Monday, April 29, 2013
East-West divisions, 9-game slate approved
By Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten presidents and chancellors on Sunday approved the new East-West division alignment in football for the 2014 season, as well as a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016.
Legends and Leaders are gone, as the league made geography it's top priority in aligning the new divisions. Here's how they'll look when new Big Ten members Maryland and Rutgers join the conference ...
Big Ten East: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
Big Ten West: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
The Purdue-Indiana game will be the only annual protected crossover in the new alignment. The initial alignment featured protected crossovers for every Big Ten team.
"Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography," commissioner Jim Delany said in a prepared statement. "The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by [Big Ten Network] last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll."
Delany told ESPN.com that geography was the top priority in aligning divisions, followed by preserving rivalries and then competitive balance, which had been the driving force behind the initial alignment. The athletic directors met six times to discuss divisions and scheduling since Maryland and Rutgers joined the league in November.
The Big Ten will keep an eight-game league schedule for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons before joining leagues like the Pac-12 and Big 12 with nine. In 2014 and 2015, teams will play six division games plus two crossover games. Beginning in 2016, teams will play six division games and three crossovers.
Beginning in 2016, the East division teams will play five Big Ten home games and four Big Ten road games in even-numbered years (2016, 2018, 2020, etc.). The West division teams will play five Big Ten home games and four Big Ten road games in odd-numbered years. The Big Ten last played nine league games during the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
The new alignment preserves 10 of 13 rivalry trophy games through division play or the Purdue-Indiana crossover, but all 13 games will take place at least once every four years. Also, while Purdue-Indiana is the only protected crossover, the league will have cross-division rotations.
"In the first 18 years, you’re going to see a lot of competition between teams at the top of either division," Delany said. "We call that a bit of parity-based scheduling, so you’ll see Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa playing a lot of competition against Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan. But it will rotate. Early on, we feel this gives the fans what they want."
The Big Ten approved a nine-game league schedule in August 2011, but went back to eight after forming a scheduling partnership with the Pac-12. When the partnership fell apart last summer, the Big Ten decided to keep an eight-game league schedule, which will remain for the next three seasons.
The division names discussion was a brief one.
"It's pure geography," Delany said. "Last time, we were a combination of competitive balance and geography being last. So those names weren't available to us last time. We didn't have a lot of discussion on it."
We'll have more reaction from Delany and others on the divisions/scheduling announcement, so stay tuned ...