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As the Big Ten expands, only one thing matters for Rutgers



Photo credit Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten got even bigger once again on Friday when the conference officially invited Washington and Oregon to become full members. The two former PAC-12 schools will join the league on August 2, 2024 along with USC and UCLA. Adding all four schools is the league’s first expansion since welcoming Rutgers and Maryland in 2014.

“We are excited to welcome the University of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference,” said Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti. “We look forward to building long-lasting relationships with the universities, administrators and staff, student-athletes, coaches and fans,” Petitti said. “Both institutions feature a combination of academic and athletic excellence that will prove a great fit for our future.”

With a new media rights deal and now 18 schools, the Big Ten is set to bring in record revenue sharing totals for its members. It’s expected that the Big Ten schools will earn approximately $70 million each year through the length of the multi-year deal.

Per a report from Pete Thamel of ESPN, both Oregon and Washington will receive partial shares of the conference’s media rights deal until it expires at the end of the 2029-2030 school year. The revenue share projection for full Big Ten members will change some due to NCAA Tournament and College Football Playoff payouts. Unlike USC and UCLA, the newest additions are likely to received less than half of a full revenue share initially. Per a report from Matt Fortuna, Oregon’s and Washington are set to earn roughly $30 million annually of the Big Ten’s revenue distribution. It should grow by $1 million each year through the length of the current deal. They will receive full shares upon the next TV deal, in 2030-31.

The four PAC-12 schools are all avoiding a exit fee to leave due to the league’s television deal expiring after this school year.

Whether the Big Ten decides to expand further remains to be seen. It’s fair to wonder if 20 or even 24 members is the ultimate end game for the conference. Some of the schools reportedly being considered as potential fits includes Florida State, Miami, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, Stanford, Cal and Notre Dame.

So what does Friday’s move mean for Rutgers? And why has the school received some negative attention in the days since it was announced?

Let’s start with what it means.

It only strengthens the position of Rutgers by being in the top league in the country, the Big Ten. Yes, television is in an unstable place with the streaming space continuing to grow within sports media rights. However, it’s fair to note that the PAC-12 is falling apart after only receiving a streaming only media rights deal from Apple TV with expected revenues to be in the $20+ million range per school. So the current power structure remains with the big name TV companies.

The Big Ten is adding schools from Los Angeles, Seattle and the Portland. Per Nielsen DMA Rankings, LA is the No. 2 market, Seattle-Tacoma is No. 12 and Portland is No. 22. It also gives you a hold on the Pacific Northwest as a whole, plus Southern California.

The Big Ten is securing markets to strengthen its media rights potential for now and the future. Adding national brands certainly help too. When the league grows, ultimately Rutgers’ impact and its importance to the overall media rights increases. New York City is the obvious No. 1 in the market. Let’s not forget South Jersey too, which is the No. 4 market with Philadelphia.

The new media rights deal proves that adding Rutgers was the absolute right decision for the Big Ten. It shouldn’t really be a questions anymore. Everyone got much richer with more on the way.

And let’s not forget how Rutgers and the Big Ten have benefitted with the move from an academic perspective as well.

Despite struggles on the field since joining the league, the rest of the conference has benefitted immensely. The brand has skyrocketed in value and now every school will make more money than in the history of college athletics. And it’s only going to increase in the decade to come.

Rutgers is finally close to benefitting from the financial boon as well. After getting a much smaller share to join the league, they’ve been paying back a loan borrowed from the league to be completed in 2027. They’ve technically been earning a full share since 2021. There was previous mentions of Rutgers potentially having some of that loan forgiven after it was announced that UCLA and USC were joining. With Washington and Oregon now being added, you can expect those talks to continue or even intensify.

The bottom line is that the bottom line for Rutgers, like it’s athletic department on the field, has not met it’s full potential. Do any critics think they’d be in a better financial situation by sticking to the AAC?

Anyone with enough interest and thought to process the situation that Rutgers was in when they joined the Big Ten shouldn’t be surprised. After decades of administrative missteps, a lack of financial support and multiple scandals, RU was not in a position of strength joining the Big Ten. It’s okay to admit that Rutgers was not worthy from an institutional sense.

There are still Rutgers fans upset with the deal the school took due to such a small revenue share. Rutgers came in was outdated facilities and were competing against fellow league members set to make much more money with a much better established infrastructure.

