Network supports sports following

The Big Ten Network will devote more time to women’s sports and will look beyond football.

The negotiations between the Big Ten Network and the large cable companies have been waged on many fronts so far – radio ads, television ads and in newspapers. Big cable companies have been spending a lot of money on high-priced consultants and negative advertising reminiscent of the last days of a political campaign. At the University, we have, for the most part, let the battle go on between the two entities with the hope that a deal will be done soon. A recent commentary in The Minnesota Daily, however, has the truth so skewed that we feel compelled to respond.

The big cable companies claim that BTN is a tax people shouldn’t have to pay, yet they charge their consumers every month for channels they don’t watch. How many senior citizens gladly pay for MTV and the Disney Channel, which they hardly watch? How many channels did you get to choose as part of your package? From Court TV to Home and Garden Television, our television is filled with channel options that cable companies never let us choose, but in their own choice of words, for which we are “taxed.”

The cable companies claim that the BTN is a niche network and belongs on a sports tier, yet in markets in which they own a regional sports network, that channel is on basic cable. So if you receive 70 channels as part of your basic cable system, shouldn’t the Big Ten Network be one of them?

While cable companies claim that the BTN has a “bleak lineup,” the network will have between 65 and 75 Gopher events this year. In fact, 19 Men’s Basketball games are scheduled for BTN. I wouldn’t call Tubby Smith’s team part of a “bleak lineup.” Belittling track and field, gymnastics or women’s sports, perpetuates discrimination. Instead, we should be embracing the fact that BTN will be the first network in history to have 50 percent of the programming devoted to women’s sports. BTN will also open doors for thousands of young people to look beyond just football and basketball and see that the world of collegiate athletics includes swimming, soccer, baseball, softball, rowing, wrestling, volleyball, tennis, golf and more.

The Big Ten Network is one of the most revolutionary sports entertainment concepts in recent years. No athletic conference in the country has a bigger following and a stronger commitment from its communities than the Big Ten. It’s not too much to ask the cable companies that have been granted government-sanctioned monopolies by our cities and towns to put a little community back in their cable lineup and cover our home teams.

In its first month of existence, BTN has reached 30 million homes, an unprecedented number for a network. Yes, that’s right; no network in history has reached that number of homes in such a short time. Which leads to the biggest question of all, if 140 “other” cable companies around the Big Ten footprint can agree to carry the network on expanded basic, then why can’t the larger companies?

Tom Wistrcill is the senior associate athletic director at the University. Please send comments to [email protected]