<
>

Delany: Rutgers a 'potential national player'


Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was in Maryland on Monday to welcome the school as the league's 13th member. Tuesday, he got to go home.

Delany, a native of South Orange, N.J., returned to his native soil for the announcement of Rutgers as the 14th member of the Big Ten.

Delany spoke with ESPN.com earlier today about the Big Ten's newest addition and went out of his way to acknowledge the potential of a Rutgers program that won't make anyone's current list of national powerhouses.

Rutgers definitely has a high ceiling, according to the commissioner.

"I think they're a real potential national player in athletics," he said. "Why? They have the demographic footprint a lot of great athletics here and academics. The possibility of our institutions coming into this region and their institutions coming into Midwest region ... will introduce a new element into the mix."

Delany views Rutgers as somewhat of a nomadic program, bouncing between leagues and levels. The school that played Princeton in the nation's first college football game on Nov. 6, 1869, was "sort of caught between the Ivies and the major college sports model." The Ivy League dominated college sports for decades and Rutgers, despite a strong academic reputation, wasn't a part of it. When the Ivy League began placing less emphasis on sports, it left few sports powerhouses with strong academics in the northeast.

Rutgers joined the Big East as a football-only member in 1991 -- it became an all-sports member in 1995 -- and only has made a significant investment in its athletic program in the past two decades.

"They never really got traction," Delany said.

Rutgers has found its home in the Big Ten, and Steve Politi notes today, it might be the biggest winner in all of realignment. While Maryland grappled a bit with leaving the ACC, Rutgers always wanted into the Big Ten. The school made that clear back in 2010, and now it has happened.

"The Big Ten," Rutgers president Robert Barchi said, "is really where Rutgers belongs."

Some notes from Rutgers' introductory news conference:

  • Unlike Maryland, which is confirmed to be joining the Big Ten on July 1, 2014, and competing athletically during the 2014-15 season, Rutgers' entry date is still to be determined. Athletic director Tim Pernetti said the school will work "as productively as it can" with the Big East to resolve the situation.

  • Delany and Pernetti have known each other for a long time and had informal conversations about Rutgers and the Big Ten in the past three to four years. While the Maryland move gained steam fairly recently, it's clear the Big Ten had eyed Rutgers for some time and knew the school would be thrilled to join the league. The talks between the sides intensified in the last two to three weeks, according to Pernetti.

  • Delany, Pernetti and Barchi had extensive discussions about Rutgers holding games (mainly football) off campus at venues like MetLife Stadium or even Yankee Stadium. Pernetti said he even asked Delany if this would be required in the Big Ten because of the school's smaller facilities. It will not, but Pernetti made it clear Rutgers is open to having events at pro stadiums. This is good news for Big Ten teams with large traveling fan bases or alumni in the New York area.

  • Pernetti said Rutgers already is seeing a boost in ticket sales and donations for athletics since the Big Ten news began leaking out during the weekend. The enthusiasm about the Big Ten -- not present nearly as much with Maryland fans -- already seems to be there for Rutgers supporters.

  • Delany tried to downplay the impact of television in the expansion moves, saying the Big Ten hasn't been directed by its television partners with these moves. He added that the television factor relating to the New York market has been overplayed. Yeah, right.

  • Pernetti cited the access the Big Ten provides to the new college football playoff environment and its affiliated bowls as a big benefit for Rutgers in the move.

  • The academic component is stressed whenever the Big Ten is involved, but Rutgers certainly fits in well with the league's academic culture. "The Big Ten Conference is the ultimate academic neighborhood to live in," Pernetti said.