While Ohio State president Gordon Gee was busy offending just about everyone under the sun at that infamous December meeting, he did say something revealing regarding the game of thrones that conference realignment has become. “I think the Big Ten needs to be predatory and positive rather than waiting for other people to take away from them," he said at the time.
The key word in that quote is predatory. While Gee would have preferred to keep growing into the Midwest, the rest of the conference has its eyes on a bigger target: college football's greatest unclaimed prize, the Eastern seaboard and, primarily, New York City.
Additions of Rutgers and Maryland were the first strike, but even the most fervent of Scarlet Knights fans will tell you Rutgers alone won't give you the New York area. That brings us to yesterday's news that the Pinstripe Bowl would be entering the Big Ten's postseason lineup beginning in 2014.
"Once we saw the success of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, it became obvious - especially with the Big Ten's growing East Coast footprint - that being in the media capital of the world at one of sports' most renowned venues was a natural pairing," said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. "By agreeing to an eight-year partnership, it increases the likelihood that most of the Big Ten schools will have the opportunity to participate in the game, while giving our coaches, student-athletes, administrators and fans the opportunity to experience the nation's biggest metropolis and an iconic setting like Yankee Stadium."
The Big Ten blitzed the nation's largest media market in conjunction with Monday's announcement. There was Delany throwing out the first pitch at the Yankees' game, then hopping on the YES broadcast to talk about his conference. The league's partnership will extend well beyond one three-hour window in December, however.
According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, that means Big Ten signage will pop up along the first base line and behind home plate at Yankees games. And according to the Big Ten's Tom Dienhart, the league could stage regular season games, possibly even conference games or even a Big Ten-doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
Big Ten football will never come close to carrying the New York market like the SEC does in Atlanta, or the Big 12 does in Dallas. At best, the conference will be the fourth or fifth-biggest slice in the New York sports pie. But with a metro area population approaching 20 million - more than the entire population of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi combined - it doesn't need to dominate the sports page. Even if the Big Ten is able to carve out a devoted niche of the New York market, it will have claimed the largest collection of college football fans in one area in the entire country.