Just one more season.
After posting polls on the B1G website, seeking input from fans, and likely lots of backroom dealing among athletic directors, ESPN reports that the Big Ten will finally realign to a simple East-West split. The old structure will remain in effect through the 2013 season, but upon the entrance of Maryland and Rutgers to the B1G in 2014, the conference will realign itself into.../gasp...something that actually makes sense and accurately describes the locations of the teams.
Possibly my favorite part from that article, courtesy of Emperor Delany:
"We weren't going to go with 'Bo or Woody,' 'Black or Blue,' or 'Plains or Lakes,'" Delany said. "Obviously we got some acceptance [with Legends and Leaders], but not as much as we would have liked."
Not as much as you would've liked? So you were looking for what, 25% approval? 30?
Either way, the divisions (map courtesy of The Mexican't over at BHGP, who tipped me off to it last night):
We've discussed this ad nauseam in the comments on various articles, and I wrote something a while back in support of this exact alignment.
Regardless of protestations to the contrary, the West does, in fact, represent quite a formidable group of teams: since 1995 (yes, hilarious, I know), West teams have taken the conference outright or shared it 12 times, while the East have 14. And 8 of those belong to Ohio State. Every team in the West, in fact, besides Minnesota has claimed at least a share of the B1G title since 1995.
The role of Michigan State and Purdue became the hotly contested issue of movement the first time through with realignment. Michigan State fans will most likely remain unhappy no matter where they are moved, but in the eyes of the B1G, the value of the budding rivalry with Wisconsin took a backseat towards a yearly matchup with Michigan.
Breaking through the Ohio State-Michigan-Penn State triumvirate will be a tall task for Sparty, not to mention our newcomers and Indiana, but in terms of geographic alignment, these three were going to remain together. The onus falls now on Michigan State or a flash-in-the-pan season from one of the Little Three in the East to break into the upper echelon for a year or more.
The West highlights a fantastic set of rivalries. Minnesota-Iowa, Wisconsin-Minnesota, Northwestern-Illinois, Nebraska-Iowa, Wisconsin-Iowa... Not to mention a yearly battle between Wisconsin and Nebraska and the growing rivalry with Iowa and Northwestern. The traditional level of dominance is certainly not as high in the West as the East, but West schools will certainly provide an exciting, weekly race for the B1G Championship Game as these teams have at least three schools in Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Northwestern who should challenge for the title this year.
Parts of this alignment contain problems for all schools. Michigan State lost the most with this realignment, and, likely, their vocal fanbase will let us hear about it in the comments. From my own eyes, I'm going to miss Northwestern's matchups with the Michigans and even Penn State (who we inevitably would have to stop choking against). Certainly this alignment will make it tougher for some Western schools to get exposure to the East market by actually playing games there regularly, though the alumni distribution to the east is almost certainly lower for schools from the West.
Overall, this alignment is a win for the Big Ten. The names aren't fodder for the mockery of the national media, the divisions are likely to provide competitive races for the B1GCG every November, and competitive balance should not be a problem with rising teams of the West and the traditional powers of the East. Blame Maryland and Rutgers for forcing this situation in the first place, if you truly want a scapegoat, but this realignment is a benefit to the conference moving forward.