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Rutgers officially joins Big Ten and starts playing catch-up

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Kyle Flood is like any other football coach, spending the offseason looking for ways to improve his team, and not looking past the season opener.

Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. (Mel Evans/AP)
Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. (Mel Evans/AP)Read more

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Kyle Flood is like any other football coach, spending the offseason looking for ways to improve his team, and not looking past the season opener.

But with Rutgers celebrating its official entry Tuesday into the Big Ten Conference, Flood saw nothing wrong with his players looking at the big picture, which includes eight new league opponents.

"It's OK for our players right now to look at the schedule and see some of the most storied programs in the history of college football and say this is going to be a great opportunity for us to test ourselves against them," Flood said. "A day like today really is a big-picture day, something to be really excited about."

The Scarlet Knights finished 6-7 last season, including a loss to Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl, Rutgers' eighth bowl game in the last nine years. Their opponents change from former American Athletic Conference rivals Louisville, Central Florida, and Cincinnati to Ohio State, Nebraska, and Michigan State - all on the road.

Rutgers and Maryland, which also officially entered the Big Ten on Tuesday, are the 13th and 14th member teams. The changes move the Big Ten to the East Coast, and the two new programs will battle historic rival Penn State for players in the fertile New Jersey and Washington areas.

Flood said his core recruiting in the Garden State will remain the same, but he acknowledged that his staff will recruit in what he called "nontraditional" areas.

"In last year's recruiting class, we had tight ends from Texas and Minnesota and a quarterback from Michigan," he said. "This year, we sent two coaches to Ohio, where they have very natural ties. There are a lot of good football players in Ohio. But I think the lifeblood of college football is recruiting, and recruiting always begins at home."

High Point Solutions Stadium, which welcomed about 3,000 people for a celebration Tuesday night, completed a $102 million expansion in 2009. Even though it increased capacity to 52,454, it is one of the smallest stadiums in the Big Ten.

Work to improve the Rutgers athletic program and its facilities has been underway in the nearly two years since its acceptance by the Big Ten. Fund-raising has escalated, and athletic director Julie Hermann is hoping to accelerate the efforts. A reported $6.1 million was raised last year.

Rutgers will reach "full financial membership" in the Big Ten in six years, Herrmann said, meaning it will get an equal share of revenue with the other teams.

Each conference team except Penn State, which is ineligible for bowl games because of NCAA sanctions, and Nebraska, which moved from the Big 12 four years ago, received about $25.9 million in fiscal 2013, according to a USA Today report.

"We're not borrowing any money," Hermann said. "This has to be built on support from our donors, support from corporate America. There's no more debt."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said, "You've got to invest to be competitive" in his conference.

"You have institutions in the Big Ten that have more resources," he said. "That's because of not only the history and the tradition but also the [bowl and television] agreements that we've been able to strike over many, many years. So I think that [Rutgers] will have to be really efficient. They'll have to pull together."