Totally Bats 16(!) Team Big Ten Proposal

Submitted by Brian on 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 3:03 PM ^

I simply pointed out that ND would be in the conference so it's not really an issue of missing out on our 1 guaranteed non-cupcake.

Also, who the heck doesn't have 2 cupcakes every year? Or maybe my definition is different than yours. Mine is non-BCS = "cupcake" There are always going to be exceptions (Utah) but we still had 2 cupcakes that year. Seriously, show me a team that didn't have 2 non-BCS schools on their schedule.

It doesn't improve anything? There's no excitement in winning your division and playing for the conference championship? No further clarity is provided by actually having a championship game vs just comparing records of teams that didn't play each other?

Basically, I don't see valid concern in any of the 4 points - 1) we don't do it, 2) void because we don't do 1, 3) EVERYONE has at least 2 cupcakes (read Non-BCS) and 4) if having a championship game isn't more clear than comparing records of two teams that didn't play each other then I don't know what clarity is.

Sir Buckeye

April 20th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

From 1996 to 1998 the WAC had 16 teams. Here's how they did it and it worked fine and it's simple and it solves all the issues.

You create four pods of four teams each. Pod Alpha, Pod Omega, Pod 2, and Pod 4. Pod Alpha is always in the "East Division" and Pod Omega is always in the "West Division". However, Pod 2 and Pod 4 switch divisions every two years.

The result of this is that each team has three permanent rivals in their pod which they play every season and they play every other team two on and two off. Example ho:

Pod Alpha: OSU, UM, MSU, ND
Pod Omega: Texas, TAMU, Iowa, Nebraska
Pod 2: Wisc, Minny, NW, Illinois
Pod 4: PSU, PITT, Indiana, Purdue

Year one and year two:

East Division: OSU, UM, MSU, ND, Wisc, Minny, NW, Illinois
West Division: Texas, TAMU, Iowa, Neb, PSU, PITT, Indiana, Purdue

Each team plays the seven teams in your division plus two teams from the diametrically opposite pod (ie. Alpha teams would play two Omega Teams).

Year three and year four:

East Division: OSU, UM, MSU, ND, PSU, PITT, Indiana, Purdue
West Division: Texas, TAMU, Iowa, Neb, Wisc, Minny, NW, Illinois

Each team would then play the other two teams from the diametrically opposite pod that they missed the previous two years. Thereby, you never go more than two years without playing everyone in the league.

Sir Buckeye

April 20th, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

A bit confusing but not as much as changing divisions in the middle of the season or some other wacky promotion/relegation model that takes into account the previous year's record.

UM's sample Big 16 schedule for the first four years:

First two years: OSU, MSU, ND, Wisc, Minny, NW, ILL, TX, TAMU
Second two years: OSU, MSU, ND, PSU, PITT, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Nebraska


April 20th, 2010 at 2:32 PM ^

I can't believe I am agreeing with you (because of your avatar!), but it seems like an elegant solution in a 16 team conference. It respects the traditions of the conference without being rigidly bound to them, while permitting dynamic power shifts within the conference.

I think the small -- but well informed -- sample on this Board signals "short" the TBA games position in the OP. The idea is creative as hell, but logistically very challenging in the Big 10 where the conference season ends prior to Thanksgiving.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:46 PM ^

because they make it easier to find solutions across all sports, or at least the three in which all 16 teams participate. (Then again, if the rumors about what correct expansion would bring are true, it's possible that pretty much every existing B10 school could bump two or four sports up to varsity status once the 16-team money comes rolling in.)

Let's say we add Texas, Texas A&M, and Missouri from the Big 12 and Pitt and either Syracuse or Rutgers from the Big East.

I'll start with Brian's groups of four, except I would make them permanent rather than rotating.

Pod 1: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Big East TBD
Pod 2: Indiana, Penn State, Pitt, Purdue
Pod 3: Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Pod 4: Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M

Logic, such as it is: balance between geography and rivalries. Indiana and Purdue have to stay together, but you're not breaking up the UM/MSU/OSU block for them, and if Pitt is coming then Penn State gets them. (No Notre Dame. They don't want in, and besides, they have more in common with the non-football-playing Big East than with us anyway.) Illinois and Missouri are rivals, and someone's got to join the Former Big 12 Block.

Football: Play everyone in your pod every year, home-and-home with every school in another pod every six years (yes, NFL-type scheduling). That's seven games. Say in 2012 that Pod 1 draws Pod 2.

