Sunday morning, the Big Ten started pushing a link via Twitter to a “B1G Expansion Survey. You can find the link here if you want to take it yourself.
I started filling it out and then I thought, “Hey, why not write a blog post about it?” So here we go. Get your pens and pencils out:
1. My favorite school is ________.
Indiana. Okay, easy so far.
2. My favorite school is in the _________ Division.
That’s the…Leaders division, right? I’m not going to cheat…let’s say Leaders.
3. As the conference expands beyond 12 universities, should the Big Ten form completely new divisions, or just add each school to an existing division?
So the choices here are “Start from Scratch”, “Add Rutgers and Maryland to Legends and Leaders”, and “Not Sure”. I’m going with “Start from Scratch”, for a couple of reasons. First, I look at Wisconsin and Ohio State in IU’s football division and I struggle to envision a future where we ever get to the Big Ten title game. Second, starting from scratch might give the league a chance to re-do the names of the divisions, which are still the worst, most corporate-sounding pieces of bullshit to besmirch college football, narrowly elbowing out the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl for first place in that category.
4. What do you think of “Legends” and “Leaders” as division names?
The choices here range from “Strongly Like” to “Strongly Dislike”. I, for one, am going with “Strongly Dislike”.
5. Should the Big Ten keep or change the Legends & Leaders names?
Change. Does it seem to anyone else that the conference is still sensitive about the division names? Good, they should be.
6. If you think the division names should be changed, what should they be called?
To me, this is dependent on three factors: 1) How many teams are in the conference in its final form (and where they are located), 2) Whether the divisions are just for football, or also exist in other sports, and 3) Whether the conference is interested in further expansion. We obviously won’t know the answer to the third factor, but the first two are very important. Currently, there are 12 teams in football and basketball, but less than that in several other D-1 sports. Adding Maryland and Rutgers will bring in both revenue and non-revenue sports. Adding other schools (such as Virginia, for instance) would further increase the numbers in the non-revenues. Volleyball already plays a 20-game conference schedule, for instance.
If the conference is going to keep the divisions just in football, then the names should focus on the legendary people from the conference’s past. But how many divisions would there be? A 16-team conference cries out for four divisions of four. A 20-team conference could either have two divisions of 10 or four divisions of five. I would really prefer to see the conference avoid the asininity of hyper-directional divisions (i.e., “east”, “south”), but I would also prefer that asininity to the soulless corporate dreck of “legends” and “leaders”. I do tend to think that the Big Ten created those division names for the sole reason of destroying them a few years later, because they knew that more expansion was forthcoming. But still.
Regardless, I’m supposed to come here with answers. If it’s football-only for the divisions AND there are two divisions to name, I say name one the “Hayes” division and the other the “Yost” division. Both of those gentlemen were huge parts of building the Big Ten into its current state. Both are long dead and will likely not be named in any child sex abuse scandals in the future. And whether we want to admit it or not, Michigan football and Ohio State football are the body and soul of Big Ten football. If there are more than two divisions, then name the other two the “Grange” and “Kinnick” divisions. I would have said “Griffin” as a division name, but after the recent experience with Joe Paterno’s legacy, I think it’s good policy to wait at least 15 years after death before putting anyone’s name on anything.. There’s plenty of good names in Big Ten lore to go around. And no, we don’t need everyone’s school history represented in a division name. We’re all adults here (except maybe the Ohio State fans). As an IU fan, I’m perfectly happy with letting the high achievers from conference history be recognized.
7. If divisions are changed, what is the most important factor in determining divisional alignment? Rank these factors with 1 being the most important and 3 being the least important
The three options here are “Protect traditional rivalries”, “Competitive balance”, and “Geography”. I think competitive balance is easily the least important of these three — how can anyone predict who will and won’t be competitive in five years, let alone twenty? As for the other two, I think geography is the most important. Geography is the wellspring from which new rivalries emerge. Traditional rivalries can be easily protected through clever scheduling by the league. I’d much rather have a division made up of proximal teams.
8. How important is it for IN-STATE rivals to be in the same division?
Three options here as well – “Very Important”, “Somewhat Important”, and “Not Important”. I’m going with “Very Important”, but let’s also remember that it’s a small group of teams affected by this. Indiana/Purdue, Michigan/Michigan State, and Illinois/Northwestern. That’s it. I can’t think of a good reason why those teams should be separated, although I also question how much of a rivalry Illinois/Northwestern really is.
