The likeliest 12th member of the Big Ten is Rutgers, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Athletically, the Scarlet Knights don’t bring a whole lot to the table in men’s basketball or football. But Rutgers makes up for those shortcomings with the most important of considerations: location. Located in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers is well within the New York television market and easily accessible via Newark Liberty International Airport. New Jersey is also a key recruiting area for both football and hoops.
And as a member of the Association of American Universities — like every current member of the Big Ten — Rutgers is up to snuff academically.
The First Domino?
Any change in the membership of the Big Ten is likely to have a ripple effect that will significantly change the college basketball landscape. Losing Rutgers from the Big East’s mammoth basketball conference wouldn’t make much of a difference; in football, any defection is critical. The Big East football conference has just eight teams — the minimum required to maintain its status in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).
That means Rutgers would need to be replaced — and there really aren’t many football powers in the eastern half of the country that jump out as potential targets.
The most likely scenario might be similar to what happened when Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami jumped ship for the ACC. At that time, the Big East raided Conference USA and added Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida (and non-football schools Marquette and DePaul). The target this time could be a Memphis, Marshall or Central Florida.
Any realignment could also include a Big East schism between football and basketball-only schools that many observers think is inevitable. That would leave a basketball conference that would look a lot like the Big East in its pre-football heyday, built primarily around Catholic schools in big cities (St. John’s, Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall) and a football conference with Connecticut, Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and the Rutgers replacement.
These scenarios usually assume that Notre Dame will stay independent in football and grouped with the Catholic schools for hoops. If the Fighting Irish joined the Big East for all sports, losing one school in football wouldn’t be nearly as earth-shattering, because the league would still have eight teams for football.
Big Ten Target: Rutgers originally appeared on About.com Basketball on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 at 20:48:19.
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