ROSEMONT, Ill. — Big Ten football schedules are set through 2019, and officials had plans to extend them into the next decade.
But league athletics directors had concerns about scheduling balance going forward, and future schedules were scuttled this week at the Big Ten’s spring meetings.
“We saw a mock-up, and we sent it back to the drawing board,” Purdue Athletics Director Morgan Burke said. “We gave them three or four principles we thought we probably ought to get incorporated in the thought process.
“I think what they did helped spark us to realize, take a look at home and away, how quickly can you cycle through, so that you try to create some balance.”
The 14-team Big Ten begins a nine-game league schedule in 2016. Schools will play six intra-divisional games and three against teams from the opposite division. A primary tenet is to have every player compete against every Big Ten team at least once during his career. Another consideration includes more match-ups pitting high-profile programs for television.
But cycling non-divisional match-ups are challenging with an unbalanced league schedule. Among the issues one athletics director cited was a team playing on the road at an opposite division foe twice in a three- or four-year period but not playing host to that team until several years later.
“It’s too long of a period, 13, 14 years and, yes, it all evens out, but it doesn’t even out for a decade,” Burke said. “They’re going to take the work that we gave them. It’s important because we need to be able to schedule our non-conference games.”
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Before 2011, every school scheduled two permanent rivals annually and played the other schools six times over an eight-year period. With the Big Ten’s expansions and divisional alignments enacted in 2011 and 2014, scheduling non-divisional games was done more randomly.
Iowa, for instance, played host to Ohio State in 2010, traveled to Ohio Stadium in 2013 and faces the Buckeyes at Kinnick Stadium in 2017. The league has not scheduled Iowa’s next game in Columbus. From 2011 to 2013, Iowa competed in the Legends Division while Ohio State was in the Leaders Division. Last year Iowa was located in the West Division and Ohio State is in the East.
Indiana was placed in Ohio State’s division during both revamps, but the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes have played three times since 2011 and will meet this fall in Bloomington. Illinois and Iowa did not play for five consecutive seasons. Purdue and Indiana also compete annually as the league’s only permanent, non-divisional game. That means 12 schools cycle three games annually beginning in 2016, while those two cycle just two through their league schedules.
The athletics directors’ discussion highlighted the Big Ten’s challenges of scheduling with a larger conference and an odd number of games.
“Just make sure we’re applying a common set of standards and maintain things like home-and-away balance and east-west balance and marquee matchups and that sort of thing,” Indiana Athletics Director Fred Glass said. “I think the scheduling guys do a great job. We have to help give them principles to follow and make a schedule that’s a competitively balanced in a system that’s inherently non-competitively balanced because you don’t play everybody.”
The league has no plans to expand to a 10-game conference schedule in the future, Burke said.
“I think we’re kind of dead on that,” he said.
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