Big Ten Divisions To Realign and Change Names
A few weeks of rumors were officially confirmed today, and the news will result in changes to the Big Ten football divisions and schedule.
With Rutgers and Maryland set to join the Big Ten conference in 2014, a division realignment was inevitable. With the new alignment also comes new names for the two divisions. Gone are Leaders and Legends, instead replaced by East and West with the 14 teams split up based on geography. The divisions are as follows:
Big Ten East: Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Maryland, Indiana, Rutgers
Big Ten West: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
The most obvious motive for the realignment is ease of travel. With the divisions being split up geographically, this allows for more conference games with short trips.
Speaking of more conference games, the Big Ten will officially move from an eight-game schedule to a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016. With an odd number of conference games, teams in the East Division will play five conference home games in even numbered years while programs in the West will have an extra home game in the odd numbered years.
Big Ten athletic directors engaged in six discussions over a four month span to reach this decision with aforementioned geography as a big reason for the ultimate decision.
“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,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. “The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll.”
“The level of cooperation and collaboration was reflective of what we’ve come to expect from this group of administrators who have worked extremely well together on a number of complex matters over the past several years. We are all looking forward to ushering in this new era of Big Ten football.”
At first glance, the East division appears to be the stronger of the two with recent Big Ten champions all coming from that side of the conference. In addition to the Nittany Lions, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State all finished with a winning record while Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin are the only teams in the West to finish 2012 with at least seven victories. Penn State will continue to face familiar opponents in Indiana and Ohio State while renewing the Land Grant Trophy matchup against Michigan State and playing the conference’s two newest opponents in Rutgers and Maryland annually.
A budding rivalry however, between the Nittany Lions and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, could be in jeopardy. In the Leaders and Legends format, each team had a protected crossover rival from the other division that was scheduled as an annual matchup. With the new format, the only protected game guaranteed to be played every year features Purdue and Indiana.
“We embrace the new divisional alignments and are excited to begin playing our East Division opponents starting in 2014,” said Penn State Athletics Director Dave Joyner in a release.
“We feel these new alignments and the upcoming nine-game conference schedule will continue to build on the tremendous interest and enthusiasm in Big Ten football among Penn State and college football fans.”