Hokepoints Wants Divisions Consensus Comment Count

Seth December 4th, 2012 at 6:50 AM


Members of the younger generation find this appealing.

Over the weekend BTN released an online survey (still alive) that let the fans opine on the divisions and their stupid names and how they ought to be reorganized and stuff. Online poll is online poll but I was ready to leap the second DIABEETUS posted it on the board because a.) Who Michigan plays and what is at stake for those games is important to me, and b.) There's been a growing sense since "Leaders and Legends," that sense emphatically underlined with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, that general fan-think matters diddly to Delany and co.; opportunities to put an opinion where they might see it don't come along every day.

One of the questions in the survey asked us to rate the importance of three divisional considerations: geography, parity, and keeping traditional rivals together. They're all kinda important, and if there's any silver lining to adding two broke schools from the east coast  it's that 7-team divisions are a better fit than 6-teams for an alignment that doesn't sacrifice any of those ideals.

The reason is because our conference is clustered in groups of three or four. Minnesota-Iowa-Wisconsin always had their circle of hate that has just enough room to add Nebraska. Illinois-Northwestern and Purdue-Indiana are an intermingled Chicagoland group that shouldn't be separated. Our block is the Michigan schools and Ohio State. Penn State could attach to that except it throws parity off, their awful thing be damned. Maryland and Rutgers turn the eastern part of the conference into two groups of three to match the west's groups of four:

big ten rivalries

The thick dark blue lines are the rivalries that ought to be protected within divisions and played every year. The light blue are old trophies and close non-trophy rivalries you keep if you can. The little green ones are those with the recent derived trophies or a proximity thing that isn't yet a full thing. Divisions then ought to pair one of the threesomes with one of the foursomes. Since one of the foursomes has Nebraska and Wisconsin in it and the other doesn't, the divisions ought to be obvious:

In the Weight Room Division In the Community Division
Michigan Minnesota
Michigan State Nebraska
Northwestern Wisconsin
Purdue Iowa
Indiana Rutgers
Illinois Maryland
Ohio State Penn State

Don't care about the division names just yet. Let's check this against the three considerations.

Geography: Well Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana make a nice little Great Lakes grouping. Here's a table of distances written in driving hours (HT Google). The upper left quadrant is our division; lower-right is the other one:

School Mich MSU OSU NW Pur Ill Ind Wis PSU Iowa Md Rut Min Neb
Mich x 1:02 3:08 4:01 4:24 5:07 5:14 6:04 6:16 6:44 8:15 9:21 9:44 11:04
MSU 1:02 x 4:04 3:48 4:11 4:54 5:00 5:51 7:12 6:31 9:09 10:24 9:31 10:51
OSU 3:08 4:04 x 5:51 3:46 4:37 3:42 7:55 5:26 8:13 6:31 8:12 11:35 12:28
NW 4:01 3:48 5:51 x 2:29 2:34 4:16 2:37 9:15 3:46 11:13 12:27 6:17 8:05
Pur 4:24 4:11 3:46 2:29 x 1:47 2:06 4:29 9:03 5:06 10:08 11:48 8:09 9:25
Ill 5:07 4:54 4:37 2:34 1:47 x 2:48 3:56 9:54 3:47 10:59 12:40 7:35 7:59
Ind 5:14 5:00 3:42 4:16 2:06 2:48 x 6:17 8:53 6:27 9:58 11:39 9:57 10:14
Wis 6:04 5:51 7:55 2:37 4:29 3:56 6:17 x 11:18 3:06 13:16 14:31 4:07 7:22
PSU 6:16 7:12 5:26 9:15 9:03 9:54 8:53 11:18 x 11:48 3:28 3:53 14:45 16:07
Iowa 6:44 6:31 8:13 3:46 5:06 3:47 6:27 3:06 11:48 x 13:52 15:06 4:38 4:33
Md 8:15 9:09 6:31 11:13 10:08 10:59 9:58 13:16 3:28 13:52 x 3:09 16:47 18:08
Rut 9:21 10:24 8:12 12:27 11:48 12:40 11:39 14:31 3:53 15:06 3:09 x 18:02 19:24
Minn 9:44 9:31 11:35 6:17 8:09 7:35 9:57 4:07 14:45 4:38 16:47 18:02 x 6:26
Neb 11:04 10:51 12:28 8:05 9:25 7:59 10:14 7:22 16:07 4:33 18:08 19:24 6:26 x

