Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or been in a coma underneath a rock, for the past few days, you’re aware of the videos that went viral of Mike Rice going Neanderthal on his Rutgers basketball players. The shocking clips of Rice hurling both basketballs and homosexual slurs at his players led to the coach’s dismissal and the same fate for athletic director Tim Pernetti, who laughably decided in December a three-game suspension and five-figure fine befitted the crime.
With a move from the American Athletic Conference (née Big East) to the Big Ten looming in July of 2014, some have asked what if any impact the controversy will have on the Scarlet Knights’ jump to the money-green pastures of the Midwestern conference. The short and equally obvious answer? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
As Rutgers is not yet an official member of the Big Ten, that conference will not comment on the current mess that is the New Jersey school’s athletic department. Off the record, and while they would obviously prefer this situation wasn’t an issue and do find it troublesome, the conference stands firmly behind a school that, along with Maryland, will become the league’s 13th and 14th members next year.
Simply put, the Big Ten didn’t add Rutgers because it was an athletic powerhouse in general or a football juggernaut specifically. Rather, Rutgers was plucked in one of myriad rounds of expansion musical chairs because of the potential television market it brings to the Big Ten Network — and the millions upon millions of additional dollars annually for its membership — and for its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities — and the multi-millions upon multi-millions of research dollars that brings.
Did the Mike Rice imbroglio and bungled and misguided coverup change either of those two factors? Not in the least, which means the Big Ten will be more than willing to weather whatever type of residual storm may come its way over the next year and a half.
Now, should this fiasco give the Big Ten second thoughts or a minute’s pause? Possibly, but remember, this is also the conference of Bobby Knight and Woody Hayes; it’s used to negative press on the coaching end and riding out the PR storm.
It’s a long time between now and July 1, 2014. A lot of time to make the Mike Rice embarrassment smaller and smaller in the rear-view. Right or wrong, that’s precisely how the Big Ten will allow this to play out.