While Iowa State's win over Iowa last Saturday wasn't what most people would call "pretty," to one person watching, it was beautiful. That person is Mark Silverman, head of the Big Ten Network. "I thought it was a great game," Silverman said. "Really epitomized the spirit of Big Ten football."
For Iowa State fans, the game was an often brutal display of missed opportunities and poorly-executed redzone plays. But Mark Silverman sees things differently, "The Big Ten has a brand to uphold. Big Ten football means watching defensive struggle featuring impotent offenses and turnovers by the handful. A 9-6 game fit the bill perfectly. It was the Platonic ideal of Big Ten games."
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads sees things differently, "I felt we had a good gameplan going in, and I thought that we executed that plan at a fairly high level. We went down the field on our first drive and scored a touchdown, then Iowa responded with a field goal. On the next possession we were down at about their five-yard line, and I was feeling pretty good about the game. All of a sudden a call comes over the headset saying we've got to slow things down."
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney explained the need for moderation, "Big Ten football fans aren't used to a lot points being scored, and they're pretty set in their ways. Add in the fact that quite a few of our fans are a bit older and can't really handle the excitement of two touchdowns in one quarter, and you can see the reason the league felt the need to step in."
"We can't have Grandpa Gene going down with a heart attack when 30 points are scored in a game," he added.
While this practice of slowing a game's progress may sound a bit crazy to outsiders, Delaney explained that it was a common practice: "The Big Ten stands for three things: Tradition, Excellence, and Nauseatingly-inept football. Games we feature on our network need to exemplify the standards set by the Big Ten for over 100 years. If we ever sense a game might be getting too exciting, we place a call to the coaches and have them shut that down."
Iowa State's athletic director Jamie Pollard says he understands the Big Ten's position, but he doesn't agree with it. "We're trying to build something here at Iowa State. To go into a rival's stadium and get a win is nice, but it is disappointing to have your coach's playcalling handcuffed in this manner. But we will take the Big Ten Network money and run."
Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz specifically mentioned the Big Ten Network's restrictions after the game. "I mean, we were on the five, and Mess calls a fumble. I'm like, what is this guy talking about? We can't fumble now, we need to score. But he's the boss, so I called the zone read fumble left, which Shontrelle (Johnson) executed to perfection."
The Cyclones were in the Hawkeyes' redzone two more times in the game, and both times were forced to turn the ball over. "Frustrating. That's the word I would use," Paul Rhoads said after the game. "Shontrelle Johnson didn't want to fumble that ball. James White didn't want to botch that exchange. Steele Jantz didn't want to throw that last interception. But television dictates the game now, and we need to honor the contracts signed with our television partners."
But Big Ten Network officials remain positive. "We really try to keep the tradition of Big Ten football alive with our broadcast," Mark Silverman said. "Not just with the on-field action, but with our production values as well. The BTN intentionally keeps the clock impossibly hard to read, to remind our viewers of the 1970s and 1980s when the Big Ten was relevant. And it goes without saying that the playclock is nowhere to be found onscreen."
So while Big Ten officials may have been pleased, the game left a lot to be desired from an Iowa State perspective. Des Moines area Cyclone fan Sean Ryans summed up his feelings succinctly, "That game? Just the most Big Ten shit ever right there."