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Could Purdue/IU Become a Protected Rivalry in B1G Basketball?

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Purdue’s new athletic director wants to make sure the Big Ten basketball’s biggest rivalry occurs twice every season.

Indiana v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Last night, Mike Carmin of the Journal & Courier reported that Mike Bobinski and Matt Painter have expressed their interest in making sure Purdue and Indiana play each other twice in the regular season every year. Currently, there are no protected rivalries within Big Ten basketball, so rivals often find themselves only playing each other once in the regular season.

“IU wants it. We want it,” Bobinski said. “It makes perfect sense from your fan perspective. It makes great sense regionally because there’s great interest in those games. Why wouldn’t you play them twice? There’s going to be television interest in those games more often than not.

“To have them happen when they happen in the rotation doesn’t seem like we’re putting our best foot forward as a league. I don’t know if across the league there’s wide spread interest among others that have what they believe is a natural rival. If there are, I would be all for that too.”

While the J&C was not able to get a comment from Painter, Bobinski did state that Painter “is a big proponent of this” and has already addressed it to B1G commissioner, Jim Delany. The article did not state if former athletic director, Morgan Burke, wanted to make Purdue and IU a protected B1G basketball rivalry.

In the last 10 seasons, only 6 of those featured Purdue and IU playing each other twice in the regular season. Ever since the B1G expanded to include Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers, the number of home-and-home B1G conference series scheduled for each team has gone from eight teams to five, reducing the chances of Purdue and IU playing each other twice in one season.

While Purdue and IU did play each other twice this past season, the 2015-16 season featured only one game, at IU, between the two historic rivals. It was the first time since 2008 where both teams were ranked (which also featured one game that season, which was also at IU). Purdue hosted IU in 2009 and 2014 without a return trip to Bloomington.

There might be some push back from the other schools, specifically those without a natural rival who might not want a protected rivalry with a random school (i.e. Penn State) or those with multiple rivals who do not want to pick just one school (i.e. Michigan). However, it’s also possible to have protected rivals for some but not all in a conference (such as the ACC with North Carolina/Duke).

“If you don’t have (a rivalry) and you’re happy with the rotation, fine. Those of us that do have one, can the scheduling folks tell us they can work that into the model and not impair anybody else’s schedule unfairly?” Bobinski said.

“It’s not like it can’t be done. It’s happening in other leagues,” Bobinski said.

While this was not stated in the article, another option for the conference would be to expand the regular season conference schedule from 18 conference games for each team up to 20. With only 18 conference games, teams face 5 other B1G teams in home-and-home series, while playing the other 8 once (4 home, 4 away). By expanding to 20 conference games a season, teams could face 7 B1G teams in home-and-home series, while facing the other 6 once (3 home, 3 away). This would allow for more flexibility and allow schools to have protected rivalries while also having a competitive schedule. Though most conferences typically schedule 18 conference games for their members, the ACC will move to a 20-game schedule starting in 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised if the B1G moves in this direction in the near future.