Rutgers Makes One Kind Of Sense, I Guess

Submitted by Brian on March 4th, 2010 at 12:17 PM


Let me provide some excessively late opinion on the recent flurry of Big Ten expansion articles. Article one indicates that a very expensive consultant has given the thing a thumbs-up with five schools mentioned as primary targets:

A source inside the league told the Tribune that the report, prepared by the Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Company, analyzed whether five different schools would add enough revenue to justify expanding the league beyond 11 teams.

"The point was: We can all get richer if we bring in the right team or teams," the source said.

The five analyzed were Missouri, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers. The source, though, called those five "the obvious suspects" and cautioned that other universities could earn consideration.

Someone got paid for this. I bet they yoinked the Grid of Judgment.

Anyway, that article comes with a big photo of the Rutgers mascot. Wha? Well, Teddy Greenstein—who I am suspicious of in this matter since he's the guy throwing those blind quotes about a 14 or 16 team Big Ten around—then claims Rutgers as the most likely school according to "consensus among Big Ten sources, officials from other conferences, and TV executives." I've also gotten some emails from a guy plugged into what's going on at Rutgers who says there have already been serious talks.

I don't get it. You look at this list of criteria proposed by Greenstein and try to find a way in which Rutgers makes the most sense:

  • Revenue. "Having a large and full football stadium is key. A basketball arena, too." Fail, fail. "But a bigger factor might be the television market." Maybe. More about this later.
  • Geography. Rutgers is adjacent to Pennsylvania, I guess, but it's ten hours from Ann Arbor. The closest school is Penn State, which is four hours from Rutgers. It is a better fit than Texas, but not by much. Ten conference members are flying to Rutgers every time.
  • Academics. Meh? Rutgers is not in the AAU. [Update: Oops. They are.]
  • Recruiting. I don't think recruiting matters at all since adding a new team to the Big Ten isn't going to significantly change conference perception unless it's Texas or maybe Notre dame. But it's hard to see what Rutgers brings to the table there other than the occasional New Jersey football recruit. It might actually become harder to recruit in Jersey if Rutgers becomes more attractive as a Big Ten member.

Literally the only thing Rutgers brings to the table is the New Jersey/New York media market, and it's unclear how much pull RU actually has there. The Big Ten had to fight tooth and nail to get the BTN on in places where the college kids are the biggest game in town. Rutgers is at best the tenth banana in the NYC/NJ pecking order. They are behind the Jets, Giants, Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Yankees, Mets, Devils, Nets. Maybe they're more important than the Nets.

An area cable company could risk ignoring the BTN. Then what do you have? A school whose grandest bowl victory was probably a Texas Bowl demolition of Kansas State. Meanwhile, the basketball team hasn't made the tournament since 1991. I'm all for laughing maniacally as the Big Ten methodically steals a dollar a month from 18 million New Yorkers who don't even know what the BTN is, but I doubt Rutgers has that kind of cachet. Greenstein tries to prove that they do by citing that one game against Louisville which drew an 8.1. Sure, "when Rutgers wins" they are popular. They have been popular once since 1869.

Greenstein's other reasons are meaningless: they have an airport. They played a football game in 1869. Delany is from New Jersey. And they would leave the Big East. They've got some tenuous ability to bring TV markets. In literally every other way they are inferior to Missouri.

There is also a fawning profile in a Chicago business magazine that Orson should definitely not read unless he wants blood to run out of his eyes:

Colleagues describe Mr. Delany as restless and fearless. Those traits were apparent in 2007, when he formed the Big Ten Network, the nation's first conference-owned cable channel.

Anyway, that article has some quotes in direct opposition to Greenstein's "this is definitely happening" stance. Penn State president Graham Spanier:

"The folks in the media have gone a little bit crazy with this," he says. "There's a very good chance we won't expand at all. This is just a question we ask ourselves every few years. We don't feel we're under any pressure to expand."

"A little bit crazy" indicates that Spanier hasn't delved into the real speculation where Texas joins the Big Ten, brings half of the Big 12 along with it, and invades Mars.



