I have a neighbor, Rich, who hails from Pittsburgh. And he is a Pittsburgh fan: Steelers, Pirates (poor guy). And Pitt, as in the University of.
We've had a lot of conversations about the state of college sports. He, like me, is older than a lot of you. I'd say he's an uber traditionalist. If my friend Rich could have his way, we would go back to before there were conference changes, before TV ruled the roost. If Rich had his way, on New Year's Day, around 4:00 pm Eastern time, the champion of the Big Ten (as in actually ten schools) would be taking on the champion of the Pac 8 (yes, as in eight schools) in the "grandaddy of them all (thank you, Keith Jackson). And sometime after that game, in Miami, the champion of the Southwest Conference (for real; you can look it up), usually Oklahoma, would take on some other team TBD.
Long time ago. Ago being the operative word.
With the announcement that USC and UCLA will be entering the Big Ten in 2024, Rich's dream of maintaining geographical rivalries (as if they'd existed in the last 20 years) are pretty much devoid of any possibility of existing. Just as the days of Rutgers playing Princeton regularly in football disappeared when the kitty cats down Route 27 got tired of losing to us, the days of the Pac 8, the SWC, or the "eastern independents" are gone. Forever.
Am I sad? Well, old guys get sentimental pretty easily. Personally, I always wondered why, while I was in New Brunswick, RU wasn't playing BC, Pitt, and Syracuse instead of Lafayette, Bucknell, and Lehigh. Rutgers wasn't nearly as big as it is today, but it was a pretty large school (if you combined Rutgers College, Douglass, and Livingston). Kinda like Maryland or Pitt. But maybe not.
Am I happy Rutgers is getting some notoriety? Sure, although the spate of current articles surrounding the USC/UCLA news tends to mock - just a tad - the glamour of a UCLA-Rutgers matchup in some sport. And, for the record, it also questions the USC/UCLA wisdom of trading off games in Tempe or Palo Alto for games in the glorious climes of Bloomington and Chicago.
But we all know, it's money that drives the bus these days. What I knew as a big game against Lehigh is a distant memory. And the opportunity to watch the Scarlet against USC or UCLA is, in truth, a pretty cool idea. Times change, ideas change, situations change. And, unlike in the past, Rutgers is actually in a good position to benefit from it all.