Bully for the Big Ten.
As loyal Hlog readers know, I don’t mind needling the Big Ten for this and that. Sometimes the league is kind of, well, pompous.
But Jim Delany, though he circumvents a college football playoff at every turn, is a man of foresight. The Big Ten Network was brilliant. Annexing Nebraska last year? Very smart. Not panicking in the face of all the conference-realignment that went on in 2011? Prudent, to say the least.
Now comes the news the Big Ten is about to enter a scheduling partnership with the Pacific-12 Conference. It won’t start in football until 2017 because of previous scheduling commitments, but the fact that it’s on the horizon provides a security blanket and a lot of financial possibilities for the league.
Why expand again? You’re going to partner up with another sturdy 12-team conference. The scope of both leagues is about to expand greatly, and those cheeky ever-expanding, ever-shrinking, and ever-expanding-again conferences like the Big 12 and Big East can find other teams to play in the non-conference portion of their future football schedules.
The league will keep an 8-game league schedule, after all. I’d rather see a fairer way of determining a league-champion than missing three teams a year, but how fair is what the Big 12 now has with teams either playing five home games and four away, or vice versa?
Iowa has played two BCS conference teams most years in non-conference play. The Iowa State-Iowa series seems to be on firm ground. After that, would you rather see Iowa play a Pac-12 team or, say, a Big East team like Pittsburgh? To me, it depends on which Pac-12 team, on how good Pitt (or whoever) is in a given year. But chances are, the Pac-12 team will be more interesting.
The big picture says the leagues will do well with matchups like Michigan-USC, Ohio State-Oregon, Nebraska-Stanford, and Wisconsin-Washington. But a lot changes in six years. Oregon used to be a whipping boy. Colorado once won a national-championship. Utah went unbeaten and won a Sugar Bowl over Alabama. In the Big Ten, programs go up and down, too. Who knows who will be on the upward cycle in 2017?
But an Iowa-California or Iowa-Washington or Iowa-Arizona or Iowa-UCLA or Iowa-Anybody could be a compelling game or two-year series come ’17 and ’18.
Who knows what any program will look like in six years? Maybe Iowa will have a spread offense and will recruit hard in California then. Maybe teams will travel via spacecraft. Or even crazier, high-speed rail.
But to bring this thing back to a trace of seriousness, this is a shrewd move by the two leagues. The opening couple weeks of the 2011 season were packed full of awful non-conference games. Sprinkle three Big Ten-Pac-12 meetings in each of the first four weeks of the season, and if you don’t own the national conversation, you surely have a considerable part of it.
Suddenly, the SEC has to be wondering what it was doing expanding to Texas A&M and Missouri. It should have just come up with a similar deal with the Big 12 and left the Tigers and Aggies to stay put.
Now, for real sanity, maybe the Big Ten and Pac-12 will take charge of bowl games and quit paying the absurd prices college programs now pay just to participate in bowls. If there isn’t going to be a playoff and all the loot that comes with that, the conferences should strike much-better deals with existing bowls or get into the bowl business themselves and make money instead of giving it away.