March 4th, 2010 at 1:29 PM ^

IMHO, not that big a draw at all. I've lived at or near the NY/NJ border all my life (save for 4 great years in AA) and I've never felt anything close to a regional comraderie or spirit directed at, or galvanized by, Rutgers. It's considered a good local school, don't get me wrong, but it has zero appeal beyond the people who actually go or went there. NYers could give 2 s**ts about Rutgers. We don't get excited about NJ sports. As a rule. Ever. The Nets? Nobody cares; they're moving to Brooklyn. The Devils? nobody cares, even after winning the Cup several times. As a lawyer, I know RU best for it's credibility as having a fairly reputable law school, not much else. Their football team is on par with UCONN, their men's basketball program is terrible, no hockey. The womens' sports dominate the mens' programs.

If you're going for the NY/NJ/CT media, you absolutely go with 'Cuse. I see Orange everywhere. Northeast-coasters love 'Cuse basketball; and if the football program were to get the legitimacy of the Big Ten behind it, I think their style of play could lead to some solid development on that end.

'Cuse football "feels" Big Ten. The tradition of Ernie Davis and Jim Brown. Powerful RBs. Playmaking WRs like Marvin Harrison and David Tyree (who catches passes with his head to win the Giants the Superbowl). Heady QBs like Donovan McNabb. I think the Big Ten could use a domed stadium, too.

Obviously it's a basketball superpower. 'Cuse vs. MSU. 'Cuse vs. Purdue. 'Cuse vs. Michigan. I would put everything on hold to watch those intraleague matchups. Kids will be attracted to play for Big Ten schools because when you play 'Cuse, you're probably going to be on TV a lot.

Pitt is a close second. A lot of people will tune in to watch Pitt play intraconference Big Ten basketball. But you can say the same for 'Cuse. Pitt football is ahead of 'Cuse right now, but I think when Syracuse rights their ship, that's a team you want more in your conference selling merch, tickets and TV commercials. 'Cuse making Big Ten bucks can easily be the Michigan of the Northeast.


March 4th, 2010 at 6:47 PM ^

...I've lived in western NY for the past 8 years and I can tell you for a fact that no one cares about Syracuse unless the Bball team is doing well. Then everyone is trying to elbow their way onto the bandwagon.

I'd also like to point out that the city of Syracuse is a dying pit situated on one of the most polluted lakes in America.

Yeah, real great potential addition to the Big Ten.


March 4th, 2010 at 1:26 PM ^

I'm originally from the Michigan but have spent parts of my life elsewhere (IN, IL, NY, CT, IL[again]). For a fifteen year span (1977-92), I lived in upstate NY and CT (Poughkeepsie & Danbury). I do not recall any sort of college football excitement among the locals. Shoot, even our high school football games were played on Saturday afternoons. I cannot imagine that having Rutgers join the Big 11 would change that mind set. I'm guessing this is all a smoke screen / diversion to hide the real expansion target(s) - I have no inside knowledge but I'm guessing Pitt or Mizzou as those two make the most sense (to me).


March 4th, 2010 at 1:26 PM ^

than the then or Zen (?), I think. The East Coast may be catnip to some of these chablis-sipping, brie-eating administrators, but the POTENTIAL is hugeacious. I'm a Jersey guy and my mom used to teach Sex Ed (yes, try to live that down!) at Rutgers; I may be biased. But I think that much more of the greater BosNYWash area tunes in to a Rutgers game if they're playing w. the storied programs of the B10 than does to see a game w. . . Louisville. Plus--you may misunderestimate the market, Brian. A lot of the teams you are citing play on Sunday, evenings, etc,--i.e. don't necessarily conflict w. Rutgers Sat. aft football, which has to be job 1.

There have been hints over the last few years that Rutgers was on the verge of actually, like, being adopted by a state hungry for something other than (oil) refinement. You now see red Rs everywhere in C. Jersey in a way that you did not before. They have beefed up their arenages. A lot of (somewhat) provincial comments from N Yorkers (above) don't necessarily alter this equation. And I say this as a guy who has lived in Bklyn and Manhattan, too. Nobody in New York can even find New Jersey on a map, let alone would want to go there nyuk. New Jersey is more densely populated than Japan. And it's about establishing a certain kind of REACH.

