Rutgers University officially announced in November it will be leaving the Big East conference and joining the Big Ten. Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tim Pernetti told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the conference move is a “game changer” for Rutgers, and not just for its sports programs.
Pernetti was a football player at Rutgers before joining the school’s faculty. He said even before he became athletic director, there was a lot of dialogue about conference realignment. “The conversations about the Big Ten and that idea really started immediately upon my tenure beginning at Rutgers in 2009,” he said.
School officials decided the Big Ten was the best fit for Rutgers for several reasons, according to Pernetti, who said the conference allows the university to be with like-minded schools and big, public research institutions.
“This is for athletics in people’s eyes because they read it in the sports page, but the benefits that the university realizes through this from being able to recruit top notch faculty, to put our faculty in a neighborhood with our peers, to collaborate on research and do all these things is an incredible deal for the university,” Pernetti said.
Stability is a key component to choosing a conference, Pernetti said. “The Big East was great for Rutgers. We had stability in the Big East for a good period of time. It gave us the ability to have a platform to build our football program and our other sports programs,” he said. “But as the landscape continued to change, the Big East became a much different scenario for us.”
Pernetti said the Big East changed and no longer included like-minded schools to Rutgers. “But at the same time it was a great conference for us to build our programs to the point where we’d have the opportunity to join a program as prestigious as the Big Ten,” he said.
A major goal at Rutgers is to have a self-sufficient athletics department and Pernetti said moving to the Big Ten will help him achieve that sooner. “I would say it’s a game changer for Rutgers. It will give us the ability to run a self-sufficient athletic department,” he said. “It will give us the ability to invest in facilities and programs, support areas to give student athletes a great experience.”
Even though the move to the Big Ten hasn’t happened yet, Pernetti said Rutgers is already reaping the benefits. “It’s interesting because we’re not even in the Big Ten yet but the benefits that we’re realizing, including recruiting, started the day it was announced — especially in football, men’s and women’s basketball,” he said.
Pernetti isn’t sure exactly when the switch to the Big Ten will happen. “That’s something that we’re working through. And being that the Big East has been so good to us, we’re working through that exit productively and that will dictate to some extent our entry into the Big Ten,” he said. “We’re anxious to get there, but at the same time we want to do it on good terms.”
According to Pernetti, Rutgers will be able to compete with the other schools in the Big Ten. “We didn’t join this league to join this league. We joined this league to be able to join peer schools and also to compete at the highest level,” he said. “We have every intention of doing that.”