If you needed a reminder just why the Big Ten offered Rutgers an invitation to join the conference two years ago (Rutgers officially joined in 2014, along with Maryland), look no further than a comment from New Jersey Governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie at a charity softball game in Yankee Stadium last night.
“Rutgers has become, especially in football, the New York regional school,” Christie said, per NJ.com. “This is big-time college football in our region. So it’s great to have all the representatives of the athletic department here and it makes me proud as governor to see a lot of these folks here tonight.”
Christie’s comments are in no way a slight at the state of New Jersey, of course. He was playing in a charity softball game in New York, so naturally the focus was on Rutgers and its presence in the Big Apple.
The addition of Rutgers and Maryland by the Big Ten was driven by getting the conference into the New York and Washington D.C. and Baltimore markets. The timing is critical too because the Big Ten has media rights fees set to expire at the end of the 2016-2017 seasons. Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood has made it a mission to plant the Rutgers flag all around the state of New Jersey and fend off intruders from surrounding states and regions. At the same time, Flood and Rutgers have pushed to sell it as New York’s go-to college football program, something Syracuse has also attempted over the years. As noted by NJ.com, Rutgers currently has four recruits lined up for the Class of 2015 hailing from the state of New York and another player from Brooklyn commited to the Scarlet Knights just this week.