By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – It was the biggest day in Rutgers athletics’ history. Bigger than the first football game in 1869. Bigger than the men’s basketball Final Four run in 1976. Bigger than the win against No. 3 Louisville in football in 2006. Bigger than all three combined.
No athletes or coaches were involved. No games were played. Just three men in suits sitting in front of microphones in the football team’s meeting room at the Hale Center.
But those three men – Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and University President Richard Barchi – made the announcement Rutgers has been hoping to announce for years now. That they’d be joining the Big Ten Conference.
And so marks the most significant moment in Rutgers athletics’ history.
“It’s a transformative day for Rutgers University,” Pernetti said. “And transformative in so many ways.”
It is indeed. In academics and athletics. But it’s all rooted from the latter.
“It positions Rutgers in a different light from a national point of view,” Barchi said, adding, “it gives Rutgers athletics a different window on the world and the world a different window on Rutgers. We’ll be seen in a different set of peer relationships and we’ll be seen on a much broader sense across the country on television and media. It’s very big for Athletics here.”
And the biggest gain comes in the form of a paycheck.
According to the St. Louis dispatch, Big Ten teams received $24.6 million last year from the TV deal. The Big East paid its schools just $6 million from their TV deal.
That kind of money couldn’t come at a better time for Rutgers. According to the USA Today college athletics database, Rutgers’ athletic budget for its 24 sports was $60 million last year.
To help fund that, $19.4 million came from university subsidies and $9 million from student fees. Combined, it accounts for 47 percent of the athletic department’s subsidies. A number that should drastically go down with the higher income from the Big Ten.
And that doesn’t include the increased ticket sales in the coming years when schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State come to play football in Piscataway. And despite that not being until at least 2014, Rutgers is already reaping the benefits.
“I would tell you that the poor people in the ticket office right now are probably the hardest working people in the athletic department,” Pernetti said, adding, “I’m hearing stories out of the ticket office about hundreds of new deposits on football season tickets for next year.”
In turn, it’s a move that benefits the entire University.
“I think that Rutgers University won today,” Pernetti said. “The athletic department [alone] did not win today.”