Another week brings another round of Big Ten Conference expansion chatter.
This time, it’s being whispered with a southern twang.
A Tuesday tweet from Maryland.247Sports.com — which has a reputable track record when it comes to realignment scuttlebutt — reported that North Carolina has an offer to join the conference, with Virginia and Georgia Tech also being considered.
Don’t expect any sort of confirmation unless this becomes a done deal, but it’s OK to speculate what the impact might be for Iowa.
Last week, I talked about divisional alignments with Hawkeye athletic director Gary Barta, and he was rooting for a geographic split.
“If we’re going to separate by East and West, and it’s looking more and more like that’s going to be possible, then I’m thrilled,” Barta said.
He went on to say several scenarios were still being considered, but if the Big Ten adds a couple more members, an East-West divide is a no-brainer.
Maryland and Rutgers are set to join the conference in 2014, so an East Coast presence is already being established.
Adding the Tar Heels, Cavaliers or whoever would establish the Big Ten as a 16-team “super conference.”
That’s bad for traditionalist – Would the Big 12 stay at 10? — but a dream for schedule makers.
Imagine the Big Ten East: North Carolina, Virginia (or Georgia Tech), Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State.
And for the Big Ten West: Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern.
(And please, let’s do away with the whole “Legends and Leaders” nonsense. Border rivalries don’t need a marketing strategy.)
Of course, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. We don’t actually know if North Carolina has been invited or whether they would accept.
But change is coming, one way or another.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith recently told the Big Ten Network there was a strong likelihood the Buckeyes will be in the same division as rival Michigan. A geographical shift in divisions would reunite the Iowa-Wisconsin football rivalry.
Did Barta know a little more than he was letting on last week? You hope so.
“Nothing changed, in terms of any final decisions,” he said. “One of the casualties in our last go-around (when Nebraska joined) was not being able to play Wisconsin every year.
“If we’re able to recapture that in this new divisional set up, I think it would be terrific.”
Of course, nothing is perfect.
My proposed format leaves the Big Ten East stronger at the top than the West. Urban Meyer (entering his second year as Ohio State’s coach) and Brady Hoke (entering his third at Michigan) could end up matching wits just to see which powerhouse advances to the Big Ten title game.
That’s enough to make Bo Pelini at Nebraska downright giddy.
To offset the imbalance, maybe Purdue heads East and Michigan State goes West — which would open the possibility of a Michigan-Michigan State conference title game.
“The goal is to make sure if we can get back to geography and rivalries, and still remain competitive in both divisions,” Barta said. “Everything you look at has some pluses and minuses. In the end, when it settles, hopefully it will have that geographic opportunity, so we can play the schools on our borders every year.
“And beyond that, just making sure it’s competitive.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football