Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany admitted that the league’s decision to have the men’s basketball conference tournament at Madison Square Garden this season has created some issues.
Since the league badly wants to attract more East Coast subscribers to its Big Ten Network base, playing in the Mecca was a huge selling point in attracting that new audience. Because the Big East has played its conference tournament in the Garden since 1983, the Big Ten had to play its conference tournament a week earlier — meaning this week.
That lost week in the regular season meant the Big Ten had conference games in early December. Some condensed conference schedules included limited days off during certain stretches. In a report from Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, Delany thanked his league for going through the unusual circumstances.
He also said the Big Ten would be back on the East Coast at some point.
“I appreciate the sacrifices the teams made, the impact it had on our students,” Delany said to Greenstein. “Wasn’t good. Wasn’t healthy. I thought starting (the conference schedule) early was OK, but if you look at our schedules (through the years), we’ve been able to give everybody two-day prep (before games) in 99 percent of the cases.
“We won’t do it again this way, and I take responsibility for asking the coaches. … If we can make it back to the Garden on a regular week, that’s great.
“I know we will be back out East. Where we will be, I don’t know. It won’t be on a regular basis. I expect that 80 percent will be in legacy territory (Chicago and Indianapolis) and probably 20 percent out East, whether it’s in D.C. or Philadelphia or New York.”
Delany saying that it “wasn’t healthy” is an interesting thing to say, considering these changes were made so the Big Ten could potentially earn more revenue. Potentially putting student-athletes at risk for an expanded viewer base is not a great look for the league, but this is also just a one-year scenario. The league acknowledged a mistake and it seems like they aren’t going to repeat it.
The Big Ten would be smartest if they kept things exclusively in Chicago and Indianapolis — if only for the better atmosphere it generates around those respective cities than on the East Coast. The allure of the money from markets like New York and Washington D.C. is going to be too great to turn down.
Philadelphia getting mentioned is also intriguing subplot since the Big Ten hasn’t infiltrated that market much yet. The Palestra hosted a sold-out Big Ten conference game between Penn State and Michigan State, but the conference tournament has never been played there. It wouldn’t be a major surprise if the Big Ten tries to use Philadelphia for a potential conference tournament since the city hasn’t had an association to any one league over the years.