Big Ten adds Rutgers in an attempt to increase its East Coast presence
Rutgers will join the Big Ten in move that ups league membership to 14 schools
Commissioner Jim Delany says too much is being made about move as cable play
As with Maryland, the Big Ten will be offering finances to cash-strapped Rutgers
The Big Ten officially announced the addition of Rutgers on Tuesday, a move that boosts league membership to 14 schools and will hope the league penetrate two lucrative East Coast markets. In a telephone interview on Tuesday afternoon, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said a big part of the Big Ten's plan is to attempt to increase its East Coast presence through the triumvirate of Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers.
"All the major conferences are outside their natural region now," Delany said. "I look at Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers, and I look at them together and how each can enhance the other."
Delany said that, despite popular belief, the addition of Rutgers was not a pure cable television play. He emphasized how difficult it will be to integrate the Big Ten Network into the lucrative New York and New Jersey market.
"It's a difficult business," he said. "It's not always successful. You have to be good and lucky and hardworking at it. People treat it as if there's a no-risk assessment. There's always a risk. This initiative has risk. If it was so easy why didn't it happen a long time ago?"
Delany said the media has a perception that getting the Big Ten Network into more homes in the East and mid-Atlantic regions is easy. He strongly disagrees with that notion.
"It's not that way," he said. "We went a year with the Big Ten Network without distributing in core areas. We decided we wanted to do that we did it and hung together. We'll have discussion with people."
Delany pointed around the country to the difficulty cable networks have had in the past. He said the Pac-12's distribution is "not great," the Longhorn Network "hasn't gotten off," and The Mountain died.
"The notion that this is like flipping a switch is not good," he said. "It's a different business."
The addition of Rutgers to the Big Ten means that the league will essentially be offering financial bailout to another cash-strapped school, like Maryland, whose athletic department had been hemorrhaging money. (SI.com reported Monday that Maryland will make nearly $100 million more in the Big Ten than the ACC by 2020.) A Bloomberg report in the spring showed that Rutgers "funneled $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences."
After poring over data, Delany believes Rutgers and Maryland aren't very different from other schools the Big Ten analyzed during the realignment process in the past few years.
"I'm not ashamed that we've been able to be helpful," he said. "A vast majority of the schools at the high level are $5, 10, 15 million below breakeven. If we can improve and they can improve, I think that's a pretty good outcome.
"I don't know how Sports Illustrated or The New York Times works, but most people have to pay their bills. I'm not sitting here watching it happen. I'm sitting here trying to help make it happen."
As with Maryland on Monday, Delany expressed confidence that the platform and resources the Big Ten has to offer can help raise Rutgers' historically irrelevant football program. The Scarlet Knights are currently ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll and No. 18 in the BCS standings, but they have never won the Big East and have little history or presence in the college football landscape.
Delany noted the fickle nature of college football today, pointing at Auburn's freefall after winning the national title two years ago.
"One year Auburn is winning the national championship," Delany said. "The next year they haven't won a game [in their league]."
Delany added: "In my view, I would be shocked if both Maryland and Rutgers aren't more competitive a decade from now, if they haven't moved up one standard deviation. They're going to get better."