Dienhart: Get ready for 9- or 10-game league schedule

Dienhart: Get ready for 9- or 10-game league schedule

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany issued a statement to the Big Ten Network on Tuesday saying the league will look into a nine- and 10-game league schedule in the future.

Here’s the release:

“After meeting with coaches and athletic directors, the Big Ten will look at nine- and 10-game options for future conference football schedules. As a conference we want to play each other more, not less, and an increase in the number of games will help accomplish that goal. The Big Ten will continue meeting with school representatives in the coming months to present a proposal to the Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June.”

This doesn’t come as a surprise, as expanding the number of conference games from eight to nine or 10 has been discussed in the past. With a move toward a 14-team league in 2014, with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, the speculation that the Big Ten would increase conference games increased. Now, it may end up being a reality.

The pitfall of playing nine league games is the fact in some years, schools will have five conference home games and four away, while others will have the opposite scenario. That’s not a fair and equitable model, allowing an advantage to some teams in certain years and a disadvantage to others.

Jim Delany

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

A 10-game conference schedule would offer home-away balance throughout the league and also improve teams’ strength of schedule, but it would chip away further from the number of non-conference games on each school’s schedule.

One possible negative side effect of a nine- or 10-game league schedule is the thought it could cause schools to schedule very soft in the non-conference. Why risk a loss or getting your players beat up by playing a tough non-conference game? Save your energy for the critical and more challenging league contests.

Another possible bad side effect: Would an expanded league schedule hurt the national title hopes of Big Ten teams? Qualifying for a coming four-team playoff that will start following the 2014 season likely will require a record with no more than two losses. But forging a 12-0, 11-1 or even a 10-2 record figures to be more difficult playing a schedule loaded with nine or 10 conference games.

On a positive note, an expanded slate of conference games will make for a better overall quality of games for fans to enjoy. It also would ensure the preservation of more rivalry games and would mean we will see league games—and thus quality games–played throughout the season, from September to November.

What will happen if the Big Ten grows to 16 teams? Let’s not worry about that yet. For now, know this: An expanded Big Ten schedule is coming. Get ready for it.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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