What to do with Big Ten divisions?

As BTN’s Gerry DiNardo mentioned during Tuesday’s coverage of Rutgers joining the Big Ten, there are three variables to consider when creating the conference’s new divisions: 1. Competitive balance; 2. geography; and 3. rivalries.

Right now, no one knows how the new divisions will look, and that includes commissioner Jim Delany. Said Delany on the rumors out there: “Those are news to me.”

The only thing that’s a guarantee is there will be change. Whether it’s moving Illinois to the Legends and throwing Maryland and Rutgers into the Leaders – one of the popular rumors – or something else, we’ll just have to wait and see.

[CLOTHES CALL: Meet the Maryland Terps | Meet the Rutgers Scarlet Knights]

Either way, these are the same three elements the conference considered when it created the Legends and Leaders. This time around, which criteria should the Big Ten view as the most important?

The question intrigued DiNardo, who said he thinks geography might make the most sense.

Jim Delany

US Presswire

He’s right. After all, Delany and the Big Ten invited Maryland and Rutgers to provide Penn State with a dancing partner, as they’ve called it. That being the case, it’s hard to believe they would welcome these teams and not hold geography in high regard.

But competitive balance and rivalries are important, as well.

As for competitive balance, it’s the reason the Big Ten avoided putting three of its four biggest football powers – Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State – in the same division. In the end, it split the quartet, with Michigan and Nebraska in the Legends and Ohio State and Penn State in the Leaders.

Rivalries, you ask? This is the Big Ten, home to several of the nation’s oldest and most popular trophy games, so it’s something that can’t be taken lightly. But the best rivalries can be preserved, regardless of divisions, with the conference’s protected rivals and the possible addition of a ninth conference game. Plus, new rivalries can be created, by the sheer fact of playing a division opponent every year.

[RELATED: Dienhart: Latest moves will shakes things up]

Regardless, it will be interesting to see what Delany and the conference deem the most important. Until then, we must wait for Delany and the schools’ athletic directors to figure it all out.

Here’s what BTN.com fans said on Twitter:


About Brent Yarina BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina covers football and men’s basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature “Clothes Call,” which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina’s RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (20 Comments)
B Robertson on 11/20/2012 @ 8:14pm EDT Said:

Maryland and Rutgers? Would have rather had Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri or Iowa State. These would have been better choices both geographically and as rivalry games.

sbuel2 on 11/20/2012 @ 8:45pm EDT Said:

Misssouri has already moved to SEC. The money from the TV exposure is the issue, Sorry, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State (other than KC market there is no large center of population for the two schools) go for Geography west: Nebraska, iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue with the East Maryland, Rutges, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State. The Leaders currently has most of the weakest teams in B1G. It will be interesting to see how the B1G Natural boundaries balance the currently strong teams. When big 12 formed, Oklahom and Nebraska was the classic rivalry but we played them alternate years. Traditions can still hold for alternate years, just the trophies are traded every two to three years, not every year.

Traditions are fine but things are changing and for the bigger rewards to be shared, you have to sacrifice some rivalries to alternate schedules.

aroznowski on 11/20/2012 @ 9:12pm EDT Said:

Let’s not overthink this. The Legends Division can consist of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern. The Leaders Division can consist of Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, and Wisconsin. The protected cross-divisional rivalries can be Michigan-Ohio State, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Michigan State-Indiana, Nebraska-Penn State, Illinois-Purdue, Northwestern-Rutgers, and Iowa-Maryland. All of the trophy games that currently are played on an annual basis would still be played on an annual basis with the exception of the battle for the Illibuck. To counter that problem, a trophy game can be established between Maryland and Rutgers, and a nine-game conference schedule can be instituted and formatted in a way that allows each Big Ten school to play all of the other Big Ten schools at least once every three years and host all of the other Big Ten schools at least once every six years. Below is an example of what Northwestern’s conference schedule could like over a period of six years.

Year 1: vs. Illinois, vs. Iowa, vs. Michigan, at Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Nebraska, vs. Rutgers, at Ohio State, vs. Indiana
Year 2: at Illinois, at Iowa, at Michigan, vs. Michigan State, vs. Minnesota, vs. Nebraska, at Rutgers, vs. Wisconsin, at Maryland
Year 3: vs. Illinois, vs. Iowa, vs. Michigan, at Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Nebraska, vs. Rutgers, at Penn State, vs. Purdue
Year 4: at Illinois, at Iowa, at Michigan, vs. Michigan State, vs. Minnesota, vs. Nebraska, at Rutgers, vs. Ohio State, at Indiana
Year 5: vs. Illinois, vs. Iowa, vs. Michigan, at Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Nebraska, vs. Rutgers, at Wisconsin, vs. Maryland
Year 6: at Illinois, at Iowa, at Michigan, vs. Michigan State, vs. Minnesota, vs. Nebraska, at Rutgers, vs. Penn State, at Purdue

