Big Ten Announces Division Alignment

The Big Ten announced its divisions and other conference information on its weekly media call Wednesday night...

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Big Ten Will Not Have Divisions For Basketball, Will Use BCS Rankings As Tiebreaker For Football

Briefly discussing basketball in the conference, Commissioner Delany said that as of now, the conference is not planning to have divisions for basketball and that the teams will continue with the current 18 in-conference game schedule. The conference could decide to implement divisions for basketball at a later date, but only if the coaches at the schools insist on it. Delany said he does not currently see a compelling reason for establishing basketball divisions, given the presence of the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments.

The Commissioner also discussed the football tie-breaker system that will be in place for determining the divisional champions (and entrants to the championship game) if necessary. A two team tie within a division will be decided by head-to-head record, with a three team tie broken by looking at the record of play against other teams within the division for each team that is tied. In the event of a scenario where three or more teams are still tied after looking at their intra-divisional records, the conference will use the BCS rankings in a yet-to-be-determined fashion to establish a divisional champion.

Towards the end of the media conference, the Commissioner addressed the presence of the Ohio State-Michigan football game at the end of the season and the possibility of a repeat in the championship game. He said the conference was not concerned about a possible fall-off in TV viewer ship, and cited the 1995 rose bowl trip by Northwestern which garnered a 20 rating nationally and a 43 rating in Chicago (each ratings “point” corresponds to 1% of the estimated Nielsen universe, or all the possible tv viewers in a given region / nationally.) Delany said that he feels even if there were to be a repeat between Michigan-Ohio State in the championship game, they would still garner a significant viewer share.

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"Everybody Gave Up Something..."

Though the new conference alignments preserve most of the traditional rivalries in the Big Ten, a few more recent rivalries including Iowa-Wisconsin and Michigan State-Penn State have been discarded. When asked about this the Commissioner said that every school gave up something in this process and that the new alignment should be evaluated by, “look[ing] at what we retained, what we created new, and what we hope to do when we get to nine [in conference games].”

Asked if the only consideration in determining the protected rivalries was the length of tenure of the rivalries, the Commissioner responded that multiple factors were involved, and that in the case of Wisconsin-Iowa it was a geographic decision. He said,

It’s sort of like putting an NCAA bracket together. It’s hard to isolate one factor. Three of the states have two members in them, and they are more centrally located so could be put into either east or west divisions. Once geographic alignment was out, the conference had to look to competitive equality and could save a lot but would not be able to save everything. In older days, the conference had two protected rivalries and six schools rotated through. They now have six protected rivals and only three [teams they don’t play in any year].

As the conference looked west, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota are in the same division. Wisconsin will have Minnesota, and this year Nebraska, with Iowa rotating in when the conference gets to a ninth game. Wisconsin is more geographically stretched in its division than Iowa is. Without protected the Minnesota rivalry game, Wisconsin would not regularly play any of the three states to its west. MSU and PSU game is an example of the sacrifices that had to be made.

Delany also hopes that Wisconsin fans will not be too upset about losing many of its near geographic rivals because of the quality of teams coming in to play the Badgers, and the ability to play Nebraska immediately and Iowa short after. The Commissioner thinks that Wisconsin is a national program and that competing with the best teams in the conference will keep them as a strong program.

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Commissioner Delany On Divisional Champion And Rivalry Game Timing

During the media conference call, Commissioner Delany was asked how the Big Ten decided to preserve the Michigan-Ohio State game for the last week of the season.

The Commissioner said that the conference originally started with a plan that would have held most of the rivalry games by the middle of November, with the rest of the season focused on intra-divisional play only in the last two weeks of the season. The conference decided to move away from this plan partly because of outcry from fans at various schools, as well as a feeling that such a move would unduly hamstring the conference and prevent the development of new rivalries.

With the current plan in place, rivalry games will be played during eight or nine weeks of the season, as opposed to clustered at one point.

The Big Ten also decided that divisional champions will be determined by considering all games, and not just play within the division.

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Big Ten Evaluated Teams Starting With 1993

During Wednesday evening’s media conference call Commissioner Jim Delany shed some light on the process that the conference used to establish the divisions.

The Commissioner said that they looked to 1993 as the starting point for evaluating a program’s competitiveness within the conference. Delany said the conference started at 1993 for several reasons, including Penn State’s entry into the conference, the decline in scholarship numbers allowed from 95 to 85 (which spread talent within the conference), and the changing media landscape.

The conference clustered the schools into three competitive tiers:

Tier 1 included Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, and Penn State

Tier 2 had Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State

and Tier 3 contained the rest of the conference: Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, and Indiana.

The conference attempted to balance the amount of teams from each competitive cluster when aligning the divisions. They also prioritized the preservation of rival and trophy games. Last year the conference had 12 rivalry games take place, and with the new alignment, the Big Ten will be able to preserve nine to 10 of them.

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Big Ten Announces Division Alignment

The Big Ten today announced the alignment of its new divisions for the 2011 football season. The currently unnamed divisions will be organized as follows:

Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern, and Minnesota in the first division

and

Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Illinois in the second division.

The members of each division will play each other every season, as well as three teams from the opposing division. Certain long-standing rivalry games will remain protected including: Michigan-Ohio State, Northwestern-Illinois, Wisconsin-Minnesota, Iowa-Purdue, Penn State-Nebraska, and Indiana-Michigan State.

"Over the past several months, Big Ten staff and directors of athletics have met on several occasions to discuss and finalize division alignments. We focused on competitive equality, traditional rivalries and geography. We considered multiple models and countless permutations in an effort to achieve the most competitively balanced divisions while at the same time respecting our traditions, preserving existing rivalries, and creating opportunities for the establishment and growth of new rivalries. We have listened to the feedback from our institutions, alumni and fans, and while we understand that no final alignments could possibly satisfy all of our constituents, we believe that wehave achieved a very exciting result."

The Commissioner will be answering questions from the media shortly and we will be providing updates.

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