Guess what? The Big Ten is nearly 6 months away from adding Maryland and Rutgers as the newest members of the conference. You know what else? They have a chance to right a wrong and do something the ACC refuses to do - stop with the stupid division names and make the conference make more sense for it's fans, writers, coaches, players, and announcers.
So, how do they please all of those constituents? Well, realistically it probably won't happen since attempting to please everyone is what got the Big Ten in trouble when they attempted to split up the divisions in the first place. The idea was to keep "competitive balance" as the key component. Oh, and to make sure we saw Michigan vs. Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game every year, right?
If you think that wasn't the plan than explain to me how those two rivals ended up in opposite divisions? Sorry, you'll never convince me that wasn't the idea from the get go. Too bad Wisconsin, the NCAA, and Nebraska had other ideas, huh?
Well, get used to that one never happening again because here's where we come down on the situation and what we here at TheB1GTime hope to see happen. It's a common sense approach that takes into consideration three things in this exact order - geography, rivalries, competitive balance.
It's the exact opposite of how the Big Ten was set up the last time and it clearly didn't work out well for the conference as the Legends division (Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern) saw them clearly become the better of the two divisions. Hell, they sent 5 teams to bowl games this past season while the Leaders division had it's three really good teams separate themselves (Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) from the also-ran's (Purdue, Illinois, Indiana).
So, what exactly is our proposal - an East and West split of the conference.
Why? Well, it makes the most sense for the league as they attempt to make an eastern push and keep it's traditional home happy as well. The only way you make the eastern push work is if you make the eastern most schools matter off the bat in the league and that means putting them all in the same division and having them playing each other year in and year out. After all, this was a move to keep Penn State happy, right?
So, with that in mind here are our division alignments:
East: Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana
West: Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska
Splitting up the divisions like that serves a few key purposes for us. One it finally puts Michigan and Ohio State in the same division and makes their regular season mean even more.
Over the past two seasons "The Game" has meant very little in the grand scheme of things to both schools' seasons. True, part of that was the fact that Ohio State wasn't going to be eligible for the Big Ten title game no matter what this year, but who's fault is that? I don't know about you, but we'd rather see these two meet up for a possible spot in the Big Ten championship game than face each other twice in back-to-back weeks, how about you?
The second purpose this serves? It serves to allow a true eastern base and a western base and could very well allow for the two divisions to really breed some rivalry and hate for each other. In the end this puts some more value and heat on the Big Ten Championship game, something that's been truly missing for the first two games - outside of MSU and UW fans not liking each other very much.
As for the rivalries? Yes, it's true that we're splitting up an old-school rivalry inside a division with Indiana and Purdue being in other divisions, but we will get into fixing that issue in a bit. We'll take splitting up the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry for making "The Game" a divisional game any day of the week. Plus, we'll be adding in the Iowa-Wisconsin game and putting the Illinois-Northwestern game into the same division as the trade off. From the fans perspective we're not sure there is a better way to handle the rivalry issue out there.
So, how do we rectify the loss of the Old Oaken Bucket schools in the same division. Well, first we propose the Big Ten moves to a nine game conference schedule. It eliminates a useless non-conference game against some scrub FCS program that comes in, takes it's annual beating (unless your Minnesota or Michigan), and cashes it's check shortly after the game. It also allows for a protected cross-divisional game and to then have two rotating games against the other division.
For Indiana and Purdue that means keeping their rivalry intact every year. Here's our idea of keeping rivalries important and making cross-divisional games mean something at the same time.
Protected cross-divisional games: Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Penn State, Minnesota-Michigan, Northwestern-Maryland, Rutgers-Iowa, Nebraska-Michigan State
Maybe you could put Wisconsin vs. MSU, but for us the more logical game that will mean more to the teams in the long run is Wisconsin vs. Penn State. Michigan State has been a good team with a budding rivalry with the UW for the past 4 years or so, but they've also had more ups and downs as a program more recently. It would give the Badgers and Nittany Lions a big time game across the divisions every year (and yes we're award that PSU would still have two years probation going on). It also allows for Nebraska to have a pretty damn good game with a team they've already started to build a history against in MSU.
