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SBD/November 21, 2012/CollegesPrint All
Rutgers Univ.'s athletic future, once on "shaky ground, was suddenly back on solid financial footing" after it officially joined the Big Ten Conference Tuesday, according to Tom Luicci of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. No precise date was "set for Rutgers to start Big Ten play, although the target year" is '14. That is the same year the Univ. of Maryland will "join the league after ending a 59-year association with the ACC on Monday." Rutgers still has to "negotiate an exit with the Big East." There is a $10M penalty for "leaving, as well as a 27-month wait before doing so under league bylaws, although the Big East has allowed West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse to secure earlier releases." From a financial standpoint, the move to the Big Ten could "prove a windfall for Rutgers." The university in recent years "made the financial commitment to support major college football." Among those commitments was Rutgers Stadium undergoing $102M worth of "renovations -- a cost that was not paid for with private contributions, but loans and bonds." Some projections have the Big Ten "paying its schools in the area" of $42M starting in '17. Rutgers President Robert Barchi said that the future Big Ten earnings would "allow the athletic department to eliminate a dependence on subsidies while balancing its budget" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/21). In a separate piece, Luicci notes beyond the "financial windfall is the higher profile for all Rutgers sports, which now have a secure home." Rutgers "will be the ninth school to leave the Big East" since '05 (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/21).
A POSITIVE ON THE BOTTOM LINE: In N.Y., Dave Caldwell reports joining the Big Ten "stands to pay off for Rutgers in so many ways." Rutgers Stadium's seating capacity was "expanded four years ago to 52,454" but Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti "did not rule out playing a few Scarlet Knights home games at MetLife Stadium, which can seat 30,000 more paying customers." The added income from "playing in an elite conference with its own television network could not only reduce the $28 million annual subsidy the Rutgers athletic department receives from the university, but could also lead to the renovation of the dingy Rutgers Athletic Center, home of the men's and women's basketball teams" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/21). Pernetti said that besides "increased media revenue, the move should provide a 'tremendous' boost to ticket, food and merchandising sales as well as donations and sponsorships" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). He said the move “is as much about providing” the school’s student-athletes “with the resources you need to be successful.” Pernetti: “The Big Ten Conference is the ultimate academic neighborhood to live in and we’re now in that neighborhood. ... This is not just about collaboration on the fields of play. This is about collaboration at every level.” The Big Ten “provides a financial resource that Rutgers will need to be able to move our program forward” (Big Ten Network, 11/20).
LONG TIME COMING: In New Jersey, Keith Sargeant reports Pernetti conceded Tuesday's announcement "was long in the making." He said, "I've been the athletics director for almost four years. There wasn't a day that went by when I was here that I didn't work on this. And before I got here, I spent a lot of time thinking about how it could be accomplished" (HOME NEWS TRIBUNE, 11/21). Also in New Jersey, Jerry Carino writes Pernetti and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany "like each other, and their relationship opened the door for Rutgers" (HOME NEWS TRIBUNE, 11/21). In N.Y., Lenn Robbins writes, "The Big Ten is the league every other conference strives to emulate." No league has a more "homogenous membership than the Big Ten," and no conference "balances athletics and academics better." With the addition of Rutgers, no league is "better placed in large media, political and economic markets." Pernetti "should take a bow," and Barchi's legacy "is secure" (N.Y. POST, 11/21). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes if Barchi "played the role of ninth-inning closer" for one of the most "important deals in Rutgers history, it is Pernetti who gets credit for the win." Pernetti "maneuvered Rutgers to the perfect finish line, completing a self-appointed task when he arrived at Rutgers three years ago" (Bergen RECORD, 11/21).
BIG INTEREST IN BIG APPLE: In N.Y., Dick Weiss writes Rutgers is in their "new neighborhood primarily because of location, location, location." The school is just 40 miles from Manhattan, and Delany "became intrigued with the idea of expansion" into the N.Y. metropolitan area and DC. It was a "chance to plant a flag and increase the audience" for Big Ten Network. Delany "found two desperate, cash-strapped members" in Rutgers and Maryland, and both schools "jumped at the chance when offered a long-term financial bailout, and for the opportunity to be with what they consider better company" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein writes even if the Big Ten "cannot penetrate New York, New Jersey is the nation's 11th most populous state with 8.8 million people" as of July '11 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/21).
