As we welcome two new teams to the Big Ten, so must we welcome two blogs to the Big Ten group of SBN. One of those blogs is On The Banks, which covers all things Rutgers, so you might as well head over there now and familiarize yourself with the Scarlet Knights. Their manager, who trades under the same name as the blog, answered our questions after the move was official.
BSD: Other than financially, do you like this move?
OTB: How can you throw that all out? For Rutgers, it's the only factor that matters. The Big East's financial payout is so middling that it has put the Rutgers athletic department in a very tight spot the past few years, as they were basically doing all that they could to make a move like this possible. It's also great to have marquee teams at the top of the conference to see in person, which we didn't have in the Big East. In a perfect world I think most people involved with Rutgers would prefer to be in a Northeast-centric conference instead of only having two of those teams in conference. Everyone wants regional rivalries that matter, that's what makes college football fun. I don't begrudge anyone who hates expansion because that's being pushed by the wayside. It is though. College football is big business, and anyone who doesn't treat it like one won't have the opportunity to do any of the fun stuff either. It's a sad reality, but true, and that's why things like this are happening.
BSD: Do you feel that you can fit into the Big Ten, especially in football?
OTB: Rutgers isn't going to come in and contend for the conference title right away without the stars aligning in their favor. I think they can be competitive though. Obviously, the Big Ten has good teams at the top. but there's a middle and a bottom too, and I think Rutgers is better than the mean Big Ten team right now. That's subjective, but they also fare well enough if you look at statistical rankings like Sagarin.
BSD: Allegedly, you've been placed in the Leaders Division along with Maryland, OSU, PSU, Purdue, Indiana and Wisconsin. How do you feel your chances are? Would you have changed the setup at all?
OTB: That's about as good as it will get in terms of travel, and we probably get at least two marquee home conference draws a year with that setup. How will we do? That's a hornet's nest to predict specific matchups. Everyone can look at team records and trends from the past few years, and give their take at predicting the future.
BSD: What conference do you feel you're actually better off in, the Big East or B1G?
OTB: The financial resources make this a no-brainer for the Big Ten. Not only is there the athletic revenue, but I think the CIC research funds could have a transformative effect for Rutgers just as they have for Penn State. It's going to help our academic profile by leaps and bounds. The Big East didn't just have a horrible television deal and bowl bids. It put basketball first (which Rutgers hated as a football school), and had a very corrupt leadership that promoted the interests of non-football schools at the expense of football. Rutgers has wanted to leave for some time now. The Big East had nothing in its favor. If you want to talk about a hypothetical eastern conference, like the one Joe Paterno proposed in the eighties, that's a different story. A lot of people who follow Rutgers wish that would have happened, and Rutgers institutionally was working very closely with Paterno back then to try to make it happen.
BSD: Penn State and Rutgers used to have a "rivalry" of sorts where Penn State went 22-2. Are you excited for the rivalry to re-ignite? Is there anything special you'd like to see happen between the two teams?
OTB: For Rutgers, Penn State and Notre Dame are the two teams you really want to beat to put it lightly. Personally, I don't like anything having to do with Penn State, and that is a common sentiment. We've been on the other side of things like that, and don't really take it personally if the feeling isn't mutual. Or if it is, great, but things will probably get heated.
BSD: Do you feel Rutgers can keep up with the level of competition in the Big Ten? The conference is historically down this year, and Rutgers is having a good season. But on average, those roles are reversed. Where do you see Rutgers finishing, on average, within the division/conference?
OTB: I think the Big Ten has been trending down for a while now on the field. Michigan finally got its act together, but a lot of the teams in the middle and bottom have been struggling. I don't think that role is reversed on average for Rutgers though. There just isn't a very big sample to work with here. If you look at historical schedules, Rutgers was a FCS school until the late 70s. They were just kind of mediocre for a while, then really bad after they made a horrible coaching hire with Terry Shea. It really gets under everyone's skin when people act like 1996-2002 comprises the sum of the football team's entire history. They are by no means a historic doormat. Oregon State and South Carolina for example have even worse histories, and no one saddles them with that moniker. Even Maryland is barely better than Rutgers in terms of historical winning percentage, and the gap is closing rapidly with their horrible Randy Edsall hire. So basically, on average we've been more Ron Zook Illinois than Tim Beckman Illinois.
Sorry to disappoint everyone who is looking for a powerhouse, but I think we'll hold our own and tread water at least, like Purdue when they had Joe Tiller for example. They're not going to be a doormat. Rutgers has been doing well in recruiting in recent years, and now they can use the conference as a selling point with that, as well as having more resources for facilities, paying coaches, etc... Against the overall slate, something like averaging eight wins overall with four or five conference wins a year sounds right. Obviously there will be peaks and valleys.
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