Team travel distances for the proposed divisions

Submitted by unWavering on January 3rd, 2013 at 4:45 PM

This is my first diary, so here goes nothing.

As you all know, the new divisional alignment in the Big Ten will depend mainly on the following two factors:  geography, and competitive balance.  This diary will attempt to evaluate each of the proposed divisional alignments on the BTN survey based on geography.  

I have created a spreadsheet that contains the travel distances from each school in the Big Ten to every other school in an effort to see which divisional alignment is best in terms of travel distance.  I used Google Maps directions to obtain the distances.  I know that teams fly if the distance is over a certain amount, and therefore these distances may not be useful in some instances, but this can give you an idea of the travel costs for each team.  

Here are the straight up distances, along with average distance to other schools for each team:

ILL n/a 170 243 343 324 512 515 155 297 618 93 250 697 820
IN   n/a 410 328 309 640 657 250 225 548 116 379 627 750
IA     n/a 447 428 304 301 230 537 775 326 176 905 985
UM       n/a 64 648 749 259 190 390 298 387 522 603
MSU         n/a 629 730 240 255 454 276 368 587 667
Minn           n/a 435 406 763 974 532 273 1106 1187
Neb             n/a 527 813 1070 623 479 1203 1283
NW               n/a 373 585 141 145 716 797
OSU                 n/a 322 238 503 401 524
PSU                   n/a 560 713 198 227
PU                     n/a 269 639 761
UW                       n/a 846 926
MD                         n/a 215
RU                           n/a


AVG 387 416 467 402 410 647 722 371 419 572 375 440 666 750


Here is a list and description of things I will be looking at:

Avg Division Travel (ADT) - Average distance from a school to each of the other schools in the same division

Avg Crossover Travel (ACT) - Average distance from a school to each of the schools in the opposite division

Composite Avg - [(2/3*ADT)+(1/3*ACT)]  The thought here is that in a 9 game conference schedule, 2/3 of the games will consist of divisional games, and 1/3 will consist of crossover games.  This value attempts to compute the average travel distance for each away game in the conference.

Average Outer - This is a critical stat for comparing the amount of travel in each divisional layout.  This value is the average traveling distance to an away game for one of the schools that would be in the Inner-Outer divisional layout.  These schools will typically have the longest travel since they are located on the outskirts of the Big Ten footprint.  Making travel a little easier for these schools should be an objective.

Average All - This is the average of the Composite Average for each school in the Big Ten


Now, let's look at the divisions:

Avg Division Travel 375 365 436 448 446 588 658 396 352 498 340 507 840 668
Avg Crossover Travel 398 460 493 363 379 697 777 349 476 635 405 382 518 820
Composite Avg 383 396 455 420 424 624 697 381 393 544 361 465 732 719
Average Legends 533                          
Average Leaders 466                          
Average Outer 605                          
Average All 500                          




Avg Division Travel 295 465 263 350 389 410 480 267 320 357 331 265 425 498
Avg Crossover Travel 467 375 641 447 428 850 929 460 503 756 413 589 873 966
Composite Avg 352 435 389 382 402 557 630 332 381 490 358 373 574 654
Average East 474                          
Average West 427                          
Average Outer 524                          
Average All 451                          




Avg Division Travel 230 233 574 247 245 713 844 236 263 531 194 569 746 804
Avg Crossover Travel 522 573 374 535 552 590 659 487 507 497 530 329 598 703
Composite Avg 328 346 508 343 347 672 783 320 344 519 306 489 696 770
Average Inner 333                          
Average Outer 634                          
Average All 484                          




So, what did we find?  You can tell right away that the Existing +1 divsion setup is the worst in terms of geography.  The average away game will be 500 miles on the dot from the traveling team's campus.  The Outer teams will have to travel an average of 600 miles to opposing teams' campuses.

The East-West setup improves things a bit, which is an intuitive result.  The average away game is 451 miles for each Big Ten team.

