Big Ten in Discussions to Eliminate Divisions in Football, Iowa AD Gary Barta Says

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 26, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 04: A detail view of the Big Ten logo is seen at the 30 yard marker during the Big Ten Championship Game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Michigan Wolverines on December 04, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium, in Indianapolis, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big Ten is considering eliminating conference alignments for football beginning with the 2023 season. 

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said one proposal would see the Big Ten pare down its in-conference games from nine to eight so that schools could schedule non-conference games with the ACC and Pac-12. The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 recently formed a coalition called The Alliance to combat the SEC's upcoming addition of Texas and Oklahoma.

"We've had several conversations," Barta said, per Scott Dochterman of The Athletic. "One of the things that we're watching is whether it's related to The Alliance, which we're talking through and/or, what gives us the best opportunity to have the most success in the College Football Playoff format?

"We’re wondering if we're going to know what the format is before we have to make that decision. So, we're kind of waiting to see where that lands. But we have had active conversations about the schedule beyond 2022."

The Big Ten's media contract expires after the 2022 season, and having a plan in place soon would allow scheduling adjustments to be made with ease. The conference is currently split into East and West divisions of seven apiece. Teams play six games against divisional opponents and three games against non-divisional opponents on a rotating basis.

Eliminating one in-conference game would allow increased flexibility, particularly for teams that already have non-conference games locked in well into the future.

Within the Big Ten, the change may also help create a better balance of power. The Big Ten East has won the conference every year since the current format was adopted. Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State are near-perennial Top 25 teams, while the Big Ten West's top teams are Iowa and Wisconsin.

A rotating schedule, which would likely preserve rivalry games, could create a more accurate look at the conference's actual balance of power.