SBD/November 21, 2012/Colleges

Financial Windfall Likely Awaits Rutgers After Leaving Big East For Big Ten

Rutgers could play football games against major Big Ten opponents at MetLife Stadium
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).   
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