Before throwing the ceremonial first pitch at Monday night's Yankees game, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany made sure not to throw Rutgers under the bus.
Delany, speaking at a news conference to announce the Big Ten's new agreement with the Pinstripe Bowl, reiterated his support for Rutgers despite the school's recent run of notoriety, from the Mike Rice scandal to Tim Pernetti's ouster, to Eddie Jordan's degree snafu, to the controversial hiring of new athletic director Julie Hermann. Although Rutgers' future membership in the Big Ten never was in jeopardy -- like The Weepies say, you can't go back now -- Delany confirmed that The State University of New Jersey will join the league, as expected, in July 2014.
"Rutgers is coming in," Delany said. "You should rest assure that Rutgers will be a member of the Big Ten, on-time, in-place and will make fabulous contributions, not withstanding any personnel issues last month, this month or next month."
Delany initially declined to comment about Rutgers, and didn't delve into the details surrounding Hermann's hiring and controversial past as Tennessee's volleyball coach. He once again stated that the league doesn't have a role in managing personnel decisions from its members, saying, "My job is not ... to solve their problems."
"It eventually will calm down," Delany said. "It's not calmed down. I don't have the magic wand to make it calm. And to be honest with you, issues of personnel decisions made by selection committees -- those are not conference matters. Those are local matters. Who they hire, who they retain, who they extend, are not matters for the Big Ten Conference, whether it be a Michigan or a Rutgers or a Nebraska or an Illinois."
League sources have told me the negative attention generated by Hermann's hiring has really upset Big Ten brass. The addition of Rutgers never generated much excitement among Big Ten fans to begin with, and the events of the past few months haven't helped boost confidence in the New Jersey institution.
But Delany was the driving force behind Rutgers' admittance into the Big Ten in November, and he's going to drag the school, warts and all, into the league next summer.