Here’s how much money Rutgers will get from Big Ten (and when) following a $1 billion media rights deal

If you’re wondering how much money Rutgers will receive from the Big Ten Conference following its historic media rights deal, know this:

Not even Pat Hobbs is sure.

“I haven’t seen what the final numbers will look like from the conference,” the Rutgers athletics director told NJ Advance Media on Friday. “It’s a substantial increase over where we are and where we were (projected) to be.”

Four years ago, Rutgers projected a $59 million distribution from the Big Ten for the 2023-24 season. So what kind of paycheck will the Big Ten cut Rutgers after the conference reportedly secured a $1.2 billion media rights deal with CBS, Fox and NBC?

Officials familiar with the deal told NJ Advance Media Friday the Big Ten distribution for each school is expected to exceed $70 million next year and soar north of $80 million by the end of the deal in 2029-30.

“It’s nothing but positives for Rutgers,” Hobbs said, referring to a deal that will reportedly net the Big Ten $1.2 billion annually. “With the additions of USC and UCLA, having a coast-to-coast reach, the amount of exposure that we will get as a university under this media rights deal for football, basketball and our Olympic Sports will only demonstrate how fortunate Rutgers is to be in the Big Ten. And in my view it’s a great opportunity we have as we go forward to win championships in the Big Ten. Because of the market we’re in, because of the iconic teams we’ll be playing, we could not be better positioned as an athletics department than we are today.”

In a 2018 internal report, Rutgers projected the Big Ten’s annual distribution to range between $58 million and $69.2 million between 2023 and 2029. It also noted that Rutgers wouldn’t receive the same distribution as most of the other Big Ten schools because the athletics department secured two separate loans totaling $48 million five years ago.

At the time, Rutgers officials told NJ Advance Media the loans were necessary in order to trim its growing deficit as well as to keep the Scarlet Knights competitive in their initial seasons in the Big Ten. It also meant Rutgers would need to pay back between $7 and $9 million annually over the next four years.

But in a wide-ranging interview Friday with NJ Advance Media, Hobbs said discussions are underway to potentially adjust the revenue streams for Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska. Upon joining the conference a decade ago, the three schools needed to go through a six-year integration that saw their conference-distribution checks pale in comparison to their Big Ten rivals.

The Big Ten did not make UCLA and USC go through the same integration, announcing the Southern California schools would join the league as full financial partners in 2024.

Hobbs told NJ Advance Media top officials at Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska are working with the Big Ten in order to address the previous financial inequities going forward.

“We’re actually looking at all of that right now,” he said. “Obviously the conference, in the financial integration for USC and UCLA, made the decision that it was in the best interest of the conference to bring them in as full-share members. Ourselves, Maryland and Nebraska came in under a financial integration model and there were things done then in order to try to make sure that we could be competitive. In the interest of fairness and equity, the conference, along with the presidents and chancellors, are taking a look at Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska specifically to make sure that in this new (16-team) world that we have that some level of fairness and equity gets returned to Rutgers and those two schools.”

Documents obtained by NJ Advance Media show Rutgers has already paid back $10 million from the $48 million loan over the past two years.

Asked whether he sees the potential for the Big Ten to forgive the remainder of the loan, Hobbs said: “That I would not see.”

Still, he said there’s potential for Rutgers to receive a larger percentage of the Big Ten’s annual revenue stream in the next four years.

“Obviously those loans were real both for ourselves and for Maryland,” Hobbs said. “There’s going to be an examination of that in the context of this new agreement and the new revenue flows. I wouldn’t want to speculate on the amount of that adjustment. (The Big Ten presidents) recognize that there is an equity and fairness component to it.”

The news of the Big Ten media rights deal came on a day when Rutgers’ finances were scrutinized in a NorthJersey.com report that Scarlet Knights football players ordered more than $450,000 through DoorDash during a 13-month period ending in June. The media outlet previously reported credit card bills by Rutgers coaches and staff for meals, trips and hotels that totaled nearly $10 million during a review of five years of charges in the athletics department.

According to Rutgers’ most recent Fiscal Year report filed to the NCAA, the athletics program had a $73.3 million shortfall in a $118.4 million budget that was made up by $27.6 million in support from the university’s operating budget, $10.5 million in student fees, a $21.5 million internal loan, an $8 million loan from the Big Ten and $4.7 million in state support.

ESPN.com reported the new Big Ten media rights deal won’t result in a financial windfall immediately but is expected to substantially increase once UCLA and USC join the fold in 2024. The report projected the Big Ten to eventually distribute between $80 million to $100 million per year to its 16 members.

That should go a long way toward decreasing Rutgers’ annual debt, but Hobbs said it won’t completely erase it.

“It’s a remarkably complex time in college athletics both financially and legally,” Hobbs said.

He noted travel costs, coaches’ salaries and the payments to players will all increase in upcoming years, but a $75 million payment before Rutgers sells a single ticket figures to be a big boost to its financial ledger.

“I think there’s a pathway (to financial sustainability),” Hobbs said. “It’s very difficult when you don’t know what future expenses are going to come. We’ll have additional travel costs going to the west coast. It’s a wonderful thing for our student athletes to get up to $5,980 a year for their performance but that’s an additional cost. We’re seeing what’s happened with head coaching salaries in football in just the last two or three years and that’s something that we have to pay attention to closely. When Greg (Schiano) came in he was in the median in the conference and now he’s not. And I have great confidence that we’re going to have to do something with Greg’s contract as we go forward.

“So you have to watch your costs. I do see a path to substantially narrow it. But we have to be doing everything else. We have to be performing on the field so that we sell tickets because we’re not where we need to be there. We need to do a better job fundraising, especially (for) annual (private funds). And there’s some competition there now because for some folks they want to help Rutgers University by maybe providing a Name, Image and Likeness opportunity for the student-athlete instead of an annual contribution to the university.”

Hobbs recalled a negative vibe he experienced when talking about Rutgers’ financial future when he first arrived as the school’s AD in December 2015. That year, Rutgers’ distribution from the Big Ten was just north of $9 million.

“When I came to Rutgers I was somewhat taken back by the level of pessimism surrounding the future of Rutgers athletics and the role it could play for Rutgers University,” he said. “You did not see that sentiment the same way for other Big Ten members. I had a feeling that in time Rutgers would feel very positive about the role that athletics could play for the university, the role that athletics could play in expanding the knowledge of what the university is all about. It’s great to win championships and be in the newspaper in a positive way from August to June, and I believe that’s what we’ll be doing for a long time.

“But it’s also a way where we can highlight the strength of the university. We brand ourselves New Jersey but we’re in the New York media market so all those pieces are coming in a way that I think we’re still going to shock people in the years ahead with just how strong we’ll be as an athletics program. And, of course, it’s providing Rutgers additional finances, and that’s going to be important — and a challenge for those competing against us who are not in the Big Ten.”

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Keith Sargeant may be reached at ksargeant@njadvancemedia.com.

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