For the remaining games, playoffs! The higher-seeded pod winner from 1 and 2 (because those pods played each other) plays the lower-seeded pod winner from 3 and 4. (Michigan vs. Wisconsin, Texas vs. Penn State, for example's sake.) The winners play in the conference championship.

The 2s through 4s play one game the same way: higher-seeded 2 in Pods 1 and 2 plays lower-seeded 2 in Pods 3 and 4, und so weiter. There's your eight-game conference schedule. Yeah, it means the eighth game is unknown and would be played after traditional rivalry games ... but on the flip side, each team in the pair of pods is playing the same conference schedule. Yeah, some years Texas could sneak to the title game without playing Michigan or Ohio State or Penn State, but hey, you've got a 16-team conference. A lot of teams won't play a lot of teams in a given year.

Yes, Michigan and Ohio State will never play for the Big Ten title, but in any type of divisional setup, either they can't play for the title or they don't play in the same division. Something's gotta give, as the saying goes.

Sure, a couple of 2s and some 3s may be hurting their bowl chances, but let's be honest, a 16-team conference isn't going to put 11 teams in bowls. The losses have to go somewhere.

Basketball: Even simpler. Home and away within your pod, one game alternating home and away against each other team. 18-game conference schedule. Bottom team in each pod misses the conference tournament, so really we can just add a 5-12 game to the existing format. (Yeah, sucks for them, but do we really want a 6-23 team playing on Friday or Saturday? No.)

Everyone plays everyone every year. Sure, you lose the home-and-home matchups between Purdue and Michigan State from last year or Indiana and Michigan from the mid-'80s, but again, we have to sacrifice something in a larger conference.

Other sports: Shuffling is probably going to occur anyway. It would be great if the pod/division system can carry over to lacrosse or baseball or what have you, but there will be other problems with those sports initially anyway ... figuring out who's in what division will be further down on the list.

Sir Buckeye

April 20th, 2010 at 1:54 PM ^

Personally, I think any plan that requires some games to be TBA at the start of the season is a non-starter. Maybe I'm wrong, but I REALLY think it would be important for the schools and the alumni and the fans to have all 12 games set in stone before the season starts. I have a hard time imagining the presidents or athletic directors agreeing to anything else.


April 20th, 2010 at 1:52 PM ^

Adding 5 teams would require adding about $20M-$30M per school in new revenue to keep revenue relatively even right?

I don't see how the Big10 could increase revenue by that much given most of the $100M - $150M would have to be from TV.

Maybe if you add:
Texas (duh)
Notre Dame (National following)
Missouri (St Louis market)
Syracuse (part of NY market)
Virginia/North Carolina (Pitt/Rutgers just aren't worth it)

Maybe Delany should allow ND to join the Big10 for just football?

Alternatively, add Missouri, Syracuse, Nebraska, Texas, and Texas A&M, then push to 10 conference games, with 2 OOC games the average # of home games per year is probably a little above 6, and probably double the total TV contract value.

All I can figure is that if Delany pushes for 14 or 16 teams, he's already got the $$$agreements down. There's no chance in hell the end result brings in less cash per team than before. They simply wouldn't allow it.


April 20th, 2010 at 4:47 PM ^

there are some theories as to how that would be possible. Basically, expansion means more markets (bigger footprint) plus more live events because we have more conference members (more advertising), which means a lot more money.

FWIW, I think ND needs to be all in or all out; I concede that people will watch Notre Dame from everywhere, which helps the BTN, but I still like the idea of expanding all around them and reminding them they didn't want to be part of our little club anyway ...


April 20th, 2010 at 1:57 PM ^

In college and throughout my 20s, I made a lot of schedules (or should say, helped make a lot of schedules) for quiz bowl tournaments. Every time, I (we) made the best of wacky numbers, and tried to maximize the likelihood of a "fair champion" and I like to think that things went well. You also needed a lot of hand holding, hope, and diagrams to explain how it all worked and even then, a room full of pretty smart people still struggled with understanding it.

So, that said, I don't think any time you start introducing relegation, regrouping, lumping, or what have you into the season it will be popular with fans, coaches, players, ADs or television networks. So while Brian's proposals are likely the most fair, they are also the least likely to fly.


April 20th, 2010 at 2:08 PM ^

are coming up with scenarios that are too logical.

Remember - collage ADs and Presidents will pick the teams and the system - the same people that brought us the BCS.
The true number of teams joining and the scheduling will be such that it irritates all the true college football fans the most.
Probably 13 teams and a weird scheduling lottery system with The Game played in September or something.


