Chicago — Upon further review, Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez believes that geography is the best way to divide the Big Ten Conference.
“I didn’t (feel that way) a few years ago,” Alvarez said Monday at the annual Big Ten football meetings “We said competitive equality (was the best way) and I went along with that.”
The Big Ten initially divided the conference based on competitive equality, calling the two six-team divisions the Legends and Leaders.
However, that arrangement only lasted for three years. The Big Ten has since expanded to 14 teams with Maryland and Rutgers now on board beginning this season. Geography is now used to divide the 14 teams into two seven-team divisions called the East and West.
“I like it,” said Alvarez, who won three Rose Bowl games while serving as the head coach at Wisconsin from 1990 to 2005. “I think it does make sense. I think it’s just natural.”
Alvarez said the current arrangement is better for fans because it makes traveling to games less expensive and less time consuming. Dividing the conference by geography also keeps the border rivalries intact.
“Our fans want to drive to Lincoln,” Alvarez said. “They want to drive to Iowa City. I think geographically it makes more sense.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz also seems to prefer dividing the teams by geography.
“Personally, I think all of us, fans and the people competing, enjoy the opportunity to play the teams that are near us,” Ferentz said. “I think that’s just a good thing. That’s how most conferences began.
“So it was little bit strange over the last couple years to have some geographical challenges that way.”
Attendance has become a concern for many of the Big Ten schools, including Iowa, where tickets still remain for all seven home games. Student ticket sales also have declined at Iowa
“It’s good for your fans,” Alvarez said of the current setup. “We always talk about how you better start taking care of your fans. I just saw that Iowa’s student section didn’t sell out. Michigan’s actually didn’t sell out. That’s something that we’re all very sensitive about.”
Gary Barta talks last week about slowing ticket sales:
A former Hawkeye assistant coach from 1979-86, Alvarez used the Southeastern Conference as an example of how using geography to divide a conference ultimately works better over the long haul.
“The exact same thing happened when they divided,” Alvarez said of the SEC. “They complained that the East Division was so much stronger than the West. And now it’s just flipped. It’s cyclical.”
NO THANKS: Don’t expect to see Iowa football team play in a game overseas if coach Ferentz has his way.
Ferentz was asked Monday if he ever could imagine taking a team to play a game in Ireland, as Penn State is scheduled to do against Central Florida on Aug. 30.
“I sure hope we don’t go to Ireland,” Ferentz said. “We’re not looking at expanding there are we?”