Totally Bats 16(!) Team Big Ten Proposal Comment Count

Brian April 20th, 2010 at 11:01 AM

 skull-sculpture-very-hungry-godthis is a sculpture called "Very Hungry God," so it goes here. the little boy is ND.

The old bats idea was for 14 teams and wouldn't have worked anyway. And with Big Ten expansion probably definitely happening now and probably definitely being the crazy XXL version, a 14 team Big Ten is so March. Give us 16 and give us the death of the Big East, even if it doesn't make any sense.

If this is happening, it's important that whatever form the Big Cthulhu takes makes as much sense as possible. Since the usual divisional stuff makes no sense and would see Michigan play opponents in the opposite division slightly more than once a decade, this requires thinking outside the chicken patties. So here's another crazy idea. The new bats idea: it's the World Cup, yo.

The New Bats Idea

So the problem with 16 is that it doesn't divide very well. You have two choices if you want to split teams up: eight or four. Thinking inside the chicken patties provides eight and all the stupid problems that go along with that. Four is interesting.

Divide the Big Ten into four groups of four based on last year's standings. (1-8-9-16, 2-7-10-15, etc.) Everyone plays each other.

Bo Record Woody Record JoePa Record Fry Record
Michigan 3-0 OSU 2-1 PSU 2-1 ND 3-0
Iowa 2-1 Wisconsin 2-1 Nebraska 2-1 Missouri 1-2
Michigan State 1-2 Minnesota 1-2 Purdue 2-1 Pitt 1-2
Indiana 0-3 Northwestern 1-2 Illinois 0-3 Rutgers 1-2

Top two teams in a group get put in an eight team division at the top; bottom two get put at the bottom. Point differential breaks ties. Everyone plays each other except for the teams that have already played.

Division 1
Michigan Iowa OSU PSU ND Missouri Nebraska Wisconsin
Division 2
Michigan State Minnesota Purdue Pitt Indiana Northwestern Illinois Rutgers

At the end of the year, the winner of the top division wins the conference.

(Variant: instead of lumping teams into eight team divisions on the second go-round, do another round of four team groups that split the top and bottom of the conference into approximately equal sets. Then do a third round of four team groups, two of which offer their winners a bid to the conference title game. The "contenders" groups consist of: the winner of both loser groups, the top two teams in each winners group, and the teams with the best conference records after that. This is probably too complicated.)

This makes a lot more sense to me than playing Penn State once a decade. You play a subsection of the conference based on how good you are. If you go from really bad to really good, as Penn State did in the middle of the decade, you don't get locked out of a championship game before the season starts.

There are a bunch of tricky issues, though: unbalanced home and away in the early section means getting through your group is partially dependent on home/road split. Getting stuck in the second division basically ends your conference championship hopes and that can happen with just one loss (see the PSU group above). And teams wouldn't know who they were playing, or even what their home/road split would look like, until midseason. Protected rivalries would be a thing of the past.

What about a…

Backwards Version!

Do the divisions first. Play seven games. At the end of the year create groups based on finish in the divisions.

Contenders A Contenders B
Div A #1 Div B #1
Div B #2 Div A #2
Div B #3 Div A #3
Div A #4 Div B #4

(Other teams would get sorted into groups as well and play out the rest of the season; these matchups can take rivalries into account because if you're not playing for the conference title you might as well play someone you hate.)

Play the two games you haven't already; the games you have played count in the group standings. The winner of each group gets a bid to the conference title game. First tiebreaker is overall conference record. Variant: Play a tenth conference game and do a full round-robin in each subdivision. Teams seeded #1 and #2 get the extra home game. The variant provides everyone who makes the contenders groups a reasonable chance at winning them, but does guarantee one rematch per year. It also severely restricts nonconference opportunities.

This version is way more doable. Teams would be able to lock down ten of their 12 games before the season. The clawing for the fourth spot in a contenders group would keep most of the conference at least theoretically in the title hunt until deep into the season, but keeping the result from the earlier game and using overall conference record as tie breaker gives the top team in each division a big advantage. The extraneous games against the other conference would be sort of like playoff games. They wouldn't be random, unbalancing games with a distorting effect on the conference race. They would have purpose.