April 20th, 2010 at 2:09 PM ^

I think a mega conference was done to satisfy ND. That way, they can say "well, we don't have to play everyone." Plus, there's a gluttonous number of subway alums in NJ, CT and NY. What better way to satisfy them than by adding ND along with a bunch of local teams like Rutgers and UConn that allow them to watch ND locally every year.

Based off that theory, I think the breakup should be based on matchups. If we're really trying to drive TV ratings, then ND should be broadcast where they have the most number of fans/subway alum. That brings out the crowds and the interest. Accordingly, I think ND should play Penn State, Rutgers and UConn every year. They should play us every year because of our large presence in the NYC area and the tradition that will drive everyone to watch anyways.

Accordingly, we should play OSU, ND, MSU, Illinois and Northwestern (Chicago is a big alumni base for us) and either Rutgers or UConn (NYC alum).

I think the ACC based their divisions on matchups, so let's just have matchups. No divisions. Just a megaconference where each team plays rivals, teams in areas where they have a lot of alumni and then the rest of the teams on a rotating basis.


April 20th, 2010 at 3:22 PM ^

probably wanting Rutgers (and possibly UConn) as a condition for entry. I hadn't considered that, but I think you're onto something.

My response, were I president, would be: "Join the Big East then. We don't need you." It's too high a price. And note that I live in Connecticut and would be ecstatic to have Michigan football in the area every other year (at least), not to mention other sports. But I also want a Big Ten that makes sense. I don't think the conference should sell its soul just to get ND. Fuck that.

Edward Khil

April 20th, 2010 at 2:48 PM ^

If the Big Ten gets enough quality programs to join as to make a 14- or 16-team conference, there should be at least two automatic BCS bids set aside for its top two teams, with a third team still eligible on an at-large basis.

Of course, someone should kill the BCS anyway.

Blue In NC

April 20th, 2010 at 3:21 PM ^

Not sure I agree. With such a conference, a second team is going to get in anyway in most years. Also, if the conference has two divisions, does the second auto bid go to the loser of the championship game or the second highest rated team (not always the same team - think of the Big12).

Just imagine a scenario similar to 2006 where OSU and UM are both rated in the top 6 teams nationally but OSU wins the division and the league title. Let's say a two-loss team from the other division (I am assuming a 2 division format) gets the auto bid, then UM gets shut out of the BCS even though it has only one loss and is rated highly.


April 20th, 2010 at 3:56 PM ^

That's why I'm encouraging the Big Ten to think BIG and out-BCS the BCS. Make this thing so fucking huge that people outside Alabama go back to never caring what goes on in Alabama, and we can hold our own playoff with an iconic Christmas Day Bowl Game.

The BCS isn't built to handle mega-conferences. That's kind of part of the whole idea of mega-conferences. The end game is to really create a separate league where all head coaches make over $1 million and all programs can recruit beyond their region, and all practice facilities can contain an non-Space Imperial punt.

If we're going to shake up college football, my feeling is that any solution that keeps the BCS as a tenable postseason hasn't gone far enough.


April 20th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

1. How about Notre Dame, Hawaii, and Inter Milan? To heck with geography. Just imagine the markets we'll open up: The European Union and the Pacific Ocean. And the recruiting potential is tremendous: "Son, if you sign up to play at Michigan you'll get to visit Hawaii and Italy. Lemme tell you, Italian women are smokin' hot and they'll do damn near anything. Plus our helmets have wings." Okay, so Inter doesn't have a college. Or a tackle football team. Details, details...

2. Okay, slightly less crazy: add NINE teams from the east coast. Off the top of my head I'd go with BC, Syracuse, UConn, Pitt, Rutgers, Maryland, VA Tech, Duke, and UNC. Throw Penn State in there and you've got an eastern division. Forget about interdivisional games. Baseball went without interleague play for close to a century but folks still went to the World Series. Division champions meet in Miami for the BigTenx2 Championship. We get new markets in Boston, NY, Philly, and DC. I'll let you guys decide whether we play eight or nine division games.

No, seriously. We're looking at one team, maybe three if the Presidents are feeling wild and crazy.


April 20th, 2010 at 4:15 PM ^

Well, if Inter isn't interested, Brazil would be just dandy...

While I'm at it, another thought on the BigTenx2 model -- if we want to focus on football more than hoops, drop UNC and Duke and instead invite Texas and Texas A&M and put them in the East. Yeah, they're not exactly east coast, but if the Cowboys can play in the NFC East, why not have UT and A&M in the Atlantic?


