In our amazing future, there will be sixteen teams in the conference. There will be no West and East divisions for football. Instead, there will be four divisions: Leaders, Legends, Ladles, and Leftovers. Each division will have three teams in it, for a total of twelve teams in divisions. The other four teams will be division-less and not allowed to play in the championship game, due to NCAA sanctions. The championship game will be six periods long, with each division winner playing each other division winner once. The winner of the game will be the team that scores the most points during the game. The winner will then proceed to play the champion of the PAC-22 presented by Microsoft. The format of the Rose Bowl will have changed; it is no longer a football game, but a contest to see who can throw a rose into a bowl from the farthest distance.
Banish the shitty trophies, like the Land Grant, the Heroes, and the Heartland trophy. We need more organic fan-generated trophies like the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy.
The Future of the Big Ten Conference - Realign the Divisions
It's all about the money, so there will be a realignment of the divisions. Historically, the B1G is one of the most stable conferences. From 1914 to 2010, the conference only changed members three times. In 1946, the University of Chicago left. In 1949, Michigan State joined. And then in 1990, Penn State joined.
And then all hell broke loose...
In 2011, we added Nebraska. Then in 2014 newcomers Rutgers and Maryland joined. In three years we saw more change to the Big Ten than we had in the prior 96 years. That's called upheaval folks.
In 2012, we came face to face with "divisions" in the Big Ten. That was a huge deal because the original teams had trophy games that were "sacred" to the schools involved. Those divisions had to accommodate the rivalry games no matter what the cost.
The first iteration of divisions were the ill-named Leaders and Legends. The Legends group included Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern. The Leaders group included Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
After the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, the powers-that-be shuffled and renamed the divisions into the configuration we have today. The East Division includes Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers. The West Division includes Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
The only big change from the old leaders and legends were the swap of the two Michigan schools for Purdue and Wisconsin. The East Division is basically Leaders with Sparty and the Wolverines.
I don't believe these divisions work well as they stand, but the problem of "protected" games remains. Nobody wants their trophy games to happen every third or fourth year, so we get these stupid divisions as a result.
The best solution, in my opinion, is a random shuffling every five years or so. That gives teams five years of certainty, followed by a radical change in the teams you face. It won't be popular and it won't be the best idea for the dollar bills, but it would be fun and exciting to watch.
Candystripes for Breakfast
Unless something major causes an overall revenue drop across the board in college athletics (like cable finally unbundling or some such), expect the Big T1e4n to eventually become the B16. Who the conference will take on depends entirely on what portions of our profile we're seeking to shore up. If it's something like "expand the profile again", teams like Missouri, Kentucky, Louisville, Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina are possibilities. If it's "we need some more schools to win us more championships", some of the same schools plus UConn and Kansas might get a call. And if by some odd chance the criteria is "schools that are already in the Footprint, but not yet B1G members", then and only then should you expect to see Cincy and Notre Dame get an invite.
Absolutely hate it. This is what happens when you decide to put most, but not all, of your best teams into the same division, and then toss in a few other schools to round it out. Sure, people at the power schools complain that "We don't see [Talented semi-rival who plays in the West] every year, and that's just unfair", which while true ignores a much larger problem with how the East is structured. Ohio State isn't worried about who it shares a division with, because they've been good to great at football for long enough that even in their worst years they'll be competitive. Michigan State and Michigan are generally in that same area, if occasionally a bit more down at times. Penn State has been in a bit of flux since the end of the Paterno era, but tends to more often than not be a competitive bowl-making squad. So right there, any school playing in the East who I haven't named is looking at somewhere between 2-4 scheduled losses unless something crazy happens. That doesn't even factor in that there are two other teams in the East that they play every year, and now three matches against schools in the West who range between very good (the Iowas and Wisconsins of the world, at present) and Purdue/down year Illinois, often with no rhyme or reason to their quality.
For many years, Indiana has been a bottom-feeder when it comes to Big Ten football. And for years, the conference has basically said "Git gud, scrubs" and then given us a schedule that tops out around 5 wins under the best of circumstances. That was when we got to play 4 non-conference foes a year. Now, with a 9 game conference schedule coming in, Indiana has to find a way to beat all of Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue, and either Penn State or one of our other West crossovers to guarantee a bowl berth, assuming that we only drop 1 or fewer non-con games yearly. We're not even talking about what it would take for Indiana to somehow win the East division (the answer is that OSU, MSU, UM, and PSU would all have to suspend their football programs for a year, and every other Big Ten squad would have to play in Bloomington, but only after taking a train to the game the day before or the day of), this is just what has to happen for Indiana to keep making trips to the Pinstripe Bowl, or the Alamo Bowl (I think that still exists), or whatever they're calling the bowl in Detroit this year. And while IU football is presently on a positive trend, it doesn't take too many years of coming up short in a row for that momentum to disappear.
TL;DR: The division alignment sucks unless you're already a football power school, and that's just bullshit.
Just stop now. 14 teams is enough.
I like the "Everyone hates Iowa" and "It sucks to be playing Rutgers and Maryland" divisions we currently have. If I would change anything I'd trade Purdue for MSU. I like visiting Spartan fans in Evanston.
