How would the Big Ten divide with a twelfth team?

Submitted by touchdown chad henne on July 28th, 2009 at 1:50 PM
Maybe this should be listed as an alternate universe post a la the Paul Johnson Wolverines, since the likelihood of Big Ten expansion seems to be very slim and the discussion now somewhat nauseating. I've been wondering how the Big Ten would divide were it to add a twelfth team, making a division and a conference championship game necessary. If the new team was either of the top few choices discussed in recent months (Pitt and Syracuse), then it would seem to follow that the Big Ten would split East/West, like the SEC, with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, and either Indiana or Purdue (technically Purdue is further west but only marginally) in the West division and Michigan, MSU, tOSU, PSU, Indiana, and the new team in the east division.

However, I'm wondering whether a more compelling split would be if the conference divided along North/South lines, a la the Big 12.  In this scenario, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, MSU, Wisconsin,  and Iowa would comprise the Big Ten North, and (possibly) the new team along with tOSU, Indiana, Purdue, Penn State,  and Illinois would make up the south. This would probably require the Big Ten expansion to involve a team that was more definitively south (like remember when we thought Texas might be interested? or Notre Dame if they ever come to their senses...). Rutgers would in this instance become a more desirable scenario as well, and Syracuse less so.

In the Big Ten's current state this split seems to carry the more intriguing power structure: Michigan, if and when it returns to its expected strength, would be the flagship program of the Big Ten North. Battling with UM for Big Ten North titles would be any one of Iowa/Wisconsin/MSU/Northwestern/Minnesota (all of whom appear to be, if not competitive, then on the verge of being competitive post-2008). In the south, Penn State and Ohio State would be like the Texas/Oklahoma tandem in the Big 12 South, routinely sparring for supremacy (possibly with the new school), occasionally with Illinois as a legitimate challenger and Purdue and Indiana bringing up the rear.

It seems to me that it is in Michigan's interest to have the Big Ten divide North/South. What do all of you think?

Thanks to for providing a good visual of where the Big Ten teams are situated geographically.


The Barwis Effect

July 28th, 2009 at 2:26 PM ^

The problem with dividing is that the conference championships do not pit the top two teams in the conference against each other.

If you wanna do it right, the solution is simple...

Scrap the divisions ... add another conference game and the championship game births go to the first and second place teams at the end of conference play.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:43 PM ^

There are two problems in implementing that "as is". One of them is easily solved.

The easily solved one is what do you do when there's three or more teams with the same conference record (see the B12 last year). That's fairly easily solved in a number of ways so I won't go into that.

The bigger problem is what happens when #1 and #2 have already met and it's a rematch. Think of how unimportant The Game would feel if it was guaranteed that we'd play OSU again next week.* Hence, my proposed solution above.

*I'm not saying it wouldn't be important to you, me, the players, or many other people, but you have to admit that it loses something when that happens.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:04 PM ^

If a team is not in your division, rivalries may not be played yearly (see Nebraska v. Oklahoma). Your N/S divide splits UM and tOSU. This is BAD in my mind.

Also Tacopants' had the notion (and defended it well) that a B10 championship game would not help . I generally agree unless we can attract an upper echelon team, then split into two "equal" divisions that will often produce a championship game where it is #1 vs. #2 in the conference (like the SEC and unlike the B12 as the South division has been dominant there).

My big complaint about championship games is that the loser is often screwed (See Missouri 2007) and the #3 team is sent to a better bowl then they get sent to. That and I think conference championship games are one of the things that hinder the movement toward a playoff.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:28 PM ^

I had what I thought to be a fair reply to this problem in the other thread that you reference. I'll reprint it here for simplicity's sake.


I've thought about a B10 title game and had long discussions about it. To me, the most important part of a B10 title game would be to have one that doesn't diminish the importance of any game, especially any rivalry game, most especially the Michigan-OSU game.

Since I don’t foresee a future where we have a B10 title game but still only have 12 members in the B10, I’ve focused mostly on the logistics of a B10 title game when we have 12 members.

To solve the problem, I simply added two rules:

1. A B10 title game shall not be played unless there are 2+ teams with the same conference record
2. In the event of rule 1 being satisfied, if there are only two teams with the same conference record, a B10 title game shall only be played if and only if the two teams have not already played each other; if they have played each other than the winner of the B10 will be whichever team won that game

This obviously means that Michigan and OSU will never meet in the B10 title game as it’s impossible for the teams to have not played each other. It also guarantees that the B10 title game will never be between two teams from the same division as they will have all played each other, thus it will act just like a normal title game between divisions but it’ll only happen every couple of years.