You'll note the other division has some very long drives. Minnesota to anywhere starts at four hours and goes to 18 (to Rutgers). Lincoln and New Brunswick are literally half the country away. How can Rutgers be in a division with Nebraska that's a 20-hour drive away? Well…


City Distance from Rutgers in driving hours
College Park, MD 3:09
State College, PA 3:53
Columbus, OH 8:12
Ann Arbor, MI 9:21
East Lansing, MI 10:24
Bloomington, IN 11:39
West Lafayette, IN 11:48
Evanston, IL 12:27
Champaign, IL 12:40
Madison, WI 14:31
Iowa City, IA 15:06
St Paul, MN 18:02
Lincoln, NE 19:24

They're all that far away. Ann Arbor is the fourth-nearest by car; I've done that drive and it is far longer than is worth it for Saturday or even just a weekend. Five hours away is really the outer limit for expecting fans to drive into town the day of the game, or even stay Friday night and drive home afterwards. Six hours from Ann Arbor is Wisconsin; you may do that once in your lifetime. For a Rutgers fan anything past Pennsylvania is a flight, at which point it hardly matters if your destination is Detroit Metro or MSP International. The two debtors and Penn State go together; after that it doesn't matter who they're in a division with. Penn State gets mildly screwed however the Michigan schools are still six-and-a-half or seven hours away and Chicago is eight or nine; fly to Lincoln and you'll get there faster and spend less than you would have on gas.

Competitive Balance: This is such a moving target this is far harder to do than it would seem. A week ago you might have said Nebraska belongs with Michigan and Ohio State but Wisconsin isn't on that level. Having seen USC weather huge scholarship losses I don't think Penn State is guaranteed to be awful for the duration of this alignment (which will be two weeks) unless they come out hiring Tommy Amaker. Here's these schools in the BCS era (SRS = Simple Rating System by Sports Reference and measures how much better than an average FBS team you were based on margin of victory, win totals and SOS):

Tastes Great Division:

School Cumulative SRS Wins Losses % BCS appearances
Ohio State 214.83 149 40 79% 9
Michigan 157.52 127 60 68% 5
Michigan State 87.81 104 81 56% 0
Purdue 70.56 100 86 54% 1
Illinois 2.31 72 107 40% 1
Northwestern 0.34 89 94 49% 0
Indiana -66.12 57 118 33% 0
TOTAL 467.25 698 586 54% 16

Less Filling Division:

School Cumulative SRS Wins Losses % BCS appearances
Nebraska 162.18 134 60 69% 2
Wisconsin 146.67 137 56 71% 5
Penn State 142.70 120 66 65% 2
Iowa 86.77 103 82 56% 1
Maryland 35.55 94 88 52% 1
Minnesota 26.4 87 96 48% 0
Rutgers -33.28 86 94 48% 0
TOTAL 566.99 761 542 58% 11

Slanted to the other guys. Our side edges out in BCS appearances thanks to being heavy at the top but their total SRS is higher because they've got three teams in that top tier to our two. I figure if you take the deltas it's pretty even; I expect Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern will outperform the last 15 years, while most of the other division is trending down.

pg2_ap_land_grant1_400Protects Traditional Rivalries. The rivalries have all been saved. The Floyd of Rosedale? Check. The Not the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Anymore Trophy? Check. The Purdue Cannon. The Illibuck. The Oaken Bucket. The Heartland Big Brass Bull Trophy. The Old Brass Spittoon. The Heroes of Corn. Paul Bunyan. Paul Bunyan's Axe. Paul Bunyan's Giant Slab of Bacon. Paul Bunyan's bunion. We even saved the contrived trophy they made for Penn State and Minnesota under the 11-team system. Illinois plays their rivals Indiana every year. Illinois plays their biggest rivals Michigan every year. Michigan and Ohio State meet every year on the last game of the season, probably with Indianapolis on the line.

