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New York's Big Ten team!
So as of 2014 we'll be getting some new playmates in the Big Ten, Rutgers and Maryland. Over the rest of the week, we'll take a look at what those programs will add to the three sports we care about the most: football, men's basketball, and wrestling. (And, if I'm not totally wiped out by doing this, I might even try to look at the impact of these additions on the other non-revenue sports, too.) Let's get things rolling with football.
2012 RECORD: 9-3
5-YEAR RECORD: 39-24 (0.619)
10-YEAR RECORD: 74-50 (0.617)
COACH: Kyle Flood
MASCOT: Rutgers' current nickname is the Scarlet Knights and their mascot dutifully embodies that by... dressing up like a knight clad in red armor. Pretty simple. They also have a cartoon version of a scarlet knight, which is noteworthy only because it looks like Sparty will finally have a Big Ten mascot to share his
HGH Muscle Milk with, rather than the 98-lb. weaklings that have made up the league's mascot ranks for decades. It took Rutgers a little while to settle on the whole "Scarlet Knights" notion, though. They were initially known as "The Scarlet" (in honor of their school color) and "The Queensmen" (in honor of their original name, Queen's College; yes, they are/were filthy monarchists). In 1925, their heads no doubt thrown for a loop by the excesses of the Jazz Age and the Wall Street boom that would surely never ever end, Rutgers dipped their toes into the wild and wonderful world of live animal mascots, settling on a... chanticleer. The decision proved controversial, for reasons perhaps best explained by former Rutgers head coach Harvey Harman:
You can call it the Chanticleer, you can call it a fighting cock, you can call it any damn thing you want, but everybody knows it's a chicken.
The school held a campus-wide vote in 1955, with "Scarlet Knights" emerging victorious. Allegedly, Coach Harman bought the first Scarlet Knight uniform himself. (Sidenote: the Rutgers Fighting Cocks has a real ring to it and would have made them immediately BHGP's second favorite team.)
BOWL RECORDS, CONFERENCE TITLES, AND OTHER SIGNS OF SUCCESS
Rutgers claimed a share of the Big East title in 2012 (along with Louisville, Cincinnati, and Syracuse; yes, fully half of the Big East could claim to be a conference champion in 2012), although their bid to earn a full title -- and an accompanying trip to the
Orange Sugar Bowl -- was thwarted by a home loss to Louisville. Prior to that, their last conference title -- shared or otherwise -- was in 1974, in something called the Middle Three Conference (a step up from the Middle Earth Conference, where the University of Gondor and Rohan State University have battled it out for the title for years, with little Shire State University regularly bringing up the rear). So yeah: a history of success, Rutgers does not haz it.
That said, Rutgers lately has been far better than Rutgers historically, as evidenced by those .600 winning percentages in the 5-year and 10-year records up above. Greg Schiano got the ball rolling on the Rutgers resurgence before heading off to the NFL and Tampa Bay and his successor, Kyle Flood, has kept things ticking nicely this year with a 9-3 record and that aforementioned shared conference title.
Rutgers is also riding a five-game bowl winning streak, although none of those wins has come over particularly good teams or in particularly noteworthy bowls. The best win might have been their first, a 37-10 win over the Fightin' Ron Princes (Kansas State) in the Texas Bowl. Since then they've trounced Ball State in the International Bowl, nipped NC State in the Papajohns.com Bowl, thumped Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl (better known now as the Beef O' Brady's Bowl), and edged Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl last year.
HISTORY WITH IOWA
None! Literally, nothing. We have never, ever played Rutgers in a football game before. Huzzah for novelty! It's possible (although I'm not certain) that Iowa's only two games in the great state of New Jersey were the Kickoff Classics they played in East Rutherford in 1987 and 1992. (Iowa lost both of those games, incidentally.)
COMPETITIVE FIT WITH THE BIG TEN
Prior to Greg Schiano's arrival in 2001, Rutgers had been one of the worst teams in major college football. They had winning records in just 5 of the 20 previous seasons, with the high-water mark being a 7-3 record in 1984. Schiano had a losing record in each of his first four seasons at Rutgers (sidenote: he never would have made it to a year five in today's coaching landscape), broke above .500 with a 7-5 record in that fifth season and won at least eight games in every remaining season he was there (except 2010, when the bottom fell out and he went 4-8). Schiano built Rutgers into a team that was consistently good but never great (with the possibly exception of the Ray Rice-fueled team that went 11-2 in 2006).
Of course, that was in the Big East and while the Big Ten has been down lately, it's still a step or two up in quality from the Big East. Including bowl games, Rutgers is 4-3 against non-Big East BCS teams over the last five years, although (weirdly) all three losses came against North Carolina. (Good thing they didn't move to the ACC.) My gut feeling is that Rutgers will be competitive as a mid-tier team in the Big Ten they join in 2014. I doubt they'll contend for Big Ten titles immediately, but they probably won't be scraping the bottom of the league, either.
FUN FACT: Rutgers' last game against a (current) Big Ten team was with Illinois in 2006. They won, 33-0, so they too know the joy of beating up on a Zooker-coached team. See, we're bonding with them already!
SO WHAT'S THIS DO FOR IOWA?
The biggest impact for Iowa with this move (other than the giant bags of money that Jim Delany will be teleporting into the Iowa athletic department's treasury) is likely in recruiting. Depending on your perspective (and/or level of cynicism), adding Rutgers -- and the accompanying New Jersey recruiting territory -- either strengthens Iowa's ability to poach talent from that area, or cripples it by assuming that Rutgers is able to use Big Ten membership to lock down the state for themselves. The answer is probably somewhere in-between; Iowa -- and all other Big Ten schools -- should have increased visibility in that region with this move (and, more importantly, with the addition of the BTN to local cable and satellite packages), but Rutgers will no doubt benefit from being able to sell recruits on the value of being in a major conference and competing for major bowls.*
* Or they can try to use their silver tongues to persuade recruits that the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is so much better than the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.
In terms of the games themselves, Iowa probably won't be playing Rutgers very often. It will depend on whether or not Jim Delany is able to add more games to the conference schedule and what the new divisional alignments look like, but as it stands it's unlikely that Iowa would play Rutgers more than twice a decade (home and away), tops. In other words, Iowa's going to play them just as much as they did Arizona State in the 2000s. Hooray for conference realignment! On the other hand, if they're shaking up the divisions and (possibly) tweaking those cross-divisional rivals, why not push for Rutgers to replace Purdue as Our Most Hated Rival? If we're not going to get a cross-divisional rival we give a damn about playing every year (we're not) and we're going to be stuck with an artificially assigned rival (we are), why not have it be one that would at least guarantee road trips to New York City every other year? It sure as hell beats every-other-year jaunts to West Lafayette.
Also? The odds of seeing Tony Soprano turn up on an Iowa football broadcast just went WAY UP.