Rutgers University is moving to the Big Ten Conference, ending a more than two-decade affiliation with the Big East as it tries to strengthen its athletic, financial and academic standing.
One day after the University of Maryland said it would join the Park Ridge, Illinois-based league following a 59-year run as a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Rutgers, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, further broadened the Big Ten’s U.S. East Coast footprint by becoming its 14th school.
“It’s a transformative day for Rutgers University,” Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said at a televised news conference. “The Big Ten is the ultimate academic neighborhood to live in and we’re now in that neighborhood.”
The Scarlet Knights’ application was unanimously accepted by the other members of the Big Ten, said Rutgers President Robert Barchi.
Rutgers, which led U.S. public schools in athletic-department spending directed from university budgets and student fees last year, will reap millions more directly from sports with the new conference affiliation, perhaps allowing the department to someday become self-sufficient, Barchi said.
Having yesterday approved the acquisition of a medical school as part of a restructuring of the state’s higher education system, Rutgers now is joining a highly regarded research consortium consisting mostly of Big Ten universities.
While Maryland announced plans to join the Big Ten on July 1, 2014, “In the case of Rutgers it’s less clear,” said James Delany, the Big Ten commissioner.
The school will work with the Big East to negotiate a suitable exit strategy, Pernetti said. Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which are moving to the ACC from the Big East, agreed to $7.5 million departure fees in July.
Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 in the first intercollegiate football game in 1869, and defeated Boston College in the first Big East football game in 1991. It became a conference member for all sports in 1995.
In the Big Ten, it will join Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.
The conference, with a television network that reaches 73 million cable and satellite subscribers, paid its schools $24.6 million last year, according to the Washington Post. Big East schools took in $6 million, according to the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey.
The Big Ten also will renegotiate its television contract in 2017, which probably will further raise the value of the deal. With Penn State reaching the Philadelphia market, adding Rutgers and Maryland gives the conference a presence from New York to Washington, D.C.
Rutgers funneled $28.5 million from its university budget and student fees into sports for the fiscal year that ended in June 2011, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. It was at least the second straight year that Rutgers led the list.
“Do I anticipate that this new agreement with the Big Ten will allow us to completely eliminate that subsidy, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Barchi said. “We’re talking about quite a few years from now as that fully materializes itself as we work through the transition time frame.”
Pernetti reduced athletic-department spending by $4 million, or 6.3 percent, in fiscal 2011. Still, the school’s faculty council voted in March to demand cuts of $5 million in university funding of athletics by fiscal 2016.
“I’ve never made it a secret to you guys when I got here that were going to fix the finances of athletics and become a self-sufficient operation,” Pernetti said. “This puts us on a faster track toward doing that.”
The conference move already has helped the Scarlet Knights’ ticket sales, with “hundreds of new deposits on football season tickets for next year,” Pernetti said he was told.
“The minute the speculation started to reach a fever pitch, we started to see it,” he said. “The poor people in the ticket office right now are probably the hardest-working people in the athletic department.”
Rutgers’s boards of governors and trustees voted yesterday to merge with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. With entry to the Big Ten, Rutgers will also gain access to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago that collaborates in research initiatives.
Rutgers is hopeful of an official invitation to join the CIC as has been expressed during negotiations, Barchi said.
“What it means is opportunities for increased research and collaborations between the institutions,” he said. “There are huge advantages on the research side.”
Rutgers’s exit from the Big East will leave 16 schools participating in most sports in the conference as of July 1, 2014, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC a year earlier and Notre Dame going to the ACC for all sports except football at an undetermined date. As of July 2015, there would be 12 teams committed to Big East football.