The only trophies broken up are the Little Brown Jug and the Land Grant, which is a horrible thing the participants do not wish to be associated with anyway. We can safely bury the latter, as to the former the question comes to protected cross-division rivals.

Protected rivalries? As long as the Big Ten stays at eight conference games there shouldn't be protected cross-divisional rivalries. After six division games there's room for just two on the other side so it's a matter of seeing non-protected opponents twice every seven years (about three times per decade) or once every six. That sees Michigan playing six of our "conference rivals" just 16.7 percent of years. Worse, because those series will have to be home-and-homes you're looking at 11-year intervals between meetings; at least that absence can be broken up if there's two rotational schools.

I think if the conference goes to nine or 10 games the last ought to be the protected rivalry. Nine is more likely and keeping the Brown Jug an annual thing is the difference between seeing (for example) Penn State 43 percent of years or 33 percent of years—a casual acquaintance either way. Ten games is unrealistic (never should have let our AD taste eight home games) but that's the minimum to make the other division feel anything like conference mates.



December 4th, 2012 at 12:20 PM ^

 I like it also. Most here favor having OSU & UM in the same division. I have always wondered if the other side feels equally fervent. Anyone have a true feeling how Buckeye fans or university in general feel about it? I have tried searching a couple of OSU fan sites but don’t get a clear picture. What I find runs the gamut between ability to meet up in the championship game and the effect a re-do of the game will have on long-term rivalry.

Do the Buckeyes want US in same division or is it one-sided? Anyone know?


December 4th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

I've never heard an OSU fan talk about it.

I think a lot of what drives Michigan fans to talk about this is the "Our schedule is harder than the rest of the division" argument.  OSU fans don't really care.  Their division sucks and they're not concerned that Wisconsin and/or Penn State don't play Michigan.

This may or may not change the first time there are back to back OSU-Michigan games.



December 4th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

It's not only that they don't play Michigan/OSU, but who they play. As you say the division sucks, and that works to OSU's advantage too. Where we play each other, Nebraska plays down to PSU, while Penn State faces an annual tough game vs. the Cornhuskers. Wisconsin next in line certainly gets a break with Minnesota, but all of the also rans who might jump up in MSU, Northwestern and Iowa have easier cross division games. In OSU's division, those teams all probably have losses.

I wouldn't complain either.

It will probably come down to the first time one of the two beats the other, then has to play them again in a week, and loses, that it becomes a big problem that people that matter complain about.


December 4th, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

 All I ever get is an abject hatred for UM in all things - which I just don’t get. I have been born and raised a Wolverine fan, and alum, my HS coach moved on to there, as did relatives. "OH How I Hate" is something I’ve espoused, but I also respect their teams and I don’t ALWAYS want OSU to lose at EVERYHING. Actually, I want them to win except once a year, and especially during bowls. I want all the B1G to do well. As a strong OSU/B1G is good for us.


December 5th, 2012 at 10:27 PM ^

Living in southwest Ohio I had a chance to ask many buckeye fans. Every single one, without fail and with a smirk, told me it doesn't matter to them because they will beat Michigan whatever division they are in. I cannot tell you how upset I was after the game because I have had to endure lots of comments about my fandom. I hope the tide is starting to turn.


December 4th, 2012 at 10:06 AM ^

... I'd be shocked of they were Kansas and Virginia Tech. Likewise, I'd be shocked if they weren't Georgia Tech and either UVA or UNC. I fully expect this to happen at some point. My question is: does it stop at 16 or do we add the other of UVA / UNC and (gulp) Duke? And what does that mean for Notre Dame? A Big Ten with two ten team divisions is possible but I don't see a 20th team out there that Big Ten presidents would tolerate except maybe Pitt (once you take Duke and ND,what's another private school?)


December 4th, 2012 at 12:13 PM ^

 If you do go 20 (after ND?), only other teams that make the Presidents happy would be Kansas or one of UNC/Duke (AAU members). UNC/Duke may be forced to re-eval how badly they want to stay together. Current trend on conference growth is all about “new markets”. They don’t base it on competition or rivalries, and won’t add two schools from the same state (Although UNC/Duke may just be the one time a conference does.)

