The Big Ten's pending bonanza in television money for football and men's basketball figures to prevent financial difficulties for the Gophers athletic department. It's so generous that the added debt associated with $170 million worth of new training facilities will be manageable.

As national media members suggest, the "Power Five" conferences that dominate football are actually turning into the Power Two when it comes to TV money: the SEC and the Big Ten.

The issue for the Gophers is their major men's programs are becoming second-class citizens more than ever.

When have football, men's basketball and men's hockey been more overwhelmed for attention by their pro counterparts as right now? Consider:

FOOTBALL. The Vikings have unearthed a huge and constantly optimistic following that is about to be in full awe when the Taj Ma Zygi opens in August.

Minnesota's sporting public has embraced coach Mike Zimmer as a straight-shooting genius; quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as the answer to its prayers, and owner Zygi Wilf as a generous contributor to a stadium that will make his $600 million purchase worth $2 billion more than that the day it opens.

Meantime, the Gophers have lost a popular coach and are playing in a stadium that is going to seem very minor league when the Vikings' palace opens.

BASKETBALL. Finally, the Timberwolves are going first-class in talent (starting with Karl-Anthony Towns), leadership (Tom Thibodeau) and facilities (a new headquarters and next an upgraded Target Center).

Meantime, Williams Arena has gone from a charming relic to a haunted house. The Gophers could make a 400 percent improvement in the Big Ten next winter and still be losers.

HOCKEY. Here's the bottom line on interest levels in St. Paul's NHL team and what used to be the university's "Pride on Ice":

The Wild's disappointing play was greeted with weeks of public angst. The Gophers' failure to make the NCAA tournament drew yawns.

Read Patrick Reusse's blog at E-mail him at