Rutgers Scarlet Knights

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 18:  A general view of  Ohio Stadium as more than 99,000 fans packed in to watch the annual Ohio State Spring Game on April 18, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Big Ten spring attendance by the numbers

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The SEC may have led the pack when it comes to spring game attendance, but the Big Ten was once again a strong draw this spring with its usual heavy-hitters continuing to set the pace for the conference. Highlighted by a record-setting turnout for the Ohio State spring game, the Big Ten finished in a firm second place in cumulative spring game attendance with a total of 376,049 fans attending spring games in the Big Ten this year.

Big Ten Spring Attendance By School

Here is how the Big Ten schools compared to each other in the spring game attendance figures.

  1. Ohio State – 100,189
  2. Nebraska – 72,992
  3. Penn State – 65,000
  4. Michigan State – 51,000
  5. Michigan – 35,000
  6. Iowa – 18,460
  7. Rutgers – 14,177
  8. Wisconsin – 9,181
  9. Purdue – 5,050
  10. Illinois – 5,000

Note: No attendance figures were made available for Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota and Northwestern.

What Meyer Wants, Meyer Gets

Ohio State set the national spring game attendance record a year ago coming off a national championship with 99,391 fans. Despite the lack of championship this spring to defend, head coach Urban Meyer raised the bar and claimed he wanted to see 100,000 fans at the spring game in Columbus. He got his wish with a new record crowd of 100,189 fans this spring. What’s next for Meyer? Well, there are still a few seats left to fill. Will Meyer hope to push that number even higher next spring?

Biggest Increase, Biggest Drop

In the spring following an undefeated regular season and appearance in the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl, Iowa boasted the largest increase in spring game attendance this season, both in total fans and percentage. To be fair, Iowa did not have much to compete against with its 2015 spring attendance number. A year ago Iowa recorded an estimated 8,000 fans for the spring game. That was up over 10,000 with a much more official-sounding 18,460 fans this spring.

Most of the other Big Ten spring numbers were within close distance compared to 2015, either increasing or decreasing by no more than a couple thousand fans for the most part. While Iowa had the most noticeable increase in spring attendance, the Michigan Wolverines saw the most significant drop. Last year Michigan broke the typical spring game mold in Ann Arbor by turning in a crowd of 60,000 for the first spring game under Jim Harbaugh. This year that total dropped to 35,000. The biggest reason for that drop can likely be contributed to the schedule. Last year’s spring game was played on a Saturday afternoon. This year’s game was given a Friday night billing, which may have led some Wolverine faithful to pass. Michigan has not typically been a huge spring draw, but it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are made to the scheduling of next year’s spring game.

The Other Usual Power Players

Ohio State aside, it was yet another solid spring showing from the fans in Lincoln, Nebraska and State College, Pennsylvania. Nebraska and Penn State have always typically been strong spring game draws on a regular basis, and neither disappointed again this season. Nebraska once again eclipsed the 70,000-fan mark with 72,992 showing up. Penn State brought in another 60,000+ crowd with an estimated 65,000.

Michigan State is starting to become one of the stronger spring draws as well. The Spartans set a new school record with 51,000 coming out to East Lansing on Saturday. With that, Michigan State pushed past their rivals from Ann Arbor, which surely will bring a smile to the face of Mark Dantonio.

Quick Hits

  • Illinois got off to a late start with spring practices due to a late coaching change. No formal spring game was open to fans, but 5,000 Illini faithful got a chance to see Lovie Smith in action as the new head coach during an open practice.
  • Like LSU in the SEC, the fact that Wisconsin only brings in just fewer than 10,000 for its spring game amazes me. Wisconsin fans love the Badgers and make for a great crowd, but for whatever reason there is not much emphasis on the spring game.
  • Maryland has not recorded a spring game attendance either of the past two spring games, but Rutgers has once again welcomed about 15,000 fans for its spring game for the second straight spring.

You can view my database of spring game attendance in this Google doc. It is updated periodically as information becomes available or confirmed.

Mo’ money, no problem? Big Ten closing in on media rights bonanza

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Associated Press
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For those who lament the amount of money made by universities while the student-athletes that drive the sports, particularly football, receive “nothing,” you can commence your kvetching.  Again.

With its current first-tier media rights deal set to expire next year, the Big Ten, it was reported last month, had begun the process of accepting offers from various networks for the next round.  And, according to the Sports Business Daily, it’s set to toss a sizable amount of money into the conference membership’s coffers.

