The final touches of the new look Big Ten are complete with the announcement that Rutgers has officially accepted an invitation to join the conference effective July 1, 2014. Rutgers has called a press conference for 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday to make official its move out of the less than illustrious Big East into one of the power conferences of college football.
The announcement follows what has been a whirlwind week for a Big Ten Conference that has shifted its identity further east with the hope of expanding its national blueprint and certainly its television ratings.
On Monday morning, Maryland accepted an invitation to become the No. 13 team in the Big Ten, bringing a deep talent pool of Olympic sports to the conference in addition to one of the nation's best television markets. Now Rutgers, located conveniently between New York City and Philadelphia in addition to boasting 9 million residents in New Jersey, adds to the Big Ten's growing national presence. It also will surely benefit the Big Ten Network, which likely will add viewers in the tri-state area.
For a place that heralds itself as "The Birthplace of College Football," it is a rebirth of sorts for Rutgers.
In terms of their immediate standing, the Scarlet Knights seem to make slightly more sense on the football field than the Terrapins. Currently 9-1, Rutgers moved up four spots in the latest BCS rankings to No. 18 after winning at Cincinnati on Saturday 10-3. While the Scarlet Knights have yet to win a conference title (even in the diluted Big East), there is an upward trajectory for a program that at one point 10 years ago was talking about dropping down to what was then the 1-AA level.
Since a 4-7 record in 2004, Rutgers has had only one losing season and boasts five bowl wins since 2006. The future also looks bright for Rutgers given its recruiting haul last season; Rutgers had the No. 24 class in the nation according to Rivals.com and only Ohio State and Michigan had a better class in the Big Ten.
Joining the Big Ten caps off a masterful few months for Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti, who weathered the January defection of long-time head coach Greg Schiano to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and held together that vaunted recruiting class. Now with a move out of the Big East, Rutgers will reap a relative windfall from the Big Ten's television deal that should sustain an athletic program that has had to make severe budget cuts over the past few years.
The loss of Rutgers is another blow to a Big East conference that lost West Virginia to the Big 12 last season and will see Pittsburgh and Syracuse depart after this year for the ACC. Rutgers will pay a $10 million exit fee to join the Big Ten, but they may not be the last defection. With Maryland's move Monday out of the ACC, it is likely that UConn will leave the Big East and fill the slot opened by the Terrapins.
In addition, Boise State and San Diego State, set to join the Big East next year, may waffle on their commitment to the conference and further ding a brand that is currently in free fall.
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