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Sports economists say move to Big Ten will be felt throughout Rutgers athletics

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(Rutgers Athletics)
(Rutgers Athletics)

While the focus is on football for Rutgers University's imminent move to the Big Ten conference today, a sports economist said the school can expect the increased media exposure and profits to leverage sponsorship opportunities for its facilities and improve all its athletics programs.

"There's somewhere between one and 20 college athletic programs in the country that run a profit or break even without receiving any subsidies from a state or the rest of the college, but every sports program outside of football and basketball loses money," said Victor Matheson, associate professor of sports and gaming economic at the College of the Holy Cross, in Massachusetts. "After this move, Rutgers men's soccer is not going to be nationally recognized or living a lavish lifestyle like the football team, but it will be a more well-funded program from the profits generated from football."

According to Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College, also in Massachusetts, Rutgers' athletics program as a whole "is getting a tremendous promotion going into an equity conference when its historical records in football and basketball don't warrant inclusion in it."

"Moving to the Big Ten will change the dimensions of the athletic program and make it more commercial," Zimbalist said. "With the extra exposure, the teams will be able to get bigger sneaker deals and apparel deals, and the school can absolutely expect to get more corporate sponsorships. It might even be able to get a naming rights deal for its basketball arena."

However, Matheson said, "There's little reason to believe sponsorship opportunities for the basketball program will be improved by the move, and the same thing goes for all of the minor sports."

"Moving from the Big East — an extremely strong basketball conference — to the Big Ten does little to raise the team's profile. If they didn't get a naming rights sponsor when they were in the Big East, it's not likely their chances will improve in the Big Ten," Matheson said. "The real upgrade in sponsorship opportunities is driven by football."

Aside from attracting corporations as sponsors for cornerstones and suites in its football stadium, Matheson said the team's additional media exposure in the Big Ten could potentially give it enough weight to "bring in a much higher-profile sponsor for the stadium's naming rights after buying out the existing contract from the more local sponsor" — a 10-year agreement Rutgers signed with Sparta-based High Point Solutions Inc. last year for $6.5 million.

It is expected that Rutgers will today announce its decision to become the 14th member of the Big Ten. At 2 p.m., Rutgers President Dr. Robert Barchi and athletic director Tim Pernetti will hold a press conference with the Big Ten's commissioner, James E. Delany, in the university's football facilities, according to a media advisory released by the athletic department this morning.

Correction appended: An earlier version of the story said East Norriton, Pa.-based High Point Solutions LLC holds a naming rights contract for Rutgers' football stadium, but it belongs to Sparta-based High Point Solutions Inc. The story has been corrected.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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