As Bored High School Student would say, there were a lot of factors that led to the Big Ten's decision to expand to 14 teams and add Maryland and Rutgers to the league. But one of the biggest factors by far was to add their potential TV markets (particularly in Washington, D.C. and New York City) to the BTN footprint, leading to [insert non-stop cash register sounds]. The trade-off for all that sweet, sweet television lucre was a bigger, more spread out Big Ten and a greater inventory of B1G games.
As it turns out, mo' inventory also means mo' problems, at least when it comes to scheduling. Per Dochterman:
The additions of Maryland and Rutgers give the league as many as 13 games on the first four September Saturdays. Big Ten home games routinely air on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, as well as BTN and ABC but it's possible a few games could overflow to either ESPNNews or ESPN Classic.
Don't have ESPNNews or ESPNU or ESPN Classic (and on many cable/satellite providers one or more of those channels is on a more expensive tier or in a separate package of sports channels)? Tough luck.
The biggest impact here figures to be on non-conference games, since that portion of the schedule features as many as 14 different games to try and shoehorn into one day and a limited television partners. The conference season features a max of 7 games per weekend, which will still create issues -- since the Big Ten plays limited primetime games, most games will need to be squeezed into either 11:00 AM CT or 2:30 PM CT broadcast windows. Iowa has played several non-conference home games in recent years that were broadcast on the BTN overflow channels outside of the state of Iowa; that's what happens when you're not a brand-name team and you're playing the likes of Missouri State and Western Michigan. Don't expect that situation to change in the future, especially if Iowa's non-conference schedule remains as uninteresting as it has in recent years. (SPOILER ALERT: It will.)
Basketball will also be a headache when it comes to scheduling.
Men's basketball also features its own challenges with 14 squads. There are league scheduling core principles, such as each team gets two days to prepare for a game with no more than two consecutive road games. There's a weekend/weekday and home/away balance between the league's first and second halves. Arenas cannot host a men's and women's game on the same day and there are plenty of special requests.
Well, that sounds like all kinds of fun. I hope the Delanybot 9000 isn't still running Windows 95 when it tries to schedule all those games.
It's been a source of frustration among Iowa fans about how many non-conference hoops games wind up on BTN2Go or ESPNU; unfortunately, it doesn't look like that situation is poised to improve at all in the future. Again: more teams in the league means more inventory, in particular another roughly 25 non-conference hoops games to try and find homes for among the Big Ten's television partners. Want to watch that Iowa v. West Louisiana Hill Country non-conference game? Fire up your laptop.
"We're confident that we'll find the space for them," Rudner said. "I don't think we're going to be changing up too much from what we've done in the past. We've used ESPNU, and we've used ESPN3, and obviously BTN has its own streaming platform as well. So I think we'll be fine."
Of course, ESPN3 (and WatchESPN) aren't available through every provider and the quality of BTN's own streaming options is hilariously inconsistent, but hey. It's one thing to have an option; it's another thing entirely to have a good option. You don't suppose the Big Ten could use some of that gigantic (and ever-growing) mountain of TV money to actually improve BTN2Go or the subscription-only streaming service, video.BTN.com? LOL. Making things better for the fan-consumer? Sometimes I crack myself up.