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Has Rutgers been a good addition to the Big Ten?

Welcome to one of the most unique things you’ll find on the Penn State football beat — our point-counterpoint columns. This weekly component, which is not done by any other outlet, started a few years ago at the Altoona Mirror with Cory Giger and Neil Rudel, who has covered the Nittany Lions for more than 40 years. We’re happy to say that the point-counterpoint will continue, thanks to an agreement between Nittany Sports Now and the Altoona Mirror to share the content.

This week’s question: Has Rutgers been a good addition to the Big Ten?

Giger: Rutgers has been embarrassment to itself and the Big Ten

It’s been a disaster from the very beginning with Rutgers, which needed all of three weeks to embarrass the Big Ten.

The announcement of Rutgers and Maryland getting added to the Big Ten came on Nov. 20, 2012. Then on Dec. 13, basketball coach Mike Rice infamously was suspended for his abusive behavior toward players.

The Big Ten never should have added Rutgers. Maryland, fine, I guess.

Syracuse and Pitt would have been much, much better additions.

Now, though, the Big Ten appears to be stuck with Rutgers. Unfortunately.

The school’s athletic department has humiliated itself, and by extension the Big Ten, time and time again over the years with one ridiculous situation after another.

Former football coach Kyle Flood got into an altercation with a professor, reportedly over a player’s academics, and was suspended. He was eventually fired on Nov. 29, 2015.

Athletic director Julie Hermann also was fired that day, after a string of public embarrassments.

“Why is Rutgers in the Big Ten? I don’t understand what the Big Ten is gaining by having Rutgers,” college football analyst Greg McElroy said in 2015.

A New York Times headline in 2018 read: Jump to Big Ten is a big flop for Rutgers.

I can go on and on here.

So I will.

Rutgers’ basketball team lost to Saint Francis in 2014. Now, that was a tremendous win for the Red Flash, but it came on the road against a power conference team, the first time in SFU history it had ever beaten one. (The second such win came last week at Pitt.)

Even last year when it was trying to hire back Greg Schiano, the one person in Rutgers football history who has succeeded, the school couldn’t help but botch things. There apparently was a deal, then it fell apart and the school got blasted.

Ultimately, Rutgers did hire Schiano one year ago, and that was indeed a good thing. The Scarlet Knights have made big strides this season, and we’ll see how they stack up against Penn State on Saturday.

And to be fair, the Rutgers basketball program has made huge strides in recent years under Steve Pikiell. He’s a heck of a coach, and frankly, way too good for Rutgers.

Still, the whole concept of Rutgers being in the Big Ten was flawed from the beginning. The league wanted to establish a cable TV footprint in the New York area, but c’mon on, nobody there cares about Rutgers. Syracuse would have been a much better target for that purpose.

On and off the field of play, Rutgers has been a terrible addition to the Big Ten.

Sadly, probably nothing can be done about it now.

I don’t see the Big Ten kicking Rutgers out, because if it would have ever done so, that already would have happened.

Cory Giger is editor of NittanySportsNow.com and host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 3-4 on WRTA. He can be reached at cgsports12@aol.com.

 

Rudel: Eastern expansion has grown footprint

Not really, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad addition.

(I know, cue Hank Kimball on Green Acres. “Good morning, Mr. Douglas. Well, I don’t know if it’s a good morning, but it’s not a bad morning.”)

That’s kind of where I am on Rutgers.

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Of course, there were many better options for Big Ten expansion — Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse — and a case can be made that the Big Ten would be better for those schools than their current options, certainly Pitt and Syracuse.

We know that.

But Rutgers, and you can add Maryland, expanded the Big Ten footprint to half the country, from Nebraska’s addition in 2011 to Rutgers and Maryland in 2014.

When considering reasons why the Big Ten is the most financially stable conference in America, you can’t underestimate the role of the Big Ten Network and how Rutgers and Maryland have enhanced the value of the conference to the New York, Baltimore-Washington TV markets.

Jim Delany did nearly everything right during his tenure as Big Ten commissioner, and his retirement left a huge void, magnified by the pandemic.

His vision allowed the Big Ten to become even more of a national brand.

The Big Ten basketball tournament was held at Madison Square Garden in 2018, which was more accessible to fans not only from Rutgers and Maryland but Penn State as well, rather than having to truck to Indianapolis or Chicago.

Geographic balance is important in terms of fairness in governance and officiating.

Roll back 50 years and the Big Ten was the Big Two and the Little Eight — Ohio State and Michigan and the rest.

Measured expansion, which the Big Ten has done without oversaturating itself, keeps a conference fresh.

Not every team contends every year. Some teams don’t contend any year.

There’s no doubt Penn State expected to win more conference championships than the four it’s won or shared in 28 seasons since joining the Big Ten. Ditto Nebraska, which is a shell of itself from the Tom Osborne days.

Rutgers has had some missteps that have drawn national attentions along the way, but Penn State and many other Big Ten teams can’t live in a glass house.

Because they don’t have the pedigree, the Scarlet Knights will be hard pressed to win the Big Ten anytime soon or anytime period.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t be competitive or represent themselves.

They have one of the league’s better coaches in Greg Schiano, who did an excellent job during his first tour with the Scarlet Knights, making them competitive in the Big East.

Rutgers has scored 79 points in its last two games and is a missed field goal against Michigan from winning two straight (over Michigan and Purdue).

It would not be at all surprising if the Knights hang with Penn State on Saturday and maybe even win.

If that happens, the answer to today’s question would not be such a definite no.

Neil Rudel can be reached at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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