The glory of BTN

Besides having enjoyed the company of family and friends, good local beers and drinking establishments, and the numerous bookstores downtown (though I’m sure they’ve enjoyed taking my money a little more), I’ve also found pleasure from something else unavailable to me in California — unless I had DirecTV or DISH Network, that is.

The Big Ten Network (BTN) is, obviously, the network of the Big Ten Conference, broadcasting conference sporting events. Besides basketball, football, and wrestling — the only sports Big Ten fans really care about — BTN covers baseball, cross country, field hockey (Iowa has a hell of a field hockey program), golf, gymnastics, hockey, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. It also reports recruiting for football and the Olympic sports. It’s like ESPNU, but focuses only on the Big Ten.

I’m watching it right now with my old man. Earlier we saw the Iowa-Indiana game. Right now we’re enjoying “The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball” because neither one of us has made the move to change the channel after watching Northwestern-Michigan State.

A lot of people have talked shit about the BTN, including me, and it got off to a rough start. Many don’t understand why the Big Ten needs its own network, especially when it was often unavailable even within the conference region. (It was unavailable in Iowa City until a deal with Mediacom, which holds a monopoly on cable TV in Iowa, was finalized before the start of this year’s football season.) But, since I’ve finally been able to see it for myself, I’ve realized BTN provides a kind of programming and total coverage the Big Ten has never had before.

Based on the statistics I found on the network’s website (which, I know, is not the most unbiased source) 97 percent of Big Ten men’s basketball games will be televised this season thanks to BTN, which is 15 percent better than the next most covered league (Big 12). Ninety-nine percent of Big Ten football games were covered this past season; only 64 percent of SEC games were covered. As for women’s basketball, BTN offers more coverage than all the other sports networks, probably combined. That’s huge. Coverage for Olympic sports is also unprecedented. Before ESPNU, the only other college sports broadcast on TV were baseball, lacrosse, softball, and volleyball. I’m unsure how many of those sports actually get air time, but I’m sure you’ll be hard pressed to find a Big 12 rowing report on TV.

At first I though having an exclusive network would hurt Big Ten schools, but I think it may eventually work to the conference’s advantage. Having guaranteed television coverage is a huge recruiting advantage for sports like cross country, golf, and the other college sports given the cold shoulder by major media outlets.

Well, my dad decided he’d rather watch “First Blood,” but that shouldn’t say anything about BTN. Frankly, the glories of Michigan State basketball are not my bread and butter, but I’m glad there’s a channel that offers it.

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