One of the reasons (well, really, the only reason other than mental illness) that I remain optimistic about the future of Indiana football is the changed landscape in college football over the last couple of decades. Certainly, the NCAA gave lesser programs a better shot at top talent when they began reducing the scholarship limit from 120 down to its current 85, but I think the influx of television coverage has been just as important. Take this season's IU schedule. IU, despite some strides last season, remains a program that hasn't won more than five games since 1994, hasn't been to a bowl since 1993, and struggles like virtually no other public school that is a BCS conference member to attract fan interest. Yet, the official IU site reports that as of June 4, at least six of IU's twelve games will be televised. The opener against ISU will be televised in prime time on the Big Ten Network. The second game, at Western Michigan, will be televised on ESPNU. The Big Ten games at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Wisconsin, and at home against Penn State already are slated for TV coverage, MSU in prime time on the BTN and the others on the ESPN networks. The games against Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Purdue presumably still have a chance depending upon how the teams perform.
This is not a particularly attractive schedule. IU doesn't play Michigan, doesn't play Ohio State, and plays three MAC schools and I-AA Indiana State in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Still, IU is already guaranteed significant TV coverage with possibly more to come. This certainly benefits all schools, but I think it could allow IU to close the gap with on-the-fence recruits by taking away the TV card. I don't mean to overstate the benefit, but it's easy to forget that the moderately successful IU teams of the mid 1980s through early 1990s didn't get this sort of TV coverage.