PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — As the Big East was being picked apart, Rutgers was looking for a way out and a new place to show off a football program that has been resurrected in the past decade.
Not only did Rutgers find that escape hatch, the Scarlet Knights ended up in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in college sports.
Rutgers joined the Big Ten on Tuesday, leaving the Big East behind and cashing in on the school’s investment in a football team that only 10 years ago seemed incapable of competing at the highest level.
The move follows Maryland’s announcement a day earlier that it was heading to the Big Ten in 2014. The additions give the Big Ten 14 schools and a presence in lucrative East Coast markets.
Rutgers announced its decision Tuesday at a campus news conference attended by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Rutgers President Robert Barchi and athletic director Tim Pernetti.
“The Big Ten is really where Rutgers belongs,” Barchi said. “This is not just a good fit for us athletically, it’s a good fit for us academically and as an institution.”
Rutgers has been competing in the Big East since 1991. But the league has been torn up by conference realignment, losing three key members last year.
Pernetti had insisted all along that Rutgers would land on its feet, that being a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities and residing in the largest media market in the country meant the school wouldn’t be cast aside as the landscape of college sports changed.
The Scarlet Knights landed in the best possible spot. A spot that seemed unthinkable a decade ago when Rutgers football was a Big East cellar-dweller.
“It’s a transformative day for Rutgers University, and transformative in so many ways,” Pernetti said. “This is about collaboration at every level, the perspective the Big Ten institutions have, the balance between academics and athletics, proving over decades and decades that athletics at the highest level and academics at the highest level can coexist. It’s the perfect place for Rutgers.”
Rutgers left its entry date ambiguous, though clearly the Big Ten and the school would like it to line up with Maryland’s.
The Big East requires 27 months’ notification for departing members. The Scarlet Knights will have to negotiate a deal with the Big East to leave early, the way Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia have done.
“Although we are disappointed that Rutgers has decided to leave the Big East Conference, we wish them well,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement.
In an interview later, Aresco said the conference would survive. “We’ll move judiciously to replace Rutgers, but we had already changed from the small, Northeast model,” he said. “We’re a national conference now. We became a bigger and better football conference.”
The Big East is trying to rebuild itself as a 12-team football league next season, with the addition of Boise State and five other schools. Now the conference is again on the defensive. Connecticut or Louisville could be next to go with the ACC looking to replace Maryland.
Aresco said he had been in touch with the newcomers and they were still on board. He declined to speculate on other members leaving.
Whenever Rutgers enters the Big Ten, it will be the culmination of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college sports.