The obvious problem comes when more than just two teams have the same conference record. There are many solutions that could be used for this. Personally, I advocate rewarding the two teams that had the hardest road to their record, thus I would say that the two teams that must be considered to be allowed to play in the B10 title game would be the two teams with the hardest strength of schedule. This isn’t the only way it could be done but it’s the way that I think would result in the strongest scheduling by teams.

Regardless, once the tie had been broken and the two teams decided on, then the additional two rules would be applied. If the two teams then still needed to play, it would be done.

One of the big advantages of this in my mind is that it’s possible to split up the conference into divisions and have the divisions be fairly even. Thus, Michigan and OSU could be in separate divisions as putting them in the same division would almost certainly make that division the hardest division every year. Then, it would just have to be a part of the scheduling that Michigan and OSU still meet every year as the last game of the year for them.

I’ve tried to divide the teams into divisions (normally using ND as the 12th team) and have them be fairly balanced while still including geography as a factor in the selection. I haven’t come up with divisions that I actually like and think would be fairly balanced every year.

Let’s see what this does to the B10 in the last few years. Since I can’t figure out every scenario involving ND as the 12th team, I went with Syracuse for the 12th team and assumed that they would never win the conference or end up tied for it.

  • 2008: PSU and OSU tie but PSU beat OSU head-to-head so there’d be no title game
  • 2007: OSU won the B10 outright
  • 2006: OSU won the B10 outright
  • 2005: PSU and OSU tie but PSU beat OSU head-to-head so there’d be no title game
  • 2004: Iowa and Michigan tie but Michigan beat Iowa head-to-head so there’d be no title game
  • 2003: Michigan won the B10 outright
  • 2002: Iowa and OSU tie and never played each other, thus there is a B10 title game

Out of 7 years, only one would have a title game.

As for deciding who would have home-field advantage, I would again advocate giving home field advantage to whoever has the strongest strength of schedule. Or it could alternate between divisions every time there is a title game (although I don’t like that much since the game would be so infrequent). Or it could go to the division with the largest collective strength of schedule.

Just like the tie-breaker, this could be done in many different ways.

Thus, I think that it is possible to have a B10 title game that preserve the sanctity of The Game and every other game.

Personally, I think that this model could be used for any 12 team conference and make the title games more interesting since they would be guaranteed to matter and would never result in a rematch and thus questions when the winners changed.



This doesn't even necessarily require divisions, it works without them too (although it would seem odd to have a championship without divisions).

touchdown chad henne

July 28th, 2009 at 2:40 PM ^

I like this arrangement. I would only add that if there were divisions, the likelihood of a conference championship game would increase. In 2003, yes, there would be no title game. Michigan in this alternate Universe would be the Big Ten North winner, and Ohio State would be the Big Ten South winner. The Game's result decided the conference championship.

But how about years when the winner isn't either Mich or OSU (the matchup of which would have to be guaranteed, otherwise the Big Ten expansion would be horrible; I liked what one of the commenters said about how the SEC "guarantees" one rivalry game from an opponent in the other conference every year). Assume that the Big Ten divides North/South. This would mean, for example, that Mich and PSU play each other even less frequently than they do with rotating schedules, i.e. they play five division games, three across-conference games, and four ooc games. Therefore your example for 2004 (where Michigan and Iowa tied but Michigan beat Iowa so they are conference champions) would only determine the North conference champion


July 28th, 2009 at 2:47 PM ^

You're assuming that there are divisions. What if there were no divisions, simply 12 teams playing in a conference? Then you could keep doing the scheduling any way you want (including having our permanent rivalry games with MSU and OSU) but still have a championship game when necessary.

The championship game would effectively negate the "B10 is bad because they don't play a round robin schedule" because if 1 didn't play 2 during the year, it would be guaranteed to happen at the end of the year.

Edit: Grammar (your!=you're (I knew that I just mistyped)).


July 28th, 2009 at 2:43 PM ^

Conference championship games are supposed to be this great cash cow, so why cash in only if some odd situation occurs?

I don't think you can make the argument that conferences do it to determine a champion. It just doesn't make sense. Plus, in many conferences (esp. the Big 12) you don't pit conference #1 vs. conference #2.


July 28th, 2009 at 3:00 PM ^

I agree, conference championship games aren't implemented to appease fans and crown a true conference champ but instead to add another guaranteed sellout game to make some more money.

Your B12 example is extremely apt, except for maybe 2007 in the last several years the true #1 and #2 have been in the B12 south.

