Big Ten Conference on watch for politics

The Big Ten Network turned to presidential campaign coverage last week, but the price tag was too high for the University to participate. The network collaborated with professors from across the Big Ten Conference to develop the TV show, âÄúBig Ten Battleground: Campaign 2008,âÄù which examined and analyzed political attitudes within the region. To participate, each university was required to pay $25,000. âÄúGiven the high profile the University took through the Republican National Convention, through the Humphrey Institute’s programming and our other national media relations efforts, we opted not to participate,âÄù University spokesman Dan Wolter said. The TV show was based around the Big Ten Battleground polls professors conducted around the conference last week. Led by University of Wisconsin political science professors Ken Goldstein and Charles Franklin , they surveyed more than 600 potential voters from each of the eight states in the conference along with a national poll. Network President Mark Silverman said the BTN didnâÄôt have anything to do with the content of the production, but network officials are excited about the program and look forward to a second installment in mid-October. âÄúItâÄôs looking like whoever can take the majority of the Big Ten will have the election,âÄù Silverman said. âÄúI can almost guarantee that if anyone sweeps these states, they will win it handily.âÄù According to the poll, 44.5 percent of Minnesotans would vote for Obama and 43.2 percent would support McCain . Less than 10 percent of Minnesotans who participated were under 30 years old, and 26.5 percent identified themselves as independents. The Big Ten Network allocates 60 hours of academic programming per year for each school in the conference , but the University has yet to take full advantage. âÄúAt the current time, the cost in producing such material has outweighed the benefit,âÄù Wolter said. Wolter attributed the UniversityâÄôs lack of academic programming to the unavailability of the Big Ten Network to Minnesotans, until now. As more and more media outlets are carrying the network in Minnesota, the University will look for new ways to take advantage of the programming, he said. About 95 percent of media outlets in Minnesota now carry the Big Ten Network, and they are working closely with other entities across the state to improve that, said Tom Wistrcill, senior associate athletic director for external relations.