DJ on 11/20/2012 @ 11:06pm EDT Said:

I want to see Wisconsin playing Iowa every year again. Go with Geography: Neb, IA, Minn, Wisc, Ill, NW, Purdue in the West. Ind, Mich St, Mich, OSU, PSU, Md, and RU in the East.

sbuel2 on 11/20/2012 @ 11:18pm EDT Said:

Wow, just heard division adjustment is to move Illinois to Legends division and the two new schools to Leaders. So Leaders will be Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and the lesser teams Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue. So Ohio State the strong team, Wisconsin maybe next, Penn State going to be suffering with probation on recruiting and no bowl games and then the rest. Looks like a perfect long term setup for Ohio State future. While they donated a lesser team to the Legends, the usual competition of Michigan, Nebraska, usually Michigan State, Northwestern is finishing strong this year, a struggling Iowa, Minnesota is improving and then Illinois. Lets see Illinois hasn’t been competitive for a while but Minnesota is improving and Iowa usually isn’t that bad so where in the world is the balance. B1G should have taken this opportunity to straightend out the balance. HOW ODD! And Nebraska is finally playing illinois and purdue next season for at least one season.

sbuel2 on 11/21/2012 @ 6:23am EDT Said:

I think the balance of the conferences is important. Right now the Leaders have indiana, purdue and illinois as the weakest teams in B1G, Legends usually has Minnesota as the weakest teams, this year Iowa has been and exception to their normal performance as well as Michigan State who won the legends last year. Great add two more weak teams to Leaders and kick Illinois to Legends for one weak team. It appears that B!G is definitely helping out Ohio State and Wisconsin. Penn state has that killer probations on recruits and no bowls to go through for three more years so they won’t be at their best for some time after that. Ohio State does play Michigan at the end of the season so lets see, normally only two tough opponents for sure every year. the rest is the weaker teams so they should have an easy run. The Legends have a lot more competition and you have to admit that Nebraska got the toughest opponents coming into the B1G, Penn State as the annual rival, Ohio State and Wisconsin. About the only weak team in B1G was Minnesota.

Looks like the balance is still weighted towards Ohio State. How can they continue to support this???

Sean C on 11/21/2012 @ 8:43am EDT Said:

Geography is the best and easiest way to go. Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin and OSU, Michigan, MSU, Rutgers, PSU, Maryland and Indiana. For football, crossover games could be OSU-Wisconsin, PSU-Nebraska, Purdue-Indiana, Michigan-Minnesota, MSU-Iowa, Northwestern-Rutgers and Maryland-Illinois. A nine-game league schedule probably works best because besides the one crossover game, a team could rotate the other 6 games in blocks of 2 every other year, accomodating a home and away game against each team in the 6 years. Travel expenses are lower due to geography as well.

The biggest problem with seperating the teams according to competitive balance is that you are doing that as of now. What happens if the competitive balance shifts in the next couple years between teams? Look at what competitive balance has done now for the conference… the divisions are not quite equal, are they? Iam not saying geography solves the balance issue, but it is a long-term solution that has a smaller downside.

sbuel2 on 11/21/2012 @ 9:03am EDT Said:

Other sporting sites are saying Texas wanted to join B1G, that would be a reall mess. Number 1 they will not give up their LHN and the 20 mill a year just for them from ESPN, network never sold and Texas hasn’t been the national power since the deal was signed. They do not play nicely with the other children. Plus I do not think the B1G would tolerate their demads.

They have threatened multiple times to join Pac 12 (or when it was 10) Just a ploy first to get Colorado paniced enough to jump early, and Nebraska was glad to join the B1G where the word share is the norm not the exception. then this year they lost A&M and Missouri and it says somthing about ig 12 has only 10 teams.

Enjoy the two new teams.

Eric on 11/21/2012 @ 9:43am EDT Said:

The key thing that most people are missing here is that with 14 teams, a set-up with no locked crossovers is much ideal. If we don’t have locked crossovers, then every team can play every other team at least once home or away over a 4 year period. If do have them though, we get 2 games in 12 years.