When I post on here, I commonly post with two conflicting thoughts in mind, 1- what I wish would happen, and 2-what could actually happen.* I often try to come up with solutions that appease thought 1 but aren't completely against thought 2. I know that this solution strays much more into thought 1 than thought 2 but it's still the best thing that I could come up with that isn't solely created by either thought.

*When I am posting something created solely by thought 1, I'll follow it up with a note saying that I know it'll never happen.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:18 PM ^

I still don't see it, even with the permanent rival. I don't think either Michigan or Ohio St. will vote for a plan that involves them possibly meeting in the conference championship game one week after they just played. And any divisions other than directional splits are stupid, I have no idea what teams are in each division in the ACC, as opposed to the SEC and Big XII.

Maybe some teams in the west will get their act together and even out the strength. Anyone else remember when the Big XII north was easily the stronger division?


July 28th, 2009 at 2:30 PM ^

then they should open the big ten season with the UM OSU. Either have everyone else in the big ten have a bye week or have everyone play their cross division rival to open it up. IT would increase the chance of a rivalry game for the championship.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

East/West would make the East division too much stronger, with Michigan, OSU, and PSU all together (and Notre Dame, assuming they're the 12th, in the West would lose their main Big Ten rivalries). North/South seems perfect, although for rivalry purposes it might make sense to flip ND into the North over Northwestern. The trouble with North/South is that it would make Michigan-OSU an every-other-year game unless we did an SEC-like structure with one permanent rival from the other division.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:26 PM ^

I would never want to beat ohio state then play them again in the championship, North/South idea. What if the Big Ten took the ACC route and went without location. I can't think of good names for the divisions but one consists of MEEEEEEEECHIGAN, osu, MSU, Wisconsion, Purdue, Indiana. Division B then gets Penn State, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa and Pitt/Cuse/Rut. Then you get one every year rival from the other side sec style.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:28 PM ^

Why not just play 8 conference games each year - you have 4 locked opponents (for Michigan, it would be OSU, Michigan St., Minnesota and Penn State), and then the computer tries to give you 4 other teams closely ranked to you in the standings (complicated but a computer could figure it out).

The claim that there isn't enough lead time to do this is hogwash - we didn't have a 4th non-conference game this year until, what, February or March? The computers could figure out the next year's schedule the day after the end of the regular season.

After the conference games, then the top 2 teams play for the conference title. Then, no one needs to worry about weighted divisions or lost rivalries.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

The divisions don't necesarily have to be done geographically. And even if they are, they don't have to be north/south or east/west. They could be northwest/southeast or some other crazy thing.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:37 PM ^

That would be stupid. I'm sorry, but why would we want to divide into some stupid "Lakes" and "Plains" divisions where Penn State is placed with Iowa so that both sides are equally strong? Geography must play a part... and "Northwest" and "Sotheast" create the exact same divisions as East/West.


July 28th, 2009 at 3:13 PM ^

too upset by random geography in the ACC, nor the completely arbitrary Coastal vs. Atlantic names. Different teams, league, histories, etc., granted. But it's not as if this kind of idea is without precedent.

Wouldn't most people want somewhat balanced divisions over the course of time? For example, it sucked when the Big 12 North had a bunch of lousy teams two or three years ago.


July 28th, 2009 at 7:13 PM ^

If you had said universally unwatched, I'd agree. My experience is that fans outside the ACC don't think it's a joke so much as they don't care. But that indifference to that game has little nothing to do with the wacky geography and nonsensical names of their conference divisions.

If the ACC championship game had one (or even both teams) with a BCS championship game appearance riding on the outcome (as the SEC and Big 12 have enjoyed), particularly with the high profile programs like FSU, Miami, Va Tech, etc., my strong suspicion is that the game would get plenty of buzz and attention beyond the ACC, and would likely sell out no matter the location. Instead we've been treated to a lot of "eh okay" matchups with not much riding on the line and little star power in terms of players on the field.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:36 PM ^

As has been said, you can't divide us from OSU and hope that every year we face off for the Big Ten title... more often than not The Game does not decide the title outright, it merely has implications in the title picture.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:38 PM ^

Travel is not a big deal. It's not like we have any west coast Big 10 teams. So a geographical split isn't necessary. Since you only have 5 games against division teams, rivalry games could be easily included (like UM-OSU). In the Griffith division (1st Big 10 commissioner): OSU, PSU, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minn.

In the Wilson Division (2nd Commissioner): UM, ND, MSU, Wisky, Purdue, NW.


July 28th, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

Every team should pick it's biggest rival in the big ten and put them in the oppsite division.

michigan osu
purdue indiana
illinois NW
minn wis
iowa ?

