A lot of rumors, hearsay, concern, confusion, anger, etc. have circulated about the Big Ten Network. Experts and many I trust think that the saga will end sometime perilously close to game day - that the games are too precious and that one side will crack.

Alas. The story so far:

Q: What games will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network?

A: The Buckeyes first two home games - against Youngstown State and Akron - will be shown on the Big Ten Network. Dispatch sports reporter Mike Pramik wrote on August 10 that the network also plans to air the Kent State game (October 13) and a conference matchup later in the season. The rest of the schedule will be shown on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.

Q: Which providers offer the network?

A: As of this week, DirecTV is the only signal provider in central Ohio to offer the network. BTN has yet to sign a contract with a major cable provider. Here's an interesting fact: DirecTV's partial owner, News Corporation, is the parent company of Fox Cable News, which owns a 49-percent stake in the Big Ten Network.

Q: I have a DirecTV package. Does it include the Big Ten Network?

A: The Big Ten Network is offered in every DirecTV package except "Family." If you get the "Choice" package or something fancier, you'll get the BTN.

Q: Why won't cable providers pick up the network?

A: According to officials on both sides, there are two main points of contention.

First is a question of packaging, which the new network says is non-negotiable. Hold-out cable providers, including Time Warner, want the network to be offered in a sports package with other "niche" offerings. BTN officials want it to be part of an "expanded basic" service that also includes ESPN.

Second is the question of subscriber fees. Providers in the eight-state region composing the Big Ten Conference have been asked to pay $1.10 per subscriber each month to carry the BTN. That point is negotiable, the BTN claims, once cable providers put the network into an "expanded basic" package.

Q: I want to switch to DirecTV so I don't have to worry about this. Is it too late?

A: Probably. Satellite-dish installers are strapped right now because so many fans are making the transition from cable to satellite. On Wednesday, Augsut 22, many installers were saying that time was running out to install hardware before the season opener Saturday, September 1. Third-party installers were struggling to fill orders, though at leat one company, Clear Sky Communications, hired extra help to fill orders within four days. Even if you ordered today, you're cutting it close.

Thanks much to Mike Pramik and the sports staff at The Dispatch for great reporting on this pressing matter.