Schedule woes: Badgers come, Illini go

IOWA CITY — Big Ten officials say it’s “likely” Iowa and Wisconsin will resume their annual football series in 2013 after taking a two-year hiatus for Big Ten football realignment.

But for that to happen, Iowa will have to avoid border rival Illinois for six consecutive years or Big Ten power Ohio State from 2011 through 2014.

“We don’t have a clear picture on 2013 and 2014 only because we’re working on those schedules right now,” said Mark Rudner, the Big Ten’s associate commissioner for television administration. “It’s likely that Iowa and Wisconsin would be on each other’s schedule in those two years. But who else would be, I don’t know yet.”

Rudner said the league hopes to finish the 2013 and 2014 football schedules by Dec. 1.

After Saturday, Iowa and Wisconsin will have played 72 of the last 74 years. Iowa leads the series — which spans 116 years — 42-41-2.

The Big Ten will split into two divisions next year when Nebraska joins the league. Iowa will play divisional foes Minnesota, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern along with protected cross-divisional foe Purdue each year. Iowa is slated to play the five schools in the opposite division — Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State — four times over a 10-year period.

In non-divisional play, Iowa hosts Indiana and travels to Penn State in 2011 and 2012, leaving Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio State off the regular-season schedule those years. Iowa and Illinois were not scheduled to play in 2009 and 2010.

Rudner said the league prefers to avoid a six-year scheduling gap.

“Obviously, you don’t want to go that long without playing somebody,” Rudner said. “We looked at it more in terms of a 10-year period rather than a four-year window.”

Iowa-Illinois isn’t the only Big Ten series to go on a four-year hiatus. Northwestern-Ohio State and Minnesota-Indiana will go at least four years (2009-2012) without playing.

That’s one reason Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany wants to expand the league schedule to nine games by 2015. Rudner and his staff will present nine-game proposals to athletics directors for possible approval next spring.

“Nine games will help a lot because if you’re not paired in somebody’s division and you’re not matched across on a regular basis, nine games would get you six games in a 10-year period,” Delany said. “Really, in the games we have today, you get those teams six times in an eight-year period. I think if we got to a ninth game, that would soften the blow of what we weren’t able to accomplish.”

The chief concern among athletics directors, Delany and Rudner admit, is making sure each school can host seven games. Iowa, for instance, makes about $2.7 million from each home game. In a nine-game Big Ten schedule, six schools will have five road league games, which will force those schools to schedule all three non-conference games at home just to have seven home games.

“That’s sort of the underlying factor in all this is how do you get to seven home games,” Rudner said. “You’ve got to sort of examine what people’s non-conference schedules look like, for instance, like Iowa and Iowa State or Michigan and Notre Dame. You want to sort of sync it up in years that you have five conference home games or the years in which you play one of those non-conference games on the road that you have to play.”

Iowa and Iowa State have a contract through 2017. The Big 12 went to a nine-game schedule beginning next year, and Iowa State was able to sync its league schedule to accommodate Iowa in the future.

Big Ten officials rushed to complete 2011-12 football schedules. Once the divisions were official, Rudner said he had about one week to finish the schedule and give every team two non-divisional, nonprotected opponents selected randomly. Only a few non-divisional, nonprotected games, such as Wisconsin-Nebraska, were predetermined.

“There were teams that wanted to match up,” Rudner said.

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