Break it like this so it increases the chance of a rivalry championship.
I know it’s not perfect but it’s the concept I wanted to get through. If ND joins then pair PSU with Iowa and ND with MSU


July 28th, 2009 at 3:27 PM ^

i did it based on the teams that they play every year. M has OSU and MSU. Iowa wisconsin and minn play eachother every year.
I focus mostly on M football. It is more of an example and it's not perfect. do you know who every team in the big tens biggest rival is? That would be useful info for this


July 28th, 2009 at 3:36 PM ^

That's the problem, they don't match up on a 1-1 basis. When OSU is our biggest rival but we're MSU's biggest rival, things are messed up from the get go.

I don't know that there's a good way to split them up, so what you suggested is as good as any other ideas I suppose. I'd much rather just keep things the way they are now... it didn't hurt OSU not to have a conference championship in their last three BCS championship runs.


July 28th, 2009 at 3:10 PM ^

It doesn't matter how they would split it. Any split would be stupid, stupid, and more stupid!!! Dividing up your conference for the mere sake of an over-rated conference championship game makes very little sense. Please Big Ten, don't follow the herd over the edge of the cliff!

Hemlock Philosopher

July 28th, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

... are meant for making cash money. We'd have to go with the SEC model if we wanted to preserve the rivalries or scrap the rivalry stuff altogether - which I think we're all against.

As far as teams go, what did Bo say about ND? I think Pitt would be the best fit and is a natural rival for PSU (I've always felt MSU/PSU was a bit contrived).

Also, forget calling it the Big 10; the name is silly now and will be worse if we add a 12th team. I like the Great North Conference.


July 28th, 2009 at 4:28 PM ^

So you'd like us to be named the Great North Conference... GNC. Why does GNC sound like something that's slowly going to fail over the course of a decade and take a fair few other people with it?

(Hint: GMC)

Anyways, why would be ever change the name of the Big Ten considering the history of the conference. To change the name would cause a lot of history to be lost (or at least forgotten). Think about if we changed the name of the Big House when the renovations are done, would you really want that?


July 28th, 2009 at 3:36 PM ^

I don't want a divisional setup in football, even if the Big Ten adds a 12th team.

But if it must come to that, why not have new divisions every season? At the conclusion of each season, we look at the teams' records over the past 5 years, and "seed" them into the divisions: The "Yost" division will have the #1, #4, #5, #8, #9 and #12 teams. The "Stagg" division will have the #2, #3, #6, #7, #10 and #11 teams.

Teams will still have 2 or 3 permanent opponents, so Michigan would be guaranteed to play MSU and OSU every year, whether they are in the same division or not. This would guarantee a good variety in a team's opponents, reasonably fair schedules, and 2 divisions of similar strength.

I'm still against the idea, but flexible divisions might make it more palatable.


July 28th, 2009 at 4:05 PM ^

you don't need division for a championship game. with that system it would make more sense to ust have the top 2 teams play eachother. At least that would be a good game. What if last year the big12 championships game it was texas okla instead in okla mizzou. which would you have preferred?


July 28th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

Actually, you do need divisions for a championship game.

NCAA Bylaw exempts from the 12-game limit "A conference championship game between division champions of a member conference of 12 or more institutions that is divided into two divisions (of six or more institutions each), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division;"

In other words, if the conference has less than 12 members, or if it is not split into divisions (where teams play every other team in the division), then it does not get to have a championship game.


July 28th, 2009 at 4:07 PM ^

I have no interest in any system that would:

a) create the possibility of UM/OSU playing twice in one season*
b) create the possibility of UM/OSU not playing at all

*Notwithstanding a possible second meeting in a national championship game if they ever develop a playoff system

The same holds true for playing MSU twice (or not playing at all).

Frankly, I get sick of the beating the Big 10 and Pac 10 take on the boards for not doing it like the SEC, Big 12, etc. do it... as if somehow they've got it all right. I see nothing wrong with how we do it now. The end of the season comes, and a legitimate Big Ten champ is crowned.

I will say this: If I could tweak it at all, it would be to have ALL Big Ten teams play each other. Presently, this means we'd only have 2 OOC games. So what? Alternatively, kick a team out and go back to being ten teams in the Big TEN, getting us back to 3 OOC games. Sorry, Penn State, but as much as I've enjoyed your presence, it would have to be you since you were the last team in. I think PSU could fit nicely into the Big East, not to mention beef it up considerably, and they'd gain a natural rival in Pitt. We could play the occasional home-and-home with them so as not to kill what had become a great series.