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Posted on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

Scheduling alliance aimed at broadening Big Ten and Pac-12 reach, improving brands for the long haul

By Nick Baumgardner

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 aren't merging. They're collaborating.

And in doing so, the two leagues are broadening their reach to brand new lengths.

"Our goal is to build something new here," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday during a teleconference. "On a strong foundation of history."


Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany says a scheduling alliance with the Pac-12 "allows us to do is extend our reach to become more national, while also sort of maintaining the essence of the competition that we have within our own region."

AP photo

Delany and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott officially introduced a scheduling alliance Wednesday that will create annual inter-conference matchups between schools from both leagues in all sports, football included.

Related story: Dave Brandon says Michigan football program can schedule Pac-12 game prior to 2017

The hope is to have all 24 schools from both leagues fully participating in the collaboration by 2017, and to continue the alliance for the foreseeable future beyond that.

"It's not a five-year deal, it's not a 10-year deal," Delany said. "This is an indefinite collaboration to build both conferences over time."

Both Delany and Scott maintained how the collaboration between the two leagues made sense, and also allowed each league to expand its overall footprint.

The Pac-12 currently features schools from six different states, stretching from Washington to Arizona and California to Colorado. The Big Ten, meanwhile, holds a presence in nine states -- spanning from Minnesota to southern Indiana, and from Pennsylvania to Nebraska.

"Because there's no overlap (geographically), it really helps," Delany said. "I think what it allows us to do is extend our reach to become more national, while also sort of maintaining the essence of the competition that we have within our own region."

The most notable sport impacted by this partnership is football.

By 2017, the Big Ten and Pac-12 hope to create an annual 12-game inter-conference schedule between both leagues, creating meaningful preseason games to enhance competition, fan interest, television revenue (for both the Big Ten Network and the new Pac-12 Network) and recruiting bases.

"It's a natural fit, given the deep roots of the history of our conference's relationship," Scott said. "This is the logical partnership of this sort, but it doesn't mean we won't collaborate with other conferences in different ways."

Both Delany and Scott said the process of selecting football matchups is still ongoing, but Delany explained how both leagues will attempt to pair teams according to competition level.

In addition, Big Ten-Pac-12 games will likely take place during the first three weeks of the season, with most games occurring on college campuses. However, the agreement will create an opportunity for unique contests at neutral sites, possibly in new markets like New York, Atlanta or Texas.

Asked whether the football relationship would be branded as some type of challenge, similar to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in basketball, Delany said not presently.

That doesn't mean no one will be keeping tabs on which league is more successful, though.

"Everybody counts in competition," Delany said. "Whether or not it's branded that way or not, I think people will measure and count and that's the nature of competition.

"We always try to play the best and we think the Pac-12 represents some of the very best intercollegiate athletic programs in the country."

Also, Delany said the Big Ten is likely to scrap the idea of moving to a nine-game conference schedule moving forward.

Leaving league members with three non-conference games to schedule outside of an annual required meeting with a Pac-12 school.

"When we began discussing this and adding this as a 12-game (series), our athletic directors jumped to the conclusion that if we do this, the nine-game (conference schedule) would then go away," Delany said.

The addition of a required Pac-12 opponent each season is likely to make a Big Ten team's path to the national championship game more difficult within the current Bowl Championship Series system.

Delany didn't argue that point, but did say the new collaboration is better than the alternative.

"For coaches that are used to having four home games that are four likely wins, it'll make it more challenging," he said. "But that's just one aspect of the overall take. Our presidents and our athletic directors were unanimously supportive of it."

While the goal is to bring football up to full participation by 2017, the rest of the Big Ten and Pac-12 sponsored sports -- including men's and women's basketball '' could be brought up to speed much sooner, possibly as early as the 2012-13 academic season.

As far as basketball is concerned, Delany maintained the agreement with the Pac-12 will not jeopardize the future of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, though it could -- in time -- create a similar packaged deal on its own.

"We're not looking at replacing (the Big Ten/ACC Challenge)," Delany said. "(But) when you have 12 or 13 (non-conference) basketball games, with games in Maui and Alaska, I certainly think there's room for round-robin competition between the Big Ten and Pac-12, it's just a matter of how you get there and format it."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

THE GOOD: This will improve the quality of the non-conference games. THE BAD: B1G's three super-teams, UM, tOSU and PSU, will lose money because they traditionally play an unbalanced schedule with extra home games. There is no way to fix that problem. A guarenteed sell-out in a massive stadium beats a travel game out west. THE UGLY: We're all still stuck with the SEC hiding in the south and avoiding playing REAL football in Nov with wind, rain, snow and cold in Columbus, AA, Happy Valley or Madison!


