Will we still call it the Big Ten?(Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
I feel like I owe an apology to my loyal readers. I have been unavailable, away from a solid internet connection, for the past week and a half. The reason for my absence is that I have been halfway around the world in Hawaii. My parents surprised the entire family last Thanksgiving with the news they were paying to take all of us on a Hawaiian cruise. Since they were paying for everything, the answer was yes. I have been away with Mrs. T-Mill, my parents, my sister, her husband, and my two nephews in the Islands since June 3. As you can see, there are benefits to being the son of a Purdue alumnus who has done pretty well with his life. I thought there wouldn't be much news, but as it turns out, the shit has hit the proverbial fan.
- John Wooden, one of Purdue's greatest alums, dies
- The Brendan Dawson saga keeps going
- Tom Izzo may be leaving a sure-fire dominant Michigan State team, helping Purdue to the 2011 National title.
- The Big Ten adds a member
I was lucky to touch on the first one, but the second is all conjecture until Dawson names a team. The third is still swirling, while the fourth was the biggest. . Since I am late to a solid internet connection other than my phone it means I will only be the 293,356th blogger to comment on the topic, but I figured I would comment none the less.
Let's begin with my personal thoughts. I like it, but I hope that the Cornhuskers are the only team to join. Many of the professional commentators are signaling the death knell of the Big XII, but I am not sure that is the truth. The first domino fell with Colorado jumping to the Pac-10. I seriously doubt the Pac-10, especially with their travel partner scheduling, will settle on just one team. That means it is safe to say one more team is on the way. ESPN wants us to believe that half the Big XII is on its way to the Pac-10, thus destroying the conference. That is really all we know for sure at this point.
That brings us to speculation. It is my hope that the Big Ten is done on this front for now and settles on 12 teams. The conference hasn't added more than one team at a time for about nine decades, and they pride themselves on being the standard of collegiate conferences. Revenue-wise, adding two or four more teams would mean additional splits in the money of the Big Ten Network. Of course, the addition of new teams would likely mean additional revenues for that pot. The conference itself must decide where the graph of additional teams versus lost revenue intersects.
There is always the wild card of Notre Dame, but I think they are too stubborn to join the Big Ten and I see them joining the Big East first because they would view it as easier to dominate.
Right now, I don't care what the Pac-10, SEC, Big East, or anyone else does. I don't want the Big Ten to add anyone else. I am comfortable with a 12 team conference because then it still feels like a conference. We have had two previous examples of a 16-team conference and they don't work. The WAC was a 16-team league until the Mountain West split off to form its own conference. Currently, we have a 16-team Big east for basketball that creates a disaster of a conference tournament and no true regular season champion. With a 12 team league the Big Ten can still have a true conference champion, maintain its traditional rivalries, and have a solid basketball schedule that can keep most of the in-season contests as home and homes.
SBNation's own Corn Nation was kind enough to collect all their postings under the heading Conference Realignment, so head on over there to see their thoughts.
What Nebraska's arrival means for football.
If you live near the city of Indianapolis, get ready for the Big Ten Championship game during the first weekend in December. With Lucas Oil Stadium, climate controlled roof and all, now entering its third season the city will probably be the first choice of the conference to host the new Big Ten Championship game. Sure, there is no official word there will be a championship game, but trust me, there will be. Since the conference already has a deal in place for its marquee event, the men's basketball tournament, with Indianapolis at Conseco Fieldhouse I would bet the football championship will come here as well. There are several reasons for this:
- Indianapolis is centrally located within the conference. As a Purdue fan living there I love it. Almost every opponent is an easy drive for a road game. You can bet this will factor in to the placement of said championship.
- The city has a proven track record for hosting major conference events. When the Big Ten gave semi-permanent host status to the basketball tournaments a few years ago it was because Indianapolis embraces the event. For a week and a half the city goes basketball crazy. The compact downtown bar and restaurant area makes it perfect place for a celebration of the conference.
- Lucas Oil Stadium has a roof. While the conference has some of the nicest stadiums in college football, they will want a neutral site for this event. That means a state of the art NFL Stadium. In Big Ten country there are new stadiums in Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. There is also still the Metrodome, as playing indoors will likely be a big factor towards the choice of the stadium. That leaves Detroit, Indy, and Minneapolis. You may see it rotate a few times (and how cool would it be to play the game at Lambeau Field once?) but my money is on Lucas Oil hosting it the most.
