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Big Ten’s East Coast gamble shows immediate payoff

When the Big Ten surprised everyone by moving to add Maryland and Rutgers nearly two years ago, many Midwestern fans weren’t sure that this move was wise. After all, what do these schools possibly have to add to the Big Ten? Neither are good in football, Maryland isn’t the Maryland of old on the basketball court and Rutgers has long been a joke that arena too.

However, the answer to why the Big Ten wanted to make this move became clearer as time went on. It was all about opening up New York City and Washington, D.C. television markets for Big Ten Network carriage (and the added money from said fees).

Yet, few believed the East Coast move would pay dividends by turning apathetic fans in to loyal Big Ten Network viewers. Then again, few believed the Big Ten would be able to get on the majority of cable providers in the New York and D.C. markets.

Despite the vocal criticism from some corners of the Big Ten, the conference leadership has stayed the course in its vision for East Coast expansion, and all along they’ve surprised the critics.

Week 3 provided yet another hurdle to the conference brass, proving that access in those markets would turn in to actual viewers that care. It was the first chance for the Big Ten to take its game further East than ever before, and with Penn State taking on Rutgers in prime time the test was as big as it could get.

These two programs haven’t been marquee names in a while and New York City has been rather lacking in its support for Rutgers football throughout the years.

Well, consider the first test of the Big Ten’s East Coast strategy a success, as the Penn Stave vs. Rutgers game was the No. 1-rated game in both the New York City and Philadelphia markets:

Sure, it’s just one week, but in a city full of Big Ten alumni and schools from all over the country (including a crazy-strong Notre Dame presence) the fact that the first time the Scarlet Knights get on prime time they beat out any other game in the market is a huge win.

Oh, and it wasn’t just prime time games that this matchup beat out — it beat any other college football game of the entire weekend. That’s impressive in New York City for sure.

It’s also an important starting point for the Big Ten Network to continue to be a destination outside of Rutgers football games.

The Big Ten has to be thrilled to see these ratings numbers come out, now let’s see if Rutgers can hold the interest and intrigue of fans for other big matchups later this season.

If it can, the Big Ten could be proving critics wrong in a quick fashion — something it has done a lot of, at least off the field.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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