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.