A few years ago, Rutgers was mired in the Big East (on many levels) and the basketball/football rift in the conference was beginning to fester. The AAC wasn’t even something people thought of, because the great conference migration wasn’t happening yet.
I was in Piscataway at Rutgers and happened to be talking to a professor (who shall remain anonymous to protect him) and he was a supporter of athletics. Really!
We were talking about football, but he was speaking on a larger scale. To paraphrase his comment, “We don’t belong in the Big East. We don’t belong with Louisville and South Florida.” And as you read those two names, imagine that pork roll sandwich repeating on you, the agita coming back up and fouling your mouth. Because that’s how he said those names.
We don’t belong with Louisville and South Florida.
And I agreed. Oh, the 2006 Louisville game was about as exciting and emotional as you could imagine. The 2007 topping of USF was right up there, too. Playing big games against top-ranked teams, national TV. I had wanted that for....decades, since I’m that old.
But I have to admit that I would look at the big dogs: the Ohio States, the Alabamas, the Notre Dames, and USCs. I’d look at them and think, why isn’t Rutgers up there? I mean, I knew why. I was here for the Centennial Game in 1969. I knew what the history was. But, like Rutgers’ motto, Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also, I looked to the west. I know; the motto was talking about the west being the New World.
But the Big Ten. That was a new world, too. After all, the Big Ten is the oldest and most revered of the P5 conferences.
We didn’t belong with Louisville and USF.
Ignore the man behind the curtain....except the one with the “JD” monogram on his shirt
To listen to some bloggers and commenters on other sites - although their numbers seem to be shrinking as well as quieting - Rutgers should never have been considered for the Big Ten. Rutgers isn’t as good as any of us, they’re undeserving, they bring nothing to the conference, they’re slimy (okay, maybe that one’s an exaggeration). They’re....they’re....New Jersey.
But in all honesty, Rutgers does belong. It is a true peer of the membership. (Quiet....do you hear the gagging and choking sounds coming from the Ohio Valley?)
Try research. From the National Science Foundation. From the latest available data (2014), Rutgers was 31st in the nation and 7th in the Big Ten for R & D expenditures. And for those bloggers (**cough** Crimson Quarry **cough**) in Monroe County, Indiana, that puts Rutgers seven spots ahead of any major university (**cough** IU **cough**) in that county. Eight spots ahead if you throw in the University of Chicago.
And what about national rankings as universities? We’ll use the most recent U.S. News & World Report because....why not? It’s 2015’s survey; the new one comes out on September 9 if you’re so inclined to check.
Among national universities, Rutgers is No. 72, the tenth highest ranked Big Ten school. The Big Ten as a whole averages a 58.3 ranking. As a side note, for Coach Klaassy, Big Ten hockey schools average a 43.8 ranking. The helmets work!
And compare the academic “prestige”, if you will, of the various P5 conferences, using the U.S. News rankings.
Want to exclude No. 12 Northwestern? Okay, then take out Duke (8), Stanford (4), and Vanderbilt (15), too. Big Ten is still on top.
Want to go outside the P5? Let’s go to the old stomping grounds, The American. Hey, they’re all fine schools, I’m sure. Navy, of course, is in it’s own category (No. 9 National Liberal Arts college). Memphis was “rated” but the rank wasn’t published (that...doesn’t...sound promising). Take the top four schools (Tulane, UConn, SMU, and Tulsa) and they average a 61.3 average ranking - pretty good. Now add in the other six and the ranking drops to 120.5. Sorry, folks, they ain’t our peers.
Why do this? Well, first, it’s July and football camp hasn’t begun yet. Second, someone was just talking to me about how a certain public high school in Essex County has school counselors who actively discourage students from even applying to Rutgers. Those counselors should be ashamed of themselves. And Rutgers should say something about that. Third, old habits die hard. So many of us have spent so much time arguing and fighting with friends and family about Rutgers. Maybe I just needed to puff out the chest one more time, to hold my chin up proudly and say, “We don’t belong with Louisville and South Florida.”
And we’re not.
Hellooooo, Midwestern brethren. We are happy to be here. Have some Jersey peach pie.