The Big Ten's realignment process produced one key casualty among the league's football rivalries: Iowa-Wisconsin.
The schools had played 72 of 74 years before the Big Ten added Nebraska as its 12th member for the 2011 school year. When the league split into two divisions based not on geography but competitive equality, the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry was doomed. In the 17-year evaluation period the league used to determine the divisions, Wisconsin ranked fifth and Iowa sixth in winning percentage. Based on realignment's primary tenet, the schools had to go to opposite divisions.
When the league established a permanent cross-divisional rivalry, Iowa-Wisconsin was outranked by the nation's oldest major-conference rivalry: Wisconsin-Minnesota. There was no way to keep Iowa-Wisconsin as an annual rivalry without completely gerrymandering the league schedule.
In 2010, the final year the schools were slated to meet as annual rivals, the teams reached an epic conclusion to an under-the-radar rivalry. Wisconsin outlasted Iowa 31-30, and the series stands tied at 42-42-2. The schools rotated off one another's schedule in 2011 and 2012, will play again in 2013 (Iowa City) and 2014 (Madison), then go back on hiatus in 2015-16, as The Gazette first reported Wednesday.
Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez fought hard to preserve the rivalry during the realignment process. Alvarez coached under Iowa's Hayden Fry and became a Hall of Fame coach for the Badgers, winning three Rose Bowls. Even when it was a foregone conclusion the rivalry wasn't making the cut, Alvarez forced the league's athletics directors to consider it one more time.
"I feel for our fans and I feel the Iowa fans because it’s such a natural rivalry," Alvarez said Wednesday at the Big Ten spring meetings. "It’s an easy trip for both schools. But it is what it is, and you just move on. That decision was made over a year ago. We stated our case, and I knew the criteria going in, what it was. We’ll just live with it."
Unless the Big Ten expands, revamps the divisions or adds a ninth game to the league schedule, Iowa and Wisconsin will play just four times over a 10-year period. Is there any possibility the schools would line up for a non-conference game in the years they don't play?
"I really haven’t thought of that," Alvarez said. "I think that would be a little awkward."
Maybe so, but it sure would add something to the non-conference schedule.
-- Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News is used to covering national-championship football teams. So maybe he has reason to have a short tolerance level for Big Ten folks who have their complaints about the SEC. Solomon writes:
No more cracks at the SEC's weak history of traveling out of the South.
No more rants at how the SEC avoids playing in the cold.
No more pining for a significant SEC-Big Ten game in Big Ten country instead of Florida, New Orleans or Dallas.
You lost that right this week. Your conference favors the warmth and brand of the Rose Bowl for semifinal playoff games instead of campus sites -- the very idea your own commissioner was championing in February.
Mike Slive continues to beat Jim Delany, on the field and in the conference rooms. Sometimes Delany even does the job for Slive, who enjoys the advantage of being on the right side of history with his failed plus-one proposal in 2008.
-- Add Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to those who don't want the bowls or the BCS to have anything to do with the coming four-team major-college football playoff. He wrote:
It makes no sense that the NCAA, which runs a successful basketball tournament, would allow outside contractors to stage potentially its most profitable venture. Imagine the NFL going through the regular season and then telling a start-up company, “OK, you take it from here. See if you can make the Super Bowl work.”
The Big Ten disagrees. The Big Ten loves the bowls. The Big Ten really, really loves the Rose Bowl.
I'll say it again. The upcoming battle to determine the playoff format is going to be awesome.
-- The Big Ten Network is cutting air time for shows about academics from its programming schedule.
Which begs an obvious question: Does anyone ever actually watch one of those shows?
The BTN is choosing to live in the real world. All networks do at some point. History network's biggest hits are "Pawn Stars, "American Pickers," and "Swamp People." History, they ain't. Given a choice between watching a program about history and one about alligator-hunting, Americans side with the reptiles.
-- Are transfers an epidemic in college basketball? Well, two guards Kentucky will rely on two former North Carolina State guards next season. One, Julius Mays, transferred from North Carolina State to Wright State before transferring to Kentucky.
Texas Tech, meanwhile, has had six players leave its program since the end of the season. Six. Four are freshmen.
But four of Tech's five top scorers are returning, so the Red Raiders should improve on their 1-17 Big 12 record of last season. After typing that, I realize it's not saying a whole lot, is it?
-- The first quarterback to commit to Iowa football's recruiting class of 2013 likes to kick bulldogs. Nic Shimonek's Mildred High Eagles of Corsicana, Texas, beat the Wortham Bulldogs and Edgewood Bulldogs last season by a combined score of 125-6.