In the last few years, the higher-ups of the Big Ten conference have made a few major changes to the conference’s football and basketball schedules.
On the gridiron, the conference will be playing their first set of Friday night football games — a serious variation from the normal Saturday-only schedule.
Because of the world we live in, of course, there was an outcry of naysayers disparaging the new idea. However, with the conference focused on expanding their brand, the plan is still currently in place and Friday night football will be a real thing this season.
Just like the reaction to the football shake-up, the idea of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament moving to Madison Square Garden caused a bit of a stir. Whether it be coaches from other conferences upset over sharing their ‘turf’ or coaches from Big Ten upset about a condensed schedule — the move has drawn ire from several directions.
Some of the criticism over the upcoming basketball schedule is fair. After all, Big Ten teams will be playing two conference games in the first week of December — nearly a month before their normal start time. After the first two conference games, teams will return to their normal mid-December schedule before picking up where they left off after Christmas.
Normally, the Big East and Big Ten run their conference tournaments at the same time. However, since the Big East plays their event exclusively at Madison Square Garden, the Big Ten was forced to book the venue a week before the Big East — thus creating a condensed schedule.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney announces league's men's basketball tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden in 2018.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 9, 2014
After the initial announcement in late-2014, Tom Izzo expressed his scheduling concerns to the Detroit Free Press, explaining why holding the conference tournament a week earlier could effect teams down the road in the NCAA Tournament.
"That's probably my biggest concern. Not where it is, but (the timing). Nobody wants that much time off. It could be two weeks, because you could play (in the league tournament) and get beat on a Thursday.”
While Izzo makes a valid point, the Big Ten has come up with an answer for his concerns.
According to the Journal & Courier, Mark Rudner, the Big Ten senior associate commissioner, said teams will be able to schedule non-conference games in between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
Is the whole thing a bit unconventional? Yes, it is.
But is it necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so.
As fans of the Big Ten, we know the stigma that largely surrounds our league: slow-paced, boring, old school, the list goes on and on.
Well, these ideas are anything but ‘old school’ and we really should embrace them.
The Big Ten Conference is better for everyone when it’s at the tip of as many people’s tongues as possible. How does that get done? Exposure — more news, more stories, and more highlights on your TV, phone, or computer.
By having some football games on Friday nights and the Big Ten Tournament a week before other leagues, the conference will be getting the bulk of the television eyeballs. Competition on these nights will be scarce and the new ventures will be running basically unopposed. Regular Friday night football games are sub-par at best, plus any run-of-the-mill college basketball game will be far less appealing than a major conference tournament.
Sticking with exposure and branding, the reward outweighs the risk by a mile. Think about it, the core audience — Big Ten fans — will not be going anywhere. They’re going to watch the games no matter where or when they are. So there really isn’t much to lose, the same people who care enough to moan and groan about change will be the same people tuning in religiously. Then, when you think about the potential exposure from casual sports fans, it’s dollar signs as far as the eye can see. Because remember, what else are they going to watch during these under-served time slots?
Overall, the new changes definitely do classify as a ‘money grab’ and that’s totally fine in my eyes. Besides, the Big Ten is consistently pouring their money right back into the product, so essentially, we all win.
In closing, let’s just be happy that the Big Ten conference cares enough to actually want to shake things up and progress. It reminds me of what Fox Sports did, the company who now owns the majority of the Big Ten television rights. They set out to build their brand — and succeeded — by making calculated business decisions when the market allowed. Now, they’re a legitimate No. 2 to ESPN and continue to close the gap with each season that passes.
When looking at the big picture, don’t get hung up on minor things like a condensed schedule. The conference is in capable hands and it will only get bigger (and better) with each new avenue explored.
The opportunities are there and the conference is just doing what any growing business would do. Like Kendrick Lamar once said, “Please don’t me mad at me, I’ve gotta do what I gotta do”.