Big Ten athletic directors consider 9 conference games for football and moving league basketball games
CHICAGO — The biggest issue surrounding whether or not the Big Ten Conference will go to nine in-conference football games isn’t about competitive balance or the potential of shortening the non-conference schedule.
The biggest hangup is simple. The Big Ten’s athletic directors want seven home games each season, and that's not easy to accomplish each year if the league goes to nine conference games.
“We still want to have seven games,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. “That’s part of our budget, to have seven home games.”
If the league goes to nine games, each team would have room for three non-conference games. In some cases, teams are locked into home-and-home out of conference rivalries, which could lead to six home games if the years stack up wrong.
“That’s the number one thing,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at the Big Ten spring meetings.
Delany said some of the league’s coaches would like to remain at eight conference games, which means they would miss four league opponents. Nine conference games, Delany said, would give “a truer champion” because it would mean just three missed teams per year.
It is an idea most of the league’s athletic directors and coaches have discussed prior to this week’s meetings. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said this week he’d like to see nine Big Ten games happen sooner than later.
There are a lot of possibilities if the league adds a ninth conference game, including another protected rivalry. Most athletic directors Monday and Tuesday said it is also what the fans want.
Nothing surrounding the nine-game schedule has been decided or likely will be voted on by the end of the meetings, which conclude Wednesday.
With teams having non-conference games scheduled out almost into next decade, Brandon felt it was unlikely the league could do it before 2017, which would also be the same time the league will start a new television deal.
“It’s still lots of opinions and still not a final vote,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. “The point I’ve always felt our conference has been at is that it is likely to happen. I feel like that’s still where it is but just lots of great discussion of what’s best for the Big Ten conference.”
Delany also said the league’s basketball coaches discussed possibly moving some conference games to early-to-mid December in order to start the conference season away from the crush of college football bowl games.