You want games to have purpose, don't you? You don't want them wandering around being all pointless, do you?

CthulhuMyLittleCthulhu-thumb-300x333-25202 In Which I Pretend To Be Ives Galarcep

What do you think? Should Ricardo Clark have stayed in MLS?

I want more ideas. If a Big Cthulhu conference happens there should be so many different possibilities for the leadership to consider that they get very confused and actually pick one of them instead of defaulting to a divisional format that leaves everyone zo unsatisfied at the conclusion of a season (or the decade) when they drew the top two teams in the Bo division and the team that won your division drew Indiana and Northwestern and you haven't played Penn State since JoePa's age could be practically expressed without scientific notation.

So email me or post a diary or put it on the message board or pick this proposal apart—it's got its flaws—and we'll revisit this at a later date if this turns out to be something other than a game of chicken with the Big East and the Notre Dame administration.

Could you imagine that, by the way? The Big Ten waves its pointy stick at the Big East and manages to get them to boot Notre Dame and then ND ends up joining a 12-team Big Ten? Jim Delany would instantly be the most frighteningly Machiavellian person on the planet.



April 20th, 2010 at 11:35 AM ^

...really hurts. Why does Brian think he can give us homework like this? I feel like I'm back in A2 and I've picked what I thought was the easy A class.

My soccer league used to have enough teams for a premier, 1st and 2nd division. Then the economy tanked and we lost a lot of our Latin teams. So the league took all the returning teams from the premier, 1st and 2nd divisions into one table and halfway through the season determined who was in the 1st and 2nd divisions (premier was eliminated). So, I'd hate to see the Big 10 operate like a soccer beer league.

As imperfect as two 8 team devisions is, I just can't see doing something as radical as rotating groups.


April 20th, 2010 at 11:18 AM ^

sounds practical and fun. I hope the bigwigs consider it.

I'm sure the conference would love the excitement and hype that would surely come with the final few games of the season.


April 20th, 2010 at 11:25 AM ^

All these fun proposals are a great time-waster and brain-teaser, but there is absolutely no chance of any of them happening. We all know this, even if we'd like to pretend otherwise -- it'll be a mega-conference with 2 divisions and lost rivalries and all the other negatives that Brian discussed.

I can we expect these people to think outside the box, when they're the same people about to jam a 96-team hoops tourney down our throats?


April 20th, 2010 at 5:39 PM ^

I have to say that it has some good info, and the roundups are really helpful for the average soccer fan, who doesn't have hours to scour the internet for information. But the blog doesn't have the quality of articles and depth of reporting that this blog does. And, the end of each post is definitely something to mock.


April 21st, 2010 at 8:58 AM ^

I got the reference. I need reminders when to stop work and watch CL action.

I think Rico is likely out. Maybe if Edu's rehab at Rangers had gone badly........

But the "Redcardo" crack is uncalled for. Michael Bradley has to be the fave to get sent off. Not just on our team, but in the entire WC. I just hope that if he does get a red that he takes someone out with him. Someone good. Like say, Wayne Rooney.


April 20th, 2010 at 11:37 AM ^

I think that the only major flaw here is not knowing the entire schedule before the season. This makes it harder for the schools to sell tickets and know how much to charge based on how many home/away games there will be.


April 20th, 2010 at 11:39 AM ^

I like where this is going.

Instead, however, why don't we eliminate Notre Dame from the equation.

But, wait, GoBlueScott, that leaves 15 teams, and 15 is a very poor number to divide.

Yes, however now you could have three groups of five teams. Groups are based on the previous year's standards. That way you are guaranteed four games in your group.*

That leaves six teams (two from each group) on top after the first four games.

So what we have is five more games for each of the Top 6. (Now, maybe that sounds like a lot, but that's a total of nine games.) Home field is determined by record (even better, make it Premier League style with 3 points for a win, 1 point for an overtime loss, and no points for a loss.)

