Tony Petitti has been named the 7th commissioner of the Big Ten conference. Now we could talk about what schools he will try and bring in next, as that will probably be what most people remember him for, but I going to focus on his specialty coming in. To me, this move by the presidents and chancellors prove this conference is not a basketball conference or even football conference, but a television conference.
Yes, Petitti comes into a conference leading the way in football media, and is right up there in basketball, the two top tier sports. The Big Ten is also at or near the top for both “on the field” product and in the media coverage aspect with a few of the more popular “second tier” or “third tier” sports such as volleyball or wrestling, and is improving with hockey.
One sport that resides on that second tier that needs the most help relative to the other power 5 conferences, and even some smaller conferences, is baseball. Now, it just so happens Tony Petitti’s specialty IS baseball. Petitti spent 2014-2020 as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer for Major League Baseball. Before that, he acted as president and CEO for the MLB Network since its was first dreamed up in 2008 until 2014. Even before his time with the MLB, he was with CBS sports and ABC sports. He worked on projects that were all over the place, from March Madness, and the BCS, to the Little League World Series, and some more minor sports like golf and tennis.
All that taken into account, we should at the very least be looking at more second and third tier sports making live broadcasts on TV, instead of the replay of Ohio State and Michigan football from 1978. Another thing it could lead to is a broadening of the BTN brand. Keep in mind this guy helped create a whole new network. Maybe a BTN2 or a BTN Classic or even something completely different, like BTN finally having a smart TV app, since so many people are cutting the cord.
No matter what he does, with his background in baseball you would have to imagine since that is the worst preforming of the “big 3” men’s major sports, that he would make the improvement of that his special mission. The two major things he can control to help the sport is money being dispersed specifically for baseball, and exposure on TV.
While the ability to watch Big Ten baseball has greatly increased over the past few years, with almost all games at Big Ten stadiums being put on the B1G+ website, the quality is all over the place, and its just not the same as seeing something on TV. Schools are responsible for their own setup to broadcast the game, and use students to do the broadcasts, which will probably have to continue due to money restraints..
Now some schools have just a singular camera, with no broadcaster, or some have one broadcaster and 3 cameras, while other still have nearly a full TV cast and crew. Improving the streaming product so that it is more uniform and “professional”, and getting more of those games moved to live TV should be the first move to improve the viewers’ experience. In addition, it would also have an indirect impact, in that replay would be able to be used across the entire conference, and would put the Big Ten equal to the rest of the major conferences in that aspect.
Finally, the RPI has unfortunately become the end all and be all of not only basketball, but baseball as well. The Big Ten has a very worthless RPI compared to other major conferences. Northwestern is an extreme example this year with all their goings on off the diamond, but their RPI is 267 this week. Even a sweep by Nebraska would lower the RPI of the Huskers. None of that can change until the teams like Northwestern, Purdue, Penn State, and Iowa start to schedule better.
Some sort of mandate or expectation needs to be put in place for that, and then the product can be put on TV as well. More exposure in other markets, whether it be on the Big Ten’s own network, or showing Big Ten teams on other conferences’ networks that they have agreements with.
So I think this hire should be able to keep the ball rolling on the major money makers, and based on past history should be able to get more exposure and live coverage of the next tier of sports. That’s what I call a win-win!