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 3:36 a.m.

Don't be too critical. This year, LSU played at WVU, played at Dallas against Oregon, and played a tough SEC schedule. Bama travelled to PSU (who ended up having a top 10 defense, though I think it's suspect). Georgia played against Boise State (and got spanked). I don't see Michigan tripping themselves to play any of those teams, but they sure are doing a lot of playing any MAC and FCS school they can.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

A few underlying factors; The Brand- better get used to that idea. At face value, the alliance is good. Football benefits the most. Travel will be an issue. Michigan did not look good when they played out at Washington (WSU?) in the early or mid 2000s. Likewise, SDSU was really flat this year and had a noon kick off on top of that. Strength of schedule will benefit both conferences in football. Basketball will suffer more from the travel since games are usually 2 to 3 days apart. This will be very difficult for the players, we can debate the student athlete topic. Non revenue sports may or may not suffer that much. I know that the U of M track team travels to one or two outdoor meets each year to the West Coast such as the Sea Ray Relays in Palto Atlo. Their meets are usually a week apart. It all means bigger budgets for the both conferences devoted to travel. The launching of the Pac-12 TV Network is another factor in this: Revenues. B1G Commish Delany has a good point on Maui or Alaska, the West Coact and back only adds to even more long distance travel, time and effort. While I like the football match up with any Pac 12 oppenent, including Rich Rod's U-AZ, seems to me the travel issue will be overlooked. Like it or not, It's Coming.

Dayne White Bull The Terrible.

Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

But weren't we always the same conference?... Somebody told me too much false information when I was a child.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

I've heard Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott talk about the possibility of all of the major conferences forming one super conference and then having their own playoff system. This might be the first step in that direction...


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

I have heard the same thing. Programs are getting tired of all the regulations the NCAA is putting on them and sometimes using different standards for certain teams when placing sanctions on them. I think the NCAA is digging their own grave and like you said, the conferences will form their own alliance.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 9:28 a.m.

Careful what you wish for Rich Rodriguez, you just may get it. /teehee

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 9:19 a.m.

I realize there were problems with the nine-game conference schedule, but the alternative is only seeing a former rival like Wisconsin visit the Big House once every five years. We need a playoff system in college football very badly. That's the only way to avoid the steady diet of MAC schools and FCS schools.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 6:55 a.m.

I'm glad for a schedule alliance like this. Maybe now we can stop seeing schedules like WMU, EMU and SDSU all in the same season. I'm old school and like seeeing schedules like the 1997 team who played Colorado, Baylor and Nontre Dame, all teams from name conferences, in the non-conference schedule. Back in the 1990's Michigan played 1 MAC school in the decade. That was a game against EMU in 1998. They played a few other non-BCS confrerence schools, but those were 1 game per season seasons. They might not have played top flight schools from those conferences, but at least they were name programs. Unfortunately money has controlled everything and now Michigan feels in needs to play 7 or 8 home games per season. There was a time when Michigan would normally play 6 home games per season. Occassionally they would play 7, but only during the 1970's was that close to common and that was a result of not playing Notre Dame most of the decade. Only 1 season they played Notre Dame did they play 7 home games during that decade. The simple fact is this scheduling allicance is a good thing to balance the ongoing scheduling alliance between the Big 10 and the MAC, which has watered down Big 10 schedules since the late 1990's / early 2000's. Season ticket holders should be lucky they will still get 7 games most seasons instead of complaining that they will lose a game or 2. I'm sure the Big Ten will work with the schools to schedule games in this alliance allowing the schools to still bring in as much revenue as possible. When Michigan plays Notre Dame at home, they would play a Pac 12 opponent on the road. When they are at ND, they would play a Pac 12 opponent at home. As for the idea they could play a team a second time. Guess what, it could happen. It happens all over college football. It's something that just might happen during the course of a season. It would not be the first time Michigan played a Pac 12 school then played them in a Bowl Game. 1982 UCLA


