WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Big Ten football has new divisions beginning in 2014. The East and West Divisions have been approved by the conference directors of athletics and supported by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors.
Also, the Big Ten approved a nine game conference schedule beginning in 2016. The new conference schedule could affect the series between Purdue and Notre Dame in 2016. The two universities will have to discuss the future of the non-conference rivalry on whether it can continue.
"Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll."
The East Division consists of Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. The West Division consists of Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.
All schools in the East Division are in the eastern time zone and all schools in the West Division are in the central time zone with the exception of Purdue. Each school will play the other six schools in its division plus two teams from the other division in 2014 and 2015, which will serve as transitional years in which the schools will still be playing eight-game schedules. Beginning in 2016, each school will play three teams from the other division as part of its nine-game schedule. The cross-division games will include one protected matchup on an annual basis between Indiana and Purdue.
"I'd like to thank the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and all the directors of athletics for working so hard and well together on the conference realignment and nine-game schedule," said Purdue head football coach, Darrell Hazell. "It is an exciting time for the Big Ten Conference and we are very appreciative to our leaders for maintaining the great Old Oaken Bucket rivalry we share with Indiana."
"We looked at lots of data and discussed multiple options," said Purdue athletics director Morgan Burke. "The east/west split seemed to make the most sense as long as the Bucket game was protected. It is just easier for everyone to remember. In addition, we have taken steps to enhance scheduling by adding a ninth conference game beginning in 2016. This will create some challenges to nonconference games already scheduled and we will be working on this issue in the days ahead."
With the start of the nine-game conference schedule in 2016, teams from the East Division will host five conference home games during even-numbered years, while teams from the West Division will host five conference home games during odd-numbered years. As a result of the nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten's schedule rotation, every student-athlete will have the opportunity to play against every other team in the conference at least once during a four-year period.
"Big Ten directors of athletics met in person or by conference call six times from December to March to discuss a new Big Ten football model," Delany said. "The level of cooperation and collaboration was reflective of what we've come to expect from this group of administrators who have worked extremely well together on a number of complex matters over the past several years. We are all looking forward to ushering in this new era of Big Ten football."
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