Unfortunately, we can't be at Big Ten meetings this week, due to the "not having a car" issue. But fortunately, people with Twitter are there, and we recommend you give some of them a follow: @TeddyGreenstein, @ESPN_BigTen, @ScottDochterman, @Mark_Synder, @mattcharboneau, @CEmmaFox, @GoldsteinNU and probably others I'm missing. Another fortunate development: Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is there, and has apparently decided he's the Big Ten's new unofficial spokesperson. We'll recap the latest news here, give you our reaction and let you know the context for what it all means.
2014 Football Schedule
The first piece of news is that the Big Ten's 2014 football schedule will be released soon. Originally, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said it would be released on Wednesday, but the Big Ten said that's not true.The schedule will reverse in 2015, then a new schedule will be made in 2016 when the Big Ten shifts to a nine-game league slate. The 2014 season will be the first in which the Big Ten uses its new divisions, so we already know six of Northwestern's conference games will come against West Division teams — Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany noted a few weeks ago that the top six teams historically — Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in the East; Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa in the West — will play each other more often than others in the first few years of the new schedule, so it will be interesting so see if that keeps those teams off NU's schedule in 2014 and 2015.
Overall, the Big Ten is trying to beef up its schedule, which is good. As Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said, "We don't want to be boring." The Big Ten has already decided it will stop playing FCS teams — Alvarez said that's not definite, but the point is clear — and the nine-game conference schedule will help make things more competitive. The consensus is for the Big Ten to start playing more neutral site games and high-quality home-and-homes. That's a win for fans, it will help the conference get more exposure on the national stage and will help the perception of Big Ten teams that run the table or come close to it.
2014 Basketball Schedule
The Big Ten's 2014 basketball schedule should be coming out soon, but we already got some interesting news from Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who said the Hawkeyes will play NU twice this year. As we explained a few months ago, Iowa looked like a likely candidate to be one of the Wildcats' "single plays" this year. It's not an exact science, so it's tough to tell who the single plays will be, but some candidates for those four spots are Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State and Illinois. The four teams that definitely won't be single plays — because they were in the last rotation — are Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana.
No Big Ten Basketball Divisions for Now
There has been some speculation that the Big Ten could switch to a division model in basketball like the SEC does, but according to Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, the conference hasn't discussed divisions. That's good, because there was significant backlash to that prospect. There was talk of preserving some rivalries, though:
Brandon said UM wants to make sure it protects its BB rivalries with MSU and OSU and if competitive balance suffers, it's worth the trade
— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) May 14, 2013
It's hard to imagine there would be protected rivalries for every team, but it's an interesting concept to experiment with for some teams, considering competitive balance is less important in basketball than it is in football.
Climate Controlled Championships
I've long been a proponent for holding the Big Ten Championship Game outdoors some years — rotating between Chicago, Indianapolis, Green Bay and Detroit. However, Barry Alvarez gave a pretty good argument for the other side that might make me reconsider:
Bummed that Alvarez gave thumbs-down to outdoor B1G champ game (Soldier Field). Thinks it would turn off recruits from South, be bad 4 fans.
— Teddy Greenstein (@TeddyGreenstein) May 14, 2013
I still don't buy the "it's too cold" or the "bad for fans" arguments, but the recruiting element is important to take into consideration. More and more of the top recruits come from the South, and Big Ten teams — especially the top teams — are trying to lure them up North. It may be irrational for a recruit to decide against a school because the league championship game is held outdoors, but it certainly would be used against the Big Ten by SEC coaches. Considering the current geographic issues, it's best the Big Ten doesn't do anything that would put it in even more of a recruiting disadvantage.
- We wrote on the Big Ten's changing bowl situation yesterday, and as expected, the Pinstripe and Holiday bowls are likely to be added to the conference's lineup. Alvarez said the Pinstripe Bowl deal is about done, and with the news that the Big 12 will drop the Holiday Bowl, it looks likely that the Big Ten will slide into that spot.
- Big Ten games in September? Maybe, maybe not, who knows.
- Penn State can't play in bowl games for awhile, so it'll just play in Ireland instead.
- About that mess at World of Beer... don't worry, Mike Thomas and Jim Phillips are buds.