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Rutgers, located in Piscataway, N.J., joins the Big Ten today, along with Maryland. Both will play football in the East Division, along with Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.

Big Ten welcomes new schools today

The new-look Big Ten officially launches today.

Maryland moves from the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Rutgers, formerly of the old Big East, joins after a one-year layover in the American Athletic Conference.

At 14 schools, the Big Ten is larger than ever.

And geographically, the league is farther east than ever.

Indiana’s longest trip east in conference play was about 570 miles to Penn State.

The Hoosiers will travel around 640 miles to play the Terrapins and about 734 miles to face the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, New Jersey, located 15 minutes from the shore.

Here’s a deeper look at what conference expansion means to Indiana, Purdue and the Big Ten.

Divisional realignment

As a member of the new East Division, the Hoosiers immediately see Maryland and Rutgers in the upcoming football season.

Purdue, granted asylum in the softer West Division, faces neither right off the bat.

Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois are also in the West.

The East includes the powerful quartet of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State.

Academics

Maryland and Rutgers belong to the Association of American Universities, a 113-year-old organization that promotes research.

The impact there is intangible. It’s about prestige and perception. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany stresses the importance of his conference being associated with superior academics.

Recruiting

For Maryland and Rutgers, the national exposure of some visiting Big Ten programs will help sell tickets.

The benefit in recruiting that incumbent league members get from expansion is just as big a deal.

The D.C.-Maryland-Virginia nexus, in particular, is a prime recruiting ground for basketball talent.

Families on the East Coast can now see their kids play in person, even if they attend Iowa, and teams are able to show off in new venues.

Key factors

Whether Maryland and Rutgers become relevant in the major sports is only one factor in gauging the success of this marriage. Others are:

•Do those schools add enough new fans to justify their split of revenues?

•And can their athletic departments, which have operated at big deficits in recent years, shape up?

By the numbers

14,828,153: combined population of Maryland and New Jersey

249: players taken in the NFL draft’s history out of Maryland and Rutgers

10,968,520: TV households in the New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore TV markets

Bottom line

Maryland (7-6 last season) and Rutgers (6-7) almost certainly won’t help the Big Ten close the gap on the Southeastern Conference in football.

But Delany, a shrewd leader with demonstrated foresight, is betting that new markets in major metropolitan areas will mean even more revenues for a plush league.

cgoff@jg.net

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