Here's where we have some fun. While the Top 6 are playing their games, the Bottom Nine are also locked in a mini-tournament with seeding. (This part gets tricky for scheduling, but people smarter than I am can figure it out I'm sure.)

At the end, you have this: Winner from Top Group vs. Winner from Bottom Group for Conference Championship. Say what you want, but it places THAT much more importance to win the Top Group to advance. None of this, "Well, we already beat them and now we have to play them again to win the conference?" nonsense.

*Alternative: Have the Group Stage be home and away, making it a total of eight games. Top team in each group play. Best record gets a bye, other two teams play for the right to go to the conference championship game.

/longest post I've ever typed


April 20th, 2010 at 12:18 PM ^


Group stage:

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
Michigan OSU PSU
N'Western Missou Illinois
Indiana Rutgers Minnesota
Wisconsin Purdue Nebraska

After the group stage:

Top 6 Bottom 9
Michigan N'Western
MSU Indiana
OSU Wisconsin
PITT Missou
PSU Rutgers
Iowa Purdue

So, this is what Michigan's schedule would look like.

Out of Conference
Miami (YTM)
Notre Dame
Group Stage
at N'Western
at Wisconsin
Top Flight Stage
at MSU
at Pitt
at Iowa

Space Coyote

April 20th, 2010 at 4:07 PM ^

I don’t think it’s fair, particularly in college sports, to not allow teams just as even of a chance at a conference title based on a previous years result. If Michigan went undefeated next year (not saying they actually will) do they not deserve a chance at a MNC, or if they lose one game do they not get a chance at a conference championship? I just don’t like it that teams are based upon a previous year’s results when players are only there for 4-5 years.

I also think you are way over complicating things. I think college football needs to get away from that. People complain about the complexities of the BCS, and the way the Big 12 determines who goes to its championship game. We don’t need that.

I don’t mind the conference split up into 4 divisions, play your own division, one other division, and get one permanent rival (or if you already play them, some other big 10 team). This allows everyone to play every team at least once every three years. I actually also don’t mind if these divisions are split up based on last year’s results so that the best team plays the worst team, and whatever other two middle of the pack teams. That’s fine because it gives every team an equal shot at winning at the end of the year. You could have groups like A: 1,8,9,16; B: 2,7,10,15; C: 3,6,11,14; D: 4,5,12,13. Group A plays Group A and Group D, Group B plays Group B and Group C… the only thing I don’t like about his is not having permanent rivals. If Michigan and OSU don’t play every year it would hurt the rivalry in my mind, and that goes for every rivalry in the rivalry rich big 10.

biakabutuka ex…

April 20th, 2010 at 12:07 PM ^

The biggest problem I have is with playing OSU twice a season. This cheapens both games and might accelerate my inevitable heart attack to some time in my 30s.

So how about, before the last game is played, if that matchup is in line to be one of the conference postseason games, then the game is just postponed until then. So if, for example, Iowa and Wisconsin(?) are set to play in the #2s game on November 13 but they're already playing on November 6, they just don't play the game on November 6.

I don't think Michigan fans have problems playing PSU, or Northwestern, or even MSU twice in one season. Just OSU. In some years, the race would be too close to call and you'd have to play the last game regardless. But at least it would happen less.


April 20th, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

It doesn’t seem so terrible to me. I hate to see re-matches in conference championship games. With two 8-team divisions, there would be just a 1/8th chance of a re-match (assuming that teams continue to play 8 conference games a year).

There would certainly be a way to arrange it so that traditional rivalries are preserved. I don’t particularly care that there would be some teams that you face in the regular season only 2 years out of every 16. Actually, it would make the schedule more interesting.


April 20th, 2010 at 8:39 PM ^

Are you really in the same conference as a team that you play once a decade in any sense other than the technical one?

I do like some sort of merit-based scheduling (the seven division games + groups assigned based on standings in the first half sounds great), but if that's not possible, the best way to go is four four-team divisions, play everyone in your division and two of four from each of the others (with no more than two consecutive years without playing a particular team). Four division winners play a tournament for the title, seeded by overall record.


