You might remember our hypothetical discussion about the addition of a 12th team to the Big 10 back in October. The contenders who emerged from the rampant discussion were Notre Dame, Pitt, Rutgers, and Cincinnati. Although each of these schools were ruled out by everyone for different reasons, it still is a sexy idea to think of the Big 10 split into two football division and adding a conference title game. So why not take a look at what this sexy proposition would look like. It's the off-season, it's not like hot football news is absolutely jumping off the presses.
So in our hypo world, the Big 10 adds...The University of Pittsburgh. MGoBlog and BSD said Pitt was the second most likely team to join while Hawkeye State (now BHGP) said the fourth most likely. The Panthers feature a solid football tradition, replete with the classic PITT helmet and the solid roots of a steel mining Midwestern city. Not only is Pitt AAU accredited, but the Panthers football program would raise its national profile exponentially with this move and earn some added cash from the Big 10 TV rights. Remember the constant discussion of how the Big 10 can't mine top high school talent? Pittsburgh's high school football talent is top 5 in America - all of a sudden those recruits will have a reason to focus on the Big 10. Of course Notre Dame is a better fit, but with their huge win in the Hawaii Bowl, I hear NBC has offered them a $100 million, 12 year contract extension after 2015. I'm kidding of course, but you get the point - ND will follow its own path and probably continue being the altar boy assisting Father NBC.
What Will the Divisions Look Like?
Big 10 East: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Pitt, Michigan State
Big 10 West: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois
Oh that looks uneven...Let's try something else...
Big 10 Interior: Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern, MSU
Big 10 Exterior: Minnesota, Penn State, Pitt, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois
As the SEC and Big 12 have shown since they split down the middle, this kind of set up can succeed spectacularly. One of the weaknesses of the Big 12 was the inability to allow rivals to meet every year because of divisional set up (hence no yearly Nebraska-Oklahoma game). A rule could easily be instituted in this new Big 10 set up allowing rivalries to maintain their yearly matchup. With this bottom/top dichotomy, trophy games can still exist and a balance of power can be maintained:
- UM-OSU can still play in the last game of the regular season. Since a Big 10 Championship game would pit Interior v Exterior, I can imagine Buckeyes and Wolverines bleating loudly against their rivalry not being played on the last day of the Big 10 schedule. Maybe increased millions from a Big 10 Championship game appearance will snuff out that complaining? More money, more problems as my boy B.I.G. says. (ed note: The B.I.G. movie was pretty good, the actor/rapper who plays Biggie is unbelievable, go see it if you like gangsta documentaries)
- Minnesota can maintain all their trophy games. Playing Wisconsin and Michigan every year through the aforementioned rule can happen and the games against Penn State and Iowa will be a part of the normal divisional schedule.
- Traditional powers can be split up nicely. Maybe the Interior Division looks dominant, but Pitt/Iowa/Minnesota are on-the-rise programs, while Purdue and Wisconsin seem to be on the downswing from the success experienced during the last 10 years.
Arguments against this entire issue/set up are numerous, but there are so many positives. Not only do we get a much anticipated Championship game and become more current, but every school increases its chance to bring in more money. So you don't give a damn about Pitt? You don't think this will ever happen? Who cares? It's the offseason and the 1-6 Bowl record was a nice bellwether of how the Midwest's football programs are progressing. I will take any moves that improve the overall competition, put the spotlight on the conference, and increase the flow of money to these schools.