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Is the Big Ten Network fair to Gophers basketball student-athletes?

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While the Gophers' venerable Williams Arena (fifth-oldest in the country) continues to provide the erratic men's squad a home court advantage (13-3 in Minneapolis), the televised zeitgeist of watching these games has abandoned both our club and the Big Ten Conference as a whole.

Can you recall when the Big Ten Conference schedule offered something of a consistent and constant calendar?  Yes, hoop friends: there were those days of yore when we could count on a vast wealth of Conference games being played on certain days.  But those times have passed, and the change can be traced to the advent of the Big Ten Network (BTN), which launched prior to the 2007-08 season.

Here's a look at how Golden Gophers' (men's) Big Ten Conference scheduled has been calendared from the three season prior to the BTN , and the three years since:

Pre BTN
2004-05 season:

100 percent of Conference games played on two days of week.
All Conference games played on either Wednesday or Saturday.

2005-06 season:

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75 percent of Conference games played on two days of week (Wednesday and Saturday).
Conference games played on four different days.

2006-07 season:
94 percent of Conference games played on two days of week (Wednesday and Saturday).
Conference games played on three different days.

Since BTN
2007-08 season:
61 percent of Conference games played on two days of week
Conference games played on five different days.

2008-09 season:
61 percent of Conference games played on two days of week.
Conference games played on five different days.

2009-10 present season:
56 percent of Conference games played on two days of week.
Conference games played on five different days.


Now, this article isn't provided to serve as an excuse for the Gophers' disappointing season, nor is it to rip on the production quality of the BTN.  I like the Big Ten Network.  I enjoy their hoops coverage, their announcers (mostly), and their programming in general.  But a dichotomy has been erected in satisfying the diverse Wants of the viewership and the direct Needs of the players themselves.  Cash concerns are undoubtedly at play here for the network, the schools, and the Conference.  But I fail to see how that pays off for the student-athletes.

While other major sports at Minnesota like football (all games on Saturday) and hockey (all games on Friday-Sunday) can provide their student-athletes a Constant regime of game days, the basketball schedule has now gone all over the damn place.  All those who have barked about the ridiculousness of NCAA football teams waiting a month to play a Bowl game, or those who cry foul about the unfairness (to the student-athletes) of college football perhaps extending that season briefly via a postseason bracket or "Plus One" title game -- need to take a closer look at what is happening here.

For the time of the viewers: the scattered schedule may be met by the chagrin of few.  But for the student-athletes: this is crap.  If these kids are to be shuttled about the country with the celerity NBA players, it only adds fuel to the argument that they should be compensated like professionals.   

The fact that an inconsistent schedule promotes inconsistent play is an apt argument for

anyone that has ever played competitive sports, from the high school level and beyond.  More importantly: the next time a BTN analyst has the onions to talk about the importance of grades for these hoopsters, he or she needs to first take a better look at how their network has completely squashed a consistent study schedule that these kids could once depend on.

 

 

Images via Wiki, saaby