April 20th, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

Any conference organization other than two 8-team divisions is even moreso, regardless of the inherent disadvantages.

Even 14 teams is nuts, so get off my lawn.


April 20th, 2010 at 12:24 PM ^

If you were going to do some division rotation mid-season, I would say play the 3 in your division. The top ranked teams stay in their division. The 2nd ranked ones rotate right one, the 3rd rotate right two, the 4th rotate right three. That makes for completely new divisions. Play all 3 again. Then place all of the 1s in the same division, etc. and have them play all 3.

That would be 9 games without a "championship game". Win your division early for seeding in the second round. Win in the second round for a to be in the championship division. The third round decides the conference champion and conference standings.


April 20th, 2010 at 12:31 PM ^

would essentially be 2 conferences. You play all the teams in your division and 1 team from the other division each year? So a team in the other division would only visit once every 16 years.

Seeing as how the 12th game has been such a cash cow for most schools to have an additional home game, I can't see to many schools being in favor of playing more then 8 conference games.


April 20th, 2010 at 12:42 PM ^

The conference championship game would be, in effect, the (unspoken) “first round” of the playoffs. Now they just need to add one more round before the bowl games, and you’ve got yourself a decent system for determining the National Champion.

I agree that they won’t add a 9th conference game: too many mediocre teams would risk the loss of bowl eligibility.


April 20th, 2010 at 12:40 PM ^

Let's just have the NCAA open the season up to 14 regular season games. It's not quite the pro version with 16, but games would go on through December 15. This opens up the scheduling ability for a superconference of 14-18 teams. Preferably a 15 team round robin.

Six Zero

April 20th, 2010 at 12:47 PM ^


Drop it over the Big House.

Last team standing wins the conference.

Slight advantage to MSU, since their players are so accustomed to being behind bars.


April 20th, 2010 at 12:44 PM ^

The best part of adopting any sort of pod/relegation/divisional system would be picturing all the people in Ohio fighting about who would play whom, and what the possibilities would be...because, obviously, they wouldn't be smart enough to figure it out. AMIRITE?


April 20th, 2010 at 12:56 PM ^

-- I barely understand this

--It is a valiant attempt at making sense of a 16 team conference

--and that this has no possible chance of coming true.

Now the question: should it be done? I don't think so. If I'm understanding this proposal, if you get sorted into the bottom division prior to the season, you have no possible chance of winning the B10 (16). That simply isn't fair given that large 1 year turnarounds are possible. And mixing up the divisions every year simply doesn't have the stability that most fans crave.

If we have to have a 16 team conference, which I don't want, I think you have to do the MLB thing and split into 2 divisions, ensure you play every team in your division and 1-2 from the other, and have a championship game.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

Would this plan be applied across ALL SPORTS individually? This plan doesn't seem to consider the fact that there are other sports than football.

I'm not sure I like the thought of having different divisions/groupings/whatever for different sports, it really takes away from the rivalry aspect.

Either way it's all moot -- nothing this creative/interesting could possibly EVER happen in real life.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

It seems quite good until you consider that (compared to a conventional 8-team division with maybe 1 cross-division rivalry games ) the real change here is swapping 2 (or 3) early season home cupcake games for late season playoff-type games. While fans would absolutely love this, its hard to imagine athletic departments sacrificing the sure revenue of home games for the risk of the playoff-type games. Especially the Minnesota's of the world that aren't likely to benefit much from it.

The other downside I see is that a 4-seed could easily beat out more deserving teams with one big upset in a 2-0 vs 1-1 split...but thats the playoff-type element of the scenario, I suppose. High stakes. I think most people could get behind that, especially if its just the play-in for the conference championship game.

In short: oh lets do it.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

The backwards scenario is pretty viable, since you'd just be adding 1 conference game over the existing 8. So, 7 division games, then 2 playoff-type games for 9 total conference games (not including the championship).

Teams can still count on revenues from 3 non-conference home games against cupcakes.