From the website:

Fox is close to signing a deal that gives it half of the Big Ten’s available media rights package, according to several sources. Deal terms still are flexible – both in terms of money and rights. However, the two sides have agreed on basic terms that will give Fox the rights to around 25 football games and 50 basketball games that it will carry on both the broadcast channel and FS1 starting in the fall of ’17. The deal runs six years and could cost Fox as much as $250M per year, depending on the amount of rights the Big Ten conference puts in its second package.

To put that into perspective, the Big Ten’s current deal with ESPN that expires in the spring of next year was worth $1 billion over the course of 10 years; that $100 million annual average would be blown away by FOX Sports‘ $250 million a year average — and that’s just for half of the deal.

For further perspective…

Again, this deal would be for half of the conference’s football inventory over the next six years, with SBD reporting that “ESPN will be one of several TV networks engaged for the second half of the Big Ten’s package, along with the usual suspects of CBS, NBC and Turner.”

Rutgers losing three-star TE Anthony Folkerts to transfer

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If you had Rutgers in the “Next FBS Program To Suffer Attrition” pool, collect your winnings.

Following up on some message board chatter, nj.com, citing a person familiar with the situation, is reporting that Anthony Folkerts has decided to leave the Scarlet Knights football program and will transfer to another school.  While it’s not known to where Folkerts will transfer, it’s thought that he will move on to another program cloer to his home in Valdosta, Ga.

Folkerts was a three-star member of RU’s 2015 recruiting class.  He played in one game as a true freshman.

This year, a hamstring injury suffered in the first practice of the spring has limited the tight end throughout the sessions.

The website writes that “Folkerts’ transfer shouldn’t impact the tight depth chart this season, as senior Nick Arcidiacono, redshirt junior Matt Flanagan and junior Charles Scarff are established as the top three options.”  That fact likely played a role in the transfer decision on some level.

Rutgers the likely new home for ex-Miami TE Jerome Washington

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21: The mascot of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights leads the team onto the field before their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
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In February, Jerome Washington announced that he would be transferring from Miami and continuing his playing career elsewhere.  A couple of months later, it appears that continuation will happen a couple of thousand miles north of where he began.

Saturday, Washington took a visit to the campus of Rutgers.  Shortly thereafter, the tight end indicated to nj.com that the Scarlet Knights will be his likely landing spot.

“Everything went good today,” Washington told the website. “They will officially offer me later on this week.

“They just want to run my stuff through compliance and make sure everything is alright. So I’m pretty much good to go.”

Washington, a rising sophomore, appeared in nine games in 2015 for the Hurricanes but did not record a statistic. He arrived at The U by way of Mercer County Community College.

If Washington lands at RU, or any other FBS program, he’d have to sit out the 2016 season, but would then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Rutgers TE Nick Arcidiacono offers congrats to title-winning, Final Four MVP cousin

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Ryan Arcidiacono #15 of the Villanova Wildcats celebrates defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74 to win the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Naturally, last night’s dramatics in Houston have a connection to college football.

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige offered up the first dagger of the evening, hitting an off-balance, double-clutch three-pointer to tie Villanova with just under five seconds remaining in the men’s basketball championship game. That shot proved to do nothing but compound UNC’s ultimate heartbreak as, with the seconds quickly ticking off the clock, ‘Nova’s Kris Jenkins trumped Paige’s dagger with one of his own, a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Wildcats to their first national championship in three decades.

Setting up Jenkins’ last-second heroics was Ryan Arcidiacono, who put the finishing touches on a sterling collegiate career by being named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.  Arcidiacono is also the cousin of Nick Arcidiacono, the Rutgers senior starting tight end who took to Twitter shortly after one of the greatest games the sport has ever seen to congratulate his relative on both the individual and team honors.

Ryan Arcidiacono’s connection to the college gridiron goes deeper than just one cousin.  Much, much deeper, actually.

Another cousin, Mark Arcidiacono, played offensive line for Joe Paterno at Penn State. Mark Arcidiacono’s brother, Brandon, played with Nick Arcidiacono at Rutgers. Brandon, Mark and Nick are all brothers, and their father played his college football at Temple.

Finally, the Final Four MVP’s father, Joe Arcidiacono, was a captain on the Villanova football team in the seventies and was teammates with future Hall of Famer Howie Long.