Why Rutgers Is Obligated to Remain in Big East

Jeff KalafaAnalyst IIIApril 25, 2010

While college sports becomes increasingly linked to revenue, and phrases like "It's all about the money" are used to rationalize questionable decisions, Rutgers University may have already expressed its obligation to remain a member of the Big East Conference.

While the Big Ten decides if expansion is the way to go, Rutgers has been collectively mentioned by journalists as the most attractive addition available, after Notre Dame.

The large marketing area (18 million) in which Rutgers is centered has been speculated to be extremely tempting to the Big Ten and its expanding television network.

Joining the Big Ten is tempting to Rutgers:  It is estimated that any Big East team that jumps ship would triple its yearly $7 million in television and bowl money.



While expansion talk heats up, and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue continues to blast the Big Ten on behalf of the Big East, Rutgers may have already spoken.

Rewind to 2003!  Rewind to the time when the Atlantic Coast Conference was ravaging the Big East!

It was in October 2003 when Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed a suit against Boston College, its AD, The Atlantic Coast Conference, and its commissioner.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the University of Connecticut, the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, and yes, Rutgers University.

The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were in a "backroom conspiracy to try to destroy the Big East Conference."



1. Lawsuit claimed right to recover damages by ACC for predatory scheme to eliminate Big East as competitor for television and Bowl Championship money:

Well doesn't this sound familiar!  Couldn't it be said that the Big Ten is scheming to do the same to the Big East?  They've already hired a consulting firm to tell them if expansion is a good idea.

The Chicago consulting firm they hired to take a look at 10-15 prospective candidates  has told the Big Ten that expansion is a money maker. 

2. Lawsuit claimed Boston College was reaffirming its loyalty to Big East while it planned to betray them:

Can't this be said of any Big East Team currently looking into leaving the Conference for the Big Ten?  Isn't Rutgers, for example, claiming loyalty in a sense by not making it clear that they will not accept a Big Ten invite, if given one?

Isn't Rutgers "receiving confidential information from its Big East partners," while possibly initiating plans to leave for the Big Ten?

3. Lawsuit claimed Boston College and ACC was conspiring to destroy Big East:

This one's harder to prove, but any intentional plans by the Big Ten, and any new member, to cut into the Big East marketing area might be considered as action taken to destroy the Big East Conference.



Less than a year after Attorney General Blumenthal filed the suit, it was dismissed by Connecticut Judge Samuel Sferrazza.



Though Connecticut's lawsuit against Boston College and the ACC was dismissed, and Boston College went on to join the ACC without prosecution, the lawsuit still carries weight— for UConn, Pitt, UVA, and Rutgers, it's the principles it contained.

Was the lawsuit an emotional response by the four schools?  In Connecticut's case, probably not.  They had just budgeted tens of millions of dollars toward the football program and its new stadium.

For Rutgers, Pitt, and West Virginia, who can tell?  Did Rutgers clearly feel that Boston College was in violation of the law, did they want to show loyalty toward UConn, or did they want to rightfully protect their financial investment in their football program?

All are interesting questions.



What happens if Rutgers, Pitt, or Syracuse are asked to leave the Big East and join the Big Ten?  Do the principles of the 2003 lawsuit still hold up?

Louisville is just completing a stadium expansion.  Will their reaction be similar to the way UConn reacted in the 2003 raid?

If Rutgers gets an Big Ten invite and leaves, will they stand by the principles they expressed in 2003 or will they say it's okay to change their stance on conference loyalty by claiming, "It's all about the money?"

Will they turn their back on their Northeastern neighbors, or will they work with them,  as they did in 2003? 

Will they ask the Big Ten to "Show me the money, "or will they help keep the Big East intact and engage in the process of creating their own television network, adding teams, and improving its quality of football?



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