Last November, it was revealed that Rutgers University would be joining the Big Ten Conference and start competition in the league during the 2014-2015 academic year.
The reason for adding Rutgers seemed to be singular, at least realistically. That, of course, is the New York-New Jersey television market.
It wasn’t that Rutgers had any sort of resonance as an athletics program inside the Big Ten or out. The Scarlet Knights have been 58-32 in football since the 2006 season, which is pretty darned good. But they’ve been playing in the Big East. If I asked you what signature moments come to your mind involving Rutgers football, would you come up with anything but a shrug?
Rutgers women’s basketball has been a national power under the guidance of former Iowa coach C. Vivian Stringer, but the school’s men’s basketball program has been as nondescript as any program in one of the big six conferences.
The Knights have had seven straight losing seasons. They haven’t been to an NCAA tournament since 1991. They lost to Iowa in a 1989 NCAA first-round game, 87-70. They haven’t won a game in the NCAAs since 1983. That’s barely better than Northwestern!
Rutgers joined the Big East for basketball in the 1995-96 season and never had a winning record in league play. Its all-time Big East mark was 89-201. Its best conference record in the last seven years was 6-12.
That in itself is bad enough, but the real follies didn’t start until after the Knights joined the Big Ten. In early April, Rutgers men’s basketball finally got some play in the New York City newspapers. But that’s because coach Mike Rice Jr. was shown on film throwing basketballs at his players in practice, shoving and grabbing them, and yelling homophobic slurs at them.
Rutgers chose to suspend Rice for three games and fine him $50,000 rather than fire him after learning of his actions last year. That didn’t go over so well once ESPN got hold of the footage of Rice’s behavior in practice.
Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, under plenty of pressure to step down himself, did just that. After accepting a $1.2 million settlement, that is.
Rutgers replaced Rice with Eddie Jordan, a seemingly safe and popular choice. Jordan was an All-American player at the school, had an NBA career, and coached 600 games in the NBA.
Just one problem: While Rutgers’ Web site said Jordan had earned an undergraduate degree at Rutgers, it turns out he had not. Which is interesting, since a bachelor’s degree is listed as a requirement to be one of Jordan’s assistants.
Jordan will stay on as the coach and the school and Big Ten will ride out this embarrassment. There may come a day when Rutgers have the men’s basketball success it has enjoyed recently in football and women’s basketball. But until then …
Here’s what Phil Mushnick of the New York Post wrote about the situation Monday:
It turns out Eddie Jordan, proudly announced as Rutgers’ new coach and holder of a degree from the university, didn’t actually graduate. Rutgers shot-callers seemed to be the only ones who had no idea Jordan’s predecessor, Mike Rice, acted like a raving, raging lunatic before the university purchased his presence.
Funny thing, though, throughout academia, Rutgers is nationally known for research.
Would this be a bad time to mention Maryland’s football program went 2-10, 2-10 and 4-8 in three of its last four seasons?