It's Official: Rutgers Is Big Ten

Rutgers became an official member in the Big Ten when the calender changed to July 1.

No conference games at Memphis or SMU. No traveling to South Florida or UConn for a "big" conference matchup.

It took nearly 40 years after deciding to leave Lafayette, Colgate and the Ivies behind, but Rutgers arrived at the apex of college athletics' pecking order the moment Monday turned into Tuesday.

There may be better football in the Southeastern Conference and the best basketball programs arguably reside in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but make no mistake, there is no better, nor any more stable conference than the one Rutgers is now in.

The Scarlet Knights are in the Big Ten. Officially.

Pinch yourself. The RU screw never happened. Murphy abolished his law. There were some major potholes, a few lengthy never-seem-to-be-ending detours, but the time arrived.

In the world of college athletics, Rutgers hit the lottery, and this isn't a lump sum payout thing. Rutgers gets yearly payouts, and the numbers should enable Rutgers to change its look, its future and its fortunes.

Full shares of the conference television money won't come for seven years, but the build-up will allow Rutgers to be better situated financially within two years. And when those full shares come, which could be worth as much as $45 million annually (compared to less than $3 million in the American Athletic Conference), it should boost Rutgers athletics in a variety of ways.

The television money and the increased non-media revenue (ticket sales, merchandising, etc.) should prove to be another type of financial windfall that will allow Rutgers to begin planning upgrades to a number of facilities, as well as the potential to build a new football center, which in turn, will allow the non-revenue sports to take over the Hale Center.

In the dream scenario, the financial windfall would also be the impetus not to renovate the antiquated Rutgers Athletic Center, but to build a new basketball arena.

Seeing the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State regularly on the field at High Point Solutions Stadium is only the beginning. Indiana being a regular visitor to the RAC for basketball, or Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State making treks to the RAC for wrestling only tell part of the story.

The Big Ten brings name recognition, and more importantly, enormous credibility.

The path that led Rutgers to this point is 40 years in the making. From Fred Gruninger's decision to remain in the Eastern Eight rather than accept an invitation to the newly formed Big East became the foundation for poor decisions and worse luck.

Two years after the Big East opened its doors, the Eastern Eight was in dire trouble and led the Scarlet Knights to the Atlantic 10, and then a split membership as football went from independent to the Big East while the other sports remained in the Atlantic 10.

When Rutgers moved to the Big East as full-fledged members in 1995, it was supposed to be a panacea for what ailed the athletic programs, particularly basketball, but the renaissance never took place.

The lure of bigger football money and television contracts eventually led Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Big East survived by increasing its number of basketball members to 16, and while football wasn't a focal point, it remained a competitive and viable avenue to the BCS.

The irony of it all, though, is Rutgers was one of the reasons the Big East finally imploded. Rutgers was a driving force in the breakup of the Big East, which started the re-alignment carousel. The Scarlet Knights voted against ESPN's television package proposal, which led to the defection of West Virginia to the Big 12, and then Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC.

So less than two years ago Rutgers was privately very concerned it could lose a seat at the national championship table, and where it would get television from if it were stuck in the AAC.

Now, the Scarlet Knights are heading to the Big Ten the most stable, prestigious and financially lucrative conference in the nation.

Whether Rutgers is ready for it now is inconsequential. Where it will put the Scarlet Knights in 10 years, and well beyond, is the end game of this move.

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