Presumably (anyway) we will one day be privy to some of the thinking that went into these decisions. I'm thinking we go to fourteen, myself, as a prophylactic measure. But I fail to see how any of the other teams on the list are sexy, either. Missouri? The only one I have any affection for is Pitt, and I can barely explain myself on that one.


March 4th, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

for taking ND off the schedule. They want all the benefits of playing Big 11 schools but won't join the conference. They are the only team that really makes sense but feel no pressure to make this decision. Since nothing will change, I'd rather see UM play an SEC or Big 12 team on a regular basis.


March 4th, 2010 at 1:39 PM ^

For my generation ('95), the ND game was huge...possibly bigger than MSU and OSU. Not for all, but many hated ND with a passion normally reserved only for MSU or OSU.

Anyway, out of curiosity, is '83 your graduation year? Wondering if it wasn't a rivalry at that time. I'd hate to see ND leave the schedule (but would hate it more to see them join the Big Ten).


March 4th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

we get it.

One other thing Rutgers has going for it: their program believes in keeping on the up and up, and their fans are not jerks. Also: they're a public state university, which fits the M.O. of most of our schools

Academically, they would be Big Ten, but bottom half of the Big Ten and, notably, below Pitt. They'd still beat Indiana, Iowa, and Little Brother (the latter two didn't make the Top 200)

Your Chart?Chart.:

FBSrank 2009 Rank Institution
1 14 Duke University
2 16 Stanford University
3 19 University of Michigan
4 32 University of California, Los Angeles
5 32 Northwestern University
6 39 University of California, Berkeley
7 61 University of Wisconsin-Madison
8 63 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
9 76 University of California, San Diego
10 76 University of Texas at Austin
11 78 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
12 80 University of Washington
13 86 Georgia Institute of Technology
14 87 Purdue University
15 100 Rice University
16 105 University of Minnesota
17 112 University of Southern California
18 114 University of Pittsburgh
19 120 Pennsylvania State University
20 122 University of Maryland, College Park
21 128 University of Virginia
22 129 Ohio State University
23 140 Vanderbilt University
24 166 University of Arizona
25 179 Texas A&M University
26 183 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
27 186 University of Colorado at Boulder
28 193 Indiana University Bloomington
29 199 University of Notre Dame

Essentially, it'd be like adding another Indiana with a potential in to the New York market, but without the Gene Hackman movie.


March 4th, 2010 at 1:45 PM ^

Thanks for the chart. I assumed Rutgers was even crappier, but saying that your academics are "better than MSU" isn't so sweet. I agree that it's important to add a public university (which is why I completely oppose adding a private religious school), but think we can do wayyyy better than adding Rutgers. It may not be the worst academically, but it would be near the worst athletically. I'd rather aim high than scrape low.


March 4th, 2010 at 2:40 PM ^

I really don't understand why people place so much emphasis on Academic ranking. I also can't understand how people can blindly assume Rutgers isn't a great school academically. As a native New Yorker, I can tell you that Rutgers would be in the middle to top academically.

I know anecdotal evidence isn't quite solid, but the folks I know out of Rutgers are on par with folks I've met from other schools in the big ten, including Michigan.


March 4th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

I always assumed that Rutgers was a lesser school academically because my smarter friends from the NY/NJ area regarded it as such.

That being said, it's still rubbish in terms of athletics and brings nothing to the table for the fans of Big Ten athletics. Here is my highly subjective list of Big East/Big 12 teams ordered by how much I'd like to see them compete in/mesh with Big Ten football & basketball. Of couse, the Big East is too weak to have the same teams for football and basketball, so I only include their football teams. All apologies for the lack of a sweet looking chart:

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Nebraska
4. Colorado
5. Kansas
6. Syracuse
7. Pitt
8. WVU
9. Missouri
10. Texas A&M
11. Texas Tech
12. Ok State
13. Cinci
14. K State
15. Iowa St
14. UConn
15. Louisville
17. USF
18. Baylor


March 4th, 2010 at 3:24 PM ^

Let me go on the record to say I don't think Rutgers is the best fit. I guess it's just annoying that people get all elitist all of a sudden when it comes to academics in the Big Ten. IMO, no conference is academically more stacked (aside from "ivy") than the ACC.