Same as it ever was, but with a few big differences. The B1G is set to become the one-ton hamster of college conferences, and Jim Delany is both the one to thank and the one to blame. I expect that the future B1G almost certainly includes expansion, since the Midwestern identity of the conference has been steadily eroding since the subpar ice cream churners out east began diluting the brand. Now our cone of Sour Cherry Sanction comes with spray tanner fingerprints and a can of dust from the McCormick factory floor.
It won't end there. Even as I type this, Delany is bargain shopping. Like a vulture in the parking lot of a dying Circuit City, he's eyeing the Big XII's pile of plasma TVs with a gleam in his eye. He's counting all the Schrutebucks and Stanley nickels that Rutgers deal has brought to B1G HQ. Oklahoma might be on sale sooner than people think.
The future of the Big Ten? While watching a Yankees game the other day, I noticed a Rutgers advertisement that referred to the school as "New York's B1G Team." Since we already have Chicago's B1G Team (which one is that again?), I'm thinking the conference is looking to get a piece of every major city in the country.
It will start out innocently enough with Boston's B1G Team and Atlanta's B1G Team, but then things will get really crazy with Dallas's B1G Team and Los Angeles's B1G Team. This can only end with the league losing its Midwestern identity and becoming a nation-wide entity, much like the NFC or the AFC in professional football. That might be good for making money, but it's not good for fans, rivalries, and trophies that actually mean something. But since when has the Big Ten put fans and tradition over money? That's why I'm afraid this is going to get ugly.
Rivalries and Emerging Traditions:
Besides punters, rivalries and the traditions swirling around college football--the weird chants, the marching bands, the outlandish trophies--are what make it great. In both the Big Ten and the SEC, there's such a delightfully regional bent to that: you hate, hate, hate the school "up north" or "down south" or "little brother," but if your conference or its identity is challenged, you step up to defend "the Midwest" or "the South." (Note: that doesn't mean you ever cheer for them, though. I hope Illinois goes 0-12 in perpetuity and Wisconsin burns to the ground.) Looking ahead to where the Big Ten is going in the way of rivalries, I couldn't be more excited.
Lovie Smith has committed the cardinal sin of going "full Beckman" and calling Northwestern "the school up north." Maryland and Rutgers both bring a massive inferiority complex and record but two young, energetic coaches to the #trivalry (miss you, Ray) at a time when Penn State is seemingly vulnerable (because James Franklin is not a very good coach). Hell, Minnesota and Nebraska have apparently embraced their positions in the Quadrangle of Hate and adopted a rivalry trophy that has the best back story of trophies created in the modern era (unless you're partial to the Civil Conflict). Even the traditional rivalries of the Rust Belt have benefited from Jim Harbaugh's certifiably-insane brand of boosterism--only a good thing for the conference's hate to get ramped back up to 11, in case it ever slipped to 10. I'm not saying we'll see Maryland-Penn State suddenly invent a rivalry trophy or the Land of Lincoln Game get national attention (mostly because Illinois will be busy going 0-12, I hope), but that's OK--we're a national conference with regional roots. Looking forward, that intra-regional hate is only poised to get stronger.
The #B1G question is the next TV deal. If NBC is brought into the fold, look for notre dame to become a full member across all sports. That means we either kick out Buttgers or we steal another team. BC would be great for hockey but probably not much else and I can't think of any other hockey schools that would fit with the B1G as a full time member. UCONN is good in basketball and okay at football but doesn't really move the needle. I think it's more likely that a current B1G school adds a team and we snatch up someone from the ACC to work our way into better recruiting areas. No clue on who that school would be.
From a #B1GHockey standpoint, I would love for BC to be the other team. The B1G would then have 5 of the top 8 programs of all time and 8 total teams. Penn State is on the rise and Notre Dame is always solid. OSU should contend for a spot in the NCAAs next year and the only thing holding them back is administrative support. If Hockey is important to the B1G (it is not), that is the move to make. I would hate to see ASU in the conference as we don't simply need more teams, we need more good teams. It would be nice if a current school would start a program (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Maryland, Rutgers, anyone?) to get us to 8, but that would likely mean no Notre Dame as a full time member.
I'm fine with Geographic splits for divisions because I get to see the Gophs play all the games I care about and it's easier. If/when this grows to 16, I want to see 4 4-team pods where you rotate your pod partner on a 2 year basis. This helps preserve the big rivalries, but also lets you rotate through the other teams. You have 3 games against your pod, 4 against partner pod, and one game from each of the other two pods. Unfortunately, this means you may not play a home and home with every team over 4 years but at least you get to see them all and the ones you care about regularly.
The Gophers see their main rivals every year which is awesome. I don't really see any new addition becoming a rival in football or basketball. Hockey is a different story. BC would be a rival right off the bat. Wisconsin needs to get their shit together so that rivalry has more heat. Maybe a rivalry with Michigan will start to grow after the Wolverines ended the Gophers season. There is one team that would be an instant rival for at least two of the teams in the conference but the B1G ten already has one team with a portion of its fanbase that wants to readopt a culturally insensitive mascot. We don't need a team where the entire fan base can't see what is wrong with their former mascot/logo and whose arena has thousands of that logo permanently built in. Plus the benefactor of that program was a Nazi fetishist who threw Nazi themed parties with all of his authentic Nazi memorabilia.