Let’s all take five minutes to make fun of Rutgers.
Because if basketball is Connecticut’s No. 1 pastime, belittling the state university of New Jersey is making a strong push for runner-up.
To recap, Rutgers asked paralyzed former football player Eric LeGrand, as inspirational a figure as there is in sports, to speak at its commencement. It then reportedly rescinded the request Tuesday, via a voicemail from athletic director Julie Hermann, then felt another all-too-familiar firestorm coming, and then called the whole thing a miscommunication and invited LeGrand to speak.
To recap even further: This is the university that employed deranged basketball coach/dodgeball enthusiast Mike Rice. This is the school that, in the aftermath of the Rice scandal, hired Hermann, who was accused of mistreating her volleyball players while coaching at Tennessee, and who recently told a Rutgers journalism class — those who aspire to work for newspapers — that it would be “great” if the Newark Star-Ledger folded. Sometime in between a football coach was accused of bullying a player, and at some point an inexplicable invite to the B1G found its way into a Rutgers mailbox.
That’ll go down in conference realignment history, for sure.
But does it have to?
If Rutgers can fix its obvious blunder (well, its latest obvious blunder), can the B1G do the same?
Now, this isn’t an advocacy column for UConn over Rutgers, because those are too easy to write and, I’d imagine, not the most riveting to read.
UConn won three national championships this year. Rutgers won one ever. In 1949. In men’s Fencing. No, I’m not making that up.
UConn men’s basketball packed Madison Square Garden, drove the tickets to record prices, and then packed its bags for Dallas.
Rutgers men’s basketball packed it after about seven minutes of a season ending 61-point loss to Louisville, an effort so disgraceful that the Cardinals could have gone scoreless in the second half and still won by 27.
Eddie Jordan lied on his resume about graduating from Rutgers. He spent last summer taking college courses. Kevin Ollie will spend this summer taking NBA calls (until he signs a new contract at UConn, of course).
Resurgent as Rutgers football was under Greg Schiano, it lost five of its last seven AAC games, including a late one versus 1-9 UConn.
Quite the B1G sendoff.
So, yeah, it would be almost entirely pointless to keep comparing UConn with Rutgers, to become further entrenched in the bold stance that the B1G made a colossal mistake.
The true question here: Can anything be done to fix it?
I ask because A.) We’ve seen it happen the other way: In Dec. 2011, Boise State accepted an invite to the Big East. In Dec. 2012, Boise State backed out of its commitment and owed the Big East a $5 million exit fee (which sparked a lawsuit). I ask because B.) It’s hilarious to imagine the call coming in to the Rutgers athletic office.
“Yeah, you remember that invite a few years ago? That was a miscommunication.”
According a B1G spokesperson, a 70 percent affirmative vote of current members is required to accept a new member. Similarly, it takes a 70 percent affirmative vote of the current members for expulsion.
Truth be told, there’s no way the B1G can now rid itself of the stink in Jersey. It didn’t expel Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. How could it ever justify a Rutgers expulsion?
If it tried, in what would be an unprecedented move, Rutgers would have grounds for a major lawsuit (and, yes, the Scarlet Knights already have one of those against the old Big East).
And, yes, that’s a mess that no conference will dare touch.
Truth be told, as much as the B1G must regret choosing Rutgers over UConn, despite the endless negative PR the Scarlet Knights bring along when they make the transition this summer, the location of their school remains ideal.
Even if Rutgers stinks, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, college football and basketball fans will probably be interested in checking out Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. According to Michigan’s website, New York City is home to over 13,000 Wolverine alumni, one of the school’s largest alumni bases in the world. Penn State has a large NYC alumni population, as well.
So Rutgers does provide value: Alumni and fans of real B1G schools can take the short ride from New York City to Jersey and watch their team whip up on the Scarlet Knights. Or they can watch on TV. That works for the B1G’s purposes, too. As long as they watch.
It’s the sad truth in Connecticut, where Nutmeggers love their basketball slightly more than they love bashing Rutgers.
Hoops season resumes in October. Ripping on Rutgers season probably resumes earlier.