Barry Alvarez leaning toward nine-game Big Ten football schedule

By Kevin Kelley -

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is leaning toward a nine-game football schedule and also thinks the conference will go with an East-West division alignment.

Alvarez, who last week said the Big Ten will stop scheduling FCS teams, provided the latest future scheduling tidbits to the Wisconsin State Journal on Friday after a UW Athletic Board meeting.

“I did prefer 10 until I sat down and put a pencil to it,” Alvarez said. “I don’t know if we’d ever get seven home games (with 10), so I guess I’m leaning toward nine.”

“If you go to 10, you can forget about seven home games. You better make up the difference in the TV revenue, so that’s why I like nine.”

According to to the article, Wisconsin makes about $3.5 million for every home game. That’s a lot of money to give up to play an extra conference game.

Under the nine-game schedule preferred by Alvarez, half the Big Ten schools would play five home and four away games while the other half would play four home and five away. The Big 12 and Pac-12 currently employ this model.

Although a ten-game conference schedule would be balanced and provide additional conference match-ups, this model would make it difficult for schools to play seven home games each season which is necessary for added revenue.

Five conference games would leave only two non-conference games per season. And with the Big Ten said to be abandoning FCS schools, it would be extremely difficult to schedule two more home games every year.

Regarding the new division alignment of the conference when Maryland and Rutgers join, Alvarez said he thinks “…it’s going to be an East and a West” alignment.

Under that setup, the East would likely include Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers with the West consisting of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin.

Alvarez also acknowledged a rumor that Wisconsin will play Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in 2015.

Alvarez declined to go into detail on reports the Badgers will play Alabama in Arlington, Texas, in 2015, though he did acknowledge a contract has been completed but is unsigned.

“I don’t know who’s holding it up,” he said.

Comments (17)

Don’t know that I like the East-West alignment, because you’re still going to get fights when Michigan & Ohio State are the obvious two best teams in the league, and the rep from the West walks into the title game.

Yeah it will be interesting to see what happens. Problem is if Ohio State and Michigan are in different divisions, the game needs to be protected, meaning 6 in division, 1 protected, and 2 rotating games.

This may set up well for adding a couple more teams though, hypothetically:


Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State


TBA (Georgia Tech?)
TBA (Virginia?)

Teams could play each of their division members once (3 games) and 2 members of each of the other three divisions once (6 games), allowing every team to meet every other team at least twice in four years. A semifinal and championship could then take place.

I love this alignment. OSU and UM are in the same division with Penn State and MSU along with the potential to play in the NYC or DC area every year. What’s not to like? Yes, it’s a tougher division but as an OSU fan I think it’s great. There may not be a lot of excitement in the other division but that’s their problem to work out.

Since they’re no longer playing FCS games, this could potentially bring a scenario of increasingly challenging non-conference games leading up to conference, or they can divide their non-conference games throughout the season much like the ACC, SEC, and other big conferences do, especially rivalry week. It has the power to bring big bucks over holiday.

The East schedule would be a murderer’s row for newbies Maryland Rutgers.
They may regret joining the league.

If schools were afraid of competition, they would have all clamored to join the Big East. Do you see that happening?

I really don’t like the idea of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State all in the same division. I do think a 9-game schedule with protected crossover games makes the most sense though.

I prefer the “North / South” alignment (a variation of east/west) myself:

North: Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State, Michigan
South: Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers

Yes, the south is a little weaker than the north, but OSU is great, Penn State will be great again (at some point), and Rutgers and Maryland have both been decent (off and on) over the past decade. It makes geographic sense, lots of rivalries are protected, and everyone will know what the divisions are easily enough.

I’m interested to see what you think the crossover games would be with that alignment. Some I can figure out (biggest change is adding Maryland and Rutgers to what was the Leaders Division and moving Wisconsin to the former Legends Division):

Nebraska-Penn State
Michigan State-Indiana
Michigan-Ohio State

That leaves Minnesota and Wisconsin, who were protected crossovers, and the newbies, Maryland and Rutgers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Big Ten try to develop Maryland-Rutgers as a rivalry, so wouldn’t it make more sense to swap Rutgers and Wisconsin?