The Inner Outer setup is less improved, but somewhat surprising is the fact that it is a little better than the current setup.  This is because while the Outer Division will have to travel very far for half of its division games, the crossover games won't be very far in most cases.  The Inner Division will rarely have to travel very far.The average away game is 484 miles from campus.

Overall, I think the Inner-Outer setup provides the best competitive balance, and it improves upon the current divisional setup in terms of geography.  Inner-Outer gets my vote, and it already seems to be the most popular amongst mgobloggers.



January 3rd, 2013 at 5:23 PM ^

New York is the #1 media market in the country (and ESPN is located in Connecticut).  If you want to draw on an additional factor besides geography and competitve balance, than that's one to keep in mind.  The Big Ten will want to have its best programs shuttling thru the NYC/NJ area, which means Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State will all be in the east so they can play at Rutgers (or more likely, at the new stadium in the Meadowlands) on a regular basis (we'll add alumni distribution as another reason for those schools being in the east).

Here's another--the post-season.  With the 4-team playoff coming into being in 2014 along with the New Year's Day/New Year's Eve bowl lineup, the conference will not want to have two teams playing one another in the regular season finale and then one week later in the conference championship game.  That's why Michigan and Ohio State will both be in the same division and will continue to play one another the last regular game of the year.

The conference will have annual protected cross divisional games.  Why?  Because that ensures that the major teams play one another each year, which means that when the B1G television rights contract goes up for negotiation, the conference can say that the major programs in each division will play one another regularly each year.

Will travel time and mileage be a factor?  Perhaps, but when you look at a map and consider an Inner-Outer setup, you can see that it doesn't work at least in terms of fan perception.  A fan in Lincoln, NE or College Park, MD will see seven other teams from the other division physically located between them and the other teams in their own division.  That will not pass the "Does this make sense?" test.  

The other thing that the Inner-Outer setup does is structurally make the B1G a midwest-centric confernce.  Just put a point somewhere in northern Indiana and draw a small circle inside a larger ellipse and you have what that setup looks like.   Keep in mind that this is a conference that's planning on putting a second office in the east (probably New York City).  They want to the Big Ten image to be one of a national conference.

Jim Delany has said that geography will play a more important role than in 2010--see…

So you add all that up and what do you get (with rivalry games and better competitive balance in mind):

West - Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State

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

Protected Rivals Games:

Michigan-Michgian State

Ohio State-Wisconsin

Penn State-Nebraska





This is a likely lineup for the Big Ten for the 2014/5 seasons.  Things may change a bit if they go to nine conference games by that time frame, although that will require a number of non-conference games to be cancelled or rescheduled.  I suspect in the short term we'll see eight conference games and then go to nine by perhaps the 2016 season.

On the final weekend of the season, we'll see the rivalry games being played out.  All these games will take place within the divisions (with perhaps one exception because there are seven teams in each division).  That includes the following:

Michigan-Ohio State





The remaining teams are one from the west (Michigan State) and three from the east (Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland).  MSU-PSU could be a season ender, but it's just as likely that one of those two teams would take a bye.  Rutgers-Maryland could also be a season ender as well or one of those two teams takes a bye while the other plays Penn State.  Or you could make Maryland or Rutgers play Michigan State while the other team plays PSU.

The B1G is likely to add at least two more teams to get to 16.  Right now, the informed speculation is that those teams will be two of Virginia, North Carolina, Duke and Georgia Tech.  If that happens, I imagine the conference will want to have that in place by the 2016 or 2017 season, i.e., in concert with the new television contract.

At that point, we could see the conference adopt the pod system with four 4-team pods or the B1G might go to two permanent 8-team divisions playing nine conference games.  Regardless of the setup, the factors I listed above will still be in play and they would still effect how a 16-team B1G would look like in the end.



