Big Ten Division Alignment on Horizon, Not Driven by Geography

B.Senior Analyst IAugust 21, 2010

LINCOLN, NE. - JUNE 11: Big Ten Conference Commissioner James Delany with University of Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osbourne (R) speaks at a press conference for Nebraska accepting an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference June 11, 2010  in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The university will begin integration immediately and start athletic competition as soon as 2011. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Since the announcement from Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany that the conference would add Nebraska into the mix, fans have been anxiously awaiting the announcement of the divisional alignments. 

Fans won't have to wait much longer.  On a recent interview with the Huskers Sports Network, Delany hinted that a division alignment could be coming soon.

“I think within 30 days we're going to be able to have our divisions, have the protected rivalries and be pretty close, if not there, with regard to the 2011 actual schedule,” the commissioner revealed.

It was explained that geography will not play the biggest role in the alignments. Of more importance is to assure competitive balance and the traditional rivalries of the conference.

Divisions will likely be split in a more geographical fashion, but will focus on being equally competitive and on making sure the best rivalry games are preserved.

Part of the expansion discussion also focuses on the league moving to a nine-game conference schedule, something coaches have voiced disapproval of. At Big Ten Media Days, Delany seemed adamant about the idea.

Since then, he has suggested that such things wouldn't happen until at least 2015, if ever.

“I'm sure that we won't have a ninth game over the next four years,” Delany said. "We're really studying it, and I don't think we'll be prepared to commit, but I think we'll have it framed up and be able to describe what it is we would like to do if certain things could get agreed on."

If Delany's recent comments weren't enough to get the fan anxiety pumping, recent comments from Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith and Michigan AD Dave Brandon might do the job. 

Michigan's Brandon was asked by WTKA-AM radio hosts Ira Weintraub and Sam Webb whether Michigan and Ohio State would be in the same division.

"No," Brandon said bluntly. "Because we're in a situation where one of the best things that could happen in a given season, in my opinion, is the opportunity to play Ohio State twice. Once in the regular season and once for the championship of the Big Ten."

While he likes that idea, Brandon also noted that he didn't believe coaches, players or fans would appreciate that game being in the same seven-day period, something Ohio State's Smith agreed with.

Smith told The Columbus Dispatch that he wanted to assure fans that Ohio State and Michigan would play every year. "We may end up playing the last game of the year, or not. I just don't know that yet," he pondered. 

One thing to note is that if Ohio State and Michigan were placed in the same division, they couldn't meet for the league title. "For those hoping to preserve tradition in the Michigan-Ohio State game, bet against it," Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press advises.

If the divisional anxiety wasn't pumping before, it is now.