B1G realignment

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Last updated: 04/28/2013 5:04 PM
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Football
Big Ten Officially Announces Division Realignment and Move to Nine-Game Conference Schedule
By Tony Gerdeman

Enjoy your last year of Legends and Leaders, folks. Beginning in 2014, the Big Ten will realign its divisions, moving in a geographical direction.

"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 James E. 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 East Division will feature Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. The West Division will be Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Teams will play the other six teams in their division every year, along with two teams from the opposite division.

Unlike last time when the Big Ten built their divisions based on competitive balance, they have gone strictly geographical this time. Every team in the East is in the Eastern Time Zone, while every team in the West, save for Purdue, is in the Central Time Zone.

"It was a third principle," Jim Delany told ESPN.com, referring to competitive balance as a deciding factor.

"It was the first one in our last go-round. We seeded everybody one through six, and we had four schools, based on 20-year history, who we all thought were No. 1 seeds (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska). So we split them, and then we split Iowa and Wisconsin, and then we split Northwestern and Michigan State.

"This time around, with two new members on the East Coast, we changed our thinking, we adapted to a new set of circumstances and we put competitive balance third. The only way we could have seriously engaged there was to move Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan, based on the 20-year history, into the West. We weren't willing to do that. So we'll see."

While the East currently appears as the stronger division, history has shown us with the SEC that division power fluctuates, and as Delany told ESPN.com, that is exactly what he is expecting to happen here.

"We look at the SEC over the last 25 years, and they started off in a period where Georgia, Florida and Tennessee dominated, and then in the last decade, LSU, Alabama and Auburn have been stronger. So we expect it to go back and forth."

Beginning in 2016, the Big Ten will then move to a nine-game conference schedule. Purdue and Indiana will be the only "protected" non-division crossover game that will be played annually. Each team will play the other six teams in its division, and three from the opposing division. This will allow each team to play every other Big Ten team within an athlete's four-year career.

With the start of the nine-game conference schedule in 2016, teams from the East Division will host five conference home games during even-numbered years, while teams from the West Division will host five conference home games during odd-numbered years. The plus of this is that no division team will have an advantage over another division team based on number of home conference games.

The winners of each division would continue to meet in the Big Ten Championship Game.

In addition to the conference schedules, Jim Delany has asked teams to play at least one non-conference game every season commensurate to their status as a football program.

"We're not saying everybody has to play the same schedule," he told ESPN.com. "But if you're a Top 10-type program, we want you to be scheduling a Top 10-type program. If you're in the middle, we understand that."

Ohio State currently has four non-conference games scheduled for 2016: Bowling Green, Tulsa, at Oklahoma, and Central Michigan, meaning that one of those games will have to be canceled. Don't expect it to be Oklahoma, however. The existing scheduling plan for the Buckeyes falls right in line with what the Big Ten is looking for.

Future Non-Conference Football Schedule

2014 - Navy (at Baltimore), Kent State, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati
2015 - Northern Illinois, at Virginia Tech
2016 - Bowling Green, Tulsa, at Oklahoma, Central Michigan
2017 - Oklahoma, at North Carolina
2018 - Cincinnati, at TCU, North Carolina
2019 - TCU
2020 - at Oregon, Boston College
2021 - Oregon, at Boston College
2022 - at Texas
2023 - Texas

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