Hokepoints Wants Divisions Consensus

Submitted by Seth on 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 12:34 PM ^

M, MSU, OSU, PSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and...let's say Northwestern go in one division.

Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue in the other division. 

Division names "Good" and "Bad"

Problem solved.



December 4th, 2012 at 12:45 PM ^

Weren't they 7-5? Is that "weathering" by USC standards? Did anyone think scholarship reductions was going to cause them to lose to Hawaii, Syracuse, Cal, Utah, Washington, Colorado, or ASU?

I think they could have lost 74 scholarships and still beat the Buffs.


December 4th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

Good breakdown and I agree with most of this as far as how the divisions should be structured, etc. I disagree with your conclusions about Ann Arbor being too far of a drive for Rutgers fans. I live in Manhattan and have been to 29 consecutive Michigan home games. Usually I drive - a 10-hour trip each way, which is about the amount of time a typical office drone sits in their cubicle on a weekday. It's a completely reasonable and fun weekend trip.

Frizbane Manley

December 4th, 2012 at 1:06 PM ^

I suppose there is no explanation for Rutgers and Maryland being in the former Big Ten except for the New York City and D.C. television markets ... although we'll have to wait and see how that pans out. I'm not optimistic ... and I'd love to be privy to Delaney's market research before adding those universities. I think the "Big" Ten is looking more and more like the mediocre ACC (in football).


If Delaney had a real sense of what's what, he would have pushed for this line-up ...





Michigan State


Notre Dame

Ohio State

Penn State










Oklahoma State




and assuming Notre Dame wasn't too wussy to affiliate with a real conference. That's a football conference that would be on a par with the SEC, and it would consist of some excellent universities (for the most part).


It is a real shame that Notre Dame won't be part of the eventual Big Ten ice hockey conference.


December 4th, 2012 at 1:38 PM ^

Michigan will be in the eastern division with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana.

The Big Ten will want to do this in order to ensure that three of the four major name programs have regular appearances on the East Coat.  That means games in the New York City/New Jersey area and the Washington DC/Baltimore region on a regular basis against Rutgers and Maryland.  

Not only will those games get the immediate attention of the eastern media (especially NYC), but the distribution of alums in those areas mean they'll be able to play in the larger professional stadiums in New Jersey, Baltimore and outside Washington, DC.   The BTN will also want them out there if they're looking to get on basic cable in those markets.

Michigan will want to be in that area as well because it's a better setting for its fund raising efforts.  Hosting events in NYC or DC is a bigger draw when you're entertaining people who write million dollar checks to UM than Iowa City or Champaign Urbana.

The western division will include teams that want to play one another annually (Nebraska-Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota), one traditional rivalry (Illlinois-Northwestern) and Purdue.  Set up a 6-1-2 (six games within the division, one protected interdivisional opponent, two interdivisional games) format with the Indiana-Purdue game being an annual protected inter-divisional game and the Old Oaken Bucket continues to be played betwwn those two teams.  The other protected rivalry game could be Michigan-Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug.

That leaves ten other teams to be paired up with one another.  If you go with the remaining teams going from west to east in their respective divisions, then it'd be something like this:

Nebraska - Michigan State

Iowa - Ohio State

Wisconsin - Penn State

Illinois - Rutgers

Northwestern - Maryland

There are other ways to put those ten teams permanent rivals together, but you this would be the general idea.

If it were to work out this way and the conference did agree to a nine-game conference schedule, then Michigan would play Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers on an annual basis.  The other two conference games would be against the six remaining teams over a six-year period.  Those opponents could be paired up as follows:  Nebraska/Illinois, Wisconsin/Purdue, Iowa/Northwestern.

That leaves three non-conference games on the schedule.  One home-and-home series with a major opponent coordinated in such a way to assure UM has seven home games per year.  Two other non-conference games with teams will to pay for play--programs in recent and future years like Air Force, Vanderbilt, San Diego State, BYU, Colorado, UNLV and Oregon State.

the Glove

December 4th, 2012 at 2:58 PM ^

wow that makes me feel like a bad ass now. I drive 7 hours to the majority of the home games. I usually have less of a drive when it's an away game.

I'm actually a big fan of Seth's divisions, 4 teams that would be in Michigan's division would be less than 4 hours away from me, so that's a win... damn me for moving back home to the St. Louis area!

It also does a good job of keeping the rivalries together. The Little Brown Jug is running out of room for scores anyways.

Space Monkey

December 4th, 2012 at 3:25 PM ^

One way to deal with competitive imbalances caused by protected cross-over games in an eight game schedule is to simply not count the cross-over games to determine the division winner.

I know this diminishes the point of having a conference in the first place as the cross-over games essentially become equivalent to non-conference games, but there is still  the conference championship and there would still be two games against the other division every year.



December 4th, 2012 at 4:15 PM ^

... but our priorities are not the B1G's.  Theirs are $, $$ and $$$.

I foresee that as breaking down into the following goals:

- schedule games with major TV interest

- give each school games against major powers (but not too many)

- as many home games as possible

#1 means that OSU and UofM should travel to the east coast regularly.

#2 means that OSU and UofM shouldn't be in the same division (with the benefit to #1 if they meet in the conference championship)

#3 means that we'll do the 9 conference games and 3 ooc body-bag games, dropping an ooc game for another conference game when we pick up more teams.

I suspect that we will end up with the same protected rivalries as before with something like



where we play our division and three other-division opponents each year.  Whichever of Maryland or Rutgers comes to the Big House will get OSU at home (#1) and will probably get a brutal schedule until their recruiting gets caught up (we'll probably have Wisconsin and Nebraska play them, to rotate the B1G's marquee teams through their TV markets).




December 4th, 2012 at 4:32 PM ^

We need to go to eighteen teams.  Then we can have 3 6 team divisions.  Round Robin in division (5 games) and 4 cross division games, seeing every team every three years.


Playoffs would be three division leaders and one wild card.


December 4th, 2012 at 10:46 PM ^

This is exactly the set-up I've been hoping for and a lot of things you posted here were exactly what I was thinking.  One it was great to feel like, maybe the Big Ten will listen at least a little to the fans this go around.  Two, we must get a set-up with no locked crossovers if we are sticking to 8 games (and ideally even for 9).  Losing The Little Brown Jug and Ohio State-Penn State as annual won't be great, but it's a small cost given all the other advantages. 

I was thinking about it, and while I wouldn't care for it, they could even make those every other year events.  In this set-up we get 2 non-divisional games a year.  There are 7 teams in each division, so in 4 years, you get 8 games.  You could play the 7 other teams, with 1 of them locked in for a second time.  That way, you'd have The Little Brown Jug and Ohio State/Penn State 2 out every 4 years if they wanted it (I personally don't care about Ohio State/Penn State continuing, but think the conference will).  Doing that and locking Michigan State with an eastern school (2 out of 4 years), you could end up with the following season ending games:

Ohio State/Michigan, Nebraska/Iowa, Wisconsin/Minnesota (or switch Wisconsin and Iowa if you want), Purdue/Indiana, Northwestern/Illionis.  The 3 eastern schools would take turns playing each other and Michigan State.