Rutgers University Is Going to Regret Leaving the Big East Conference
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On the surface, Rutgers University's move from the Big East to the Big Ten seems like a substantial upgrade for the University: more revenue, greater national exposure and a more respectable schedule.
But what are the Big Ten's real motives in this move, along with adding Maryland University the day before? Could the Big Ten be using Rutgers just to gain access to the New York City market?
First off, the Rutgers football program is having one of it's best year's ever. They are 9-1, ranked number 18 in the nation, have the number four ranked points against average defense in the country and have a legitimate shot at their first Big East Conference Title. Despite losing former head coach Greg Schiano to the NFL, the Scarlet Knights have continued to flourish on the foundation that Schiano built.
Right now they are the big fish in the little pond that is Big East football. Yes, we've all heard that the Big East is a basketball conference. But Big East football is centered on the ground and pound, and defensive struggles during tough games. This is the foundation that Greg Schiano had built and passed on to current head coach Kyle Flood.
So on the precipice of finally establishing itself as one of the elite programs in the Big East and winning that elusive conference title, why jump ship to a bigger pond where they will undoubtedly struggle to adjust to the offensive-minded Big Ten and have to travel further distances to play conference games?
Big Ten per team average points for this season in conference is currently 182.25; for a Big East team it is 125.125. To be competitive, Rutgers will need to bolster their offense, effectively changing the identity of the program. The Big Ten garners more prominent offensive recruits, thus ultimately have a focus of putting points on the board.
Was moving to the Big Ten a wise decision for Rutgers University Football?
So why does the Big Ten want to add a defensively-minded program? As The New York Times' Nate Silver and ESPN's Adam Rittenberg have pointed out, the Big Ten wants the fan-ship of New York City and Washington D.C., while Rutgers (and Maryland) both want more revenue. However, the Northeast really isn't college football territory—it's more about pro sports.
And as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN, "You can't have influence without being here [New York City]."
Not only does that gross estimate hurt Rutgers, but it also will hurt the Big Ten for a few reasons.
First, Big Ten schools will have less games on the schedule available for the out of conference rivalries because they will have to play Rutgers and Maryland.
Second, Rutgers and Maryland provide less compelling competition for the Big Ten schools, but could hurt BCS Title Game opportunities.
Third, the Northeast really isn't as passionate about college football as much as the Midwest and the South. To the Northeast, Saturday is the day before NFL games. Plus, New York City is made up mostly of transplants, meaning there isn't that huge of a Rutgers fan base there anyway.
With the Big Ten waiting to cash in on a new television deal within the next five years (2017 it's current deal is up), this is a financial decision for the Big Ten and they just want to use Rutgers to gain access to NYC.
It's also clear that Rutgers is making this decision based on money alone. Completely changing your identity, schedule, travel plans and foundation just when you start becoming successful makes absolutely no sense.
Rutgers and Maryland are going to struggle terribly in their first years in the Big Ten.
Eventually they might adapt and become a mid-level team, but they will never gain BCS Bowl Bids fighting amongst superior programs with different focuses. Turning their backs on a sure thing for years to come right now will be their downfall. They should enjoy the potential BCS Bowl slot they gain this year, because it might be their last for a long time.
And of course, joining a conference named 'The Big Ten' when there will be 14 schools is just completely contradictory...
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