 miles) and Boise State (2,139 miles), both require more traveling than any Big 12 school.

New Big East teams Houston (1,411 miles) and SMU (1363 miles) are both located in the heart of Big 12 country.  Most Big 12 schools are on an average 1,400 miles of traveling for Rutgers. Texas Tech being the furthest (1,595 miles) and Iowa State (1,010 miles) the closest, except for West Virginia.

USF, UCF and Memphis, three other Big East teams, are each 1,000 miles of traveling.

The distance may seem large because everyone in the Big 12 except West Virginia is located in the central time zone, but when one breaks it down, there's really not much difference in traveling in either conference for Rutgers

Because of all the great football powers in the Big 12, their new television contract will be huge. Each member will make three or four times what the Big East schools can expect.

So the Rutgers athletic department has some financial problems. Something's got to change, and let's not forget it has a stadium expansion to pay for.

The football program could also see problems in recruiting top players to a conference which will have such a hard time getting to a major bowl or getting into the four-team playoff.

It's still premature, but amid all the chaos at Penn State, it snapped up four of New Jersey's top players (Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 21) right under Rutgers' nose.

It doesn't appear that the 2013 recruiting class will be loaded with top New Jersey talent like that of 2012; at least that's how Rivals recruiting service reads it.

So what's the answer for Rutgers?

Is it time for Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti to call up West Virginia AD Oliver Luck and ask him how to get out of the Big East and get in the Big 12?

You can rest assured that Cincinnati and Louisville are thinking about it.