PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers is joining the Big Ten, leaving the Big East behind and cashing in on the school’s investment in a football program that only 10 years ago seemed incapable of competing at the highest level.
The school announced its decision Tuesday at a campus news conference attended by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Rutgers President Robert Barchi and athletic director Tim Perenetti.
‘‘The Big Ten is really where Rutgers belongs,’’ Barchi said.
Rutgers has been competing in the Big East since 1991. But the league has been picked apart by conference realignment, and the Scarlet Knights were looking for a way out.
They landed in the best possible spot. A spot that seemed unthinkable a decade ago when Rutgers football was a Big East cellar-dweller.
‘‘It’s a transformative day for Rutgers University,’’ Pernetti said.
The move follows Maryland’s announcement Monday that it was joining the Big Ten in 2014.
Rutgers also plans to join its new conference in 2014, though the Big East requires 27 months’ notification for departing members. The Scarlet Knights will have to negotiate a deal with the Big East to leave early.
Whenever Rutgers enters the Big Ten, it will be the culmination of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college sports.
In 2002, the Scarlet Knights football team went 1-11 under second-year coach Greg Schiano, who then seemed like the latest coach incapable of reviving a program that had been a college football laughingstock for more than a decade.
The team, however, made steady improvement as the university made the huge financial commitment necessary to support major college football.
Facilities were upgraded, the on-campus stadium was expanded and as Schiano started to win, his salary began to rise into the millions. Not everyone on campus embraced the idea of turning Rutgers into a big-time football school, and it did come with a big price tag.
The expanded and renovated stadium cost of $102 million. The school had hoped to raise the money through private donors, but fell short. Rutgers scaled back plans for the expansion and issued bonds and borrowed money to complete the project.
In 2006, the school had to cut six varsity sports, including men’s tennis and crew. As the football team has become a consistent winner — Rutgers has gone to a bowl six of the last seven years — the athletic department has received tens of millions in subsidies from the university.
Schiano left for the NFL last year, and Rutgers hired longtime assistant Kyle Flood, who has the Scarlet Knights poised to take make another big step. No. 21 Rutgers (9-1) is in position to win its first Big East championship and go to a BCS game for the first time.
In the Big Ten, the revenue Rutgers receives from the league’s television and media deals should quadruple in the short term and could be even more than that in years to come.
The Big Ten reportedly paid its members about $24 million last year. The Big East’s payout to football members last year was $6 million.
In exchange, the Big Ten gets a member in the largest media market in the country, and new presence along the East Coast, with Rutgers and Maryland as north and south bookends.