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Big Ten has no comment on local man's lawsuit
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/13/2008 12:12 AM

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An attorney says he's hopeful more settlement talks will occur for a Barrington man claiming in a federal lawsuit he's owed money because his idea for the Big Ten Network was stolen.

Lawyer Robert B. Cummins said Wednesday there is much at stake for his client, Robert W. Welsh, considering the Big Ten Network is projected to distribute $77 million annually to 11 member schools.

Welsh filed the lawsuit against Big Ten Conference Inc. on March 5 in U.S. District Court. In part, Welsh wants the court to impose a conservative trust for his benefit so "all proceeds and profits improperly retained" by the Big Ten can be transferred to him.

Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman declined to comment Wednesday.

Cummins said he can prove Welsh, 54, made a presentation about the network idea at the Big Ten's Park Ridge headquarters in May 1998. He said Commissioner James Delany and athletic directors from all 11 schools heard Welsh's private pitch for what became the Big Ten Network nine years later.

"In fact, we have correspondence with the commissioner and his office," said Cummins, who expects settlement discussions will resume within two weeks. "The claims we make are well-documented. It's not a he said-she said."

With more than half of the network owned by the Big Ten Conference, it launched last year with 41 football games. It was scheduled to show 140 basketball contests.

However, the Big Ten Network has been mired in controversy.

While it has satellite deals with DirecTV and Dish Network, a dispute has kept it off Comcast, the Chicago area's largest cable television carrier. Big Ten Network is against being on Comcast's sports-tier package at an extra cost.

Cummins said Welsh has strong ties to Pennsylvania State University, a Big Ten member. Welsh was a Penn State wrestler and the Nittany Lion mascot from 1973 to '75, when the school competed as an independent.

Declining to be specific, Cummins described Welsh as an entrepreneur with business and real-estate interests.

News Corp., which controls the Fox networks, owns 49 percent of the Big Ten Network.