What did anyone expect would happen? Rutgers was ill prepared, both strategically and facilities wise, all while recovering from the Mike Rice scandal. It was a disastrous set up and it led to awful results pretty much across the board.

The first five years in the league were ROUGH!

It didn’t help that arguably the worst athletic director in Rutgers history, Julie Hermann, led the department into the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights were a punchline for those initial years in the league. Unfortunately, it was well deserved. However, so much has changed since and for the better.

Pat Hobbs has transformed the landscape of Rutgers Athletics with state of the art practice facilities, far greater support that has resulted in many successful coaching hires and unprecedented academic success from its student-athletes.

With President Jonathan Holloway, the department now has an advocate for student-athletes in the highest seat on campus.

Alignment and competency across the administration, something that was an impossible dream for what felt like forever, is finally in place.

For anyone actually paying attention, it’s clear Rutgers is in a far better position since joining the Big Ten. And the Big Ten is in a far better position today because of Rutgers.

Yes, financial debt within Rutgers athletics is still a problem. Winning hasn’t come easy, but many programs are improved then they were a decade ago. Some much improved and now nationally relevant, including men’s basketball.

However, the new reality didn’t prevent a favorite pastime from occurring on Monday. The Athletic wrote a feature titled, “The Worst realignment move ever is worse than you thought”. It’s mostly a piece using recycled data and recycled quotes from a disgruntled economics professor that some Rutgers fans are aware of. There are plenty of valid criticisms in regard to the financial situation, but there was an angle that felt, well, disingenuous.

My issue with the piece is the statement, “The Big Ten brand has not elevated Rutgers athletics. If anything, it’s done the opposite.”

This is simply untrue.

While the Directors Cup standings was mentioned and rightly so as a factor in showing Rutgers is struggling athletically, there were clear omissions as well. Namely, in the past two years, Rutgers has won three Big Ten titles, made two Final Fours, and sent six different programs to the the NCAA Tournament. This doesn’t include Rowing finishing in the top 15 in nationals and wrestling finishing in the top 20. And in a general sense, Rutgers is far more competitive in many sports within the Big Ten in the last few years compared to the beginning.

Football is still struggling to make major progress, but things appear to be headed in the right direction. And men’s basketball is close to landing the top two recruits in the nation.

Will Rutgers be a tolerable weight on the Big Ten when Dylan Harper, Ace Bailey, Gavin Griffiths and the rest of the Scarlet Knights are one of the major storylines across college basketball in 2024-2025?

Do the state of the art facilities built because of becoming a member of the Big Ten not matter?

Adding Rutgers to the Big Ten made the league and its members more money than ever before. And it will continue to do so in the future as well.

Does that sound like the worst realignment move ever being worse than you thought? If you hate change and don’t want new brands establishing themselves nationally, then it all makes sense.

The close to first decade in the Big Ten has been challenging, frustrating and involved plenty of losing. If the national media thinks that deters Rutgers fans, they have even less context that I thought. Rutgers fans have lived through a lot harder things than a decade of losing in the Big Ten. And there is more legitimate hope now than ever before.

Being so far behind its Big Ten peers, it was always going to take a very long time for Rutgers to gather itself to be competitive and relevant on the field and court. You could reasonably argue they’re ahead of schedule considering the state of things in the early 2010’s.

When fan bases of schools on the outside of the Big Ten complain or make fun of Rutgers as conference realignment puts their own athletic departments closer to irrelevancy, just laugh it off. Especially the old classic, Rutgers has fans? Yes we do and with a heck of a lot more backbone than you.

When Washington and Oregon get better deals to enter the league than Rutgers got, don’t sweat it. Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who should be revered by all Rutgers fans, made the deal necessary to benefit the school for decades to come. I’ll dedicate more time to his legacy soon.

When the national media try to isolate Rutgers as a disaster not worthy of Big Ten status, try not to click. I admit I have to learn that lesson, too. Click on James Kratch’s smart proposal for how the athletic department could benefit in the future instead.

All that matters is Rutgers being a full member of the Big Ten and receiving a full share of the media rights deal. With that status and stability, better days truly are ahead for the athletic department.