Finally, competitive balance takes place with the fact that five teams in each division made (or would've made in OSU & PSU's cases) bowl games following the 2012 season. It's hard to get more balanced than that.
Of course, these are just our crazy ideas... Lord knows if the marketing folks at the Big Ten offices get their hands on this process first we're all screwed.
Of all the East/West proposals out there, this is the one that will win. Because it is better? Not going there. No, because this is the one that the BTN poll proposed. Well, maybe the better answer is that this is the one that B1G decided to have BTN present in that poll. Until then, everyone had MSU in the west and Indiana in the east. I'd have the same issue with the cross-overs that many would have (and you alluded to). I'd put MSU/Wisc to continue to grow that rivalry and leave Nebraska/PSU as a 'newcomers' game.
Another note, don't expect conf game #9 to always replace a cup cake. They'll always want that extra home game and half of the time, a team will have 5 conf road games. Going to 9 games, with all of its advantages, will reduce the number of quality non-conf games.
@DanHogan interesting thoughts but is there a better east/west split you can think of? We tried and couldn't come up with one. However, your last point I think fails to take in consideration the playoff format that will exist. If you want your team to get in it's going to have to play better non-conference opponents all around. Just look at what teams like Wisconsin are doing w/ their future schedules. ASU, Washington, Wazzu, Va Tech, Bama, BYU all on the schedules in the future.
What you may see is teams playing some lower division FBS teams, but I'll take that over playing FCS teams and my favorite school asking it's fans to fork over money like it's an actual FBS vs. FBS matchup any day of the week.
@andycoppens As an MSU grad, I like that version with MSU in the east but the alternative alignment was proposed by folks who looked at division strength. They typically like putting MSU out west as a "power" along with Wisconsin and Nebraska. In the east, you get Mich, OSU, and PSU. I certainly see more balance that way, so yeah, it could be argued that it's a bit better. Granted, you've identified MSU as an unreliable power, but they've consistently been a step or two better than Purdue.
You are right that that the new playoff will encourage schools to schedule tougher non-conference games, but a 9-game schedule will push them in the other direction. For one, they'll want the full 7 home games for the revenue they bring in. And most B1G teams have proven that they can still sell out cupcakes at home when other conferences may not be able to. Will the two together be a net positive? Yeah, probably. But, an 8-game conference schedule in the new system will almost certainly yield more quality non-conference games than a 9-game schedule in the new system. And what about mid-tier teams that are just trying to be bowl eligible so they can extend their practice time and get their guys to bowls like Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, and Iowa? The playoff doesn't effect their thinking until they build their program more. If they finish 3-6 in conference, they need all three non-conference games to hit 6-6 and practice through December. FCS teams, here we come! (Well, not all FCS, but lots of weak FBS games.)
@andycoppens Well, there's not much doubt in my mind that a 9-game schedule and an FCS rule would each increase the overall revenue that all B1G members get because it will increase conference-wide revenues any number of places. But, I'm not buying your assumption that each of the schools would undoubtedly get rid of one of their cupcakes each year to make room for the extra conference game.
I didn't realize the schools shared a portion of either football or basketball ticket sales so I read up a bit on it. (My best reference so far: http://businessofcollegesports.com/2011/04/20/big-ten-ticket-revenue/) Based on that reference, it is 35% per conference game (for items that are included) so it doesn't have an effect on non-conference scheduling once an 8-game or 9-game schedule is chosen. Schools want 7 home games annually to maximize on-campus revenues -- and until B1G schools have big trouble filling the stadiums for these games, I don't see that changing. In years when you have 5 road games in -conference, you only have one slot for a non-conf road game. And some teams will still want to pad their schedule to ensure a bowl trip.
The debate between 8 games and 9 games is a meaningful one and I'm softly in the 9-game column. But, if you go to 9 games I don't think you are trading Indiana/Bowling Green for Indiana/Minnesota. I think in a lot of cases you are trading Indiana/Missouri for Indiana/Minnesota.
