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Should the Big Ten Expand to Nine Conference Games?

I've been traveling throughout the Inland Empire all day and haven't yet gotten to pour over the transcrips of each coaches' session at the 2009 Big Ten Football Media Days. Maybe it's my legal background, but I vastly prefer perusing the 4-5 page scripts over struggling through the television feed. It's faster, and more efficient, since you can weed out the sleeper questions. While you might not have the time (or the interest) in digesting all eleven installments (plus Commissioner Jim Delany's), I still highly recommend checking out your favorite coaches' interview. At the very least it's good bathroom reading material.

I'll have an abstract, and my reactions to the event up late tonight. In the meantime, I wanted to focus on a question that came up constantly throughout the afternoon. Should the Big Ten expand conference play to nine games? As The Chicago Tribune reports Commissioner Delany is "among the Big Ten fans who would rather see teams play stronger opponents than the likes of Delware State and Wofford," and is considering the prospects for a ninth conference game. Says Delany:

"...I cannot report that there is a clear majority (in favor). But there is a clear majority that has been willing to discuss it."

The Tribune is quick to weigh the pros and cons:

If the Big Ten expanded to a nine-game conference slate, a "beefier" schedule could be achieved. But, there would be a loss of revenue from playing just six home games, one Big Ten team would still play just eight league games (eleven isn't an even number); and a tougher schedule would undoubtedly make it harder for teams to reach six wins and qualify for a bowl game.

Are any of these potential deal-breakers?

My initial reaction is to say no. The loss of revenue from home intakes, and participation in bottom feeder bowls (with miniature purses) could be mitigated by a healthier national perception of the degree of difficulty of Big Ten schedules. Harder team schedules translate into higher team rankings, and an increase in seasons where two Big Ten teams appear in BCS bowls. The bonus for a double appearance? $3.5 million distributed evenly to all eleven teams.

As for the difficulty in qualifying for bowl games, Delany points out that it's not such a bad thing to stay hungry. As he put it, "...I'm starting to think that while 6-6 and going to bowl is good, in other cases it's really not a welcome development at all because when a schools has a great season, (its fans) might be bowl fatigued."

Right you are, Jim. There's nothing worse than having to sprint to your car through icy alleys in Detroit in December. It's exhausting.

That leaves us with one final loose end: what to do about the 8-game outlier?

What do you think?