Only true Rutgers fans, alums and supporters have the real perspective of how far Rutgers and the athletic department have come. The best part of the last few days is multiple fans from Michigan and Ohio State defending Rutgers for its current standing in the Big Ten with reasonable arguments and actual context. That’s arguably the most unbelievable development of joining the Big Ten. RU is slowly morphing from unwelcomed party crasher to promising sibling growing stronger among conference fan bases. Rutgers is becoming one of their own.

We know that Rutgers has taken significant steps forward in the last decade. The athletic department has done so despite being well behind the starting gate, working through past scandals, ancient facilities, a lack of institutional support and little hope.

Imagine what the next decade will bring Rutgers with competing against its fellow Big Ten members on a much more level playing field. Perhaps in the future, the storyline will be about the athletic monster that the Big Ten created by adding Rutgers. Is that a pipe dream? For many years, the idea of Rutgers being in the Big Ten was a pipe dream. Now that it’s a reality, it’s still painful for many still clinging to tradition, name brands and structure.

Conference realignment has brought chaos to college athletics. It’s not all good. But for Rutgers, the school is the unquestioned champion of conference realignment. Once they start winning more and more on a national level and gain more relevancy because of it, the putdowns and criticisms will ring more hollow. Embrace it all.

Where other fans and media think Rutgers belongs doesn’t matter. It only matters where they actually are and why they are there. Rutgers is in the Big Ten and will benefit in more ways than one in the future. If you don’t like, that doesn’t matter either.

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  1. DranktheRUkoolaid

    August 7, 2023 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for writing this. The Athletic’s article today was really vicious. I mean, they rarely, if ever, do they mention Rutgers. And the one time they do, in the first featured article in the last year, it is about as negative a write-up about a school as I have seen (that didn’t involve a scandal).

    I also just don’t understand why there is so much hate for Rutgers. Other fans, ok, there is jealousy, envy, and frustration that their schools may be in an unstable conference during a time of swift consolidation. But Rutgers went through this too. They were left for dead when the ACC raided the Big East. Rutgers persevered and survived, and those schools will too.

    What I really appreciate is how many Rutgers fans responded to the hit piece, highlighting the fact that the B1G is in the realignment driver’s seat because of RU’s inclusion in the conference. Also, so many fans noted the school’s many successes in the non-revenue sports.

    No other school’s fans would ever allow such a harsh piece to go unanswered, and now I know Rutgers fans won’t either.

  2. BataliBoli98

    August 7, 2023 at 9:15 pm

    Amen! Outstanding article. Thanks for taking the time to write it. What would help perception is for RU fans to fill our football stadium week in and out and not allow the PSUs of the world to take over the building. It’s very frustrating to look around at kickoff and see a building that appears half full or, worse yet, the opponent’s jersey visible throughout the stadium. To me, men’s hoops and wrestling have a culture of excitement that surrounds their programs. Hopefully, football can inch their way towards the top and in the process change the perception about RU athletics as a whole. Time will tell.

  3. pj43

    August 7, 2023 at 10:44 pm

    To “The Athletic” & all those other vociferous critics of Rutgers being a Big Ten member –
    Aaron, thanks for telling it like it is in a much more gentle way that I would put forth.  The “sleeping giant” that is the Rutgers athletic program is awakening and is about to emerge in a way that will make even its most ignorant critics eat crow.  I look forward to seeing it!

  4. thevinman

    August 9, 2023 at 11:44 am

    The critics are absurd and irrelevant. Having Rutgers along with Maryland in the Big Ten helped dramatically increase media revenues. New rivalries were created too, and these are especially heated in basketball. Anyone can play the “who cares about games where A plays B. Does anyone really care about Boston College vs Florida State or Kansas State vs West Virginia?

  5. Jeffrey Justus

    August 15, 2023 at 6:38 pm

    From a fan of a fellow conference member (OSU) I embrace fan bases from all members of the B1G. This is total jealousy from those fans of schools that will never have the security that the Scarlet Knights will enjoy. It’s total stupidity that certain fans think the B1G should toss out Northwestern and Rutgers because of lack of success on the gridiron. Let’s not forget that these institutions are in place for academic reasons. I’m pulling for your success.

    • Aaron Breitman

      August 15, 2023 at 9:29 pm

      Thank you and thanks for reading The Scarlet Faithful as an OSU fan. Good luck this season.

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