As a side note, I'm not sure I see a big difference between football and basketball revenue management other than scale. All TV rights to home games are owned by the conference, sold, and revenues distributed evenly. For the most part, on campus revenues are kept by the schools (don't discount parking fees, concession sales, and sales that occur outside the stadium) other than 25% or 35% of ticket sales which are distributed to all members evenly.
all well and good, but you are conflating basketball and football, which have two completely different economic models they are working with. Football, each team receives equal payment of the TV contract money, just the same as basketball.
However, there's a difference in the money earned by teams at the gate. In football the Big Ten has a gate receipt revenue sharing program that would help offset any "lost revenue" from a home game against a lower FCS opponent that stands at 35% compared to 25% for basketball.
If your name isn't Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State (not anymore), Nebraska, or Wisconsin then you can really benefit from this economically.
No doubt about it there are a ton of factors at work here, but if you can get Delany's idea back in play (like it used to be) that FCS games don't count towards your bowl eligibility and you play an extra conference game you are looking at at a minimum of earning any extra $300,000 or so... and nowadays teams are paying out contracts that are easily in excess of half a million to FCS opponents to play.
So, would you rather take in $$$$ for that extra road game you would play every other year or if you're not one of the big successful programs do you run the risk of paying out over half of what you gain back in revenue sharing during conference play... and that's to speak of nothing of what's to come down the road with these games. The prices keep going up and up as these teams see the games a cash cow to keep their athletic departments alive.
There are a lot of factors at play to be sure, but the chances for teams to earn more by playing another conference opponent and being able to sell that to the networks - let's not forget that the B1G's ESPN deal is up soon as well, can really help increase the pie.
Both sides have merit no doubt about it, but call me crazy, I'd rather see my team, or any team in the B1G playing a conference opponent than the little sisters of the poor any day of the week.
@andycoppens Oh, yes, definitely. Here's the difference: When individual schools create their schedules, they look to maximize their internal revenues and position themselves for the post-season. The scheduling approach as it relates to post-season does depend on the quality of team that they plan on having when the games are scheduled -- often many years in advance. But, realize that most B1G schools make almost as much turnstile and on-campus revenue from patsies as they get from quality opponents. So, two cupcakes at home get them something approaching double what a home-and-home series with a quality opponent.
Improved TV revenue -- something that comes from much better quality games -- get's diluted into the conference before it gets back to the school. So, Purdue doesn't get more TV money from a home-and-home with another BCS school unless all conference teams do that. That, and, the TV agreements have to have time to take those non-conference deals into account. I doubt Delaney can call up ESPN and say "hey, Iowa just scheduled Clemson, give us more money for that one game!"
That's why conference-level folks look for ways to get *all* FBS teams or *all* of their conference teams to schedule better games so they can take those agreements up to the broadcasters and get more money from them. A FBS/FCS distinction would give Delaney (and every other commish) a better leg to stand on when squeezing more money from ESPN or Fox. But, there's very little financial incentive for an individual school to avoid scheduling FCS schools. (And I'd bet Delaney sees the B1G as less likely to schedule FCS teams than his main competition, the SEC.)
That's why we have the Big Ten/ACC Challenge even though very very few of those games would be scheduled individually. Ditto SEC/Big East Challenge. The same rules apply. The conference ensures that all schools effectively get some of that added tv revenue money by making sure many or all schools get a tough game.
You remember that B1G/Pac12 challenge arrangement that fell through? That was a replacement for a 9th game in a way that would benefit all 12 B1G schools.
@DanHogan ya, you have a point, but I'll reference the thoughts of Jim Delany on FCS games counting towards bowl eligibility... http://www.theb1gtime.com/teams/big-ten/big-time-changes-ahead-for-the-big-ten.html
It's clear if he and other commish's have their way this practice will end quickly as the playoff could yield the 4 "super conferences" a lot more money to say the least... Either way we're in for an interesting ride.