 Personally, I think ND is not an option. They will stay by themselves as long as they can find a “conference” they can put together to give them some games during the meat of the football season and house their other sports. (I foresee a conglomeration of Big East & ACC leftovers.)


December 4th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

Duke and UNC aren't redundant from a "new markets" perspective. 

The majority of North Carolinians are UNC (or NC State) fans and hate Duke.  

Duke's fans and alums are spread out all over, mainly on the East Coast for alums, everywhere for fans. UNC also has a lot of fans outside the state of NC.

So the Big Ten would actually be getting a lot of bang for their buck with Duke and UNC as far as the market perspective and the two wouldn't be redundant at all even though they're 8 miles apart. 

The con, of course is that neither school is good at football.

The pros are basketball (obvs. Adding Duke and UNC would make the Big Ten the best basketball conference by far.), other sports like lacrosse, and academics.  


December 4th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

  I see UNC/Duke as the perfect foil to ND forming the bedrock for a conference or sustain a new “ACC”. ND would dominate in football with occasional success from UNC maybe Miami(FL). Duke/UNC dominate a strong basketball conference during the winter. The ACC is headed and pretty strongly supported by UNC so it will take almost a complete collapse to have them depart (and they still would probably be the ones that “turn out the lights” if it does close shop.) They will keep the leftovers from ACC (NCState/VaTech to SEC, FSU/Clemson to Big12) and from the Big East merging a conference of ND, UNC, Duke, Wake, BC, Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville, Miami(FL),UConn, Cinci, Houston, Navy, Memphis. (The last 5 are variable and I doesn’t account for new Big East like USF, Boise, SDState, SMU, Temple, etc.)


December 4th, 2012 at 10:55 AM ^

That actually makes for a pretty simple East & West:


West East
Nebraska Michigan
Wisconsin Ohio State
Iowa Penn State
Northwestern Michigan State
Purdue Rutgers
Indiana Maryland
Illinois New
Minnesota New

Added benefit: still conflicts with our fight song (Champions of the West).

Competitive Balance:


Ohio State's track record over the last 10 years is not "symmetrical" with anyone in the conference, but Nebraska & Wisconsin is (IMO) the best "offset" to Michigan & OSU.  (One could argue Penn State, I guess).


Iowa & NW, PSU & MSU: You can't definitively say this slants one way or the other consistently.  PSU & MSU may not like being in the same division as OSU & Michigan, but tough luck.


Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois & Rutgers, Maryland, and 2 "Others' (GT, UVA, UNC, etc.)

I don't think anyone would cry tears for having one of these groups over the other.

Final Note: Looking at the SEC, the competitive balance can dramatically shift in a hurry depending on how high Florida/Georgia are vs Alabama/LSU, with Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Texas A&M making cameo appearances to argue "depth".


December 4th, 2012 at 10:53 PM ^

But in that set-up you only get exactly 1 crossover with 8 games and 2 with 9 games. In both cases, our schedules would look like an east coast school and not like a Big Ten schedule with a lot of teams we've been playing for 100 years.

I Like Burgers

December 4th, 2012 at 7:36 AM ^

Tough to argue against anything here.  Which means there's probably zero chance the Big Ten lines 'em up this way.  Stupid Delany.

Maybe we call the divisions the Car Division and the Airplane Division.


December 4th, 2012 at 7:47 AM ^

First, you don't want to introduce competitive imbalance. That's one of the problems with the current alignment: Michigan has Ohio State every year (in addition to its divsion schedule); Michigan State has Indiana.

Second, most of the potential cross-division rivalries lack serious pedigree, except for Michigan-Minnesota. All the others would be just arbitrary annual games, which would diminish the frequency of playing everyone else in the opposite division.

Third, I think the Big Ten will want to maximize its blue-chip games, which are the ones in which Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Penn State play each other. Without protected rivalries, those teams can meet in the regular season more often.

Furthermore, everyone in the conference wants to face Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Penn State, as often as they can. Those are the games that get on basic cable and sell out stadiums. With nine conference games and no protected rivalries, every team will face almost every other team over a four-year period.


December 4th, 2012 at 7:50 AM ^

The two new teams, these are the exact divisional I scribbled up on my notepad at work. I was gonna go thru the distances, but haven't had time. You're alright, Seth! Anyone who disagrees with these divisions is wrong.

