The One Thing Of Importance From Big Ten Media Days

Submitted by Brian on August 3rd, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Most of it is platitudes and evasion, and what we did learn was mostly that decisions will be made in the future (there is a 30-45 day window in which divisional alignments will be determined) and that foregone conclusions are happening (Big Ten championship game).

This is new and was not assured and has been something I've been annoyingly pushing for most of the blog's existence, mathematically impossibilities in an eleven-team league be damned:

Q. Jim, in order to preserve some of those rivalries and create appealing match-ups for television, do you anticipate going to a nine-game football schedule in the future?

COMMISSIONER DELANY: I do. I think that would be really helpful to us. I think there's a consensus among our athletic directors to do that. How quickly we can do that, we can't do that in the next year or two. I'm hopeful we can make progress in years three and four. Hopefully it's not more than that. But it could be depending upon contractual commitments. It would have to be modified.

But I think it would be really good. I think to play each other more is what our fans want, and I think that's what the athletes want. And to be honest with you, the nonconference schedules that we've seen develop as we've added a 12th member have not been good for I don't think the fan base nor have they necessarily been embraced like they might be embraced by the players. I think players want to compete. And I think fans like to see good competition.

So I understand why things happen that way, and I think a ninth game at this juncture would serve everybody's interests.

If Delany is willing to be that blunt about the average quality of the 12th game and the "consensus" amongst athletic directors a ninth conference game is less a possibility and more a thing that is definitively, if only eventually, happening. Because teams have full schedules for the next few years the date this would go into effect is probably 2013.

Coaches seem opposed to the move—Jim Tressel dropped a line about how he "worries about meeting payroll"* that will be someone's signature on MLive for the next 50 years—but screw those guys. I've written a lot about rising payouts for body bag games and an increasing desperation for television inventory combining to ease out this era of dire nonconference scheduling, but that was more in hope than expectation. Delany saying "this is happening as soon as possible" is a major win for everyone except the accountants of I-AA.

As a bonus, a nine game conference schedule will make the divisional alignments less of a hissy-fit kind of deal. You'll miss two opponents from the other division instead of three, making it impossible to entirely whiff on the M/OSU/PSU or the NU/Iowa/UW group.

*(Your conference payout doubles in five years and you're worried because you'll lose something under half a home game every year? Lawya, please.)



August 3rd, 2010 at 11:54 AM ^

Tressel is concerned that he can't repay Youngstown St. by not playing them in the future for when they didn't investigate his cheating butt when he was their head coach.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:02 PM ^

The only thing I worry about is that, instead of pushing some FCS team off of the schedule, teams will instead push more marquee teams off of the schedule because they still do not want to schedule home and homes.  Michigan will still play Notre Dame, but they will probably skip the UConns, Oregons, Utahs, etc.  Penn State and Ohio State might keep Temple and Youngstown St. but lose Alabama, Miami, Texas, etc.  I don't think it's bad to add a mandatory game against a Big Ten-level foe, but I doubt this will fix the out-of-conference/home and home problem, especially since teams will not want to play 6 road games in a season.

Space Coyote

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

The only other problem I have with it is the uneven home/away games.  Like it or not, but if you have your best team in the Big Ten but have to go on the road 5 times in conference then there is a good chance you don't win your division.  With 5 road games it is tough to go undefeated in conference, making it even more likely that teams will schedule three cupcakes OOC to save their national ranking (especially in years they have 5 away games in conference)


August 4th, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

isn't that more a reflection on the strength of the conference? Aside from the professional team in LA, which other Pac-10 school has demonstrated BCS-level strength?

A nine-game conference schedule doesn't prevent the second-best team in the conference from going 11-1 ... and if they lose two or more conference games, it doesn't matter if they're playing eight, nine, or twelve in conference, they're still going to struggle to get a BCS bid.

I think the last second-place Pac-10 team to approach BCSVille with a single conference loss was Oregon in 2005, and that was with the eight-game schedule. (Ironically, both of Oregon's losses that year came to teams who later vacated the wins ... not sure if that makes the Ducks 10-0, 12-0 or what.)


August 3rd, 2010 at 1:53 PM ^

Like it or not, but if you have your best team in the Big Ten but have to go on the road 5 times in conference then there is a good chance you don't win your division.