January 3rd, 2013 at 5:43 PM ^

It does seem most likely that we will end up with the East-West divisions with Purdue and Michigan State switched. That is:

West: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State

East: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue, Indiana

It would make sense geographically and it would be somewhat competitively balanced. It also passes the eye test. However, one problem with these divisions is that the teams in the East would have an advantage due to much more fertile recruiting grounds. Since we would be in the East, I wouldn't mind it too much.


January 3rd, 2013 at 6:45 PM ^

If the Big Ten Network wants to get moved to basic cable in the NYC/NJ and Baltimore/DC areas, then it also makes sense to have as many of its bigger brands playing in the eastern division with Rutgers and Maryland.

One other thing from a Michigan perspective is that fund raising is tied into football.  I have to imagine that UM would love to have fund raising events in New York City and Washington DC in concert with games against Rutgers and Maryland over most any other option.  I suspect President Coleman will put her support behind getting Michigan in the eastern division for that very same reason.

If Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota truly want to play one another, then that's the core of the western division right there.  Now does it make sense to combine them with three schools on the east coast or to have them in close proximity to the other teams in their division?  I submit it's the latter, so that means Illinois and Northwestern would be #5 and #6.  Michigan State would make sense as the seventh team in terms of perceived competitive balance, but you have to ask yourself how good Penn State is going to be over the next four years or so with sanctions in place (not to mention the possibility of the current HC going to the NFL).  

Because if PSU isn't up to form, then the eastern division will have two major football programs (Michigan, Ohio State) and four others that are so-so (Purdue, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers).  That could make for some pretty interesting season ending games with OSU.





January 3rd, 2013 at 6:14 PM ^

I too was a little surprized by the average travel numbers in the Inner-Outer set up.  The one draw back about this is, while the average travel may be acceptable, it really makes 4 teams pay via travel.

Nebraska- 783 composite travel (up from 630 or 697)

Rutgers- 770 (up from 654 or 719)

And to a lesser extent:

Minn- 672 (up from 557 or 624)

Iowa- 508 (up from 389 or 455)

Plus, the in division games for some of these programs would make it pratically impossible for fans to travel to road games in division.  To an extent is depends on if you think people would travel 500 miles but not 800 miles.

Nebraska divisions games 844 (up from 480 or 658)

Rutgers division games 804 (up from 498 or 668)

Maryland division games 746 (less than exisitng [840] but 425 in East-West]



January 3rd, 2013 at 6:32 PM ^

I think one thing to keep in mind is... the teams are still going to have to travel EVERYWHERE it's just a matter of how often you travel to each of these places.

for the inner outer config, it could be arranged such that the outer teams have 2 far road games per year.  It's not like we go to every road game (I live in the chicago area and I thought Nebraska was too far to go to, so I doubt many people from Michigan would go there).

I guess the feast or famine doesn't sit well with some of the people I've spoken to, but I am still a fan of the eye of doom.


January 3rd, 2013 at 7:27 PM ^

How about a North-South alignment with either Nebraska, Ohio, or Penn State going to the North for competitive balance.  My choice would be Ohio but you could work with any of them and have decent geographic alignment while also keeping many traditional rivalries,  The biggest down side I can see is both Michigan and Ohio not having regular games in the added markets.  Also, for competitive balance you could move Northwestern or Iowa for one weaker schools in the south.


North                              South

Michigan                        Penn State

Michigan State              Nebraska

Northwestern                Illinois

Wisconsin                     Indiana

Minnesota                     Purdue

Iowa                               Rutgers

Ohio                               Maryland


January 4th, 2013 at 8:45 AM ^

I can think of a few reasons why your setup isn't very likely:

1.  This lineup splits Nebraska from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.  While you could have the Cornhuskers playing one or perhaps two of these teams per year based on schedule and fixed cross-divisional games, the sentiment among those universities is that they want to play one another each year.  Putting Nebraska in a division where none of its other members are in contiguous states isn't going to go down well in Lincoln.

2.  When you look at alumni distributions, you're putting Michigan and Ohio State (both schools with big East Coast presences) in the division opposite Rutgers and Maryland.  You want to have UM and OSU together with RU and MD.