At any rate, I mostly agree with your list; except Kansas St over UConn...Really? I think UConn belongs in the top 10 (particularly if you consider b-ball)


March 4th, 2010 at 3:38 PM ^

Yeah, from #12 to the bottom, they're fairly interchangeable to me. I guess I kept UConn low b/c they're so new to DI football.

As for academic superiority, I think all conferences have their good (Stanford, UNC, Michigan) and bad (Arizona State, Florida State, MSU)...In my eyes, the problem isn't that the Big Ten is a league of the best academics, but adding a lesser team is of no value.


March 4th, 2010 at 3:34 PM ^

I stopped reading after "I grew up in NJ."

Just kidding. I think my point is essentially, I never thought about going to Rutgers when i was in HS. Fact, but I knew a few smart kids in my grade who went there. When I graduated from U of M (class of '06) and began working, I met a lot of folks who went to RU. My general perception is they're fun and smart people.

I also went to an RU/WVU game. They took pride, (not like we do, but still) and they had some funny chants about WVU and what not.
Perhaps my experiences are skewed (given the particular field I'm in, I work primarily with engineers and CS folks.)

As to why so many people from NJ don't go to Rutgers... I don't know... it is the most densely populated state in America though. Why do so many people from NYC/LI go to Michigan when they can go to NYU, Columbia, Syracuse, Binghamton, Fordham, etc.

Personally, I didn't want to go to NYU because I'd wind up living at home and walking to school. Also, I needed to get away from the east coast for mere sanity's sake.

James Burrill Angell

March 4th, 2010 at 4:11 PM ^

Most of the schools you mentioned are private so they would pay the same tuition as an out-of-stater at another state's flagship University.

NYU - private and no sports and tough to get into
Columbia - Private and Ivy so super expensive and very tough to get into
Syracuse - Private
Fordham - Private with almost no sports and very little sense of a campus life (looked at it for law school and hated it).
SUNY Binghamton - Thats a public school but no sports, crappy town, supercold.
Basically the only publics in NY are the SUNY system (Buffalo, Albany, Downstate, Binghamton, etc).


March 4th, 2010 at 4:20 PM ^

Minor quibble, Fordham Law is in Manhattan, Fordham actually has a decent campus in the Bronx (more so than, say, NYU.)

Aside from Princeton, where else in NJ would you go? Paterson? It's not like the reason people don't go to Rutgers is because there are many other preferable in-state destinations. I'm not saying Rutgers is world-renowned; I'm just saying people underestimate Rutgers, period.


March 5th, 2010 at 9:31 AM ^

Let's step back and look at this conversation so we can get a sense of what we're actually looking at with Rutgers. In-staters, tell me if you recognize this convo:

First guy says:

"I know anecdotal evidence isn't quite solid, but the folks I know out of [School X] are on par with folks I've met from other schools in the big ten, including Michigan."

A guy replies:

"[School X] is the safety school you have in case you didn't get into your safety school."

Another guy replies:

"I grew up in [only State where anyone knows anything about School X]. No one went to [School X] unless they had to."

First guy retorts that [School X] is really accomplished in [certain field] where he works.

Omigod people, we're dealing with another Michigan State!!!

Don't do it Rutgers! You've got a neat little fan niche right now that people respect. You're the easiest team to like in the Big East. But mark my words, a few years in the Big Ten, and you'll be "Penn State's Little Brother," and all self-identity will be thrust aside into defining yourself against your rival.


March 5th, 2010 at 12:18 PM ^

I live in NJ and spent most of my childhood there. Rutgers is definitely a "safety" school. Also, NJ has a large Catholic population and there are a lot of middling Catholic schools in the area.