Sons of Louis Elbel

December 4th, 2012 at 7:55 AM ^

Much as I'd like us to see us play for the Jug as often as possible, protected crossovers are a bad idea b/c of their effect on competitive balance. Right now, it's a huge advantage for Sparty that they get IU every year while we get tOSU. Imagine in your proposed set-up if we get Minny every year compared to whoever gets Nebraska or Wisconsin. Great for us, not so much for that other team.


December 4th, 2012 at 8:07 AM ^

Yes, Woody and Bo would turn over in their graves but we should be sick of the constant mediocracy this conference now stands for.  With the money the BTN gives our member schools, how does Purdue get out spent for a coach by, cough, COLORADO!?!?!?   

Michigan and tOSU should get together and make some phone calls.  Call Texas, Oklahoma, FSU, ND, USC, Clemson, Stanford and Oregon for starters and create a true power national conference and leave the baggage and crap that has become B1G football behind.

I know it would never happen but it's worth a discussion.  


December 4th, 2012 at 8:29 AM ^

Because my recollection of the Bo/Woody years was that the conference was generally referred to as The Big 2 and The Little 8. How 8/10 of your conference being mediocre and both of the great coaches/schools in the conference having pretty horrible bowl records makes you think that the Big Ten was some epic conglomeration of greatness is just a little beyond me.


December 4th, 2012 at 8:40 AM ^

Yes, the conference has always been the Big 2 but it's time to move on.  Anything less than perfection will have the B1G winner settling for the Rose Bowl on an annual basis.  I'd like to see us compete for national champtionships.


December 4th, 2012 at 11:10 AM ^

Even the SEC has tomato cans.  As long as the "national championship" playoff is still a beauty contest, and every major conference isn't guaranteed to have its champion in, any conference has to have a balance between really good teams and "enhancement talent" that can affirm their greatness in the eyes of the polls and computers.

I like Seth's divisions, but I also like the E/W scenario presented if the Big Ten gets teams number 15 and 16.  "Super-conferences" are the future, and the Big Ten is positioned to be one of the four.  Michigan and Ohio are fine right where they are.



December 4th, 2012 at 11:36 AM ^

Let's find a middle ground here.

When the only other FBS conference expanded over 12 members (the WAC in 1997), it only lasted a couple of years before it fell apart.  I'm convinced that conferences, like carbon atoms, can't have a nucleus bigger than 12 before they start to decay.

Once the Big Ten expands to 16, it will occur to one of the big time programs (Michigan, Ohio State, or maybe even Nebraska) that splitting the conference into 2 separate conferences would only benefit the top programs.  That's how the Mountain West conference formed back in 1999--it split off the 8 stronger programs from the 16-team WAC.  The 8 schools with the most resources can band together, negotiate a TV contract that is much more beneficial than the current one that they have to split 14 or 16 ways, and those 8 schools end up stronger than they were when they started off.



December 4th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Given that the B1G is tied by academics too, I have a hard time seeing the Big Ten ever splitting. There's a reason there's no exit fee in the Big Ten.

I could maybe see them keeping their academic ties but maybe splitting the conference but I have to imagine a lot of the presidents of the original 10 or 11 would be opposed to parting with their other original 10/11 buddies


December 4th, 2012 at 12:33 PM ^

I love the isotope analogy... but in the name of SCIENCE, I'm afraid it doesn't actually quite work. Carbon-13 is perfectly stable, and in fact around 1% of the carbon in your body is 13C. Radioactivity kicks in at 14 (carbon-14 is the isotope used in 'carbon dating'). Sorry to be a dick, but Leaders and Best and all that. /MGoNitpick

Pulled P

December 4th, 2012 at 8:47 AM ^

the idea of splitting one division far east and far west. 

And if we're following the money, the whole idea of expansion started from getting Michigan and OSU to play on the east coast. Instead, according to your plan, Minnesota and Iowa get that privilege.

Here's my two divisions, um cents:

East Division - Michigan, OSU, PSU, Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue, Indiana.

West Division - Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, MSU.

The pickle with this alignment is obviously MSU. But I'm curious to see how they'd do on their own. And if we do away with the protected cross-divisions, then it's not like we'd never see them again. I say it's about time little brother moves out.