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

I can identify two objections to a football alliance between the Big Ten and the Pac 12. First, I do not like the fact that any arrangement to play Pac 12 teams will likely involve playing at home and then away on an alternating year basis, like Michigan does with Notre Dame. When Michigan plays away the number of home games for the season decreases from eight to seven. Next year Michigan will play two non-conference games away, Alabama and Notre Dame and, therefore, season ticket holders will be able to attend only six games rather than eight. Considering the requirements for supplemental donations that some season ticket holder must pay just to sustain their rights to the season tickets, reducing the number of home games is a slight for them. I doubt that Michigan can do better financially by playing elsewhere than Michigan Stadium since every other stadium will be smaller. Furthermore, I expect that visiting teams get less of the gate money than the home team. And then when Michigan travels for a game significant traveling expenses occur. I can not imagine any circumstance when the economics really are favorable for Michigan playing elsewhere than in Michigan Stadium. My second concern involves the possibility that Michigan could play a Pac 10 team that it may meet a second time in the Rose Bowl, if each team wins its conference championship game. Such an occurrence is happening this year between LSU and Alabama. I do not like repeat games because a previous game can have either a positive or negative effect on the two teams independent of the usual quality of play. For instance, if the first meeting of the two teams produced a blow-out win for one team then that team should be expected to easily win a rematch (unless key personnel are newly available or other key players not available for play). On the other hand, the team that wins by a blow-out may be over confident and less inspired during the second game providing it with a disadvantage.


Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 3:33 a.m.

chapmaja--I have argued the same thing all year. If you back to the 1970s, 80s, and maybe earlier, you will see that the schedules were always pretty challenging and national in scope. In Bo's first year, he played Missouri for example (and I think got spanked). This notion that it is harder to get to the national championship doesn't hold water, because both teams take the risk, and when only 2 teams make it to the championship, do you always hold out hope that you must be one of them if you don't play challenging teams? It's unrealistic, and it robs the players and ticket buyers of what they want. Thanks for your post. I make similar posts and usually get criticized by those who say I'm unrealistic.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 6:37 a.m.

How exactly di you season ticket holders survive seasons when Michigan only played an 11 game schedule (before the money grab that was the expansion to 12 games.). Back then Michigan normally only played a maximum of 7 home games per season if that. Prior to 2001 the Michigan Wolverines rarely played more than 12 games, including the Bowl Game. In 2001 they played an 11 game regular season including 6 home games. How did the season ticket holders survive. In fact from 1998-2001 they only played 6 home games per season. Here is the bigger issue. The schedule has gotten pathetically watered down. Michigan historically was not afraid to schedule major conference opponents. From 1990-1999 they played UCLA (twice), Maryland, Boston College (four times), Florida St, Oklahoma St, Washington St, Colorado(three times), Virginia, Baylor, Syracuse (twice). That account for 17 of the 32 non-conference games played during the regular season in the 1990's. In addition to those opponents, Michigan played Notre Dame 8 times. That means in the 32 games during that decade, only 7 games were played against non-Major conference opponents. Not all of those opponents were great teams, but they all came from major conferences. How does that scheduling compare with the scheduling from 2000 on. The major conference opponents Michigan has played since 2000 are: UCLA, Washington (twice), Oregon (twice), Vanderbilt, and UConn, and 10 games with Notre Dame. In total Michigan has played 17 games with major conference opponents in the previous 12 seasons, down from 25 the previous 10 years. Michigan has stopped scheduling the programs that made up the bulk of the non-conference schedule, quality teams from major conferences. From 1990-1999 25 of 32 non-conference games (78%) were played against major conference oppositions. Since 2000 that has dropped to 17 games out of 44 were played against top conference opponents. That is 38.6%. That is nearly half the quality.


Thu, Dec 29, 2011 : 4:33 a.m.

I like it, I like it a lot. Also, I'm glad they're doing away with the 9 game conference schedule, I didn't like the way they were planning it, half of each division was going to play 4 or 5 home games, talk about dumb, each division should take turns every other year having 5 home games, I guess it makes too much sense for them to have done that. Now if we do plan on scheduling these games based on the worthiness of the teams, this must mean that we would have to schedule the perspective games within a couple of years of the date of the game, no? For instance for this season they would've had to schedule the games no earlier than late 2009 early 2010. Otherwise how would anyone really be able to forecast who's gonna be good or not, great or not or just plain average? Nobody knew in 2009 MSU would be this good for these past 2 seasons, ohio would be this average in 2011, PSU would have an enormous scandal on their hands and so on. Based on these factors, the games might have to be scheduled within a year or the previous season. For example, 2017 games should be scheduled in late 2016/early 2017 to have any idea who's going to be good because of guys leaving early or staying or whatever. It should be interesting to say the least.