This problem could be solved by setting the teams with the extra home game on division lines. If everyone in the division had the same number of road/home games, deciding the division champ should be relatively fair. The other division having a different number won't matter when they meet in the championship game.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:07 PM ^

I really like the idea of a nine game conference schedule.  That makes for ten real games, counting Notre Dame.  To me, games like Delaware State, although good for the ego, are a total waste of a Saturday afternoon other than to see their band.  

I have always felt I would rather see my team lose a great game to another very good team than to watch football games played between teams that are grossly unequal.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:08 PM ^

The only thing I'll miss from the I-AA is the Delaware State band.  Think we can schedule them when our opponent declines to bring a band?

If we'd held out for a few more years we could still claim to have never played a I-AA team and I think we can all agree that would be for the best.

West Texas Blue

August 3rd, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

9 conference games, ND, and 2 MAC teams.  I can live with that.  ND will be pretty good with Kelly, so that gives us our annual marquee non-conference game, and always need those MAC teams to pad the schedule.  Don't care to play I-AA teams, so I'm down for this setup.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

I think Jim Delany's nine-game conference schedule proposal is aimed squarely at Notre Dame and the Big Ten's future expansion goals.  Think about it -- ND has regular rivalries with UM, MSU and Purdue, and occasionally slips in a Northwestern or tOSU.  UM and maybe MSU keep their ND rivalries after moving to nine league games, but does Purdue?  And what incentive would any other Big Ten team have to play ND in that new environment?

In other words, Delany is saying, "ND, if you can't play us, join us."

Delany is one Macchiavellian mofo.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:17 PM ^

ND is more dedicated to renewing their rivalry with Army and getting Conference USA Teams on the schedule than playing a quality strength of schedule.  I think they'll be happy to drop the home and home with Purdue and replace that with a series of baby seals in South Bend.  ND will get the gate revenues and the NBC revenues and live quite happily.

I'll enjoy it for the times when the baby seal rips the club out of Notre Dame's hands and beats them mercilessly for 4 quarters with it.  


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:21 PM ^

pete-rock, the same thought came to my mind.  I also believe that there will be significant pressure on ND to join the Big Ten during the next expansion phase.  While they could, no doubt,  find other suitors, they will have to travel a heck of a lot further away than they do now. As goes the Big Ten, so will go the remainder of the majors as money is the name of the conference expansion game.  This, too, has the potential to hurt ND down the road.  


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

This doesn't mean 9 conference games, ND, and 2 cupcakes. It means 3 cupcakes, and 9 conference games. ND goes bye-bye.  Because in 4 conference home game years they're not going to risk the computer matching that to an away ND game. That would be just 6 at home. Not happening in this day and age. I think most will balk at the 7.


August 4th, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

Purdue would be more than happy to continue the rivalry; Ross-Ade rarely sells out these days, so every other year they know they've got one date where a sellout is virtually assured.

Can ND play other big teams as well? Sure, if they can work in those games later in the season ... but with an even number of teams, the Big Ten is more likely to go back to a conventional schedule with the vast majority of non-conference games in September, and yeah, top-tier schools are less likely to put a Notre Dame in the later part of the schedule anyway. Does Notre Dame want to play other lower-tier Big Ten schools? Probably not so much.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:24 PM ^

Well played, Mr. Delany, well played.  I love that he basically called out the 12th game cupcake games, and pretty much said that the addition of the 9th conference match up was aimed directly at eliminating that. 

Also, I really don't like Tressel's comment about paying the bills.  I am not so idealistic as to think that college football is not largely about $$, but if eliminating the Youngstown St. game will make or break OSU's athletic budget, than they are doing something wrong.  Also, making the B10 a more competitive league - and eliminating these crappy games does indirectly do that - will only increase our revenue in the long term.

lexus larry

August 3rd, 2010 at 12:39 PM ^

I was wondering what kind of math Tressel was using for the revenue stream and post game finances of Delicious Snackycakes (DSc) versus the 9th Big Ten game.  Maybe he was thinking that the Big Ten would lose out on a 2nd BCS Bowl Game entrant?  Seeing as those revenues get split by the Big Ten, how could that amount to more than $1-2M in the overall tOSU budget of $110M+?

