November 19, 2012

Rutgers and Maryland would be boon to recruiting

SpartanMag.com takes a look at how the addition of Maryland and Rutgers would impact the Big Ten Conference from a recruiting standpoint. Not only how the current teams would benefit, but how Maryland and Rutgers would also cash in.

Two years ago when Nebraska joined the Big Ten, SpartanMag.com was probably the only media source who questioned the move from a recruiting standpoint. The reason was simple: the state of Nebraska brings zero recruiting benefit.

We also supposed that Nebraska would change their recruiting focus and start to take Midwestern recruits rather than the traditional Texas players as they had in the past, thereby diluting the talent pool for other schools in the Big Ten. In plain terms, Nebraska would be taking talent from the Midwest without providing any in return.

Our suspension proved true as Nebraska quickly shifted its main focus from a state like Texas to places like Ohio and Illinois, and has gone head-to-head with Michigan State for Ohio talent. This year alone the Cornhuskers will sign more Ohio players than they did in the previous 10 years prior to joining the Big Ten.

What that means is the Big Ten is sharing a pie of players with one additional mouth. The addition of Maryland and Rutgers would be drastically different than the addition of Nebraska from a recruiting perspective

First and foremost, both Maryland and New Jersey produce high quality football talent. For instance, in 2011 the NFL had more players from New Jersey than Michigan or Pennsylvania. The state of Maryland has produced numerous 5-star recruits over the years. This year alone they have 2 of the top 12 in the nation. The only Big Ten state with a player ranked as high is Indiana with 1.

Essentially Maryland comes to the party with enough food to feed itself and have some dessert for others. Rutgers comes with twice as much food as Maryland. The pie that was lessened with Nebraska's entrance would be bigger than it has ever been.

The Big Ten designation would mean that more New Jersey and Maryland players would end up calling the Big Ten home either due to staying in-state or going elsewhere in the conference. What is more attractive to a New Jersey recruit: the opportunity to play against Louisville, South Florida and Temple or Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan? More New Jersey and Maryland players are going to sign with schools within the new Big Ten footprint.

Currently, Michigan State just happens to have recruiting networks in place in New Jersey and the D.C. area. Those networks will only strengthen if Maryland and Rutgers are added to the Big Ten, in part because the Big Ten message will be sent louder and clearer to those locales, now.

Big Ten designation would only serve to help the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins to keep more in-state players at home. The fact that both states produce plenty of talent would mean that both programs would have a better chance of fielding more competitive teams. And there will also be plenty of talent to go to other Big Ten schools that wish to recruit in Maryland and New Jersey. It will suddenly become more difficult for schools from other conferences to come into New Jersey and Maryland and sign players over Big Ten schools.

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten would be a win/win from a recruiting standpoint. Not only does the rest of the conference benefit from being able to get more players from these talent laden states, but the two schools would keep more of their own in-state talent at home, something both schools have long battled.

Some may question the viability of the football programs at Rutgers and Maryland, but I think those are people looking at what these programs are or have been rather than what they can be. I see no reason why Rutgers and Maryland cannot become programs as relevant as just about everyone else in the Big Ten whether it's Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin or Iowa. The Big Ten designation makes both schools much more attractive to local recruits, especially Rutgers.

The media power of the Mid-Atlantic market is staggering. Adding Maryland and Rutgers will transform the entire Philadelphia media market into a Big Ten region. That is the 6th biggest market in the nation. The Baltimore market will now be within the Big Ten footprint and that will also pick off some of the Washington D.C. market as well. The New York Market will also now have a Big Ten presence. Keep in mind, their will not be anyone closer than Rutgers playing major college football in the New York metro area.

Media markets people with television sets and TV sets which mean dollar signs when you consider the amount of un-tapped cable markets that will now be carrying Big Ten games. The Philadelphia media market currently carries the Big Ten Network, but Maryland and North Jersey do not.

Look at it this way: The population of the states that the Big Ten will now be the dominant player in is close to 100 Million. Maryland and New Jersey bring close to 15 million residents to the conference or over eight times what the addition of Nebraska did.

The Pac 12 has a TV network and ESPN is set to front the SEC Network. For those reasons the Big Ten Network needs as big a footprint as possible. The BTN needs to become a national power, not a regional one. Having 1/3 of the US population will do that. This move is the best available from an increasing share perspective.

No matter how you look at this potential deal, the one thing you cannot deny is that it will open up multiple major markets to the Big Ten and increase the recruiting profile of the entire conference to an area which has a bevy of talent in football. Keep in mind the region also is home to arguably they best basketball talent in the nation as well as outstanding lacrosse
and soccer talent as well. Big Ten wrestling programs will like the fact that the best high school wrestling program by far is from New Jersey in Blair Academy.

Obviously some in the Midwest will have a concerns over the footprint expanding to the East, but in this day and age of expansion you have to shift some direction. If this move happens, the Big Ten will have annexed the Mid-Atlantic region and they will certainly embrace the improved sporting profile of their teams.

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