Sunday, July 29, 2012

Big Ten scheduling argh

All that stuff I wrote about the Big Ten and the blessing-in-disguise-ness of the end of that Pac-12 scheduling dealie was rendered meaningless Thursday when Jim Delany said exactly the opposite of everything he'd previously said about going to a nine-game schedule.

Details from ESPN:
Don't expect to see a nine-game Big Ten schedule any time soon.

Commissioner Jim Delany said at Big Ten media days Thursday that league schools are "of a unanimous mind to stay at eight games" in the conference schedule. 
Ummm wut?

Flashback: The Big Ten voted to go to a nine-game schedule (starting in 2017) last year and then backtracked when the Pac-12 thing came up, at which point Delany said with no ambiguity whatsoever that the options were (a) playing nine conference games or (b) finalizing the deal with the Pac-12. Here's the exact quote:

"You know, if we hadn’t done the collaboration, we’d do nine," Delany said of the Big Ten's league slate. "If we do the collaboration, we’ll do eight. So, we’re able to attract a higher quality of game. We’re not expanding the number of games, we’ll still play 12.

"The question is, are you gonna play eight quality conference games and assure there’s a ninth quality game in the mix, one way or the other? ... The idea was to upgrade the quality of the schedules, either through nine or through the collaboration."

Why "if we hadn't done the collaboration, we'd do nine" became "a unanimous mind to stay at eight games" in a span of three months is unknown. Delany based his explanation on the implementation of the playoff-type thing and the need to "demonstrate strength relative to other conferences." There's some logic there if it actually happens -- the Michigan-Alabama game probably wouldn't have been scheduled if Michigan had another conference game to deal with and thus one fewer home game either this year or next year (nine conference games means a four home/five away conference schedule every other year) -- but there's a reason I have to include an "if it actually happens" qualifier. Wisconsin hasn't played a real nonconference road game since 2005 (!) and can't just schedule four MAC-rifices and call that "a demonstration of strength relative to other conferences." The MAC doesn't count.

In the puppy dogs/candy/fireworks world, everybody schedules a Game of the Century every year; in reality, about three teams do that and the other nine schedule de facto bye weeks to get the cash money from the extra home game. Money always wins.

And the three (or whatever) games of national interest that do get scheduled won't do anything about the inequality created via the current cross-divisional setup (example: Wisconsin playing Minnesota every year and Ohio State playing Michigan every year), which would be sooooo much better with just one more cross-divisional game, even if it's a rotational one. Forcing Wisconsin to play Nebraska/Michigan/Michigan State and giving Ohio State one of Minnesota/Northwestern/Iowa would kinda help mitigate that have-an-extra-win advantage. UNIMPORTANT. DOLLAR SIGNS WWWHHEEEEEEE!

BTW, the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC are all playing nine games already; only the SEC and Big Ten are holding out at this point. I dunno what that means but would be interested in some sort of collaboration-type thing with the SEC since it's gonna be pretty tough to find a lot of Pac-12/Big 12/ACC teams that are both (a) willing to set up a game and (b) worthy of putting on the schedule. Viva the Michigan-Notre Dame deal.

So ... yeah. All the benefits of a mandated ninth real game are going away in favor of the opportunity to play one more nationally relevant nonconference game that probably won't actually get scheduled in most cases. I'm optimistic that the schools that matter will do it (at least most years) to avoid getting laughed at come playoff time; I'm not that optimistic, though.


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