In debates over realignment and the attractiveness of certain programs, the ability to deliver big markets trumps all. So what about the ability to deliver the biggest market? There has long been a debate over whether or not Rutgers or Syracuse, the two schools closest (in people's minds) to New York City, is better able deliver eyeballs in that market. On Friday night, there was a very easy test for which program draws the eyeballs of New York City: both teams playing on ESPN against conference opponents at the same time. So how did the ratings turn out? According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger:
The latest TV ratings from Friday night's two Big East football games show the Rutgers-Louisville game on ESPN2 having more than twice the viewers in New York City than the Syracuse-West Virginia game on ESPN, a meeting that featured a ranked team (the Mountaineers). Both games started at 8.
Rutgers-Louisville drew a 1.45 share in New York City compared to 0.7 for West Virginia-Syracuse, according to the Nielsen ratings released today.
So, on a night where Rutgers was on the road against a 2-4 Louisville team and Syracuse was at home on ESPN against a ranked West Virginia team, Rutgers drew twice the eyeballs in New York City. Was this an anamoly? Not according to the Ledger:
Rutgers has also been part of four of the five highest-rated football games in the New York City area on ESPN.
That list is headed by Rutgers-Louisville in 2006, which drew an 8.1 rating, and includes Rutgers-West Virginia in 2006 (6.04); USC-Ohio State in 2009 (3.74); Rutgers-Cincinnati in 2006 (3.62) and South Florida Rutgers in 2007 (3.35).Syracuse is not in the top 10 of ESPN's list of the most-viewed college football games in New York City.
We've often chided Rutgers for claiming the ability to bring New York City as a TV market, but if these numbers are correct, they certainly appear to bring the New York City market far more often in football than Syracuse does. As an aside, in the debate over whether or not Louisville or West Virginia is the most attractive candidate for the Big XII, it's worth noting that Louisville was involved in two of the top five highest rated football games in New York City, including the one head to head with West Virginia. Does that also teach us something?