The only real way I can find to eliminate crossovers is to put the 3 eastern schools with the 4 western schools and then put the 3 Ohio/Michigan schools with the 4 Indiana/Illinois schools. That would bring back Iowa-Wisconsin, would be fairly competitive (although the eastern/western division would be a little stronger in the middle),, would divide the population centers and recruiting territory, and allow you to rotate through the other divisions more frequently (assuming home and home is dropped, you’d play the entire other division in 4 years with 1 of them you play twice). It would end The Little Brown Jug and Ohio State-Penn State as annual, but even as a Buckeye fan who enjoys the game with Penn State, I consider that a small cost compared to the rewards.

paul hackett on 11/21/2012 @ 10:48am EDT Said:

save the rivalries, then competitive balance. with air travel and most universities having their own aircraft (either by owning or leasing) geography shouldn’t be an issue. ask any alum, they remember their rivalry games. GO BUCKS

sbuel2 on 11/21/2012 @ 1:45pm EDT Said:

Eric, west and east have all the travel and Ohio State has competition from Michigan, sometimes Michigan State or Northwestern but then keeps the worst three teams for how many years???

Travel expenses for West and East go up while the middle is a drive away for their teams and fans, especially the non=football sports. Longer travel has a tendancy to wear down on the twide a week travel and playing.

sbuel2 on 11/21/2012 @ 1:55pm EDT Said:

Eric, you plan also removes Penn State and Wsiconsin from your normally schedule games. Nebraska was already done on the Ohio State Schedule after their first two years in B1G but this keeps them as a rotation team. Iowa has had strong teams most years, this was a very down year for them If the B1G adds the two new teams to the Leaders and bumps Illinois to Legends, lets see Leaders Competition is currently Wisconsin and Penn State will be on the down cycle for several years with their probation and recruiting penalties for the next three years. That leaves Ohio State with a favored schedule of Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue every year and then whoever is in the cross over schedules. Does this seem like a fair balance of power for B1G. Similar to your middle and let the ends fight it out. something doesn not pass the smell test with this,

Snowhawk on 11/21/2012 @ 2:41pm EDT Said:

Get a NEW Big 10 Commisioner ! Commissar Delany needs to go, expansion for expansions sake or empire building will lead to a decline in the other sports

tecmosuperhawk on 11/21/2012 @ 3:17pm EDT Said:

Any set up that does not have Wisconsin and Iowa playing every year is a major fail. This is the only reason I was excited about expanding. Make it happen now.

M McClure on 11/21/2012 @ 3:46pm EDT Said:

STOP THE ENDLESS EXPANSION. The nonstop expansion has created a conference with less and less history tied to the Original Six. Rutgers nor Maryland seem academically nor athletically Big Ten worthy. When does Jim Delany cease being a steward and becoming an autocrat. Heck, the BT already struggles to acknowledge its own history and stay true to itself. This seems more about personal triumph and financial greed. I guess in an era where average assistant coaches make a million dollars that there can never be too much revenue. Maybe the money might trickle back to actual research and classrooms. But I doubt it.

sbuel2 on 11/22/2012 @ 7:19am EDT Said:

Who knows, maybe by 2014 we will have sixteen and can do four divisions with rotations.

    Brian on 11/22/2012 @ 12:57pm EDT Said:

    by next year we will have 16 teams and still more discussion. It will be 2 divisions I just hope they get a couple of name teams. Harvard or Princeton? Those AD’s will be able to figure it out. LOL

Jim on 11/24/2012 @ 5:15pm EDT Said:

West-Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, NW, Wisconsin, Michigan
East-Ohio St, Penn St, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue, MSU

MSU/Penn St/tOSU strong in the east
Neb/Mich/Wisc strong in the west

Still gives the B1G the OSU/Mich title game they want.

With the conf expanding east, geography needs to be important.

2 protected crossover games–9 league games, rotate the other opponent

OSU-Mich stays intact
MSU-Mich stays intact
Neb-PSU stays intact
Wisc-Iowa resumes yearly
Minn-Wisc resumes yearly
Illinois-NW stays intact
Purdue-Indiana stays intact
Mich-Wisc resumes yearly

jeff hinsley on 11/25/2012 @ 9:01pm EDT Said:

Don’t mind the expansion at all I understand things change but would like divisions be East(leaders) and West(legends)? Maybe add Illini & Badgers to Legends. 2014 problely be 16 team conference. (B10) possible conference name change?Big XVI(16) Midwestern or Big Mw to name a few. Just a thought.Oh yeah don’t play cross over at end as well. Also like the idea of playin 9 to 10 conference games and 3 non conference also no Fcs games as of now there are 120 Fbs scheule them pleasev

jeff hinsley on 11/25/2012 @ 9:20pm EDT Said:

Football in general needs to quit scheduling the Fcs divisions. That a rip off to the fans and nothin gain out of it at all. Heck ask Minnesota and Michigan how it feels to lose to a lower division and Nebraska played South Dakota State close a few years ago. The SEC. Schedule a bunch as well and Wofford gave em trouble. Basicly its padding there Record and stats also help the FBS get 6 wins for Bowl. Well 2014 better schedule stronger or no Playoffs ! Jeff in Nebraska