Six Zero

April 20th, 2010 at 1:09 PM ^

most of it boils down to scheduling outside of your immediate division. Let's say we go straight East/West 8 up/8 down, which I still think is inevitable. That means you're playing the same 7 divisional teams every year, for better or worse. How the remaining 5 are dispersed becomes the hot topic-- Let's take ourselves for instance. We usually go with ND and one mid to upper level BCS foe, followed by two cupcakes. How many of those four non-conference games (actually now 5) will the Big Ten reassign to the opposite division of the conference?

So let's say the conference makes every team play 2 opposite division schools, which leaves three non-cons to play. The next question is, are the non-conference games still up in the air, or will there be some sort of handling by the league to make sure Minnesota doesn't go three up with cupcakes while we're out playing ND, and PSU is playing Bama, and even the damn Buckeyes are playing Texas. Non-conference cash games will become MORE glaring than ever before because of the likely higher level of play in the conference itself. Maybe they'd go so far as to go three interdivisional games per schedule, but with only 2 non-conference games the temptation to load up on home Delaware State-ish slaughters will be greater than ever.

I don't know-- I think I just burned my chicken patties thinking about it.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:25 PM ^

Currently we have 8 conference and 4 non-conference. I could see adding one rotating cross-division game (to the 7 intra-division games) to ensure balance of home-road games. Any additional cross-division games wouldn't count in the conference standings.

That insures teams can keep making money by scheduling cupcakes in the non-conference. I see this as a major hurdle to any alternative proposal.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:13 PM ^

I think your brain might be too awash with World Cup 2010 Fever with this proposal.

But, it is creative at least.

We've been arguing about the 12th team and further expansion since 1989. Jimminy Crickets, Big 10....just go out and do something already.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:19 PM ^

If we go to 16 teams I can't see them having a group stage/winner group scenario.

I'm of the mind that they would probably think that a 16 team conference is revolutionary enough for now and just split it down the middle 8 and 8.

Assuming the schools you've listed are indeed the 16 that would make up the MECHAMETALDEATH CONFERENCE OF DEATH (The MMDCD), I would think that we'd probably be screwed.

So assuming the schools are:

Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State
Notre Dame

If the divisions were split 8 and 8, the dividing process would probably go something like this:


Division 1:

Ohio State
Michigan State
Notre Dame


Michigan and Michigan State would have to be together.

I would also think that M and OSU would have to be together.

With M and MSU in the same division I would think that because they are both major rivals of ND, that you have to put them in D1 also.

Purdue, ND, and Indiana are all in Indiana, and Purdue has a Rivalry with ND, and Indiana, so I figured all of the Indy teams should go together.

Then I thought, considering Illinois thinks that they have a rivalry with Michigan, that I would throw them, along with their rival Mizzou to round out the division.

Division 2:

Penn State


Because I knew one division would pretty much have to contain M, OSU, MSU, and ND, there was no way PSU was going into that same division.

This meant Pitt would also be in this division, and I figured that Rutgers, another team out East, would fit in as well.

Wisky and Minny can't be split up.

Iowa was too good to put in the other group, and they really don't have too many major rivalries in the Big Ten (not on the level of M-OSU, M-MSU, Wisky-Minny, PU-IU, M-ND, Ill-Mizz), so they go in this grouping.

Nebraska I can see becoming a rival for Iowa, and I really couldn't justify breaking up the Indiana trio to fit them in with Mizzou (I don't think they're rivals anyway?) in with the other group.

Northwestern is in this group for the same reason as Nebraska. No real rivals (Illinois, but meh) and couldn't justify breaking up the rivalries in the first group to fit them in.


I'm not sure how balanced these divisions are.

For basketball D1 looks beastly. MSU, OSU, Purdue are all good. ND and Mizzou are usually a tournament teams, and then you have M, Indiana, and Illinois, who have all been basketball powers in the past and could get their acts together in any given year.

For football, they look a little more balanced, with an edge to D1, due to more depth and the fact that M and ND have higher ceilings than the top teams in D2.

