Q&A with Big Ten's Mark Rudner on football television contracts, scheduling

Scott Dochterman
Published: May 18 2011 | 11:50 am - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 4:19 pm in
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Big Ten Senior Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner handles television contracts and scheduling. He gave us media types an update of sorts on those topics this morning. He's a modified Q&A session with Rudner on football and basketball issues:

How would the league construct a nine-game conference schedule?

"That's the question. I mean how do you do it? There's obviously the rotation of the opponents that you're not playing or there's also just creating another protected rivalry. That's something that needs to be resolved, if we do ultimately go to that nine-game schedule.

"The first (issue with a nine-game schedule) is conceptual and the second is mechanical."

When could the Big Ten shift men's basketball games to early December?

"It's something that could happen in December 2012. If we're directed by the administrators that's what we'll do.

Will the Big Ten add more night games in the future?

"The networks would love to have more night games, but our institutions want to keep it where it's at. The appetite for primetime football is pretty much tapped out right now. In September and October we're going to have more night games televised than we've ever had before. I think night games are really special. They are. They're special for the viewers, they're special for the fans and yet Saturday afternoon college football is still pretty special. I think that's what we want. Plus all of our games are nationally televised anyway so whether it's at 1 o'clock or 3 o'clock or 7 o'clock, if people want to see the games on TV, they'll be able to see them."

When asked if the league will change its media contracts to allow for November night games, Rudner said "No."

Will the league shift its game times to, say, noon and 3:30 p.m. Central time?

"There might be some weeks where that might happen, I still envision primarily (11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Central), ESPN and ABC, that's going to be the primary windows.

Will the league move any of its football games to midweek?

"We wouldn't do that. Our media agreements stipulate that our games are going to be played on Saturday. We have the ability, with the Iowa-Nebraska, if they come to us and say they want to play the Friday after Thanksgiving, we can do that. Or if Wisconsin wants to move its UNLV game they could do that. We're not going to go off of Saturday."

Did the Big Ten receive a financial bump in its television contracts after adding Nebraska?

"I think we went through a mid-term evaluation of our agreement and did some things, but I think it's fair to say we had some discussions with ESPN and the Big Ten Network. We're increasing the number of games and we're increasing the quality of the game. We don't ever discuss those terms and conditions of those agreements."

How will a ninth league game affect future television selection?

"If you add a ninth (game), you're actually losing six games on the schedule. Your net minus-six games. That's the thing they need to talk about. I think conference games generally rate better on TV than your average non-conference game. I'm not saying Michigan-Notre Dame or Penn State-Alabama doesn't rate as well as maybe some of the conference games because it just depends on when it's played and the match-up."

As for the weaker non-conference match-ups like Ohio State-Eastern Michigan on ABC, "There have been some challenges, but I think Big Ten football is such where even those games rate well. They do. You'd be surprised at the ratings of those games, too. Ohio State rates very well. They rate better than a lot of stuff that's on the air."

How did Nebraska's entry into the league affect future television agreements?

"You remember last September when we came out with the 2011 schedule, almost within 24 hours or 48 hours from ESPN, I knew what they wanted to do. They looked at the schedule and I said, 'OK, Wisconsin-Nebraska, Ohio State-Nebraska.' They knew early on. I think that game on its own without anything else going on is going to do a great rating on its own. People are going to watch.

Would the Big Ten consider bumping up league football games to early September?

"Perhaps. I've been around long enough to know when that did occur. I think some of our football coaches wouldn't mind seeing some of conference games moving up earlier in September."

Rudner also said the league has no plans to move football games to Sunday in the event the NFL lockout continues into the fall.

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