The Univ. of Maryland's decision to move to the Big Ten "is so large ... that it seems likely to define" UM President Wallace Loh's tenure at the school, "for better or worse," according to a front-page piece by Childs Walker of the Baltimore SUN. Loh "harbors no illusions about the short-term reviews from students and fans, many of which have been scathing." But he has "cast the decision as a test of leadership, one in which he had to focus on the long-term health of the university rather than immediate emotions about athletic rivalries." Loh said, "I want to leave a legacy where, for decades to come, long after I'm gone, presidents will not have to sit around wondering whether Maryland athletics as we know it can survive." Walker reports some observers gave Loh "credit for moving boldly in the face of inevitable backlash." However, some criticism Monday "focused on the rapidity of Loh's decision, with even state regents such as former Maryland basketball star Tom McMillen saying the university community never got a proper chance to weigh in." Loh made it "clear that he deliberately brought negotiations to a point of near completion before news of the possible move spread." He said, "Leadership on major public issues cannot be conducted in the public limelight." Walker notes prior to Monday's announcement, Loh "secured support from key donors, politicians and campus figures, at least to the extent that none blasted the move publicly" (Baltimore SUN, 11/21).
PAYING THE BILLS: In DC, Deron Snyder writes UM "has a rich history in the ACC," but "nostalgia and tradition -- like aura and mystique -- don’t pay any bills." More money, "potentially loads of it, might not be the only reason to give up charter membership in the ACC." But it is "the best reason" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/21). A Baltimore SUN editorial states UM's move is "probably the best choice for the school." When critics claim "it's all about the money," they are "exactly right." Membership in the Big Ten is "far more lucrative than the ACC because the TV broadcast rights are more valuable." Fans have "fond memories of some amazing ACC games in various sports, men's and women's, but the Big Ten is no slouch." Nearly lost in the "kerfuffle are the academic advantages offered by Big Ten membership" (Baltimore SUN, 11/21). A Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER editorial states "universities and conferences are prisoner to the dollar." TV networks "call most of the shots" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/21).
BRANDO SLAMS BIG TEN: CBS Sports Network's Tim Brando appeared on SiriusXM's Paul Finebaum show on Monday and said Big Ten execs are "too busy worrying about their next $8.6 billion deal and their next big market breakthrough for their cable networks to be concerned with the betterment of the game." Brando: "All those commissioners care about is their own cash flow. ... This is again what’s wrong with what’s taking place in intercollegiate athletics. The priorities are completely screwed up. Someone should be looking out for the betterment of the totality of the game of football, the financial bell cow of their beloved intercollegiate athletics, home to all of their student athletes. Instead, they’re in the business of trying to clear markets for regional cable networks and get their financial landscape and footprint out to a different market. It’s just obscene what’s taking place here" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/20).
WERE MEETING LAWS BROKEN? In DC, Jenna Johnson notes UM's public governing board "went into 'emergency' mode and met twice in secret to decide whether it would endorse the change." Legal experts said that those meetings -- "unannounced and entirely out of public view -- appear to have been in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act." UM officials said that they "were unable to produce documentation related to the closed sessions because such documents weren’t created 'due to the emergency nature' of the task at hand" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/21).