9. How important is it for TRADITIONAL rivals to be in the same division?
Same three options as before. In this case, I’m going with “Not Important”. Who are the traditional rivals in the Big Ten? Obviously you have Michigan/Ohio State, and that would be nice to preserve…but again, they’re CURRENTLY IN DIFFERENT DIVISIONS and it’s still a protected game on the schedule each year. Iowa/Minnesota is another one, and they’ll likely be in the same division because of geography. What other rivalry games are important enough to preserve by superceding geographical boundaries? Will the universe explode if Michigan/Minnesota only happens once every four years? Does anyone care about the Land Grant Trophy? Or the Old Brass Spittoon?
10. Currently, the Big Ten plays 8 conference games in football. Should that number increase?
So the options here are 1) Keep it the same, 2) Increase to 9 games, 3) Increase to 10 games, or 4) Not sure. This is actually a tougher question that I thought it would be. Initially I liked the 9 game schedule, but I am worried about the home/road imbalance. Then again, this year’s Pac 12 title game featured a Stanford team that played 5 conference road games beating UCLA, who played 5 conference home games. Small sample size, but it may not matter as much as people think. I do think that 10 games is intriguing, but I worry that such a move would take the B1G further away from the other conferences’ orbits. I do like to see non-conference games being played against good competition, and we should theoretically see MORE of those games now that there’s a playoff, since the selection committee will likely be looking at strength of schedule and big out-of-conference wins. So in the end, I’m going with the 9 game conference schedule option.
11.What is your preference on a Big Ten Basketball Tournament format?
The options here are “all teams get in” (14 teams, 5 day tournament) or “not all teams get in” (12 teams, 4 day tournament). Well, first I think it’s important to note that this question becomes somewhat moot the moment that the conference expands again. If they do go to sixteen teams, I’d honestly like to see all of the teams make it — but ONLY if they do it the right way and schedule a four-day, fully-bracketed 16-team tournament where everyone plays on day one and there are no byes. I love the Big East tournament for its competitiveness. I HATE the convoluted way the Big East tournament is set up. I’d much rather see a situation where the first round of the tournament is played on Tuesday at the campus site of the higher-seeded team, and then the quarterfinals (and beyond) move to Bankers Life Fieldhouse — because frankly, the United Center doesn’t need to be hosting the Big Ten Tournament. You could even do that with a 14 team tournament, and just give the 1st and 2nd seeds byes into the quarterfinals. How cool would it be to see last-placed Nebraska having a chance to upset third-seeded Wisconsin in Madison?
For this answer, I’m going with 12 teams and four days, but I’d rather see a 14-team, 4-day tournament. Get rid of the byes.
12. Currently, there are no divisions for basketball. Should the Big Ten have divisions for basketball?
The options here are “Yes”, “No”, and “Not Sure”. I am going with “Not Sure” because I don’t know what the future holds as far as numbers of teams. If the league gets to 16 or above, I’d prefer two divisions with limited crossover. The ideal scenario here may be a 20-team B1G , with two divisions of 10 that play each other in a full round-robin. If it’s a 16-team league, then I’d prefer four divisions of four, where you play your division rivals in a round-robin and everyone else once. For instance, a division of Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, and Northwestern would see each of those teams playing twice, and then everyone else a single time. You still get your 18-game conference schedule that way. Unfortunately, big conferences are really unwieldy for basketball.
13 and 14. If Yes/No, why do you think the conference should/shouldn’t have divisions for basketball?
I answered this in my response to #12.
15. When people reference “B1G,” do you recognize that as a nickname for the Big Ten Conference?
Yes, yes I do. That’s actually something I’ve grown to enjoy a little bit.
16. With 14 universities now in the conference, should the Big Ten continue to keep the name “Big Ten?”
Why not? It’s a brand name, not an adjectival phrase. Although I wouldn’t be altogether opposed to a return to the “Western Conference”, just for irony’s sake.
17. Do you have any further comments about Big Ten expansion?
I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and realize that college athletics are changing forever. I understand people’s desires to hold on to the conference alignments and systems that have existed for the past decades, but the financial and political realities of today make that impossible. I’m fine with what the conference is doing right now, and I think that the long-term benefits for the member schools and their athletic departments will be immense. I want to see the conference add solid long-term members that will promote unity, competition, and sharing of markets and revenues. Everyone complaining about “sub-par” additions to the conference is missing the point — at this stage, I’d rather have a grateful and humble Rutgers than an arrogant and machiavellian Notre Dame or a purely self-interested Texas. Look at the NFL – the league survives and thrives in large part because of a mix of owners. There aren’t 32 Jerry Joneses or Daniel Snyders in the league, and if there were, the league would eventually cease to exist.
As expansion continues — and it should absolutely continue — the Big Ten needs to continue to diversify itself into appropriate and growing markets. The additions of Georgia Tech and Virginia would help, as would the additions of Syracuse and UConn. North Carolina would also be a great market addition, but it would require them to realize that they are just a member of a new conference, rather than the powerbroker of their current conference.