3.  There are several media/television reasons why this wouldn't work.  The B1G wants to put its most popular brands in contact with the #1 media center in the world--New York City.  That pushes Michgan and Ohio State to the east along with Penn State.  When it comes to NYC, Nebraska doesn't push the needles as much as UM and OSU.  There's also questions about how this lineup would bring the Big Ten Network onto the basic cable tier in NYC/NJ and Baltimore/DC with that particular lineup.  

If the Big Ten was willing to live with the idea of having a Michigan-Ohio State rematch in the conference championship game one week after the regular season ender (or Illinois-Northwestern, FWIW), then you could take you could flip Nebraska and Ohio State from your lineup above and that'd give you this:

North:  Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin

South:  Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers 

Of course, in the short term given PSU's problems, that essentially hands the south division title to Ohio State every year because the rest of the teams in the south are pretty meh.  That 's another reason why it makes sense to have Michigan in the east with Ohio State and let Michigan State go to the west to provide more competition for Nebraska (along with Wisconsin and Northwestern).






January 3rd, 2013 at 9:05 PM ^

The real question is travel time, not miles. Beyond a certain distance, teams and their fans are (mainly) going to be flying, not driving.

Now, airplane trips are much shorter in the air, but you've got to get to and from an airport, get through security, board/disembark, check and claim luggage, and so forth. For most Big Ten trips that require flying, travel time is dominated by these other factors, and it almost doesn't matter where you're going.

So the real issue for the Big Ten is not the average distance, but maximizing the drivable games. Once you're beyond driving distance, it doesn't matter who's in your division, and other factors will take over (rivalries, competitive balance, marketing).


January 3rd, 2013 at 9:40 PM ^

Yes, I noted this (briefly) in the diary. I know teams won't drive to very far games, although I'm not sure what the cut off is for driving distance, whether or not it is a league-wife cut off, etc. So I decided to keep it relatively simple and use pure distance as an approximation for cost/inconvenience. Unfortunately there is nit a good way to tell how good of an approximation this is. I started doing this purely out of curiosity and realized it may be interesting to share here.

As it pertains to this diary, I think the Inner Outer division alignment allows for roughly half the away games per year to be drivable, even for Outer division members. The East-West setup would require most crossover away games to be flown to, as well as some of the divisional games so you see minimal, if any improvement.


January 4th, 2013 at 10:30 AM ^

I also prefer Inner/Outer, but unfortunately I don't think it'll happen, for three reasons:

1) As a number of people have noted, I think the league will want to maximize the exposure of Michigan and Ohio State on the East Coast, and Inner/Outer fails to do that.

2) I think they'll worry about creating the perception that the Outer division is the "ghetto" for Big Ten arrivistes (i.e., all the teams that weren't in Bo & Woody's Big Ten).

3) I think they'll be skittish about names other than "East/West," given that "Leaders/Legends" didn't exactly take the world by storm.

The Geek

January 4th, 2013 at 11:23 AM ^

For comparison look at some of the distances while the Huskers were in the Big 12:

NU to UT ~ 820 miles

NU to TT ~ 750 miles

NU to A&M ~ 807 miles

NU to Baylor ~ 629 miles

NU to CU ~ 500 miles

Do teams like Nebraska utilize chartered air, and if so,  is distance really that much of a factor?


January 6th, 2013 at 9:21 AM ^

How did you reconcile "Maryland or Rutgers" for Option 1?

Did you assign one to each division? Take an overall average? Or something else?

In any case, I agree with most of the posters here that Option 2 seems most likely. I think it's an improvement over the current setup- especially with new names. How about "Elitist Snobs and "Flyover Farms"?


January 6th, 2013 at 1:17 PM ^

For option one I just put MD in the Legends and RU in the Leaders since it makes more sense from a competitive standpoint. The other way makes little difference since the schools are pretty close to one another.