April 20th, 2010 at 3:25 PM ^

If the big ten is going to start the move to mega-conferences they might as well aim higher for the teams they are looking at.

What are they really adding with these 5 teams - Nebraska, Missouri, Pitt, Rutgers and ND. ND is obviously the big catch with their strong national fan base. Nebraska has a devout fanbase but I'm not sure it's that national and the nebraska tv market isn't that big. Pitt doesn't add much because PSU already has a good hold on that tv market. Missouri - I guess you get the St. Louis/Kansas City markets. Rutgers - while it has close proximity to NY, NYC is very much a professional sports town.

Do you think the SEC would stand pat if the big ten went to a mega-conference? If I'm the SEC and the big ten adds those 5 teams, I invite Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Okie St to the SEC, and leave no doubt that we are the premier football conference in the country. It wouldn't require much realignment by the SEC to add those 4 teams - they simply bump Alabama and Auburn to the east and move Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St to the west with LSU, Arkansas, Ol' Miss and Mississippi St. Almost all of the key rivalry games remain intact with the addition of Texas and Arkansas once again playing annually.

If I'm the big ten I shoot big (Texas, Texas A&M, ND and another two schools) because this is going to cause a dominoe effect, and when the dust settles I'd want there to be no doubt that we are the premier conference in most sports.


April 20th, 2010 at 3:38 PM ^

If the Big Ten adds Missouri, ND, or Nebraska, I won't love it, but I can see the logic. If the Big Ten adds five teams including a few from the Big East like Rutgers, Syracuse, and/or Pitt, it will be unforgivably stupid.

If and when an expansion plan is announced, I hope that the member conferences will think hard about it and consider the motivations of the people leading the charge. Things like these are often driven by egos and other factors unrelated to the welfare of the stakeholders.


April 20th, 2010 at 3:32 PM ^

There's this mat, you see, and written on it... are a bunch of... conclusions... that you can... jump to.

Sadly, the jump to conclusions mat is a better idea than this expansion model.


April 20th, 2010 at 3:44 PM ^


(central because of location, and because it is the center of the universe)

  • 20 Teams
  • Two Conferences: East 10 and West 10
  • 9-game mandatory conference schedule
  • Cross-conference scheduling encouraged.
  • Wins vs. non-conference C.A.F.L. teams count toward CAFL record, but not losses (so it behooves you to schedule them)
  • Payout to CAFL winner larger than BCS Nat championship
  • Non-C.A.F.L. games are counted only as exhibitions, including bowls. C.A.F.L. Champion is Crowned National Champion gets a National Champion trophy, gets bigger payout than BCS or AP-crowned champ
  • League is open to further expansion if Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, USC, et al. want in


At the end of season there will be a six-team playoff. Conf. champions get bye, and the next four teams (determined by conference committee as they choose) play each other, with better records getting home field. Round two is played at neutral-site NFL stadiums within conference footprint. C.A.F.L Championship is played on Christmas Day.

Indiana Illinois
Michigan Iowa
Michigan State Kansas
Notre Dame Minnesota
Ohio State Missouri
Penn State Nebraska
Pittsburgh Northwestern
Purdue Texas
Rutgers Texas A&M
Syracuse Wisconsin

Why all this?

The concept is to turn the C.A.F.L. into its own league, playing at a level much closer to the pros, with conference rules that encourage scheduling only within the conference (and don't reward or punish non-conf. scheduling). Paying Eastern Michigan to come in for an early whooping would be silly when you can call up Northwestern and have no repercussions if you lose. Texas/Notre Dame and Nebraska/Michigan could happen every year, without ruining the season for the loser, but giving a big boost to the winner.

All rivalry games are preserved, except Ohio State/Illinois and Michigan/Minnesota, but contracting to play each other every year would benefit these teams a lot.


This alignment really does take over college football. Either the SEC and Pac Ten would have to merge as a competing league, or slowly lose recruits to the monster in the middle.

Getting TV contracts would be no problem now -- this League would have three big games for every one outside of it, especially early in the season when you have all of the cross-conference games competing against Florida v. Hogwarts.

Oaktown Wolverine

April 20th, 2010 at 4:19 PM ^

Why don't we have two groups and do a random draw every year? Rivalries could be maintained by paired seedings. This seems a bit easier to manage than the promotion relegation method discussed earlier.

Flyin' Blue

April 21st, 2010 at 8:26 AM ^

A conference of 16 teams would just get so big that it would create a black hole in the Midwest and either a) draw everything surrounding it in and destroy it, or more likely b)collapse in on itself and fizzle out after a relatively short lifespan.