As college football conferences align and realign (hopefully, leading to a football playoff) my alma mater, Rutgers actually finds itself with choices as to what to do with their athletic programs. Presently, with the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the Big East stands as follows:
Louisville, Cincinatti, West Virginia, Connecticut, South Florida, Texas Christian (next year), and Rutgers in both football and basketball and Depaul, St. John’s, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette, Villanova, and Notre Dame in basketball only.
On the basketball court, Rutgers would leave one conference where they were an afterthought and go to another. In this scenario Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Connecticut are perennial national powers on the hardwood, with Maryland, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Wake Forest fielding strong teams from time to time leaving Rutgers battling to stay out of the basement in the strongest basketball conference in the nation. In my eyes, this move is a push at best for Rutgers football and a total loss on the hardwood.The word on the street is that the ACC is not opposed to further expansion (to 16 teams) by extending offers to both Connecticut and Rutgers. On the football field, the Scarlet Knights should remain as competitive as they have been in the Big East that is not saying much given that Rutgers has yet to win a Big East title, but the teams in the ACC are not a step above what Rutgers faces on a weekly basis. Since the football dollars are driving the realignment actions, I have trouble figuring out what makes Rutgers so attractive. The New York market argument is dead in my eyes for the simple fact that the Big East has not capitalized on the market and if that was the big reason, would not the Big 10 and ACC invited Rutgers to their respective conferences years ago?
I refuse to acknowledge the Big 10 as a destination, as they flirted with us (Rutgers) a few years ago only to determine that we did not bring enough to the table.
A better scenario for both basketball and football hinges on the decisions of Oklahoma and Texas in reference to the powerful duo joining the Pac 12. Common knowledge suggests Texas Tech and Oklahoma State follows the pair forming a PAC 16, leaving in their wake Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri. The seven football schools already on board led by a rising USF, TCU, and an always consistent West Virginia (a must keep for Big East football) fit perfectly with the left behind Big 12 teams (Texas A&M already slated to join the SEC) for a decent 12-team conference that brings a conference title game into play.
Kansas, K-State and a rising Baylor program fills the void left by the departures of Pitt and the ‘cuse. Rutgers would still be behind, but their familiarity with the majority of the teams in the conference, and a possible lighter load by splitting into two divisions should help the Knights compete. Another plus will be playing in the Big East Tournament at the so-called Mecca of basketball Madison Square Garden.
More importantly, Rutgers cannot sit and wait the process out. This process is moving quickly, with teams showing no allegiance to league, tradition or rivalry, Rutgers has to choose the best path for Rutgers.