|Is Jim Delany Leading the Big Ten down a Nine Game Trap? We sure hope not!|
It feels like just about this time last year we were talking about a nine game conference schedule for Big Ten football... Oh wait, we were? Well here we are a year later and now that there's no scheduling agreement between the Big Ten and Pac-12 many are wondering out loud about the possibility of filling that free game with another conference opponent.
For those of you who've been with us from the beginning, you know we aren't in the business of sugarcoating things here at MTB and I'm not about to do that here. Simply put, this is the worst idea EVER!
Why? It would only serve to further separate college football in to the haves and the have-nots and last time I checked, more competition breeds more ratings, which in turn gives conferences more money and college football's endgame these days is money, right?
Sure there are some pros to moving to a nine game schedule. One is rivalries like Wisconsin and Iowa and Wisconsin and Michigan State could happen more frequently than they currently are slated to happen. There's no doubt playing those games more often is something Badger fans crave and I get that.
Secondly, adding a conference game instead of the likes of UTEP or Northern Iowa may be good for the fans paying hard-earned money for season tickets, booster club fees, and the like. But, when you take away the emotion of it all, it makes ZERO sense.
Before you and I go any futher we need to step back and ask ourselves what is the problem we are trying to solve here? If we aren't focused on the right problem then we aren't helping move the discussion forward, right? Well, adding the scheduling agreement between the Big Ten and Pac-12 was supposed to help solve the fans demand for increased strength of schedules for both conferences, right?
So, adding a ninth conference game solves that problem how? In the end the conference schedules balance themselves out and frankly I'd ask you this... Is adding a bad conference team to your schedule any better than getting a decent non-BCS conference team to play you? The answer is no. Playing a 1-11 Legends division team is more harmful than playing a 5-7 team like UTEP in my book.
Then you have to ask, if you up the in-conference competition, what do you do with the non-conference games? Do you honestly think there would be any incentive to play a hard schedule out of conference? Teams already pad their schedules to make sure of/try to get to bowl eligibility (remember it's all about the $$$).
I argue, adding another conference game only serves to water down what we'd see in the non-conference slate.
Besides, do you really think Big Ten schools would be willing to give up one of those three dates for an away game? No other BCS school would ever think of playing games just at one school over playing a home and home series or neutral site game. Again, that doesn't help to solve the problem because only FCS and low level FBS schools would even think of taking on games with only an away option. Again, that doesn't solve the problem of increasing your strength of schedule, does it?
Sure, an increase in neutral site games could also be a possibility, but you are then asking your fans to shell out even more money on an annual basis than they already are and all you are doing is stretching out the group of fans that would follow you to the postseason, not exactly the smartest of ideas out there. Schools like Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin may be able to survive something like that because the fanbases are so large and they travel so well, but that's one quarter of the conference. What about the rest of the schools?
As a Wisconsin fan you've got to ask yourself, "What would happen to the series with the likes of Virginia Tech or even the possibility of playing Notre Dame?"
I guarantee you because of the home-and-home nature of the Va Tech series you can kiss that one goodbye, I just see anyway the Badgers play that one if they are forced to give up a home game in a year they are playing 5 road conference games. What about Notre Dame? That one goes out the window because there's only a three week window to fit that game in and last time I checked the likes of Purdue and Michigan State will take up two of those weeks.
Call me crazy if you want, but I'll take playing an upper echelon ACC school like Va Tech over the possibility of being stuck with a bad conference game when it comes to the new emphasis on strength of schedule. Besides, how else do you get your conference's profile up during the season... by playing the other conferences, right?
Let's remember, historically the likes of Iowa, Michigan, and Nebraska are the most likely to be upper echelon teams. The rest could be good, but they may not be. Give me the opportunity to work out a non-conference game that we have control over making sure they are good over the crap-shoot that could be "extra conference game roulette."
While it's true that not all non-conference scheduling ideas work out, hell, just look at Wisconsin vs. Oregon State, there are ways to fix those issues. Let's remember it was 5 years ago when the contract was made with Oregon State. The Beavers were an upper tier Pac-10 squad at the time, but not so much anymore. However, that issue is easily solved by not making contracts 5-7 years in advance with teams that aren't close to a sure thing of being good teams (.i.e. USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida State, etc.)
When Ohio State went and played a Texas or USC and when Michigan goes to play Alabama this season those games have had and will have implications on how the public and decision makers view the conference as a whole. So, avoiding those games in favor of insulating yourselves in more conference play only serves to lessen the chances you have of proving yourself to the outside world. Leaving the perception of the conference completely to bowl game matchups is a terrible idea for the Big Ten, just look at the horrible bowl game records over the past few seasons for proof of that assumption. (I know bowl game records are a dumb way of measuring a conference, but people pay attention to that stuff - just ask OSU after losing out on BCS games year after year in the Mid-2000's)
Then I also propose this question to you... What's good for the goose, should be good for the gander? Right? Look, if the SEC is supposed to be the end-all, be-all of college football, why have they constantly rejected going to a nine game conference schedule? If they don't think it's a good idea I'd argue we should probably be taking a page from their playbook as well. I'm not saying I want to be just like the SEC, but in this one case I think they've got it right. It allows their teams a better shot at all making bowl eligiblity with that one extra game and thus, more visibility and more money.
It's different for the Big XII where only ten teams exist. Playing 9 games there makes sense, there's no conference championship game and therefore playing round robin gives them a true conference champion. Add in the fact that schools control part of the revenue from football television rights themselves, losing a home game every other year doesn't really hurt them that much.
In the end I hope smarter people than I can figure out that this whole nine game schedule idea is flat out the WORST IDEA EVER!