Does anyone remember the place at Rutgers called the "Hall of Broken Dreams" or something? Enough said.

Foote Fetish

March 4th, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

As long as we're talking schools that are ridiculously far away from the rest of the conference, why don't we consider Oxford University in Oxford, England?

FACT: Oxford is a very good school, from what I've been told.
FACT: The Big Ten would add the entire 'European' market to its Media Empire.
FACT: We should be able to get over the language barrier once we all realize we're speaking English.
FACT: Oxford University has a football club, although they call them 'footballers' there instead of 'football players,' but we can probably iron out any misunderstandings as we go.

I dare you to refute these FACTs.

Transatlantic, y'all.


March 4th, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

Their football club is terrible. And they'd never leave their Cambridge rivalry.

Plus -- and I kid you not -- they would most likely insist on holding a costume ball before every football game, every basketball game, you name it.

On the plus side, if you put the 10 best bars in the Big Ten up against the 10 best pubs in Oxford, they'd have us licked after two pints.

But don't kid yourself: the London market doesn't care any more poop nuggets about Oxford sports than New York does for Rutgers.

Edinburgh, on the other hand, now THAT's a big program. More historic than Michigan, bigger than Ohio State, more academic than Northwestern, and they can drink like Michigan State.


March 4th, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

Nobody cares about Rutgers here. The only reason I'd want them to join the Big 10, is that I could see M play every other year.

I went to a Rutgers game this year. Terrible fan base IMO. They have a 50,000ish stadium, and only 2/3 showed up. And this was when they were had a winning record and were playing archrival (and ranked) West Virginia. Sure it was raining, but that's no reason why most of the people left at halftime. There was maybe 15,000, if that, that stayed until the end of the game (and it was a very close and competitive game).


March 4th, 2010 at 2:05 PM ^

No, taking Rutgers would be stupid. That is all.

I'd rather us take Texas, A&M, and Oklahoma.

*That* would be bitchin!!!

Big Ten Southern Division:

BT Northern Divison,
Penn St.

It preserves rivalries, and would that arrangement not kick-ass?

Now onward to the Mars invasion!!!

James Burrill Angell

March 4th, 2010 at 3:17 PM ^

The only reason the Big Ten wants this is for the championship game in football. NO OTHER SIGNIFICANT REASON!! They'll make a bundle more just for that one game.

So if that, in and of itself was reason enough to do it, why, if you were a Big Ten A.D. would you want to bring in a school that was an actual threat to beat you on the field/hardwood in the revenue sports? (Like a Texas!) No one is afraid of Rutgers on the field. The academics are solid (not spectacular but MSU will still be the worst academically) and maybe they bring in a little more of the east cost/NY market.

I just don't get everyone who keeps talking about adding a powerhouse athletics school. Think like an A.D.! These are the very same people who schedule people like the directional Michigan Universities and Baby Seal University to take an asswhooping while they collect millions for a home game. They're not going to bring in someone who is a threat.

Plus, if we get Rutgers, maybe Snooki and The Situation will be on the sidelines for their home games. I'm psyched for all the guidos to roll down Route 80 in their IROC's blazing the hair metal to visit Da' Big House.


March 4th, 2010 at 9:26 PM ^

While the main consideration for expansion may be the 12th FB team and the championship game, that doesn't mean that they'll take anybody - if they would, why not add a baby seal school?

Anyway, in the end the ADs don't make the decision about expansion, the presidents of the schools do. My suspicion is that they won't want a baby seal school, and that, once certain athletic requirements are met, they'll want the best academic school they can get. Which isn't Rutgers.


March 4th, 2010 at 2:23 PM ^

i live in nyc and currently get BTN-HD for football games despite having no sports packages. the channel is blocked out at other times. (i think. actually i haven't even tried to watch at other times, because, well...) i suppose adding rutgers would unblock BTN at other times. if this excites you, i'm sorry to hear.


March 4th, 2010 at 3:44 PM ^

Watch the Big East Tournament next week and then tell me who New York's team is. Syracuse has the largest fanbase on the east coast this side of Penn State.