The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE
Rutgers fans await the glorious #ENDGAME
I have a friend who's decently connected with the Maryland athletic department. Last year he gave the Wally Judge news a few hours before it broke. A few days back he told me that Maryland talks with the Big Ten were getting serious. Naturally, I wanted this to mean that Rutgers was next, and it made logical sense if you're not a dumb traditionalist that thinks college football should be frozen in time in the 1950s, but we all know that logic goes out the window with these matters. Hence, I thought it was wise to refrain from further speculation, but was quietly getting my hopes up over the past few days. It's no secret that Rutgers came very close to jumping conferences at least twice already over the past few years, getting stymied each time by parties like the Pac-12 hitting the breaks at the 11th hour, or Notre Dame taking forever to make a decision. That still could happen if Maryland screws this up (either internally, or with that damned ACC buyout), but this really might be happening this time.
Everyone involved with Rutgers athletics knows that Tim Pernetti is an elite athletic director, and there have been pretty strong hints that he's been working the Big Ten and ACC hard for the past few years. Just because he was not publicly groveling like UConn officials does not mean that Tim was not doing all he could for us. He was, and patience was in order. The Big East's television contract was about to expire, and with NBC ready to pay Big East teams a rumored 15 million dollars a year, it reasons that the powers that be in college football were never going to allow that to happen. They knew that Tim would win over NBC, that time was ticking to make a decision, and all of the other advantages that Rutgers brings to the table with football, television markets, and academics were also working in our favor. This is the dream he fought for, that Greg Schiano, Bob Mulcahy, and Richard McCormick all fought for, and if this happens it is a vindication of their overwhelming foresight and determination in the midst of endless naysayers. It would have been so easy to give up, but we persevered and survived, stronger for it even.
Yahoo Sports is now reporting that our moment of deliverance may be at hand. The same thing is being reported by ESPN negotiations mouthpiece Brett McMurphy, which is crucial. The same person who kept insisting about how the Big East would be lucky to get 8 million per team yearly has now completely changed his tune, echoing the change in strategy/resignation coming out of Bristol this week. The Michael Corleone moment for Tim Pernetti against all of his critics is now at hand, and I think we've all learned by now never to bet against him.
This move is already drawing the same old tired, predictable responses from critics that you might expect. Either one of:
A) "Jim Delany is an idiot and these teams suck." - This is the Brian Cook position, who is otherwise a very smart guy. Financially, this wouldn't have happened if Jim Delany didn't think it would make money. Why do you think there's been so much of an internal push to expand into new markets in the Big Ten the past few years even after they essentially punted with the Nebraska addition? Why have people like Alvarez and (groan) Paterno been so gung ho for it? They knew where the money was pointing. This move gets the Big Ten more coverage and higher fees in the wealthy and populous states of New Jersey and Maryland, it gets you in the game in New York City and Washington D.C., and it destabilizes the ACC/Notre Dame even if they replace MD with UConn as Andy Katz is speculating that they will. Both athletic departments have been in the red, but that deficit magically disappears when you replace mediocre ACC television revenue or the abysmal Big East revenue with fat, inflated Big Ten checks. Everyone involved, everyone, is going to make a ridiculous amount of dollars from this and be better for it.
Also, 1996-2002 is a long, long time ago. No one is suggesting that Rutgers will be a world beater in the Big Ten, but there's no reason why they can't settle in a Michigan State/Iowa/Northwestern-style 8-4 in perpetuity until the end of time. The Big East has struggled in football, so has the Big Ten, there's no reason that we can't beat up on Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, etc... just like everyone else does. Adding Rutgers increases the average quality of conference play. Plus, we'll be able to make a lot of jokes about meth and corn and loving foreign cars in the process when those lugheads can't shut up about guidos, it's going to be awesome. If you're still not convinced, congratulations on agreeing with Darren Rovell, and every other person who hates Nate Silver and thinks Miguel Cabrera should have been named MVP over Mike Trout.
B) "I like Maryland, but Rutgers. Rutgers?!?!?!" - This might be the only time in history that I play the scoreboard card. Maryland athletics is a mound of potential, but their football program is currently in shambles, both on the field and in terms of fan support. Rutgers football is the better product by any conceivable metric, and has been for a considerable period of time at this point. Their recent history isn't any great shakes either outside of a few good Fridge years. No disrespect intended to Maryland at all. I think they can turn it around with a good hire to replace Edsall, and by no means am counting them out in the long run; this is just a response to all of the bile directed at us on this point. Also, basketball is pretty much a non-starter in this debate. Television cares about football, and the fact that the ACC let basketball dictate their last expansion tells you all that you need to know about why other teams might be looking for the door now.
In summary, Rutgers fans really should not have any ill will or animus towards Big East football, just like we all wished West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and even Syracuse well when they got out of this hellhole. I wish those guys all of the best, old teams and new. Louisville deserves to land on their feet, maybe Maryland will, but either way I love all you guys to death regardless of what happens and will always root for them to succeed. There is no joy, none, in playing midwestern football instead of our regional rivals. This is solely, absolutely, and 100% for the money. Hey, how about that RAC expansion?
Big East basketball on the other hand...there is no limit to the calamities that deserve to happen to the Providence College mafia that bled a once-proud conference dry. That's what kills me about all this. The Big East should have worked. It was not done in by anything other than internal sabotage. I hope the football schools survive, but all of the basketball-only programs will now hopefully sink back down to the irrelevance that they rightly earned. We WANTED a powerful eastern conference, we begged, pleaded, fought kicking and screaming to the very end when you cronies just wanted to loot everything blind for your glorified social club. This is the Jeremiad you deserve. Rot and decay in hell you unscrupulous bastards.
Update: one theory that seems to make a lot of sense is that Fox bought about half of YES with the idea of bundling it with the Big Ten Network. Viola, Big Ten Network is on basic cable with big coverage fees.