CHICAGO — Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said the league likely will miss his self-imposed Dec. 1 deadline to name the two football divisions that begin play in 2012.
“I could be off by 60 days. I think it’s going really slow,” Delany said Thursday at Big Ten Basketball Media Day. “Why? Because we’re trying to get to the logo, and that’s going slow. Then we’re getting lots and lots of good selections that we’re not coalescing very well. So, I think that there’s absolutely — other than missing my deadline by a day or 60 days — there’s really no compelling reason to rush until we get my comfort level.”
Nebraska joins the Big Ten in 2012, giving the conference 12 schools. In football, Nebraska will compete in a division with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. The other division includes Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.
Delany said he received tons of good suggestions for divisional names, and he’s not closing the door on any idea. He compared a sloppy divisional name to Coke’s widely panned “New Coke” that hit the market in the mid-1980s.
“Clearly, one set of names that we can’t use are directional, geographic,” Delany said. “It is what it is. We chose to put emphasis on the competitive equality and the rivalries and not geography.
“I think you want them, to me, to conjure up the right feelings in people. That’s what I want, a positive, emotional response.”
Delany said the league likely will not implement divisions for basketball. He said the league plans to stick with 18 games where teams play home-and-home with seven schools and single-plays with four schools annually. It’s possible the league might consider protecting rivalries, but Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan isn’t interested in that possibility.
“It’s different in our sport,” Ryan said. “The traditional rivalries that football might have, in our case it might be one or two. In so many years, it’s kind of interesting, I thought so much attention was paid to Ohio State and Michigan in football, and I’ve never been quiet about that. There are other teams in the Big Ten, which has been proven.
“So in basketball, it’s not like there’s two teams that one of those two teams are going to be the Big Ten champion at the end of the year. Those days are long gone. I think in basketball, protecting a rivalry that type of thing? No. Because they’ll play each other at least once.”
Ryan suggested that if schools want to play a second game once they’ve rotated into the Big Ten single-play cycle, they can schedule a non-conference game against one another.
Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said the league’s balance is one reason why Big Ten basketball hasn’t developed a singular, powerful rivalry like Ohio State-Michigan in football.
“I don’t know about the rest of the league, but it’s different from football,” Matta said. “You take the Ohio State- Michigan rivalry in football. It’s been the last game forever. In basketball we don’t know when we’re playing them, how many times we’re playing them and that type of deal. I don’t know how many of those knock-down, drag-out rivalries we have because you do play them twice and maybe even a third time.”
The Big Ten will hold two more basketball tournaments in Indianapolis wrapped around its inaugural football title game in 2011. In the spring athletics directors meeting, Delany plans to open bidding for the 2012 football and 2013 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“I think when you have multiple championships that most people are interested in in multiple cities, there’s an opportunity to mix and match,” Delany said. “I think that gives us some latitude and flexibility in dealing with cities that are attracted to us.”