Friday, 24th May 2024

1/24/2011: State of the Big Ten, Volume 22 (premium)

Posted on 24. Jan, 2011 by in Categories, Iowa Basketball, Iowa Football


Every Monday, we will be running a weekly series titled “State of the Big Ten,” which will be made available to all members of This series of columns will focus on one major headline regarding the conference and go in-depth on the subject at hand.

By Brendan Stiles

Last weekend saw a Sunday that many sports fans circle on their calendars, as the AFC and NFC Championship Games were played to determine who would play two weeks from now in Super Bowl XLV.

In the world of Big Ten men’s basketball, there were two games that took place on Jan. 23. Because of the close proximity from Evanston, Ill. to Chicago, Northwestern actually moved up its game against Wisconsin a half-hour to accommodate locals who had a vested interest in the NFC game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, Iowa played Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a game that tipped off at the exact same time as the football game at Soldier Field.

Once upon a time, there was mystique for a Big Ten men’s basketball game being on a Sunday afternoon in the winter. Most of the undercard games, if you will, would be played on that Saturday, while the marquee game of the weekend would be featured on Sunday.

The Big Ten should be commended for taking the steps to not only ensure that every conference game not picked up by either CBS or ESPN airs on the Big Ten Network, but for also taking the steps of giving each game an exclusive time slot. In other words, there is not a situation where there are two Big Ten contests taking place simultaneously.

With that being said, having men’s basketball games compete for TV ratings with any NFL playoff game makes zero sense, and it is something that really needs to be looked into.

Now to be fair, the Big Ten has a strict scheduling policy in place for conference games that would have made moving that Iowa-Indiana contest up one day impossible. Under Big Ten guidelines, each team is granted a minimum of two days between conference games, with the exception of any “wild card” game that originally appeared on a team’s schedule with dates and times to be determined (these are games towards the end of the regular season prior to the Big Ten Tournament).

But let’s be honest here. There are very few things on any TV channel during the month of January that gain higher ratings than any NFL playoff game, regardless of location. Which is why an effort ought to be made by the Big Ten Network specifically to work time slots for games around the NFL playoffs.

Because there are some Saturday NFL playoff games, it probably is not possible to completely work around them. But that does not mean it cannot be done.

The NFL establishes the times for playoff games far in advance, and it never changes. What the Big Ten ought to consider doing is have any men’s basketball game taking place around the same time be aired nationally on a channel like ESPN. By doing this, it can save itself some embarrassment for ratings on its own TV network. Then have the games that do air on the Big Ten Network never conflict with the NFL playoffs.

And it is not like this is the first time something like what occurred with the Wisconsin-Northwestern game has happened. In fact, just last year, Indiana pushed a game it had at Assembly Hall against Iowa last season back one hour so it would not conflict with the second half of the AFC game, which featured the Indianapolis Colts and was played at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Iowa might not have an NFL team, but when there’s a playoff game featuring two NFL teams with enormous fan bases in Iowa that determines one of the Super Bowl participants, it is hard to blame any fan who decided to stay home and watch football.

As far as the niche or olympic sports are concerned, the truth is those who like any of those enough will attend. For example, if there was an Iowa wrestling match during an NFL playoff game featuring two non-Midwest teams, there are enough followers of Iowa wrestling that are more likely to attend the meet as opposed to staying home like they might do for a men’s basketball game that actually generates revenue.

If there was a Northwestern or Illinois gymnastics meet during the Bears-Packers game on Sunday, those who are passionate about those gymnastics programs are still going to attend. Casual fans might not, but every program has a loyal following, regardless of how well-reknown that sport might be throughout the Big Ten.

Again, this is probably something that will continue to be a recurring problem year after year. But that does not mean there should not be any sort of conversation to fix this.

It is in the best interests of the Big Ten, the Big Ten Network, and the 11 (soon-to-be 12) schools that are conference members that something ought to be done.

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