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September 18, 2011

Conference expansion: The time frame





With so much talk about conference realignment and the shifting of schools from one league to another, things are happening very quickly in college football. And with all that is going on, when will Rutgers finally make a move?

The future of Rutgers athletics is facing a few different scenarios. Whether it will mean a future in the ACC, Big Ten or a revamped Big East, the process may come to an end sooner rather than later.

"It's hard to say, this time around things seem to be moving a little more quickly than they did a little over a year ago," Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti said this afternoon on a conference call. "If that's a sign of things to come, it's very difficult to say but I do think as more pieces continue to be in motion, obviously it starts to trickle its way down and affect more people in the process. So I would imagine the next 30 days is going to be a very telling period of time in our entire industry."

Rutgers has not been as visible as some schools have been nationally, but Pernetti insists that plenty has been going on behind the scenes.

"The bottom line is we have been and will continue to engage in these conversations with several parties and evaluate. In the end, the answer is going to be whatever is best for us is what we're going to do."

While Rutgers may not have a history of winning conference titles, Pernetti is confident the school has plenty to offer.

"Given out assets and our location, the New York TV market, I could go along the list," he said. "Our AAU status and strong academic standing and most of all, given all the nonsense going on out there, running a clean program. We have great assets and we will continue to be a player nationally during this time as the landscape continues to shift."

As that landscape shifts, the Big East looks as though it is beginning to crumble more and more by the day. However, Pernetti stated that he believes the conference can survive.

"I think it can," he confirmed. "The thing about conference expansion and the thing about conferences that well positioned themselves for the future, it's all about unanimity."

Pitt and Syracuse declined to show league unanimity as both schools looked for the fast lane to the ACC. Now, West Virginia could be headed down a similar path to the SEC.

According to Pernetti, unanimity has not been a strong point for the Big East.

"That has not been an asset of the league, I don't think. In certain conversations about a variety of business issues, the unanimity is there. But at the same time, it's definitely shown flashes of being there. But unanimity is key."

Unanimity does not seem to be a popular word in college football with teams jumping ship and seeking out new conferences. In the end, it all comes down to unanimity within each school as administrators are entrusted to lead their own programs upward.

"As an athletic director, you need to look at the best place for your institution," said Pernetti. "You need to look at revenue and challenging economy. You need to look at growing it so you can create a good experience. But experience is one thing not a lot of people are talking about. I think the student athlete experience for every sport has to be a good one."

Rutgers student-athletes may be in for some changes in what could be a very different future.

But what that future will be, only time will tell.


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