As I've mentioned before here, I am not a native Hoosier. I consider myself an East Coast native since I've lived in four Northeastern places during various points of my life (New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and DC). However, this pedigree does qualify me to talk about two of Indiana's future regular opponents, in Rutgers and Maryland. Even as an East Coast native though, I wasn't initially thrilled about two these schools joining the B1G. Neither one has been a basketball or football powerhouse recently, and it seems pretty clear that adding these schools was nothing but a chance for Jim Delany to grab ad revenue and television sets in the DC and New York City markets. If Delany and the other B1G overloads were truly interested in upping the competition level of athletics to rival other conferences, they should have gone after Louisville and/or Cincinnati. Instead, they chose to target these schools under the guise of "academic excellence" (we'll get to that later) while eyeing the big bucks from metro areas.
But alas, what's done is done, so there's no use in continuing to cry about it. So let's examine each of these schools in depth as we give the 13th and 14th members of the Big Ten Conference a warm Midwestern welcome. We start today with Rutgers, and will continue tomorrow with Maryland.
RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS.
Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey. Though the athletics facilities are technically located in Piscataway.
Relevant SB Nation Blog: On The Banks
Football Coach: Kyle Flood. Promoted from within after Greg Schiano, who spent a decade building up the program at Rutgers, left for his ill-fated tenure with the Buccaneers. Flood has taken the team to bowl games in both his seasons at the helm, but could be on the hot seat after a bad second half of the 2013 season.
Football Stadium: High Point Solutions Stadium. According to Wikipedia, the five highest-attended games at High Point have all been Rutgers losses.
Basketball Coach: Eddie Jordan. You may remember him from his various stops on the NBA head-coaching carousel. The best thing anyone has been able to say about Eddie Jordan after a year at Rutgers is that he isn't Mike Rice.
Basketball Arena: Rutgers Athletic Center, aka the RAC. From all accounts, this actually seems like a pretty cool place to watch a game. It's shaped like a trapezoid, only seats 8,000 people, and can get pretty loud. Rutgers has occasionally been able to pull off a big upset there. The Scarlet Knights haven't made the NCAA tournament since 1991, but that's still more recently than Northwestern has.
Was Greg Schiano always that much of a jerk? Yes, according to this Yahoo! article written shortly after Schiano left Rutgers. Schiano can now be seen hanging out with Urban Meyer, because if there's one guy that can help you improve your reputation, it's Urban Meyer.
Academic Reputation: I have a few cousins whose families still live in Jersey. They all could have chosen to stay in state and go to Rutgers for cheap. However, two of them went to Pitt, and another went to Delaware. So basically they were willing to pay more to attend comparable public universities in other states. But maybe they just wanted out of Jersey, which is also understandable.
National Perception: Ohhhhhhh boy. Five months after agreeing to join the B1G, Rutgers made headlines when videos surfaced of basketball coach Mike Rice using homophobic slurs towards his players. He was fired, as was Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti. This would be unacceptable at any school, but especially one where student Tyler Clementi committed suicide in 2010 after being outed on the internet. A couple months later, news surfaced that the new AD, Julie Hermann, had been involved in a hazing incident when she was a volleyball coach at University of Tennessee many years before. And not to get too political here, but Governor Chris Christie's micro-managing capabilities, which became apparent during the Bridgegate scnadal, were on full display with his Rutgers moves, as it seemed like his backing of Rutgers President Robert Barchi was the main reason why both Barchi and Hermann ultimately kept their jobs. So yeah, in short, Rutgers hasn't done a lot to endear itself to the general public over the past year.
Do Rutgers fans exist? Good question. Refer to this excellent post at SB Nation Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. When I was growing up in New Jersey, it seemed like if you were a college football fan, you rooted for either Penn State or Notre Dame. Now, this was back in the 1990s, and Rutgers got better in football under Schiano in the 2000s, so it's more common to see Jersey residents with a big scarlet "R" sticker on their cars at the Jersey Shore these days. However, due to the school's close proximity to both the Meadowlands and other pro teams in Philadelphia and New York, Rutgers still has trouble getting publicity for its athletic teams.
History with IU: Umm, not much. They've never played us in football. IU's only previous basketball game against Rutgers was during the 1980-81 championship season, when the Hoosiers won 55-50 in a neutral site game. Rutgers did make the Final Four the same year as IU's undefeated 1976 season but were in the other semifinal game. In fact, Eddie Jordan played for that 1976 Rutgers team.
Was leaving for the B1G a financially sound decision? Hmmm. Rutgers is borrowing money to make this happen. The school's athletic department already is not the most financially stable. But hey, at least they aren't in the American Athletic Conference anymore - am I right, UConn?
Fact that should endear Rutgers to the rest of the B1G: Defeated Bret "Bert" Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks last year. A week after Bielema's wife Jen tweeted "#karma" about a last-second Wisconsin loss, Arkansas blew a huge lead late against Rutgers, and the Scarlet Knights ended up victorious. As a result, it was a long trip back to Fayetteville from Jersey for the Hogs. Considering how much Bielema liked to run up the score against IU when with the Badgers, seeing the result of this game was very satisfying.
Other fun facts: The Grease Trucks, the most of famous of these being called R U Hungry, are famous food trucks located on campus, and seem like they'd provide a delicious pre- or post-game meal if you ever find yourself at Rutgers. And Rutgers was proud to call Ray Rice an alum, until this offseason. On a more serious note though, Eric LeGrand's recovery from a football injury that left him paralyzed has been incredibly impressive, and he continues to be an inspiration.