Big Ten moving to East-West alignment; 9-game league schedule

Big Ten moving to East-West alignment; 9-game league schedule

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ay goodbye to the “Leaders” and “Legends.”

(Not that they will be missed.)

Jim Delaney said discussions to choose the new "East" and "West" division names didn't take long.

Jim Delaney said discussions to choose the “East” and “West” division names didn’t take long.

In a move that has been speculated for some time, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney announced Sunday that the league will drop the universally unpopular naming system and move to an East-West divisional split in 2014.

Delaney also announced that a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016.

In addition, the league also hopes to have a more aggressive approach to non-conference scheduling in place by 2016. Teams would play at least one game per year against a major-conference school and no games against FCS teams.

Here’s what the new divisions will look like:

Big Ten East
Indiana
Maryland
Michigan
Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State
Rutgers

Big Ten West
Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
Nebraska
Northwestern
Purdue
Wisconsin

In 2014 and 2015, each team will play all six teams in its own division plus two teams from the opposite division. With the move to the nine-game league schedule in 2016, each team will play three members from the other division.

“Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography,” Delany said in a statement. “The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll.”

With Purdue and Indiana needing to be split in order to better balance the power in each division, the biggest questions surrounding the new alignment had been where to put them and how to protect their annual rivalry.

Under the initial alignment, each Big Ten team had a protected crossover game. The new alignment makes the Purdue-Indiana game the league’s only protected crossover game, but manages to preserve 10 of the 13 “trophy” rivalry games.

“Big Ten directors of athletics met in person or by conference call six times from December to March to discuss a new Big Ten football model,” Delany said. “The level of cooperation and collaboration was reflective of what we’ve come to expect from this group of administrators who have worked extremely well together on a number of complex matters over the past several years.  We are all looking forward to ushering in this new era of Big Ten football.”

Teams from the East Division will play five conference home games during even-numbered years, with West Division teams having five conference home games during odd-numbered years. Each school will play each other at least once every four years.

Photo credit: Paul Beatty / AP

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