College football conference realignment live updates: Latest on ACC, Pac-12 schools


On Nov. 20, 2012, the day Rutgers accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten, prominent New Jersey sports columnist Steve Politi summed up the shocking turn of events thusly: “At long last, the Scarlet Knights have won a title. They are the National Champions of Realignment.”

With a wave of then-commissioner Jim Delany’s wand, Rutgers, the New Jersey school that famously won college football’s first game in 1869, magically escaped the crumbling Big East for the sport’s most lucrative conference. Even a decade later, with the Big Ten having now added four schools — USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington — from the other side of the country, Delany’s decision to invite Rutgers was more controversial … and riskier.

Rutgers’ time in the Big Ten has been a competitive and financial nightmare, compounded by a few salacious scandals. Entering its 10th season in the conference, the football team has gone 13-66 in league play. Meanwhile, despite astronomical increases in shared Big Ten revenue, the athletic department has racked up more than $250 million in debt, according to financial documents obtained by The Athletic and first reported by NJ Media.

Delany, who led the conference for 30 years, is largely credited as a visionary who touched off a new era in realignment by adding Penn State, later landing Nebraska and launching the Big Ten Network. But his 2012 decision to bring in mediocre football schools Maryland and Rutgers has not thus far stood the test of time.

Maryland, at least, has excelled in other sports, winning national championships in men’s lacrosse (2022, 2017), women’s lacrosse (2019, 2017, 2015, 2014) and men’s soccer (2018). Whereas in the 2022-23 Learfield Directors’ Cup Standings, which ranks schools’ overall athletics success, Rutgers finished 130th — 58 spots lower than the next-closest Big Ten program, Purdue.

“Rutgers had a good reputation, although they hadn’t lived in the big leagues,” Delany says. “In one moment, they thought they were Penn State. In another moment, they thought they were Bucknell. So they hadn’t made the investment.

“I consider it a long-term play, but I don’t feel like I need to defend it. … I knew that it would be a big climb to begin with.”

But just how long is the climb supposed to take?

“’I’ve seen this over and over and over again,” says Mark Killingsworth, a Rutgers economics professor since 1979. “There’s always something that’s going to get Rutgers out of this financial disaster, and bring Rutgers into the bright lights of big-time athletics. But it’s never happened yet.”

Read the full story on Rutgers’ realignment move, revisited.

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