The Big Ten's Second Chance

jimtressel by avinashkunnath, on Flickr With this week’s addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten, the conference and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney finally have an excuse to fix some of the madness that was created when the conference went to two divisions in 2010.

Many, not me, hate the names of the divisions, so here is something that can easily be fixed by my first suggestion: Change the names of the divisions to “East” and “West.” Novel concept, huh? The only way I can remember which teams are in one division is by repeating to myself “M’s, N’s, & Iowa in one, and everyone else in the other.” How asinine is that? Yeah, hardly anyone remembers that, and when I tell them that is an easy way to remember, they forget in five minutes.

So, if the conference is going to do geographically separate divisions, here is a suggested breakdown of each:

East

  • Rutgers
  • Maryland
  • Penn State
  • Ohio State
  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Indiana

West

  • Purdue
  • Northwestern
  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska

What this configuration is does is, 1. Makes sense, 2. Maintains most of the traditional rivalries before the 2010 realignment. Yes, the biggest loser in this configuration is Indiana in football and basketball, but there is an easy fix for the schedule makers. 3. It prevents football teams from having the potential of playing their rival in the final week of the season and then playing them the next week in the Big Ten Championship Game.

There is another solution, one that alumni and fans in many school would not appreciate: move the rivalries to another date. As unpopular is this will be, especially to those in Ohio, Michigan, and Bristol, CT rivalries can easily be moved from the last week of the season until earlier in the season.

Yes, it is against tradition, but consider a scenario where Michigan and Ohio State play each other the last week of the season and both are locked into the championship game the following week. No offense to fans of either team, but at that point, the game which you refer to as “The Game” is meaningless. It is a scenario that Jim Delaney should do their best to avoid.

Use this year’s schedule as an example, the best place to slot Ohio State & Michigan, and the other conference rival games, in an alternate date would be October 27th. The date is close enough to end of the season to have a significant impact on both teams, and traditionally the weather is similar to what Saturday’s will be in Ann Arbor and Columbus.

After adjusting the schedule, Jim Delany has two more changes he should implement for the Big Ten: 1. it should rotate its two largest conference championship tournaments and games to cities other than Indianapolis. I love the Circle City, and yes it is central to most of the schools in the conference, but those games could easily rotate to Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Pittsburgh, etc. and still maintain its attendance. An important note: Big Ten fans enjoy outdoor football, so give it to them for their championship game.

Lastly, and one that Delany has no direct control is over is, gently suggesting to Big Ten athletic directors that their football teams schedule better non-conference football teams. In particular, he should have this conversation with Ohio State & Michigan. Yes, Michigan faced Alabama and Notre Dame this year, but next year faces it Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Akron, and UConn. Central and Akron are not in BCS conferences, it will not face ND after 2014, and UConn will not be in a BCS conference in 2014. Ohio State this year faced Miami, Central Florida, California, and Alabama-Birmingham. The same logic applies to the Buckeyes.

Sure, some of this year’s games were difficult for both teams, but honestly none of them would have helped either team if they were a threat for the National Championship. One could argue Ohio State would have a chance at the National Championship this year if it were eligible, but based on how terrible the conference is and its less than stellar non-conference schedule, it is hard to award them with anything but the Fiesta or Rose Bowls. Michigan’s record speaks for itself.

This is the perfect time to adjust many of the idiosyncrasies of the Big Ten, many of which are easy to adjust. Have a suggestion on something else the conference can adjust? Tell me about it in the comments. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");