Going Inside Big Ten Network Headquarters, Conference Expansion Rumors


Last night I was lucky enough to be at a small private reception that included Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. Yes, I was at the same party as the most powerful man in the prestigious college basketball and college football league.

Delaney’s a University of North Carolina alum, and this was a Chicago Carolina Club gathering at Japonais, a downtown restaurant located a few floors below the Big Ten Network (BTN) studio. Yes, I infiltrated a group of Tar Heels (despite the horrors of the 2005 national title game) in order to get the story.

Before we get to the tour, we’ll go over some conference expansion rumors and innuendo. Because once you get on any topic remotely connected to this issue these days, the conversation inevitably leads there anyway.

I expected Delany to be taller (as much as I was also surprised to learn that I’m taller than both Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and Northwestern’s Dan Persa) partially because of all the juice he has. The other reason I thought he would be taller is because he was a baller for UNC back in the ’60s.

Due to his position, Delany controls a significant amount of power with regards to the BCS. 25% of all U.S. households are in the geographic region covered by the Big Ten Conference. This has had major implications on his influence over college football. Delany opposes the idea of a college football playoff system, arguing that a playoff would diminish the value of regular season games.

And this came up during the very informal Q & A (this was a very informal event) as somebody else asked the billion dollar questions so I didn’t have to. Basically, Delany said that we will not probably see a college football playoff in our lifetime, and that the Big Ten has no plans to expand any further.

He made his point about how great the college football regular season is by explaining that every game is elimination do-or-die (I agree) and that college basketball just doesn’t have the same urgency. He elaborated by saying only one game the entire season has significant meaning- the one versus the school down the road. (I disagree with this idea, but that’s another column entirely, and yes he was referring to UNC vs. Duke).

Also, Delany’s comments do nothing to help my “era of superconferences is being created to make a playoff, because when you have four 16 team megaconferences, the conference title games simply would evolve into a de facto final four. Plus more concentrated, powerful super-conferences would give them potential to work as a cartel and erode the blocks prohibited by the NCAA and BCS” theory.


On this exact same night, a source of a source (supposedly insider) claims Texas and Notre Dame to the Big Ten in 2016 is a “done deal.” Right, just like that dude who Facebooked me in 2007 to tell me that the Bulls were going to get Kobe Bryant in exchange for Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas. That was a “done deal.”

Still if ND and the Longhorns are in the fold five years from now- remember you heard it here first! And if each year we continue to watch Texas just tease and manipulatively flirt with other conferences like an insecure women desperate to get her low self-esteem headed north by making dates with men that she has zero intention of actually going on, then I may actually believe UT has some deal already locked down.

Hey, Dan Beebe was fired today by the Big 12, so more change is likely coming to that league in the upcoming weeks and months, right?

On to the network, which launched five years ago with the BTN rebranding; a new logo at this juncture is common. Four to five years is pretty much a “tv generation” as a network will usually change over it’s logos in that interval. Look at Fox NFL who just now only went to HD. Usually the logo/branding switch coincides with when that specific network lands the Super Bowl, coincidentally every 3-5 years.

The network currently reaches approximately 40 million households nationwide and is available up to an estimated 73 million households in the United States and Canada; And it’s available on cable in 19 of the 20 largest U.S. media markets.

They are headquartered in a very historic building: the former Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog building at 600 W. Chicago Avenue in sweet home Chicago. By the way, Groupon has taken over three floors in the same building.

The network does 400 hours of live events and 250 hours of studio programming a year. On our tour we encountered Gerry DiNardo, Dave Revsine and Illini rushing legend and NCAA record-setter Howard Griffith.

The studio is quite impressive, especially the Romanesque arches behind the couches. The centerpiece is a 109″ plasma screen which which cost 50 grand and weighs 500 pounds. Imagine having that in your living room!

1. I’ve unveiled the secret cabal now! I fully expect the black helicopters to fly up Lake Shore Drive and take me away any minute now.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

He does regular weekly radio spots in Chicago and Cleveland and has appeared on live shows all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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