The Big Ten Network is the reason that we have the low-level, no-appeal Rutgers Scarlet Knights appearing on Gophers schedules. And it’s not only in the big two, football and men’s basketball, where Rutgers is a lousy fit.

Another example: Rutgers had a volleyball team last fall that would have finished down in the standings in this area’s Division II Northern Sun.

The Big Ten Network also is the reason early-afternoon basketball games on Saturday in Williams Arena have become close to extinct, and late-afternoon Sunday evening games have not been unusual.

That said, BTN is also a reason that the degree of rip-off in nonconference schedules is being reduced when it comes to the expensive tickets for football and men’s basketball.

Over whines from most football coaches, Commissioner Jim Delany forced a nine-game conference schedule that started in 2016. That was done strictly to better serve BTN, and it also reduced the maximum gouge of ticket holders for nonconference cupcakes from four to three.

Now, the good news has reached men’s basketball, where Delany pushed through a 20-game conference schedule that starts in 2018-19. In addition to ridding schedules of one rip-off game in December, the Commissioner’s Office also pushed for more games against major conference opponents.

The difference is dramatic for Gophers season-ticket holders. There were 11 nonconference home games in 2016-17, the most in the nation. Nine of those were against opponents of zero appeal (unless you thought Walt Frazier was going to show up and play for Southern Illinois).

Coach Richard Pitino also was trying to schedule victories after the 2015-16 disaster, but either way, it had to be impossible for ticketholders not to feel they were being mugged with that stream of no-names.

Hooray! For 2018-19, there’s that extra Big Ten game, there’s a game with Oklahoma State in the Vikings stadium, and there are only six nonconference games in the season-ticket package — Utah and five walkovers.

Again, the reason behind the reduced basketball rip-off is twofold: One, Delany and BTN, and two, Pitino deciding to show some pride in his program with a better schedule.


Big-league baseball/big-time football:

1. America’s sports pundits seem united that baseball is plagued by games that are way too long, and also umpiring that needs dramatic change.

2. Power Five games in college football are interminably long — often four hours and beyond, and that doesn’t include an overtime system that can go on and on.

3. The nonstop additions to the NFL rulebook make penalties ever more frequent and rendered Thursday’s Altlanta-Philly opener unwatchable.