December 4th, 2012 at 9:06 AM ^

The answer to that question likely depends on whether the respondant either: is a UM/MSU alum or grew up in Michigan. If either of those conditions is true, that person is going to be adamant that UM must play MSU every season. If neither is true, that person probably doesn't really care all that much.

I fall into the second category: grew up in Ohio and didn't go to either of the "big" Michigan schools. I honestly didn't even realize that UM-MSU was a "thing" until a few years ago. MSU was just another team that UM beat regularly.


December 4th, 2012 at 10:03 AM ^

I grew up in Michigan and graduated from U of M and I honestly don't care if we play MSU every season.  Before 2007, this rivalry was only a "thing" for the Spartans because as you pointed out, for Michigan fans, MSU was another team that we beat regularly.  I realize that Hoke has elevated the importance of this game with the clock and such, but had MSU not been on a generationally epic winning streak at the time of his hire, I doubt he would've given it the emphasis he did.

Also, as a person who finds Spartan fans boorish and annoying, I know the best way to hurt them is to treat them as irrelevant.  Nothing does that better than throwing them in another division and playing them non-annually, so seeing their outrage would be pretty cool as well.

Avant's Hands

December 4th, 2012 at 3:27 PM ^

I also grew up in Michigan and went to UM and not only do I not care if we stopped playing MSU every year, but I really wouldn't care if we only played them twice every ten years or whatever it is. Their fans are almost as annoying as Domers except they haven't accomplished nearly as much. I've just never really cared about the rivalry and still don't. Iowa beats us more than most teams, I would rather hate them.

Also, I love those divisions. That has also been my idea.

Pulled P

December 4th, 2012 at 9:22 AM ^

I am a UM grad but I didn't grow up in Michigan. I'm rather OK with not playing MSU every year, but that doesn't mean I can't understand your point.

It'd hurt the competitive balance but I guess we could put MSU in the East division and switch one of Indiana and Purdue back to West. Or continue with the dreaded 'protected rivalries'. Problem is if the B1G adds two more east schools in the future then somebody will have to move West anyway.



December 4th, 2012 at 8:28 AM ^

I like these divisions.  My fear, though, is that the powers that be will keep Michigan and OSU in separate divisions, and OSU will have Rutgers and Maryland in their division, giving OSU a recruiting advantage in those areas.


December 4th, 2012 at 8:39 AM ^

I don't understand why driving distance is a factor. How many B1G schools bus to games (excepting the really short trips). The fans? Well, college kids will do silly things like drive 8 hours to be somewhere for 4 and then turn around and drive 8 hours home. Us grown ups will either take time off work to extend the weekend or fly places.

So if the divisions don't make perfect geographic sense, that's ok with me. I'm more concerned with balance. I'm also of the opinion that when the B1G gets to 16 teams, there's automatically the 7 division games. Make 2-3 games in conference (leaving 2-3 true OOC games).

Let's says it's three. UM can be in a different division than MSU and still schedule the rivalry game every year, leaving two more B1G games that UM can rotate but also not worry about getting opponent in the other division. No one's going to cry if we don't play Indiana as often as mathematically possible.

Also, the B1G isn't going to give a monkey's fuck whether away games are a convenient drive for fans. That's why it built the B1G Network.


December 4th, 2012 at 8:58 AM ^

How many BIG teams bus??? MOST!

Not football or basketball but every other sport in the conference buses pretty much everywhere. We always bussed 13 hours each way to Penn State from NU for baseball and 8 hours each way to Minnesota. The rest of them were all between 4-6 hours each way. In fact, I was laughing with some other minor sport alums last week about the 30+ hour round trips all these teams from NU will have to make to MD and Rutgers. Girls softball will spend as much time in the bus as playing. Awesome for getting problem sets done for the 360,000 of us going pro in something else.


December 4th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

How much longer does it take to fly from Nebraska to Rutgers than Ohio State to Illinois? Hours away from school, more jetlag, wear and tear.  And how much more does it cost to fly that many people that far? The Big Ten isn't supplementing teams that have longer road trips with extra cash. So you are operating at a financial disadvantage too.