Rice Reassured by Improved League Stability

Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice welcomed the sense of stability that came with Wednesday evening's Big East expansion announcement. Adding UCF, SMU and Houston for the 2013-14 basketball season, Rice went 1-on-1 with ScarletReport.com to discuss how the move benefits Rutgers moving forward.

Football drives expansion and realignment. That much is certain. From Big East Commissioner John Marinatto on down, everyone admits that the money involved in football and the upcoming television deal are the harbingers for the changing landscape of college athletics.

So for Mike Rice and the Rutgers basketball program, conference realignment can become even more frustrating, especially when the Big East loses basketball programs as historically talented as West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

The three programs, being held by the Big East until the 2014 season, will be officially replaced by UCF, SMU and Houston in basketball after Wednesday's announcement. For Rice and Rutgers basketball, the move is "a relief."

"We're relieved that there's stability in our league," Rice said. "We know, moving forward, that we're recruiting in the Big East, we're in the Big East and that it's stable."

Rice, who is in his second year as a Big East head coach, said he is excited for the new opportunities provided by three basketball additions.

"I think with the addition of the new teams, it will add different recruiting areas, whether it's Texas or even Florida," Rice said. "That's always a positive. Those teams, especially with Central Florida beating UConn and I know Houston has top 30 recruiting classes the last two years in a row. The Big East is adding three quality programs."

Rice did not significantly deal with the issue in recruiting this year — Rutgers did not sign any recruits this year and graduates no scholarship players — but conference realignment will be a major theme in his 2013 recruiting class.

"A lot of people recruit in the metropolitan area, where we recruit from Baltimore to New York City," Rice said. "But there's no question that a lot of kids grew up playing in Madison Square Garden and playing in the Big East tournament, so there's no questions we'll use that. It hurts as far as losing those three as far as our conference RPI, but in the long run, getting some of those schools and getting them in home games [is a plus]."

Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano speaks often of his trust in athletic director Tim Pernetti to make sure the program is in the best situation.

Rice, who was Pernetti's first major hire as athletic director, is no different.

"There's no question he works tremendously behind the scenes," Rice said. "No Rutgers every-day fan really understands how much he does. He gives every coaching staff daily updates on what's being said and what's being done. He deserves a lot of credit along with the Big East office. I know he was working behind the scenes to get this conference stabilized.

"We all know a lot of this is about football and the BCS and all that. To be honest, [Big East football] came out just as strong if not stronger football-wise. It's something that had to be done and these are the landscapes that we live in with college athletics. [Pernetti] deserves a lot of credit for that."


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