Which begs the questions, what does this mean for Rutgers, and for college sports fans in the New York metropolitan area?
Well, in terms of hoops, nothing much has changed. Yes, Rutgers will have a whole new set of opponents. But the Scarlet Knights haven’t exactly been a major factor in the Big East. In fact, they haven’t made the NCAA tournament since 1991.
Coach Mike Rice, now in his third season, has reeled in some good recruits since taking over. But that hasn’t translated to great success on the court yet. The Scarlet Knights still have a lot to prove, whether they’re in the Big East or the Big Ten.
In terms of football, Rutgers has never won a Big East championship in that sport, either. Ironically, they’re on the verge of winning their first this season. At 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the league, they can clinch at least a share of the title with a win at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
But that may be their only championship for a long time. After a 22-year climb to the top of the Big East mountain, the Scarlet Knights will be starting all over again, in a sense. Competing against the likes of Louisville and Cincinnati is one thing. Competing against Ohio State and Michgan is a whole ‘nother story. It’ll likely take several years to be a contender -- if it ever happens.
As for local fans, alumni aside, Rutgers’ move won’t make them much more relevant. People aren’t making the long drive down the turnpike to watch basketball games at the RAC, whoever the Scarlet Knights are playing.
Hopefully Rutgers and Seton Hall will continue to schedule each other in hoops, as those have been fun, intense games of late.
Rutgers might get a few more fans to Piscataway for home football games against national powers like the Buckeyes and Wolverines. But getting pounded by those teams could peel the bloom off the rose quickly.
The biggest effect this move has on the tri-state area? It could spell doom for the Big East. This might be one defection too many for the storied conference to survive (especially if UConn responds by heading to the ACC, as rumored). That would mean new homes for St. John’s and Seton Hall, and the bitter end of a glorious era, plus the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden every March.