I think that you could swap out Illinois-Mizzou for some combo of Rutgers-Nebraska-Northwestern, to even out the divisions if they were too unbalanced, but this seems ok.

Regardless, I'm of the mindset that we will in all likelihood end up with OSU, ND, and MSU, which would be an extremely difficult division for basketball, and football.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

Picking it apart:

The original proposal works, but there's no conference championship game, which is at the very earth's core of the reasons to expand. Instead of dividing into Top 8 and Bottom 8, take the results from the group play and divide again into 1-4-5-8-9-12-13-16 and 2-3-6-7-10-11-14-15, then play the conference championship game between the winner of the two divisions. This:

1) doesn't instantly relegate half the conference into nothingness after half the season, which is likely to end up mightily unfair to someone every year.
2) brings in the $$$ from the BTCG.

In the original scenario, thats:

1 Michigan
4 Penn State
5 Wisconsin
8 Missouri
9 Purdue
12 Minnesota
13 Northwestern
16 Indiana

2 Notre Dame
3 Ohio State
6 Iowa
7 Nebraska
10 Pittsburgh
11 Michigan State
14 Rutgers
15 Illinois

The problems with the whole thing, of course, are obvious: traditional rivalries are dead.

Also, as Bo and Woody and Hayden would roll over in their graves at this, the divisions should be named the Rodriguez, Zook, Tiller, and Walker divisions in honor of those who brought in the spread and/or SEC SPEED.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:28 PM ^

is that we've already blown past a most reasonable and useful scenario - at least for those in favor of a playoff. Eight 10-team conferences, full round-robin, 3 non-conference games, BCS style ranking system to manage in-conference ties for league champ and 8-team playoff seeding -- that's been my dream for 15 years.

That said, I think we're being myopic with our football-first discussion. I think this may have as much or more to do with basketball. Consider the size of the pending TV contract renegotiation (CBS and TBS bidding together vs. ESPN and the Mouse) and the number of future tournament teams (albeit disgusting). The impact to the TV market footprint (and talent accessibility) combined with the fact that nearly all of the schools mentioned may be taken seriously in basketball season (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, ND, Missouri - and I'm throwing in Louisville and Cincinnati as schools potentially not off the table) and we're talking premier basketball conference -- and a major share of the tournament coin every March.



April 20th, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

What's wrong w/ 2 8 team divisions + 3 out of division conference games and 2 cupcakes?

You're not going to be playing anyone of merit for the 2 non-conference games and our big non-conference game is ND anyway so that's a non-issue. So we've got 7 in division games, 3 other division games and 2 non-conference (most likely cupcake) games.

If you get the short end of the "at home" stick for the in division you get 2 of the 3 non-division games at home (much like the Big 12 where you have 5 and 3 but always 4 home games). So - divisions (based on the presumed 16 team setup)

West - Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame

East - Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Pitt

Rotating groups is, no offense, for soccer and it just isn't going to fly here in the good ol' US of A (our soccer league doesn't even do it!)

Only in the case of a 16 team conference could I possible accept Rutgers as they are the weakest link in all of that.


April 20th, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

It even respects most of the historic rivalries. You play the other division teams at least once in three years. That talk about once in ten years is fearmongering I tell you!

The other benefit is that this will force the other conferences to align in 16 team groups. With the Plus One concept, conference championship games would then be something like round one of real three round playoff, wooooo!


April 20th, 2010 at 2:41 PM ^

1. Unbalanced schedules for inter-division can give a huge advantage to teams with favorable matchups. Its one thing if the disadvantages are random, its another if they're caused by fixed rivalries across the division (like ND in your example).

2. Uneven schedules for intra-division gives a huge advantage for the weaker division and produces suboptimal championship games.

3. 2 cupcakes is 2 fewer than some teams schedule now. Thats a substantial loss of revenue for some teams.

4. It improves nothing. No new excitement is generated from this alignment. No further clarity is provided for determining a true champion.

That said, I agree its probably close to what we'll see because of the fear-change factor.