Iowa and Illinois will reignite their border football rivalry in 2015-16, ending a six-year hiatus that began in 2009.
The schools rotate back on to one another’s football schedule those seasons, which was released by the Big Ten this morning. Iowa also will play Penn State in 2015-16, while longtime rival Wisconsin and Ohio State also move off the Hawkeyes’ schedule.
“We had to make it all fit,” said Mark Rudner, the Big Ten’s senior associate commissioner for television administration and in charge of scheduling. “We looked at who was playing whom when and how often they played maybe the last six years or the last 10 years. Obviously whatever we did with Iowa was affecting every other institution, just like whatever we did with every other institution affected Iowa.”
Iowa City will host the 2015 game, and Champaign will host the 2016 match-up. Illinois beat Iowa 27-24 in the teams’ last meeting on Nov. 1, 2008. Iowa topped Illinois 10-6 in 2007, the last time the teams played at Kinnick Stadium.
“That’s one of the downfalls of going to divisions because you get out of the rotations that you had; everything had to start fresh,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said of the six-year hiatus. “There’s some disadvantages to what we’ve done in terms of going to 12 teams and going to divisions, but for me the advantages far outweigh it. So we’ll just have to take what comes our way, the other way, the disadvantages. But for me, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”
The six-year delay was the Big Ten’s longest in football since the Hawkeyes and Fighting Illini stopped playing from 1953-66 after an ugly apple-throwing incident in 1952 at Kinnick Stadium.
Under the Big Ten’s 11-school scheduling process, Iowa and Illinois competed six times over an eight-year period and rotated off the schedule in 2009 and 2010. When Nebraska joined the Big Ten for 2011, the league split in two with Iowa and Illinois placed into opposite divisions. As non-protected opponents, they now are scheduled to meet four times over a 10-year period.
Iowa’s protected cross-divisional opponent is Purdue, and the Hawkeyes are scheduled to play Indiana and Penn State in 2011-12. The 2015-16 schedule means Iowa will not play Indiana for four consecutive seasons.
Iowa will continue to face Nebraska as the teams’ regular-season finale. As the case in 2013-14, the 2015-16 games are scheduled for Saturday. In 2011 and this year’s game on Nov. 23, Iowa and Nebraska will play on the Friday following Thanksgiving before a national audience on ABC.
“Any move from that game from Saturday to Friday or any move of another game in the conference to the Friday after Thanksgiving would require the approval of our administrators council because it’s already approved,” Rudner said.
Barta previously told The Gazette he wanted to see how Iowa fans respond this year to the Friday home game before he’ll agree to permanently move the Iowa-Nebraska game from Saturday to Friday in the future. Nebraska has played its regular-season finale on the Friday following Thanksgiving every year since 1990.
It’s possible other Big Ten programs would consider moving their games up from Saturday to Friday as well.
“I think others will be watching,” Rudner said. “It’s an interesting experiment. I don’t know if they’ll want to do it again, and if they do, who else would want to do it? I think it’s a process we have to sort of let play out and evaluate once the season is over.”
There were alterations to the football scheduling process for 2015-16. No schools will play more than two consecutive home or road games, which is a regular goal. The league will not schedule a team to play more than two games a season against a opponent coming off a bye week, which is new.
“Then another one that we were asked to do for ’15 and ’16 was that we did not to schedule an institution’s bye date inside of or adjacent to two road games,” Rudner said. “In other words, they did not want to be away from home for three weeks or more.”
All schools will open the league season on the same weekend, and there will be no byes in the regular season’s final two weeks. Ohio State-Michigan will continue to conclude their seasons against one another.
“When you’re dealing with a limited window, eight games in nine weeks, it gets kind of challenging,” Rudner said. “The schedule that they approved in ’15-16 met all of those conditions, for all 12 institutions.”
Wisconsin once again falls off Iowa’s schedule, which means the red-hot rivalry between the rivals will miss four times from 2011 through 2016. From 1937 through 2010, Iowa-Wisconsin was played 72-of-74 years.