For Purdue, it is still very early to tell how it will affect us. We don't know what division we will be in, but an East-West split could see us paired with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, and Michigan State. The West Division would be Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Illinois. A North-South split might be better and save us from the brutal Penn State-Ohio State-Michigan troika. The most northern schools would be Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. The south would then be Penn State, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Indiana, and Iowa. This makes travel a little more difficult, however.
As far as a schedule rotation a 12-team, two division league is perfect. Each team plays their five divisional opponents and three inter-divisional opponents each year. In year two, you swap home games. In year three, the other three inter-divisional opponents show up in place of the previous three, and in year four you swap home games again. Fans of the conference could then see every team in the league every four seasons.
As far as the quality of football, I like the move. Nebraska is a traditional power, but they have waned in recent years only to come back as a growing force. They missed winning the Big XII last season but one second. Their first visit to every stadium will likely be a sellout, as they are one of the best traveling teams in the country. Purdue hasn't played them since the 50's, but I think they are not so overwhelming that we would have no hope of victory. After beating a very good Ohio State team last season we proved we can once again compete with any team in the country.
The all-time series between the Boilers and Huskers has been long dormant. Purdue won the last meeting on September 27, 1958 at Ross-Ade Stadium 28-0. To date, that is the only time the teams have played at all. They have a surprisingly long history with Indiana, playing 20 times between 1936 and 1978. The Hoosiers will also finally lead an all-time series against a Big Ten opponent, as they are 9-7-3 against Nebraska all-time.
What Nebraska's arrival means for basketball.
In terms of history, not much. I did have Twitter access last week, so I saw J Money's tweet about Northwestern having company as the only Big Ten school not to win an NCAA Tournament game. The Cornhuskers are practically a non-entity on the level of Penn State in the greater world of college basketball. They will have a decent season every few years, but they will most like not be a threat for the league title.
In terms of scheduling I'm not sure what will happen. If you keep the current 18-game league schedule it can become somewhat unbalanced. If you go back to a 16-game schedule things look a little better. You can keep the divisions and play a home and home with every team in your division each year. Then, you would alternate with three home and three road games against each of the other division's teams, rotating the home and homes each year. That makes the most since balance-wise, but keep traditional rivalries with home and homes like Indiana-Purdue could be difficult if teams reside in opposite divisions.
Nebraska would also add an extra game to the Big Ten Tournament, meaning only four teams would receive a bye to the Friday session and seeds 5 through 12 would play in four games on Thursday.
What Nebraska's arrival means for baseball.
This could be one of the most underrated aspects of the move, but with the growing popularity of college baseball it could be an added bonus. Nebraska has been to the College World Series as recently as 2005. They have an excellent facility and they are traditionally a pretty strong baseball team. This will improve the conference's profile. Last year was a banner year for the Big Ten with three baseball teams making the NCAA Tournament, but it has been over 25 years since a Big Ten team played in the College World Series.
Nebraska has appeared in the CWS three times in the past ten years, making it in 2001, 2002, and 2005. Hawks Field at Haymarket Park, with a capacity of 8,500 will instantly become the nicest baseball facility in the Big Ten, with Ray Fisher Stadium (Michigan), Bill Davis Stadium (Ohio State), Penn State's facility, and Purdue's new facility closely behind. Nebraska is also a consistent NCAA Tournament team, missing a regional only three times since 1999.
On the downside, this will make for an unbalanced baseball schedule in the future. Wisconsin does not currently have a baseball program, so an 11-team baseball league means one team will not be playing a conference series each weekend. That can make scheduling very difficult.
Nebraska is a solid power in college volleyball, winning the National Championship in 1995, 200, and 2006. In fact, they were the last team in the country other than Penn State to win a volleyball title. They also have a solid men's gymnastics program, but Purdue doesn't field a team so that won't affect us much.
And now we wait
Many of the issues discussed here will have t be hashed out by the conference executives, but I welcome the Cornhuskers to their new conference. They will be a solid addition in football, and some of their other varsity sports will certainly raise the Big Ten profile as a whole. The rest is now open to comments and speculation. People have wanted more discussion here at the site, so consider the topic open.