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New Big 10 Divisions by August?

June 28, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

EPSN had a blurb on Thursday about the Big Ten perhaps defining its two new divisions for football by late August.

Considering the gravity of those decisions, that is probably moving a pretty brisk pace. However, considering the scheduling that will have to be worked out for the members schools over the immediate months that follow, it’s going to be a nightmare.

Last week, I spoke briefly with Mark Abbott of the University of Iowa. He is an associate athletic director of legal affairs, and he is also one of the ‘point men’ on Iowa’s scheduling. I have known Mark for a long time, so I knew well enough to not ask him any specifics or particulars, because he wasn’t going to talk about such things; he’s a lock box, and I appreciate that so I don’t broach such topics with him out of my respect for how he conducts his affairs.

He did say that it was going to be a huge challenge for him, and others like him around the league, once they have the lay of the land before them.

As for that lay of the land, it’s going to be one of the biggest questions that Big Ten fans discuss all summer. So many people have offered up their opinions on how the divisions should be split, and here are just a few links:

HawkeyeNation.com Alignment
SI’s Stewart Mandel
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Among some of the speculation is for each team to keep a protected rival in the opposite division. I just don’t see how that is going to work out. I don’t think it’s as simple as just assigning a protected school, because some of that is going to wind up being very contrived, like the ‘Land Grant Trophy’ which is ‘up for grabs’ between PSU and MSU.

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I don’t know about you, but I have never considered that rivalry and I don’t think fans of the Spartans and Nittany Lions care much about the game other than it’s a chance to win one more in the league.

So forget that component, in my opinion. Jim Delaney said a few weeks back that not all rivalries are created equal, and while the league will look to protect some rivalries, some will likely die off. Such is ‘progress’ in this age of expansion.

Another notion that will be considered by Big Ten AD’s is adding a ninth conference game.

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If that is to be considered, you must take this into account; every Big Ten school will look to schedule three non-conference home games under that scenario. The home game is a cash cow, and if you have nine conferences games, you will have five league road games every other year. In this day and age of college football, you don’t want to have just six home games, so getting all three of your out of conference opponents to play in your facility will become very important. That would also mean you would get eight home games every other year, which is a big ‘CHA-CHING’ at the cash register.

I went back through Iowa’s schedule for each season dating back to the late 1970’s and could not find an instance where the Hawkeyes had eight home games, so this would be a new source of revenue every other year.

This of course would cause a complication with the Iowa State series that is played home and home each year. Do you continue that series and have six home games in one season and seven in the next? Again, there are a lot of factors to consider here if the league would go to nine conference games.

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However, I don’t think this is the time to expand the conference games, although a few AD’s have said the cost to ‘buy’ home games against teams from smaller conferences continues to escalate. However, getting that eighth home game every other year would certainly offset the costs and then some over a two year look-back.

I remain convinced that Michigan and Ohio State will be in the same division with Nebraska and Penn State in the opposite division. I like the way Mandell split up his divisions, as my only difference was where to put Northwestern and Illinois and in previous hypothetical divisional scenarios I had the teams listed as an ‘either/or’.

I only wish the league could officially announce the new divisions sometime in mid July, to give us a bone to chew on over the final two weeks of that month…but hey, just before the start of football season is fine, too

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