By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Earlier today, Rutgers officially became the 14th member of the Big Ten. SNY.tv sat down with Rutgers basketball head coach Mike Rice to talk about the move and what it means for his program going forward.
Q: What are your overall thoughts on the move to the Big Ten and how it affects your basketball program?
A: My overall thoughts are that I’m very excited for the University. As I walked around the university today – even the last two days, people are generally excited. And not just athletic personal. Just general excitement. People that work at the university, to be associated with the Big Ten, I’m very excited for those people. You’re leaving one great conference for another great conference. And my focus is on getting better everyday. And when you’re a program that’s still rebuilding, that’s what you have to focus on.
Q: With the state of the Big East and how it’s always been a basketball conference, but people would say it’s losing it’s identity with West Virginia gone and Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame leaving, are you more ok with the move than you would have been a few years ago as a basketball coach?
A: I’m ok with anything our University wants to do. Of course I grew up a Big East fan. Watching John Thompson battle Jim Boeheim and Lou Carnesecca – the traditional Big East basketball teams. Like you said, it’s different. Especially with some of the additions in Texas and Florida, it’s just a different league. I love being a part of the Big East. I love being a part of the tradition, but for the strength and stability of this athletic department, this university and this basketball program, we needed to move on and I’m excited about the Big Ten as well.
Q: How does going to the Big Ten affect recruiting?
A: It depends on what happens with the Big East and that brand, but I liked what Jim Delany said about bringing the Big Ten to New Jersey. Selling the brand of the Big Ten and getting the Big Ten Network in all the homes in New York and New Jersey. I think that’s going to make an effective tool for selling my program. Selling our new conference. We’re going to still play Seton Hall. We’re going to still have these local rivalries that we’ve always had and try to play our traditional rivals, but now we’re going to be different and playing in different locations, it’ll be different, but everyone I think once people find out how strong the conference is, it’ll be a positive.
Q: How much does this – from a monetary standpoint – expedite the process of the RAC renovations?
A: A lot of people think that because it’s Big Ten money. But it’s the boosters, the alumni, the corporations who are excited about Rutgers being a Big Ten basketball program. They’re excited about becoming partners with a Big Ten program. More than anything that Big Ten Network money or bowl money, I think that will excite the fan base, excite corporations and possible donors more than anything that’ll come from earning Big Ten money. So I think that’s what Tim was talking about when he responded the way that he did, because it will have to be paid for by people who want to make a difference for this program.