Given that in the above setup, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin and Maryland vs. Rutgers will be annual games (since they’re in the same division with each other), I don’t see any need to make them swap divisions so they’ll be cross-division partners.

Swapping Wisconsin and Rutgers would put both of them on geographic islands, separated from the rest of their division. It would separate Rutgers from Penn State and separate Wisconsin from Nebraska, Iowa, and Northwestern. I don’t think that’s a good solution.

If both teams are competitive with each other, Maryland vs. Rutgers is likely to develop into a good rivalry, especially given how many New Jersey folks attended UMD. I’d think being in the same division would be a plus for that rivalry, not a negative.

I’ll admit that a Wisconsin (or Minnesota) pairing with either Rutgers or Maryland is forced, and not really a rivalry. But given that it’s basically required to have cross-division games, regardless of the divisional setup (to preserve various rivalries), I don’t see it as a big problem.

In some ways it’ll benefit all the teams involved. All of the teams will get exposure to new recruiting areas (and Wisconsin and Minnesota get the added benefit of east coast exposure, near the east coast media).

Everything must be done geographically easy and west. Yhe big 10 isnt taken seriously with legends and leaders. Thats simply stupid and comical.

The challenge non conferencewise will be the big 10 scheduling at least 2 bcs schools every season. If they dont the wont be taken seriously. Ohio states non conference cant be home games versus san diego state, akron and uab. If you want to be a big boy play the bigget boys and then you will eventually be the big boy.

I like the way the Divisions are…just move Wisconsin to the WEST, and
add the 2 new teams to the East.

With Michigan-Michigan St. Ohio St. and Penn St. all in the same Division…it’s to heavy in the East, especially with those Jumbo Stadiums.

I think that a nine game schedule will work just fine… the Pac-12 also has this type of schedule.

West is Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan State. East is Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Maryland, and Rutgers.

Stay has the cross road rivalry
Penn St vs Nebraska
Iowa vs Purdue
Michigan State vs Indiana

New rivalry is
Wisconsin vs Ohio State
Northwestern vs Rutgers
Maryland vs Minnesota
Michigan Vs Illinois

All this talk about how to set up the divisions seems dumb to me right now, because the most logical thing to do right now is for the Big Ten to just hurry up and expand to 16. Why do all this division shuffling now, just to have to revamp the whole thing again in a year or two?

Also, why would they try and do the forced rivalry thing again? They did it once, saw it fail miserably, and are moving on. The Big Ten even said that as it stands now (if they do stick with just 14 teams for 2014) Purdue-Indiana will be the only protected crossover game.

As for the pods system, “Maize in Spartyland” has suggested what I have been advocating for since the announcent of UMD and Rutgers; 9 game conference schedule, play all teams in your pod each season and then 2 each from the other 3 pods on an alternating schedule. Look at that, major rivalries can stay as a yearly thing, others will only have to wait a year. Within a 4 year time span(length of average college athlete career) they will have played every other big ten team at least twice; how can any school complain about that? Plus it leaves you the flexability to schedule 3 non-conf games every year, pretty much a marquee game, a mediocre game, and a guaranteed win game.

If only I worked for the Big Ten…

Right now, the plan that “Maize in Spartyland” has proposed isn’t valid under current NCAA rules. The NCAA rule that allows conference championships (which is a rule granting an exception to the 12-game limit in a football season) expects a conference to have two divisions, and to have all teams play a round-robin within their division.

That’s also why the proposal can’t simply be modified to “pick the best two pod winners” and send them (i.e. skipping the semifinal), because the round-robin hasn’t taken place.

Unless the Big Ten can convince the other conferences to help it write an NCAA rule change, it’s not happening.

New cross road revelry games are Wisconsin vs Ohio State, Northwestern vs. Rutgers, Michigan vs. Illinois, Minnesota vs. Maryland, Indiana vs Purdue, Iowa vs Michigan State, and Stay the same is Nebraska vs. Penn State in 2014 season.