The move follows Maryland's announcement a day earlier that it was heading to the Big Ten in 2014. The additions give the Big Ten 14 schools and a presence in lucrative East Coast markets.
Rutgers announced its decision at a campus news conference attended by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Rutgers president Robert Barchi and athletic director Tim Pernetti.
"The Big Ten is really where Rutgers belongs," Barchi said. "This is not just a good fit for us athletically, it's a good fit for us academically and as an institution."
Rutgers has been competing in the Big East since 1991. But the league has been torn up by conference realignment, losing three key members last year.
Pernetti had insisted all along that Rutgers would land on its feet, that being a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities and residing in the largest media market in the country would ensure the school wouldn't be cast aside as the landscape of college sports changed.
Rutgers left its entry date ambiguous, though clearly the Big Ten and the school would like it to line up with Maryland.
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, the way Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia have done.
"Although we are disappointed that Rutgers has decided to leave the Big East Conference, we wish them well," Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement.
In an interview later, Aresco said that the conference would survive. "We'll move judiciously to replace Rutgers, but we had already changed from the small, Northeast model," he said. "We're a national conference now. We became a bigger and better football conference."
The Big East is trying to rebuild itself as a 12-team football league next season, with the addition of Boise State and five other schools. Now the conference is again on the defensive. Connecticut or Louisville could be next to go with the ACC looking to replace Maryland.
Aresco said he had been in touch with the newcomers and they were still on board. He declined to speculate on other members leaving.