An Expanded Big Ten Schedule
The current scheduling system among Big Ten schools is that each team has two permanent rivals and rotates their remaining six conference games among the eight other schools in the conference.
What would Big Ten scheduling look like if the conference expanded to 12 teams? Would teams now have to wait four, five, even eight years to play a home and away against some of their more distant conference rivals?
For those fantasizing about a 12-team Big Ten, two divisions are almost a foregone conclusion. However, the Big Ten can have their cake and eat it, too. The current Big Ten scheduling format can fit wonderfully into a 12-team conference with a conference championship game.
What are Quads?
From 1996 to 1998 the WAC had 16 teams which they divided into four “Quads.” Two Quads were paired into a division and the pairings could change each year. In this manner, a team would have annual rivals within their Quad and rotate through the other teams in the conference.
We will examine how the Quad System would work for the Big Ten. For simplicity's sake, we will have Notre Dame fill the 12th Big Ten slot. Actual alignments will probably be drawn up with more considerations than I can give.
Teams play the other teams in their Quad every single year and each Quad undergoes a three year cycle with the other Quads of playing at home, playing away, and having a bye year. This totals eight conference games.
For example, each team in Quad I will host each team from Quad II and travel to play at each team in Quad IV. The next year, Quad I will host each team from Quad IV and travel to play at each team in Quad III.
For some teams like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, there is almost zero difference between this scheduling and their current scheduling. These three teams are already permanent rivals with each other and play in their own “Quad,” of sorts.
The Big Ten Championship Game (Updated for 2010)
(2009 Big Ten Championship): No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Penn State
However, divisions are still required for a Conference Championship Game. The pairing of Quads is done in the following manner: The Quad with the best combined conference record the previous year will be paired with the Quad with the worst combined record (Quads with a bye against each other will not be paired). This insures that the top two Quads will always be in separate divisions.
As an example, here are last year's combined Quad records:
QUAD I: (14-10)
QUAD III: (13-11)
QUAD II: (12-12)
QUAD IV: (9-15) Notre Dame given 4-4 record
Quad IV will be paired with Quad I and Q III with Q II. The first two quads and the last to quads have byes this year against each other.
With these pairings, here are the divisions for 2010:
While divisions must change makeup at least every three years because of rotating byes, two Quads could potentially always sit in opposite divisions. Remember, scheduling is still done by cycling Quads but the Conference Championship Game is done by division.
The Quad System gets a bad rap from its experimentation in the WAC. The 16-team conference tried cycling five non-Quad games among 12 teams! Used by the Big Ten, six non-Quad games would cycle among nine teams, a much more equitable allocation. The WAC also used a convoluted cycling method such that some teams wouldn't see each other for six years!
The current Big Ten schedule has each team with two permanent rivals and cycles the other six games among the remaining eight teams. This is nearly identical to the Quad System. Should the Big Ten use traditional divisions then some teams will spend two or three years without playing each other.
The Quad System adds a Big Ten conference championship game without changing the Big Ten scheduling. Essentially it is the best of both worlds.
The only remaining question would be the naming of the two divisions. Specific geographic names such as East, West, North, and South would not work because the divisions are changing constituents.
General geographic nomenclature such as Midwest, Great Lakes, Old Northwest, and/or Heartland could be used. Colors are simple non-ordinal labels as well. Sponsorship might also be a consideration in this economic environment.
However, I am not sure how fond I'd be of the Outback Division winner facing the Capital One Division winner in the Citigroup Big Ten Championship Game.