The sports television market in New York includes nine major professional franchises, but Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany says there's "space to grow" for his conference in an area that has been indifferent to college sports for decades.
In fact, demographics were at the heart of the Big Ten's decision to expand into the Northeast market with the recent addition of Rutgers from the Big East and Maryland from the ACC. Speaking Thursday at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum presented by Sports Business Journal at a midtown Manhattan hotel, Delany said the risk of standing pat with 12 members was greater than the risk of expanding to 14 in the shifting environment of conference expansion.
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"Demographics matter," Delany said. "I think it matters to be in New Jersey and Maryland and around D.C., Philadelphia and New York. It matters to us for it to be contiguous. It matters for it to be flagship universities."
Maryland and Rutgers fit the Big Ten academic profile, and their location was key. Delany described Penn State's proximity as a "bridge" to those markets. Now, members of Congress in Washington, D.C., and Madison Avenue's advertising and marketing executives can have the "Big Ten experience" in their backyards.
Speaking of the New York market in particular, Delany said, "I'm humble about how well we can do and how quickly we can do well. If we can have an impact and be relevant, that would be a pretty good goal. In this environment, there is not too much [that is] dominant. Maybe the Giants on a good day or maybe the Knicks or the Yankees. Everybody competes for a small part of a very important demographic."
Not counting Rutgers and Maryland, Delany said there are 600,000 Big Ten alums living in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas. The Big Ten also views that as a rich recruiting ground for out-of-state students. Not athletes, but the ones who pay tuition.
"We think this is the right long-range approach for the Big Ten with the full awareness this is not a layup," he said. "The conference clearly is rooted now in two regions of the country with all the challenges and upside that entails."
Delany noted the Big Ten competes with pro sports teams in major cities throughout the Midwest. What will happen when Big Ten powers become regular visitors to the New York area to play Rutgers in football? "I think you can be a college football fan and a professional football fan," Delany said. "Over time, I think Michigan and Ohio State and Penn State and Wisconsin and Rutgers and Maryland and the conference can grow together.
"I don't think the idea of anybody dominating other than the pros is probably accurate. But I do think there's space here to grow."