People crowd onto the field during a party at Rutgers' football stadium, as Rutgers joins the Big Ten athletic conference on Tuesday in Piscataway, N.J. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
Piscataway, N.J. — Rutgers marked its first day in the Big Ten with a party at its football stadium.
Tuesday’s celebration attracted a crowd of about 2,000 fans, who listened to music from a cover band and watched as fireworks went off at the end of the night. There also were big inflatable houses for the kids.
“I think today is going to be like an anniversary,” Rutgers football coach Kyle Flood said. “Whether it’s a wedding anniversary, something like a birthday, I think this will be a date throughout history that the Rutgers family is really going to remember.”
Rutgers and Maryland announced in November 2012 that they were leaving their respective conferences for the Big Ten. But it wasn’t until Tuesday that they officially became members of their new league, giving the Big Ten 14 schools and a presence in lucrative East Coast markets.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Rutgers president Robert Barchi and athletic director Julie Hermann addressed the stadium party.
“(This) is a game changer for our university,” Hermann said. “Incredibly historic.”
Hermann, who took over Rutgers’ athletic department in May 2013, said she feels the football program is ready with the stadium expansion and Hale Center facilities. Hermann said there will be a 25 to 30 percent increase in fundraising from last year, but more work needs to be done.
“It’s a privilege for me to be here and to lead the great group of coaches and staff into the Big Ten, which is going to be a challenge,” Hermann said. “Got to rise and we’re focused on that.”
Hermann confirmed previous reports that there are plans to build an athletic village that will house most of the sports’ training facilities. She also spoke about a makeover for the baseball and softball facilities that will cost nearly $3 million.
Delany also said there probably will be a transition when it comes to the play on the field.
“I think the Big Ten conference is deep and has a lot of quality teams so game in and game out there will be great conference competition here,” he said. “I think the opportunity to succeed is here.
“They are who they are. They have to learn the competition. Figure out the conference . Teams don’t go from good to great overnight and teams don’t go from going great to average overnight.”