GLASS: Rutgers vs. Boston College is bizzare
Opinions Column: Extra Curricula
Rutgers plays nine Big Ten games a year. This leaves three places on its 12 game schedule for non-conference games.
Rutgers has decided to play these non-conference games against local schools. I think that this is a good idea. There is more interest in a game against a school the fans have heard of, and the local schools are familiar to Rutgers fans. Also, all of the schools selected, except one, are good choices. But, that one is so odd that it deserves mention.
Rutgers plays in a Power Five conference (the Big Ten) of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the highest level of college football. The Big Ten allows its members to schedule only one lower level school every other year and Rutgers has scheduled the local schools Monmouth and Delaware.
This leaves five places on the schedule over every two years that must be filled by teams at Rutgers's level.
The closest schools to Rutgers that are not Power Five members of the FBS are Temple, Army, Navy and the University of Connecticut. I pointed out in my last column that because of tradition, entertainment value, fan interest and financial benefit, Army and Navy are the best possible choices. They have been dropped from the Rutgers schedule, but, Temple is on the Rutgers schedule.
Finally, the two Power Five schools closest to Rutgers are Syracuse and Boston College. Scheduling these teams is problematic because both compete directly against the University for New Jersey high school football players. They need the games to increase their exposure to New Jersey talent. Rutgers does not.
Most top college football players come from a dozen states: New Jersey is 12th on the list, behind Pennsylvania at 10th. If the best New Jersey high school players chose Rutgers for college each year then Rutgers would be a top 10 college football team each year. How do you convince them to stay home? One obvious way is to hire a head coach that has deep ties to New Jersey high school football. In fact the two most successful Rutgers coaches of the past half century, Frank Burns and Greg Schiano, were Jersey men. This point has been lost on Rutgers athletic directors who, despite a plethora of possibilities, only incidentally hire a Jersey guy when hiring a head coach.
Ever since Ray Rice chose Rutgers over Syracuse, Rutgers has done well recruiting against Syracuse in New Jersey. So playing Syracuse may not be a serious problem.
Then there is Boston College (BC). In the last 40 years Rutgers has played many competitive games against BC, but BC has won the bulk of them. Also, there is good reason to have bitter feelings toward BC. The University and BC played the first ever Big East football game. At that time there were six power conferences and the Big East was one of them. Then the ACC (another power conference) decided to destroy the Big East Conference by convincing some Big East schools to jump to their conference. BC jumped to the ACC. The move ultimately destroyed the Big East as a power conference and directly diminished Rutgers.
Far worse than the losses to BC on the field have been the losses to BC in recruiting. When colleges are ranked in order of the number of top New Jersey high school players they attract, BC is second only to Penn State. If the players that had gone to BC had gone to Rutgers, we would have been a major football power over the past decade.
Prior to Rutgers joining the Big Ten, BC could argue to Rutgers recruits that BC was in a Power Five conference and Rutgers was not. That has not been true, though, since Rutgers joined the Big Ten. Now Rutgers has the significant advantage that there are 6-7 Rutgers home games and even the two regular away games at Maryland and Penn State are close by. In contrast, BC plays against teams farther south. So for the typical high school recruit, BC may as well be on the moon. This should have provided a significant recruiting advantage against BC for the first time. Families like to be able to see their sons play college football with a minimum amount of travel. Therefore, BC has been desperate to establish a New Jersey presence by finding a way to play football games in New Jersey. Who has stepped up to solve BC’s dilemma? Rutgers! Four games of a home series against BC begin next year! This schedule addition obviously favors the recruiting interests of BC over Rutgers. So it is doubly bizarre, first because it happened and second because no one has commented on it. Until now.
Arnold Glass is a professor in the Rutgers Psychology Department. His column, "Extra Curricula," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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