Expansion discussion awaits Big Ten athletic directors in Chicago
GROSSE POINTE WOODS - Big Ten athletic directors will meet Monday and Tuesday in Chicago to discuss conference realignment and get an update on expansion, but that doesn’t mean firm plans will be adopted during the league’s football media days next week.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said Thursday at the Little Caesars Bowl golf outing that he and his colleagues haven’t been updated on post-expansion scenarios since Nebraska joined the Big Ten last month.
“We’re all waiting to get to Chicago and see the plan that the league has laid out,” Alvarez said. “I asked if we were going to get some prep material going in and we weren’t. We’ll see where we are when we get there. I would suspect that there’s a pretty good foundation or framework of what the plans are.”
Alvarez said the Big Ten likely will follow the criteria commissioner Jim Delany laid out last month when the topic of two divisions was first raised. Delany said his priorities were, in order, competitive balance, maintaining rivalries and geography.
“Since '93 when Penn State came in, there’s six schools that separate themselves. I think you have to separate them,” Alvarez said, referring to Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.
“You can’t put all the brand schools and the schools that have been the most competitive or had the best winning percentage over the last 20 years, you can’t put them all, or four of the six, in one division.”
Could those six be split up along geographic lines, with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State headlining one division and Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin making up the other?
“I don’t know if that’s necessarily a split,” Alvarez said. “I think you take a look at win-loss percentages over the last 20 years among the name schools. You take a look at the schools that won national championships, you have four, and then you have Wisconsin and Iowa are right there with the winning percentage. Maybe you take a look at those top six and make sure that you’re three and three and seed everyone else accordingly.”
Alvarez said he also expects athletic directors to discuss adding a conference championship game, and where that game would be held.
He said he and most athletic directors are in favor of a title game “and maybe the coaches may not be.”
“I thought there was a very good article written last week in the Omaha World-Herald and it talked about when the Big 12 (added a championship game) and the discussion points were just the things that you’re talking about,” Alvarez said. “Do you move it around? Do you have it on campus? Is it indoor, is it outdoor? And they talked about when it was outdoor and you had inclement weather, how it affected the attendance and so on and so forth.
‘”I think we could study history and that probably could help us in making some of these decisions.”
Alvarez, Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher and bowl officials George Perles and former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr also answered questions as part of Thursday’s post-dinner program. Some highlights:
â€¢ Alvarez on the possibility of more Big Ten expansion: “It would not surprise me if we continue to expand. We’ve always talked about - we had research done that we really haven’t ever taken full advantage of Penn State being in the East. We needed someone else in the league to maximize Penn State. So it wouldn’t surprise me if we went that way.”
â€¢ Perles, the former Michigan State coach, said he planned to hire Carr as an assistant coach when he interviewed for the MSU job in 1980.
“I didn’t get the job, Muddy Waters got it, and Lloyd, about two months later Bo (Schembechler) hired him," Perles said. "And that’s the end of the story. We all got our tails kicked by his program. The guy’s been to four different Rose Bowls, he’s won a national championship, he’s done everything you can."
â€¢ Alvarez said he confided in Perles that Wisconsin offered him a long-term contract after he led the Badgers to the 1993 Big Ten title. Perles' response?
"He said you pick them up by their ankles and you shake them, you shake them as hard and as long as you can and get every nickel out of them," Alvarez said. “I made a fatal mistake. Before I took over as athletic director, I told Bret Bielema that story. I named him my head coach and his first year he goes 12-1 and we were talking about redoing his contract. He said, ‘I’m going to remind you of that Perles story.’"
â€¢ Steinbrecher on what expansion means for non-BCS conferences like the MAC: "I’m not quite convinced that manifest destiny is that we end up with four 16-team leagues. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. I’m pleased that things settled down out West. I think that was good for intercollegiate athletics. I’m not sure that having the Big 12 disappear would have been a positive."
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.