Coverage helps athletics budget

Last year’s television coverage brought in about $15 million.

The Gophers football team has already been guaranteed two primetime televised games for 2009, including the home opener against the Air Force Academy. The amount of airtime for Gophers sports has been growing since the inception of the Big Ten Network, which couldâÄôve especially helped football and basketball recruiting. But people looking to see TCF Bank Stadium might be surprised to hear the stadium will not change the television coverage the Gophers receive. Athletics Director Joel Maturi lobbied to have the first home game on primetime television, but the home opener and an Oct. 31 game against Michigan State University are the only two primetime slots currently scheduled for 2009. The upcoming college football season will mark the third year that all Big Ten home games are televised on either the Big Ten Network or one of its partner stations ABC, ESPN and ESPN2. The current 10-year agreement between the Big Ten and ABC and ESPN is valued around $1 billion. For football, the Big Ten Network buys the television rights to Big Ten home games, and a selection committee of correspondents from the Big Ten and the television stations determine which games are aired on each station, network spokesman Mike Vest said . The money from earned from television rights is then split evenly among the 11 Big Ten schools. In 2008, the athletics department made around $15 million from television coverage, Associate Athletics Director Tom Wistrcill said. All football teams are covered equally, but the station on which each team is shown depends on how well the team is doing, Big Ten Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner said. Rudner said he thinks the opening game against Air Force will be âÄúa special night,âÄù but the curiosity over the new stadium may go away quickly. “There may be, early on, sort of a curiosity about [the stadium], and thatâÄôs healthy,âÄù Rudner said. “We donâÄôt see very often [new] football stadiums come up in the Big Ten.” The demand for all Big Ten football games is very high, Rudner said. That demand led the conference to begin its own television network âÄî something no other major conference has done. âÄúWith the Big Ten you have a conference that has a deep, rich history and tradition,âÄù Rudner said. âÄúThe demand is really unmatched with any other conference.âÄù The increased coverage by the Big Ten Network has benefited recruiting, Rudner said, and University menâÄôs basketball coach Tubby Smith said he agreed . Having basketball games covered nationally helps give the team, the Twin Cities and the University exposure, Smith said. âÄúThese players have become household names,âÄù Smith said. Recruits may already know about Smith and the Gophers, but the possibility of becoming better known nationally helps draw them to the University, Smith said. As for revenue, the Gophers make the same amount as all other Big Ten schools for coverage of Big Ten sports. Rudner said the decision to split all television revenue came about 40 to 50 years ago because it helps the conference become unified. When there were fewer television stations, some teams received the majority of the coverage, he said, adding this rule has helped the conference grow. “I think itâÄôs a principle that has withstood the test of time in our conference,” Rudner said. “All for one and one for all.”