Unless tOSU's home gate is far higher than ours?  I know the football revenues at tOSU and Texas were huge compared to Michigan (~$60M vs our ~$50M, iirc), but still, as Brian points out, DSc has been demanding larger cuts of the non-home-and-home arrangements.

For this long-time season tickets buyer, I'll take that 9th Big Ten game and drop DSc like HFCS and non-hydrogenated shortening infused atherosclerosis inducing cholesterol lump they really are.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:30 PM ^

I thought the Delany presser was the most substantive part:

  • 30 - 45 days for the answer on divisions and logo
  • division sturcture will not necessarily apply to other sports
  • there will be a championship game
  • they will move to 9 game season
  • Michigan - OSU really, really matters
  • the Big Ten will still be named the Big Ten
  • further expansion is back burner for the season

Some of those things were most-likelies, but he sounded pretty definitive on them.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:35 PM ^

That the schedule wouldn't take place until 2015, when all the OOC schedules ran out. 

I'm more worried about giving up a home game for a road game every other year, and the competitive imbalance that creates.  We already have the problem of who you miss we'll have who plays where.  If we're really not concerned about home payouts, then we might as well go to 10 conference games, and make it 5 & 5.

Michigan Arrogance

August 3rd, 2010 at 12:52 PM ^

i like 10 conf games too, but I just don't see that happening.

the 5/4 home/road split wouldn't be that bad. i mean, if NW or Pur misses M, OSU AND PSU or Neb or Wisc AND has 5 home games... not the worst thing ever. especially if the divisional tiebreakers are logical. maybe the primarydetermination would be intra-divisional record, then total conf record as the primary tiebreaker.


August 3rd, 2010 at 8:13 PM ^

Or Accentuates it. Because it doesn't remove it.  If say, Ohio State gets to miss Nebraska and Wisconsin, and gets 5 home games, while Michigan misses Northwestern and Minnesota, while playing 4 home games, it's even worse.

Though the ideas given around that if you keep the conference divisions the same is sound. Now we'll see if the Big Ten does it.


August 3rd, 2010 at 12:45 PM ^

Do Big Ten teams drop one of the cupcakes, or do they drop meaningful games? My guess is, the cupcakes stay on the non-conference schedule. In fact, there will be even more pressure to have them, because the mediocre teams need easy out-of-conference wins, to make up for the conference schedule becoming more difficult.

In addition, it means that Michigan may never again have eight home games, as it did last season, and will again next season.

I don't think Michigan would drop Notre Dame, as the rivalry is contracted for something like 20 years into the future. So it means the non-conference schedule would be, for the foreseeable future, Notre Dame plus (at best) two MAC squads. Hooray [not].

I also don't think MSU and Purdue would drop Notre Dame. The game means more to them than it does to the Irish, because it's a guaranteed appearance on National TV for two schools that otherwise don't get a lot of exposure. It also helps them with recruiting. Whatever you may say about ND, it matters to recruits that you can tell them you play the Irish on TV every year.


August 3rd, 2010 at 1:29 PM ^

Anyone with serious national aspirations is going to have to play a real nonconference opponent or risk being left out from a group of approximate equal at the end of the year. And there's no way MSU or Purdue is ever going to drop ND; that game is incredibly important to both. Michigan won't drop ND, so how can two middling programs afford to do it?

Even if certain teams (COUGH WISCONSIN) respond to a nine-game conference schedule with cupcakes galore we're not actually losing anything. The minimum level of interesting games is the current one.


August 3rd, 2010 at 8:21 PM ^

6 home dates, to 8? I don't know... I can see Michigan dropping ND in those circumstances.  Particularly with the vinegar Delany seems to be throwing their way. You can discount a half game...but not one a year. $$$

And if you go undefeated in the new, improved Big Ten, AND win a Championship game...I don't think you're going to get left out.  I mean, the SEC plays nobody OOC, and they seem to do ok in getting teams in.

Michigan Arrogance

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 PM ^

RE: the 9th conf game and keeping cupcakes.


Delany could argue that, with an across the board elimination of 1-AA and WAC games, the overall value of the aggregate B10 conf schedule would increase from the perspective of TV marketing and ad sales. If the BTN braodcasts:

  • IU-Ole Miss instead of IU-Indiana St 
  • PSU-Pitt instead of PSU-Akron
  • OSU-Kentucky instead of OSU-YSU

wouldn't that value to the BTN offset the road game every other year? You'd basically be increasing the net worth of the BTN by raising the low bar of games carried by the network.


