Later today, as Joe mentioned yesterday, Rutgers will announced that it has joined the Big Ten Conference, making it the fourteenth team in the conference and becoming the third "East Coast" team in the conference, after Penn State, which joined in 1991, and Maryland, which joined yesterday. The other team that has joined the conference since there were actually ten Big Ten teams is Nebraska, which came in last year. Of the four new additions, no team is stranger fit, a wedge crammed in awkwardly, makeshift, than Rutgers.
Rutgers will join the Big Ten today for two reasons: because the Big Ten Conference absolutely does not understand how New York City sports works (particularly in terms of our television choices) and because thirteen teams is way too awkward of a number. Maryland, in many ways, is the real catch, with a real fan base and proven revenue. (Though it's had some money problems in recent years.) Rutgers is here, essentially, as a pipe dream, by people who don't get NYC sports. As anyone who lives here knows, not only is Rutgers a minor draw at best, the idea that Time Warner Cable or Cablevision are just going to blindly sign up the Big Ten Network on basic cable — and this is the Big Ten's plan — is just insane. Heck, YES — who shows the Yankees! — has difficulty with that some years. Time Warner Cable already has the Big Ten Network on an extra sports tier (we get it; it's the same tier that brings you the NHL Network, NBA TV, and the Red Zone Channel), and the idea that Rutgers joining the league is going to strong-arm carriers to place it on the same tier as YES and ESPN is idiotic. But that is the plan.
Let there be no doubt: This is a terrific move for Rutgers. Some Maryland fans are distraught by the move, but there shouldn't be any Rutgers fans who are. And there definitely won't be any sad administrators. Rutgers is one of the poorest athletic programs in the country, constantly having to borrow money from the university itself to stay afloat. That's the opposite of some Big Ten schools, like Illinois, which actually keep academic programs (like the journalism school, ahem) alive in large part from athletic revenues. Rutgers is leaving a situation where they were losing money for a league that, for years, has been printing it. That's great for Rutgers, but fans of Big Ten teams are left wondering what the league is supposed to be getting out of this.
This is not to be disparaging of Rutgers, which is a fine university with an underrated sports program, generally. (They'd have a real chance to win the Big Ten this year, that's for sure.) The football stadium is recently renovated, and the RAC is reportedly an underrated place to see a game. Alumni of other Big Ten schools (including us) will flock to games when our schools place in New Brunswick. But this is a weird idea, Rutgers in the Big Ten, based on a supposition of TV revenue that is specious at best. It's going to be a great day for Rutgers today. The question is whether or not it's a great day for anyone else.