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Should Rutgers join the Big Ten or the ACC?

There shouldn't have been any doubt in the minds of Rutgers fans that athletic director Tim Pernetti would rise to the occasion, and that's exactly what he did at a 5 pm press conference earlier. Probably the critical quote there concerns how Pernetti and Rutgers were not blindsided at all by what happened. Why would they be? Rutgers was teaming with West Virginia and Pittsburgh for months to do everything possible to save a Big East conference on a verge of collapse. The basketball schools and John Marinatto made their choice to not compromise, and now they're left with nothing. Your goons Tim Higgins and Jim Burr couldn't steal this one. Couldn't have happened to a more detestable bunch. Watching the ACC tournament in Madison Square Garden would be a final delicious, well-deserved coup de grace.

With our own personal Michael Corleone moment realized, there's a decision left to make, which Tom Luicci lays out very well in a wonderful Ledger article. The first dominoes are Texas and Oklahoma, whose cold feet ultimately killed RU's chances to join the Big Ten in 2010. If they jump, and presumably the ACC offers, RU accepts without hesitation, no questions asked. The thought of being left out in the cold is unfathomable. While we wait for Snidely Whiplash to finish twiddling his mustache however, the Big Ten has a very important decision to make. If they don't act now and approve further expansion, the Big Ten could find itself permanently checked in the Rust Belt without any room for future growth.

As indicated in the article, Rutgers's preference is to join the Big Ten, which they've been trying to do for a good twenty years. The Big Ten cares about money, television markets, football, and academics; which just happen to be in perfect symmetry with the RU athletic department's priorities. Let's compare and contrast both options rumored to be on the table.

The Big Ten:

  • Moneymoneymoneymoneymoneyyyyyyyyy
  • Easier basketball conference. No one really disputes this, although it's not like the Big Ten is a wasteland in that respect. They would take an easy back seat to the ACC however, with the lure of the latter conference certain to draw top recruits. Rutgers would have a fair easier road to the top in the Big Ten, with the downside of trying to sell an inferior conference and playing far away from home to recruits.
  • An easier football conference. Yep, this shouldn't be at all controversial although traditionalists opposed to statistical analyses will dispute it. While the Big Ten is better at the top, from one to twelve the average ACC team is far better. Year-to-year, Rutgers will win more games in the Big Ten. They'll have a better chance of going to a BCS conference game in the ACC.
  • Like Rutgers, the Big Ten prioritizes football first. That, more than anything else, is why it's the first choice for heavy hitters Schiano and Pernetti.
  • Travel will be a logistical nightmare in this conference, although $22 million dollars a year will go a long way towards assuaging any concerns. Basically every Olympic sport besides wrestling would much rather be in the ACC though, for both quality and travel reasons.

The ACC:

  • It's a better logistical and cultural fit, having most of the traditional Northern schools in their ranks to band together against any attempts at Tobacco Road dominance.
  • Better than the Big Ten in every sport besides wrestling. Better football, far better basketball, infinitely better lacrosse, baseball, soccer, etc...
  • Remember how Boston College's basketball team was treated like the 1995 New York Knicks when they entered the ACC? E.g., Craig Smith throws one elbow, and it's "OH MY GOD, THEY'RE SO PHYSICAL, IT'S LIKE HE'S THE SECOND COMING OF CHARLES OAKLEY OUT THERE!" BC was just a middle-of-the-road Big East team, not Mike Rice's bad boys serving double secret probation under direct orders from Providence. Rutgers wouldn't challenge threaten the traditional Tobacco Road powers as other Northern schools would, but their physical play style would quickly establish a headway in the middle of the conference.
Every conceivable sign screams that Rutgers should join the ACC. However, money has its own unique way of changing those equations, and Rutgers just happens to need that money a tad bit more than most other athletic departments; which is why Tim Pernetti joined with Oliver Luck and Steve Pederson to fight John Marinatto's brazen attempt to destroy the Big East. The athletic department's livelihood was literally on the line with this charade. Rutgers was backed into a corner, and acted in self-defense to guard its interests when they were threatened. Now Pernetti and Schiano have Rutgers on the one-yard line in triple overtime, ready to punch the ball in and go home winners. Every action over the past decade - building the Hale Center, Stadium Expansion, and the like, it's all led up to this precise moment. With Tim Pernetti blocking the way, just as he used to on the gridiron, Rutgers supporters can rest safe and secure that the athletic department's future is finally in good hands.