Downstream, red team!

At the beginning of last football season, we predicted a tastycake stroll for Rutgers in a conference made up of feeble survivors of the unlamented "Big East." At the end of Week 13, we were as shocked as anyone to see the Rutgers franchise demoted to105th in the Sagarin ratings.*

In hopes of gaining longer-term perspective, we took a look at the "Big Ten" East Division that was persuaded to take Rutgers in hopes of getting New York area television exposure for established football factories like Ohio State and Michigan State and Nebraska.

As it happens, we uncovered reasons for booster optimism. A little-known clause in the "Big Ten" agreement provides for a coveted Double Doormat prize to be granted each year to the East Division member finishing closest to the bottom in both football and academic standing.

As most observers will be aware, Rutgers will have little trouble finishing as the East Division doormat in football. Finishing at the bottom in both categories, however, presents a real challenge. For instance, Michigan state, with an entering SAT average of 1120, is the one East Division member with an academic standing even worse than Rutgers. But Michigan State is virtually certain to trounce Rutgers in football. In doing so, MSU says goodbye to any realistic chance of winning the Double Doormat.

Maryland, on the other hand, with a Sagarin football power rating nearly as dismal as Rutgers', may actually lose an occasional game to the "Scarlet Knights." But with an entering SAT average of 1300, Maryland is not likely anytime soon to sink to the murky academic depths currently occupied by Rutgers.

That's why Rutgers' present academic and intellectual decline seems to us to provide a very strong chance of earning the Double Doormat.

One faculty member, highly optimistic about Double Doormat chances, notes that "Rutgers' current admissions requirement amounts to having a warm body and a Pell Grant." "That explains why," he told us, "over seventy percent of New Jersey's top students are going out of state to college. Within New Jersey, Princeton and The College of New Jersey draw a substantial number of the remaining 30%. What improves our Double Doormat chances is that this has happened mainly because of Division IA athletics. In the age of TV-advertising-driven spectacles like 'March Madness' and the Tostitos Bowl, you can depend on the brightest and most intellectually engaged kids in New Jersey to keep on going elsewhere. So, with Rutgers locked into the 'Big Ten,' our prospects look great."

Given the exciting possibility of Rutgers winning the Double Doormat on a regular basis, we're happy to say that reliable sources tell us that not a single member of the Board of Governors has the least interest in academic distinction. We admit that, until quite recently, we were worried that the BOG might be unduly influenced by alumni nostalgia for the days prior to entry into the "Big East" conference in 1994, when Rutgers regularly occupied the "Most Selective" category in the Barrons college rankings. Now, given booster delirium about Rutgers' membership in the "Big Ten," we feel a heartening confidence that Rutgers will never again see academic distinction. Starting in fall 2014, Rutgers will almost certainly have Double Doormat bragging rights for many years to come.

*Actually, by Nov 30 Rutgers had dropped to 114th in the Sagarin ratings, dropping 43 places below Maryland.

 Sagarin football ranking (Week 13)

 "Big Ten" East Division

 Combined freshman SAT scores

6

 Ohio State

 1255

10

 Michigan State

 1120

 46

 Michigan

 1360

 58

 Indiana

 1165

 63

 Penn State

 1195

 72

 Maryland

 1300

 105

 Rutgers

 1165