It’s a scenario that could make the Big Ten Football Conference once again the best in the nation. It’s a matchmaker's dream—and a dream that is certainly a possibility.
It would be a union between the Big Ten Conference and Rutgers University—a union that would have tremendous upside for all schools involved.
With 11 teams in the football conference now, the Big Ten cannot have a conference championship game unless it extends an invitation to one more team.
In addition to the conference championship issue, recently the Big Ten Network was created, and it is looking for more publicity to attract more viewers.
How do you get a conference championship game, get the Big Ten Network to become a major television network, and get the Big Ten back as the best conference in the country while drawing nationwide fans?
The simple answer—ask Notre Dame to join. This is something the Big Ten has already tried.
In 1999 the conference began talks with the Irish to possibly join the prestigious group of schools. Notre Dame eventually rejected the invitation for many reasons, one being their exclusive TV contract with NBC for home football games.
So who else is there to ask? The Big Ten will certainly continue to ask Notre Dame to join every time their TV contract is up, but most likely the Irish will say no once again.
So why not go for a university that has academic standards exactly of those in the Big Ten, a university that is located on the East Coast and can bring the conference to 12 teams, but that can also bring the Big Ten Network to the metropolitan area?
The Big Ten should extend an invitation to Rutgers. With the success of the football program and the amount of nationwide attention the school is getting, the Big Ten would be a perfect fit for the Scarlet Knights.
Currently Rutgers Stadium is being expanded to seat 56,000, and if success continues on the banks, there is talk the stadium could be expanded to seat 70,000 people. With two bowl victories and numerous top 25 appearances in the last two years, Rutgers would add another credible name to the Big Ten.
There are such major differences between schools like Rutgers, Louisville, St. John's, and Seton Hall that it makes you scratch your head to wonder when the Big East will break up. Rutgers does not belong with a bunch of private Catholic schools, some of which don't even have a football program.
Rutgers belongs with schools like Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Indiana. Rutgers is athletically and academically similar to the Big Ten.
For the Big Ten, it’s a matter of facing reality. Notre Dame wants its own glory. The Big Ten is not a place for the golden domers.
Why go after schools like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, or West Virginia just on football talent alone, when Rutgers can give you football talent, a rising basketball program, location on the East Coast, and a school that is known worldwide as a great academic institution?
Rutgers also happens to be situated near the media capital of the world in New York City.
Adding Rutgers to the Big Ten would create the 12-team conference needed to have a conference championship game for football. It would bring the Big Ten Network to the East Coast. It would add another esteemed academic institution to the conference.
And Rutgers fans, do not give me the excuse about loyalty to the Big East. Take a lesson from the past. Miami and Virginia Tech belonged in the ACC, which is why they left. Boston College I cannot argue, but their decision turned out fine.
Rutgers belongs with Big Ten schools. When the Big Ten extends an invitation, take it. The Big East treated you well, and yes, it had faith in the football team when no one else did.
But Rutgers will have to do what’s best for the school academically and athletically.
The Big Ten will mean more TV appearances, more national exposure, a real shot at a national championship in a great conference—and most likely more students staying in New Jersey just for the name Rutgers will get if it joins.
It’s a scenario that may not happen for a few more years, but if it happens, both parties need to realize the opportunities in front of them.
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