August 3rd, 2010 at 1:32 PM ^

I'm not sure you're understanding our point.  You are close, but really the Big Ten is looking (potentially) at something like:

IU-Illinois instead of IU-Ole Miss

PSU-Minnesota instead of PSU-Pitt

OSU-Nebraska instead of OSU-Kentucky

The way some of us see it is that the Big Ten is losing their best (or at least better) out-of-conference match-ups to schedule Big Ten games instead.  This may not be a bad thing, but OSU and Penn State are just as likely, if not more likely, to schedule Youngstown St or Akron with an added conference game (which will be an added road game every other year), and they are less likely to schedule a Virginia, Miami, or Alabama

EDIT: To sum up, the "across the board elimination of 1-AA and WAC games" likely will not occur under this policy change

Michigan Arrogance

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:54 PM ^

no i get that, what i'm asking is... can Delany convince member schools to replace the 1-AA & WAC teams with the B10 game, instead of what you're proposing would happen.

my point is, if the bar is raised, it will give the BTN some REALY good match ups in Sept (and Oct of course) thus raising the worth of the network and ad times, etc. this would offset the gate money every other year, perhaps?


August 3rd, 2010 at 2:39 PM ^

Ah, I see now.  Hopefully he can.  I doubt it will ever happen, but the Big Ten should just ban the scheduling of FCS teams for its member schools.  This may not encourage teams to schedule "up," since they can play the WAC or somebody instead of the FCS, but at least that would mean all Big Ten teams are playing a schedule that consists completely of FBS teams.  That has to count for something, right?


August 3rd, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

For example, Ohio State playing a home and away against USC makes big money for both teams, both years. Plus the recruiting trip to LA. It's hard to see them throwing that away for a FCS game. I also don't see many of the non-elite Big Ten teams skipping a MAC game to schedule an FCS game.


August 3rd, 2010 at 8:20 PM ^

But how exactly does it make more money for them? They sell out their stadiums, with good competition or bad.  They're on tv either way (and no matter who they play, it pays the same). Maybe sell a few more t-shirts if you win...but sell a bit less if you lose. Add in, as in the game i your example, the increased travel costs going cross country, vs. having some patsy come to your me the money!


August 4th, 2010 at 5:36 PM ^

But not for the teams.  They get paid the same no matter who they play. Unless you're talking when contract negotiations come up.  In which case I've never heard OOC scheduling coming up as a negotiating issue, or demands by the Network carrying down to scheduling by each individual school.  (Except for maybe Notre Dame). Though it could be in the future.


August 3rd, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

I argued this back when, and it still stands -- If Delany is serious about "competitive fairness" then a nine-game conference schedule is an effective step toward that goal.

The primary arguments against nine conference games are:

  1. Possible lost revenue when you replace 12 non-conference games with 6 conference games. I think that's very tough to evaluate without knowing their relative values to the Big Ten and the BTN network.
  2. It creates an imbalance in that some teams play five conference games at home, while others play only four. But a home-away imbalance will always exist within one's division, so having it exist for the conference overall is not a big deal.


August 3rd, 2010 at 2:48 PM ^

I'm generally in favor of more conference games - they're just more interesting, and it makes the championship fairer.  I don't like the 5/4 home/road (or road/home) thing, though.  This might sound crazy, but what if the ninth game were played at a neutral site? 


August 3rd, 2010 at 3:57 PM ^

Regardless of whether or not 9 conference games are played, some teams will play 3/2 home/road (or road/home) games within the division so there will always be schedules that provide some advantage or disadvantage in a given year.  This is because winning the head to head in-division games will always have more importance as it carries with it both the head to head tie break and a full one game separation in the standings.


August 3rd, 2010 at 5:59 PM ^

the tomato can games (Minny, Iowa, and Wisky) have had a "come-to-jesus" meeting with Delany. If you look at the comments from Joel Maturi and Barry Alvarez over the last two months, they apparently see the benefits ($$$) of 9 BT conf games outweigh the benefits of 2 ooc tomato cans ($).