The Mother of All Big Ten Football Division Plans

dan ketchamContributor IJuly 20, 2010

There have been so many plans suggested, but here is the one that I think makes the most sense.  Call it "Ketch's Divisions Plus One Rival Plan." 

Div 1                   Div 2  

(each team's rival is listed opposite it)

Michigan              Ohio State
Nebraska             Penn State
Iowa                     Wisconsin
Indiana                 Purdue
Michigan State     Minnesota
Illinois                  Northwestern

Teams play each team in their division (five games) plus one designated rival annually (one game), while rotating games against the remaining teams (two games). That’s a total of eight league contests per year (you could also play nine and add one more interdivisional game). 

Division winners play in the title game.

One advantage of this plan is the competitive balance of the divisions: Each have two of the traditional superpowers (Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan, and Penn State) and one of the very competitive teams (Iowa and Wisconsin).  The other outstanding teams are fairly evenly distributed.

This plan also maintains most of the rivalries either with division play or the designated rival.  Remember, no plan is perfect when it comes to retaining rivalries (sorry, Iowa and Wisconsin).

Additionally, since we're all about TV revenue, the "haves" play each other more often, creating maximum interest in the league, and therefore, TV money.  Consider that every year you will get these quality games, in addition to the championship game that every once in a while could have Michigan play a rematch with Ohio State:

     o Michigan vs. Nebraska, Ohio State, and Iowa (plus Mich St)
     o Ohio State vs. Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin
     o Penn State vs. Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin
     o Nebraska vs. Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State                         

     oWisconsin vs. Iowa         

     oChampionship Game

What I really think is great about this plan is the geographical balance. 

Many of the plans I've seen create competitive balance in the East/West divisions by moving Penn State west with Nebraska and Iowa (and oftentimes, Wisconsin east).  This is not fair to Penn State, its too far away to play in the west.  

What the Big 12 taught us is not to divide your league primarily on a geographical basis. The Big XII South is like the confederacy--they almost succeeded because their primary loyalty was to the South instead of the whole league.

Under this plan, each division's teams are located evenly throughout the entire Big Ten area, meaning that fans won't come to ignore or hate a more distant half of their own league. 


UPDATE 8:26:08  weeks after I posted this plan it appears that the Big 10 came to the nearly identical conclusion (I wonder if they read my fax to them/).  See

As a further note, I am shocked by the outcry over splitting OSU and Michigan in different divisions.  Maybe these fans don't realize that they would still play every year and that it could even be the same weekend.  As a Nebraska guy I don't want to step on any toes, so maybe you could educate me. If OSU and Michigan play every year, on the same weekend, with the chance to ruin the other team's title hopes and win their own title, what does it matter if they are in different divisions? All you've done is increased the stakes on a great game and provided for the odd chance that they might have to double down in an even bigger game once a decade or so?  To me this would make this game even bigger and more exciting...