4 of the 5 highest rated games in ESPN's history in NYC have involved Rutgers (the other was USC-OSU). The highest rated game on ESPN was by a wide margin Rutgers game against Louisville in 2006. Last year on a Friday night both Rutgers and Syracuse played games against other Big East opponents at the same time. Rutgers played 2-4 Louisville on ESPN2. Syracuse played a ranked West Virginia team on ESPN. The Rutgers game had over twice the rating of the Syracuse game in NYC. Rutgers has a lot of upcoming games in Meadowlands and even Yankee Stadium. Rutgers is NYC's college football team. And sure NYC isn't a college town (only about 14% of the population follow college football, of course that is about 3 million people so you still want that 14%), but if you are going to pick a team, you pick the team that is the biggest draw and also gets you the state of New Jersey in the process. Rutgers also has had a better football team than both Louisville and Syracuse over the last decade.
How about a chart that is floating around the internet that illustrates this point (sorry about the size, but if you quote me you can read it).
Thus by adding Rutgers to Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State, the Big Ten will have about 35% of the NYC college football fan market. You see the Big Ten knows this, which is why they didn't even try to add Syracuse (it also knows that Connecticut would have been a better add than Syracuse).
The reality is, Rutgers is a much better team to add if you are trying to capture the New York City market. All objective factors bear this out (fans, ratings, games in the city, etc.). Since college basketball doesn't matter in these sorts of things the fact that Syracuse is a much better basketball program just doesn't matter.