Nobody seems to be complaining about the Big Ten Conference’s upcoming football schedules.
When league officials invited Maryland and Rutgers to join, beginning in 2014, geography became more of an emphasis. As a result, Iowa was placed in the West Division with Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.
For Hawkeye fans, that means shorter distances to games. But what about those who might profit from long road trips?
“I don’t think it will affect our business much at all,” said Kathy Ashby, general manger for Meacham Travel Services in Iowa City. “I don’t think it’s going to make a noticeable change for us.”
Just as rising fuel prices and soaring air fares may prompt many Iowans to stay home this Memorial Day weekend, following your favorite football team in the fall is a pricey proposition.
“I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback from our fans,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said of the Big Ten’s new alignment.
In the East-West format, the Hawkeyes’ divisional rivals are an average of 263.3 miles away from Iowa City — and all within a 5-hour drive — according to Google Maps.
Under the current Legends-Leaders alignment, divisional foes are an average of 341.8 miles away – including trips to Michigan and Michigan State.
“I think about our fans in regards to those games,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. “It’s all about proximity.”
Bringing border rivals together is also good for tradition.
The Badgers and Hawkeyes shared one of the Big Ten’s most intense series, but have not met since 2010. Iowa was put in the Legends Division. Wisconsin in the Leaders.
“I remember when we talked about the Legends, Leaders and how it might shake out,” Barta recalled. “We went through that whole process and we knew everyone was going to have to give a little bit.
“Both Barry and I stood up tall and said, ‘This is going to be hard for us to not play each other.’ But for the greater good of the conference, we agreed.”
The Hawkeyes also missed Illinois, which they have not played since 2008.
“I’ve always considered Iowa and Illinois natural rivals,” Illini athletic director Mike Thomas said. “So this will be great when we get into divisional play.
“I was a big proponent of the geography piece. Because I think the competitive piece, which is how the decision was made previously with Leaders and Legends, is cyclical. Who knows how we’ll look five, 10, 15 years from now?”
The Hawkeyes are scheduled to visit Champaign, Ill., 243 miles away, in 2014. They’ll also make their initial trip to College Park, Md., 905 miles.
In 2015, when game sites are flipped, Iowa’s average road trip will be 250.8 miles, with the longest being a 6 ½-drive to Bloomington, Ind.
“When we added Maryland and Rutgers, and we started looking at an east-west set up, what got me really excited was knowing the geography of it made more sense,” Barta said. “For us to be able to have games against everybody around us, there is an unintended consequence, in a good way.
“It cuts down on our travel cost.”
And that seems to be OK with everybody.
2014 Iowa Football Schedule
Aug. 30 — Northern Iowa
Sept. 6 — Ball State
Sept. 13 — Iowa State
Sept. 20 — at Pittsburgh
Big Ten Conference Schedule
Sept. 27 – at Purdue. Hawkeyes won on last visit to Ross-Ade Stadium, 31-21, for seventh win of 2011 season.
Oct. 11 – Indiana. Iowa has won four of the last five meetings in Kinnick Stadium against the Hoosiers.
Oct. 18 – at Maryland. First meeting ever. Terps play home games at Byrd Stadium.
Nov. 1 – Northwestern. Iowa snapped a three-game losing streak to the Wildcats in Kinnick Stadium in 2011, 41-31. Wildcats also play at Iowa in 2013.
Nov. 8 – at Minnesota. This will be Iowa’s second straight visit to Minneapolis. The Gophers have won the last two meetings in the Twin Cities: 27-24 in 2010 and 22-21 in 2011.
Nov. 15 – at Illinois. Iowa will be playing this border state rival for the first time since 2008.
Nov. 22 – Wisconsin. The Badgers will be making their second straight trip to Kinnick, where they won on their last visit in 2010, 31-30.
Nov. 28 – Nebraska. Game remains a fixture on Black Friday against the Black Blackshirts of Bo Pelini.