The Rutgers Compromise

Jason DuniganCorrespondent IMay 4, 2010

NEW YORK - MARCH 09: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights cheerleaders perform on court against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the first round game of the Big East Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Mentally, they have already packed their bags for the Big Ten.

Physically, they would go ahead, and make the move if they could.

Rutgers University and its fans seem to spend their days figuring out how to spend all their new found riches, courtesy of the Big Ten.

A quick look at any Rutgers message board or fan site will reveal the thoughts of their collective fans base; they want out of the Big East yesterday and want their Big Ten invitation last week.

Now, before I get any further, let me say that I like Rutgers. I used to spend summer vacations in Jersey with my Uncle and his family. When I was in the Navy, I used to drive up the coast from Norfolk to visit my cousin, who happened to be recruiting for the Marines in Jersey.

I had many friends in college that were Jersey natives, and having attended many games where my Alma mater faced off against Rutgers in Big East competition, I feel as though I have gotten to know the Garden State’s Flagship University quite well.

All of that is what makes it difficult for me to write this.

For all of which I am about to say, I apologize to Rutgers fans. It is nothing personal, just business. You understand.

Cutting to the chase, I think it is time for the Big East, the Big Ten, and Rutgers to come to some sort of a compromise.

As it stands right now, the exit fee for any Big East member looking to leave the conference is $5 million, and there also happens to be an arduous 27-month waiting period before any school can vacate the Big East premises.

A deal needs to be struck to get passed all that.

You may not have heard, but rumor is that the Big Ten Conference is looking to expand to a minimum of 12 teams for several reasons, none of which I feel like getting into right now.

One of the key players in the whole expansion mess seems to be Rutgers, and if you have not guessed by now, that is why I am writing this article.

Rutgers, and everyone associated with it, want to join the Big Ten, despite the amusing fact that the Big Ten has yet to even acknowledge whether or not they are even interested in Rutgers, publicly anyway.

Sure there have been some media reports claiming Rutgers is one of the main Big Ten targets, but at one point in time, Syracuse was a lock to join the ACC, and we all see how that turned out.

Regardless, the Big East is in danger of losing at least one team to the Big Ten, and the Scarlet Knights are all too willing to volunteer to be that one team, or at least one of those teams.

The Compromise

The Big East has stated recently that it will not give up teams without a fight, and it might actually be proactive for a change as opposed to always reacting to what everyone else does.

This was welcomed news for many Big East fans, and hearing that the conference was actually working to keep the conference from falling apart was all any Big East fan wanted to hear, really.

There have been many suggestions as to what the conference could or should do, but the one suggestion I have that I believe would be in the best interest of all concerned is a simple one, yet complex in its own right.

My suggestion is to come to a compromise between the Big East, Big Ten, and Rutgers.

The Big East should call the Big Ten right now, as in I should hear commissioner John Marinatto dialing the phone as I type these words, and strike up a deal for Rutgers.

First, offer to give Rutgers to the Big Ten right now. Of course, we are too close to the upcoming football season to logistically work it out for them to compete this season in the Big Ten, so the Big East will hang on to Rutgers for the 2010-11 academic year, but will immediately be released from all Big East obligations upon completion of all Big East conference schedules for this upcoming year.

Second, the offer should be contingent upon the Big Ten not poaching any further members from the Big East. By getting Rutgers for the 2011 seasons, the Big Ten can start planning a championship game, and will not have to wait the 27-month penalty period. By not losing any more teams to the Big Ten, the Big East can continue competing as it has, and possibly could expand its own ranks by two or three teams.

By not having to wait to transfer their membership to the Big Ten, Rutgers can make its move quickly and avoid two-plus uncomfortable years of anguish competing in a conference where everyone views them as a traitor, or with envy.

Not having to pay the $5 million exit fee will ensure there are no road blocks to slow the transition, and Rutgers fans will get what they want, which is to join a conference they will never have any hope of dominating in any sport for the remainder of their existence.

At the end of the day, when the deal is struck and all parties have moved forward, the Big Ten will have its 12th member in a large television market, allowing them to stage a championship game.

The Big East will still be alive and probably won’t be in any danger of losing its automatic BCS bid, and will still be the best basketball league in the country–and honestly, may be even stronger in the long run if they end up adding a couple of schools such as Central Florida and Memphis to replace Rutgers.

Everyone ends up happy. The Big Ten gets what it wants. Rutgers gets what it wants. And to a degree, the Big East gets what it wants.


Now That All of That is Settled

Truthfully, aside from the money aspect, the Big East may end up with the better end of the deal. Let’s be honest for a moment; by losing Rutgers, what exactly is the Big East losing?

Rutgers has always been dead weight in men’s basketball in the Big East. Raise your hand if you can honestly say you remember when Rutgers last accomplished anything in the sport.

As for football, Rutgers has shown a pulse for all of about seven minutes, and there is a real possibility they peaked in 2005 with a win over Louisville on a Friday night. They have never won a Big East Championship in football or men’s basketball.

The last few years, when Rutgers actually started earning bowl berths, they have complained about which bowl they have been “forced” to participate in, claiming they have been “done wrong” by the Big East.

Since 1993, when the conference started round-robin football play, Rutgers has fed at the Big East football table and contributed nothing. For nearly 20 years, Rutgers did not contribute a single dime’s worth of bowl participation money, while every other team in the league not named Temple earned multiple bowl bids each.

Rutgers benefited from all that bowl money over the years, without doing their part, and now they feel as though they have a gripe against the Big East in terms of what bowl they are relegated to?

Let us take it a step further.

How many NCAA bids and subsequent NCAA tournament monies has Rutgers contributed to the Big East post-season money pile? How often have they benefited from the success of other Big East members, other Big East alumni donations, other coaches, athletes, fans and administration efforts?

Yet now, Rutgers feels it is too good for the Big East? Rutgers feels as though it isn’t getting a fair shake in the Big East? It seems to me Rutgers got a better deal than anyone (getting fed for years without ever contributing to the pot), and a case could have easily been made for the dismissal of Rutgers along with, or instead of, Temple back in 2003.

And with all of Rutgers historic lack of success in the Big East, they think they are going to move to the Big Ten and beat Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa? Let us know how all of that works out for you.

The truly odd thing in all of Rutgers’ desire to leave the Big East behind, is that Rutgers may never receive an invitation from the Big Ten. If Rutgers fans feel they are getting a raw deal now, wait and see what happens to them if they do not get invited to the Big Ten.

Wait and see how things are for them after they have built up resentment among their conference mates, with all the negative commentary they have offered up about the conference during what they thought was their trip out the door, and down to Jersey State Lottery headquarters, otherwise known as the Big Ten.

Can you imagine future Big East meetings when Rutgers personnel try to bring up a point of concern they have after all this public clamoring to get out of the Big East, if they end up getting left out of the expansion picture?

So for the sakes of all involved; Rutgers, the Big Ten, and especially the Big East, let’s make the Rutgers Compromise a reality, and send Rutgers to the Big Ten now.

For the future of the Big East, it may be the best move possible.


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