Monday, July 16, 2012

The Big Ten will just play by itself then

A moderately interesting and sad-face-inducing news-type thing came out Friday and thus was overlooked amid the PENN STATE OUTRAGE: The Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling dealie that was supposed to start in 2017 will instead start never.

Details from ESPN:
The scheduling partnership between the Pac-12 and Big Ten won't happen after all.

The conferences said Friday that their agreement, announced in December and set to begin in 2017, has been called off because of football scheduling issues involving several Pac-12 schools. A round-robin football schedule, featuring 12 games per year between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, had been the cornerstone of the pact, though it also included elements involving other sports and the two leagues' television networks.
Reaction: Lame. And I can't even blame Jim Delany since it was the Pac-12 that apparently didn't vest this thing and then had to back out after a bunch of members (and by "a bunch of members" I mostly mean "USC and Stanford and possibly Utah") bitched about it: has learned that the Pac-12 approached the Big Ten in March and said several of its members had reservations about a mandatory scheduling agreement. The main problem: The Pac-12 currently plays nine league games per season, while the Big Ten plays only eight. Pac-12 members such as USC and Stanford, who both also have annual games against Notre Dame, would have added a Big Ten opponent to an already taxing slate.

The leagues worked on several models, including an initial agreement featuring 10 or 11 games a year in 2017-20 with the idea eventually to reach 12. ... All Big Ten schools were on board with the collaboration.

At least four Pac-12 schools ultimately decided they would not accept mandatory scheduling, has learned. One proposal called for eight matchups per year, featuring the willing Pac-12 schools, but the Big Ten wanted a complete collaboration or none at all.
Argh. The nine-game thing is a legitimate hindrance but probably not as much of one as the desire to be uber picky in nonconference play; USC used to have a big-time-ish nonconference opponent on the schedule every year but has scaled back to play Minnesota and the like for the past couple years, and Stanford's nonconference schedules of late have been Wisconsin-esque (Sacramento State, San Jose State, Wake Forest and Duke just rotate between the three sacrificial-lamb spots). The story also mentions Utah's deal with BYU, which would be of note if it didn't end after 2016 and become totally irrelevant (pending an unlikely renewal) to the Big Ten proposal.

So yeah ... playing Notre Dame/BYU, Cupcake State and Cupcake Tech apparently is preferable to playing just one school from the Cupcake system and one Big Ten school of a variable difficulty level. Insert standard complaint here about scheduling/money. Fans rabble rabble money rabble. At least they've got the nine-game-schedule thing goin' on.

Related good news (!) ahoy:
If the agreement moves from "suspended" to "scrapped" -- and that seems likely, considering the reason this thing is off the table is the Pac-12's desire to maintain a nine-game season -- then it's possible the Big Ten will add a game to its current eight-game league season.

Keep in mind the league already agreed to expand to a nine-game conference schedule by 2017 in August, although the plan was tabled after the Pac-12 agreement surfaced in December.

Delany said in May he would still favor adding a ninth Big Ten game if it weren't for that agreement.

"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.”
That last sentence is the whole thing summarized in a ... umm ... sentence. I'd prefer the variety and national interest generated by a Pac-12 rotation/assortment but would be fine with an expanded Big Ten schedule that would allow more games with Penn State (assuming Penn State still exists) and Wisconsin and the like. Most of the Big Ten presumably feels the same way; there are only so many MAC-rifices you can put on the schedule before people stop shelling out a bajillion dollars for season tickets. I mean ...

Sat, Sept. 1 vs. Northern Illinois*
Sat, Sept. 8 vs. Iowa State
Sat, Sept. 15 vs. Northern Iowa
Sat, Sept. 22 vs. Central Michigan
... yeah. Two MAC schools + one FCS school + one nominal BCS-conference rival that might go .500 =/= TICKETS PLZ.

A little more on that from MGoBlog:
I'm guessing everyone outside of the Purdue/Northwestern/Other Teams For Whom Bowl Eligibility Is A Big Deal athletic departments is in favor of expanding the conference schedule again, and even teams who frequently find themselves on the bowl eligibility bubble seem to be less desperate for their minor prestige these days. Unfortunately, I can't find it anymore but there was an article in which Northwestern said they were in favor of moving the bowl eligibility line to 7-5.

If you don't care about getting to your very-likely-unprofitable bowl game when you''re not that good, then it's just a matter of figuring out what's more likely to sell tickets: a Big Ten game or the #3 nonconference game you can scrounge up.
Yup. Hooray for real* (read: competitive) games that mean something.

*The added benefit of having more relevant games: The divisional races will be WAY more balanced. The current arrangement, with one locked-in cross-divisional game each year, has Michigan playing Ohio State every year and Michigan State playing Indiana every year. Advantage much? The same goes for Wisconsin (in whatever the division is that includes Ohio State) getting Minnesota. Adding one more cross-divisional game to the schedule across the board will mitigate a lot of that inequality.


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