coming up shortly on CBS
Although I certainly haven't read every comment on the board the last 48 hours regarding expansion, I have read a number of comments expressing displeasure for Rutgers, a setiment I originally shared. However, the devil's advocate in me got thinking of the counter argument, and after a little research, I have changed my own mind. Rutgers certainly isn't the slam dunk that Nebraska was, but if the conference is set on expansion (as most of them are), then we could do worse than Rutgers (and maybe not a lot better). Let's start with the numbers:
Rutgers is a huge school. 42,327 undergrads and 14,541 grad students, for a total student body of 56,868. This makes it the 5th largest school in the country, larger than all Big Ten schools outside of OSU. That fits the Big Ten mold of "huge, state school" and means that Rutgers is pumping out alumni at a rate matched by few. The state of New Jersey has a population of 8.8 million people, which obviously excludes nearby NYC and Philadephia. The number of people within a decent drive of Rutgers is greater than nearly all (if not all) D1 football programs.
One of the gripes about Rutgers is that their football attendance is low. At 43,761 in 2011, that's above both NW and Indiana, and a few thousand below Illinois and Minnesota. To compare them to other prospective programs, Maryland is 42,355, Syracuse is 40,504 and GT is 48,232. Their attendance isn't crazy low, but would almost certainly be much higher if they moved to the Big Ten. In 2011, Rutgers had 7 home games, only WVU Pitt were decent draws, and every other home game was against a team you'd expect a poor draw from (Army, Navy, Ohio U, North Carolina Central, USF and Cincinnati). Even the decent teams on that list don't travel well. The Big Ten has the benefit of playing teams who bring fans to the stadium, something Rutgers would experience in a big way. Not only would a Big Ten schedule be more appealing to Rutgers fans, but it would bring opposing fans that weren't there in the Big East.
In terms of football quality, Rutgers isn't as bad as is being purported. To start, Rutgers is currently ranked #19 and #21 in the two polls, ahead of all but 3 Big Ten teams. They've had an easy schedule, but they won at Arkansas and at Cincinnati, and beat Syracuse at home. The last 6 years they've finished 9-4, 4-8, 9-4, 8-5, 8-5 and 11-2. They went to five bowls and won all five.
For the future, Rutgers has promise as well. NJ is becoming a hot bed for football recruiting, and Rutgers has been cashing in on that. Over the last 3 years, Rutgers has finished 64th, 32nd and 24th in the Rivals team rankings. The 24th in 2012 was behind only M and OSU among Big Ten teams despite only having 19 commits. That class included a 5 star and 4 four star recruits. Rutgers already has 17 commits for 2013.
In basketball, Rutgers is certainly no powerhouse, and typically finishes around .500 for the season. The Big East is a very difficult basketball conference, so that won't improve in the Big Ten. They'd be a Penn State/Northwestern/Nebraska type team who will steal some games but not many. Where they would make up for this is in lacrosse. I think lacrosse will be the third revenue sport in the NCAA, and Rutgers has an established but not elite lacrosse program. The real benefit here is that if the Big Ten added two lacrosse programs (with Maryland, for example) they could be playing Big Ten lacrosse almost right away, growing TV dollars and enabling Big Ten schools to play regularly in lax hotbed states. There is very little live sports on BTN in the spring, and having 5 Big Ten lacrosse teams would be a boon for BTN coverage and certainly $$$ moving forward. Having a Big Ten lacrosse league will also encourage other Big Ten schools to add lacrosse as a D1 sport, which could be a semi-major revenue earner for the conference within a decade from now.
In the end, I don't think there is another ND out there that would be a slam dunk addition to the league. If expansion is necessary or desired, than I think Rutgers would make a quality choice.
Wow...this is unbelievable.
From last year in A2 - mid-way through the first quarter. ESPN announcers react to Gardner coming into The Game...
Dave Pasch: “And Devin Gardner is coming in the game at QB for Michigan. Denard Robinson will stay in the game… What do you think of this?”
Chris Spielman: “I think it’s wrong! I think it’s the wrong idea!”
May Chris Spielman* have nightmares all week!
* And I hope like hell we get Griese doing color commentary... it's only fair!
Rivalry week is upon us.
Week 13 Opening Lines:
#20 Michigan +4.5 @ #4 Ohio (Sat 12:00pm ET ABC)
TCU +8.5 @ #18 Texas (Thurs 7:30pm ET ESPN)
#17 Nebraska -14.5 @ Iowa (Fri 12:00pm ET ABC)
#5 Oregon -13 @ #16 Oregon State (Sat 3:00pm ET Pac-12 Network)
#6 Florida OTB @ #10 Florida State (Sat 3:30pm ET ABC) Jeff Driskel status?
#24 Oklahoma State +9 @ #14 Oklahoma (Sat 3:30pm ET ESPN)
#11 Stanford +1.5 @ #15 UCLA (Sat 6:30pm ET FOX)
#13 South Carolina +4 @ #12 Clemson (Sat 7:00pm ET ESPN)
#1 ND OTB @ USC (Sat 8:00pm ET ABC) Matt Barkley-Doubtful?
edit: Also here's a picture that pretty much sums up the SEC: