The Big Ten has been discussing moving to a nine or ten-game football schedule, but now it’s pretty clear how many conference games they won’t play: eight.
After a meeting with head coaches and athletic directors at Big Ten headquarters on Monday, commissioner Jim Delany said that an eight-game conference schedule is “not even on the table.” Nine and ten-game conference schedules are the only options being discussed.
“We like to play each other, and those are not hollow words,” said Delany. “We are getting larger and want to bind the conference together.”
With Maryland and Rutgers set to join the conference in 2014, the Big Ten will have 14 members. Expanding the conference schedule will allow teams in opposite divisions to meet more frequently than under an 8-game schedule.
But the move to a nine or ten-game slate apparently won’t happen until 2016. Several Big Ten schools have most or even all of their future non-conference games set for the next couple of years and it would cost the schools a lot of money to cancel.
The conference will likely make their final decision at their next meeting in Chicago during the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament (Mar. 14-17).
Of course, the big question now is nine or ten games? A nine-game schedule would be unbalanced, providing five home and four away games for half of the conference, and four home and five away for the other half each season.
This model is currently used by both the Big 12 and Pac-12. However, the Big 12 only has ten schools, so a ten-game schedule is not an option.
A ten-game conference schedule is intriguing due to its balance and additional conference match-ups which could, in turn, provide more television revenue. The downside is the loss of another non-conference game.
Sure, it’s one less cupcake on the schedule. But it also makes scheduling the two non-conference games more difficult. Most teams want and need seven home games each season to fund their athletic programs. If Big Ten teams are playing five conference home games, most likely the two non-conference games are going to be “buy” games consisting of opponents from the MAC, Sun Belt, etc.
That could hamper the future of home-and-home series against big name schools. For now though, one school will keep their future marquee games.
“We’re going to hold onto those,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith said. “That’s what’s going to cause us in a 10-game conference scenario to have some challenges with having six home games. If we move to 10 conference games, in a normal situation, I’d just buy in two games every year. Then I wouldn’t have a problem. But we’re going to maintain our philosophy of playing those type of [bigger nonleague] games, whether it’s nine or 10.”
The Big Ten also announced today that they will not impede schools from scheduling night games in November. There is no policy against night games that month, but the last one was played in 2008.