ACC Commissioner John Swofford was “blindsided" by the Univ. of Maryland’s move to the Big Ten, according to sources cited by Mark Giannotto of the WASHINGTON POST. ACC officials found out UM President Wallace Loh "was in talks with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany only through media reports Friday and Saturday, and Swofford never heard back from any officials in College Park despite repeated attempts to contact them throughout the weekend.” Loh, one of “two ACC university presidents to vote against raising the exit fee in September, indicated Monday he hoped to negotiate with the ACC” regarding the school's $50M exit fee. But sources said that the league will “try to force Maryland to pay the full amount because its legal counsel is ‘very confident that the exit fee is legally binding.’” Giannotto reports Swofford on Sunday “convened a conference call with the ACC’s presidents to discuss the likelihood” that UM was leaving. The question Swofford posed to his constituents “was how to move forward and avoid getting poached again, especially when it comes to appeasing football-first schools.” A source said the ACC plans to act in a “deliberate and strategic” manner. The ACC was “aware of some potential options, including Connecticut and Louisville, because, as Swofford noted, ‘a number of schools’ expressed interest in joining the league last September, when it added Syracuse and Pittsburgh” (WASHINGTON POST, 11/21).
WHO'S ON DECK? In Louisville, Himmelsbach & Gerth note Univ. of Louisville President James Ramsey on Tuesday “held an impromptu news conference at Louisville International Airport, saying he would welcome the chance to join the ACC.” He said that UL “had not had direct contact with the league.” The “impending race to become the ACC’s 14th team has stirred debate about the importance of market size, academic profile, geography and an athletic program’s success” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 11/21). In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes while UL “might have a Top 25 football program and one of the best men's basketball programs in the country, UConn happens to carry a significant advantage where it matters most.” The Hartford-New Haven market is “ranked No. 30 in the country by Nielsen, with 996,500 TV homes,” while Louisville comes in at No. 48 with 670,880 TV homes. With the Big East “struggling to remain prosperous -- Rutgers made its move to the Big Ten official Tuesday -- both UConn and Louisville are likely looking for a life raft” (COURANT.com, 11/20).
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? In Annapolis, Bill Wagner notes Navy AD Chet Gladchuk “expressed concern" about Rutgers' move from the Big East to the Big Ten and noted it would "require further investigation.” Navy is scheduled to join the Big East in '15 in football, and Gladchuk said, “When we made the decision to join the Big East there were certain conditions and tenets that were critical factors. In light of any possible changes in conference membership, we need to revisit those assurances to determine how they play out to the benefit of the Naval Academy” (Annapolis CAPITAL GAZETTE, 11/20). In Boise, Brian Murphy cites Boise State Univ. and San Diego State Univ. officials as saying that they “remain committed" to the Big East. The two schools are “scheduled to join the Big East on July 1 as part of the league’s overhaul.” SDSU AD Jim Sterk said, “I can say the Big East took a hit. It may take some others, but I can tell you the league will continue to be strong.” Murphy notes the Big East is “currently negotiating a new television contract,” and the departure of Rutgers Univ. and “its access to the New York City market will have an impact on those talks, as could the potential loss of Louisville or Connecticut.” Still, Sterk said that the Big East “offers more in terms of exposure and television revenue than the Mountain West would” (IDAHO STATESMAN, 11/21). Sterk stressed that he has “has not even bothered to check what the Aztecs’ exit clause is in their contract with the Big East” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRUBUNE, 11/21). In San Diego, Matt Calkins writes under the header, “Big East Still The Right Move For Aztecs” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/21).
BIG EAST AGAIN AT A CROSSROADS: SI.com’s Pete Thamel wrote Rutgers' departure “combined with the possibility of the ACC grabbing either Connecticut or Louisville puts the league at a dangerous crossroads.” Big East and TV industry execs have “long identified the potential loss of Louisville and Connecticut as a tipping point for the Big East's basketball schools to break away from their football partners and form a league of their own.” However, there has been “no significant movement toward secession.” Thamel wrote the “general attitude among Big East athletic directors at the so-called ‘basketball schools’ is to wait and see the caliber of television deal the Big East can attract and then plot a move from there” (SI.com, 11/20). In Newark, Brendan Prunty writes the spotlight is falling on the remaining Big East schools, especially the "seven without Division 1 football programs.” The possibility of more changes exist, and with football the “driving factor for realignment, those on the outside without football programs appear helpless to stop it.” A source said that the remaining schools in the Big East are “content with staying put" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/21).