Now that we've lived with them for two years, it's easy to forget just how silly the Big Ten's divisions are. Legends and Leaders. Michigan and Ohio State in different divisions. Legends and Leaders. Wisconsin in a different division than Iowa and Minnesota. Legends and Leaders.
Now Rutgers and Maryland are here to save the day. The Big Ten's East Coast expansion has sent the league's entire divisional structure back to the drawing board. On Tuesday, ESPN.com, citing league sources, broke what the league's new structure will likely appear by the time football gets underway in late August.
Indiana or Purdue
Indiana or Purdue
No announcement is imminent (any announcement before the Final Four wraps up seems highly improbable) and the division names appear in quotes because no name has been chosen. "East" and "West" seem like logical choices to us, but who's asking?
Though, again, nothing is official yet, there's a quite a bit of reaction around Big Ten country to news that hasn't been made official yet:
- Our more astute readers will notice that Indiana and Purdue are stuck in no man's land. The league will be cleanly split along time zones, the East Division in the Eastern time zone and the West Division in the Central time zone, with the exception of the Hoosier state. Somebody has to go West (we agree with ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg that Purdue makes the most sense) but this much is certain: the Indiana-Purdue rivalry isn't going away. In fact, the Old Oaken Bucket series will probably be the only protected cross-division rivalry moving forward.
- Those in Wisconsin will cherish being pitted with Minnesota and Iowa again and battling Nebraska for division supremacy.
- Conversely, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis will enjoy the East Division's audience with the East Coast and the chance to share a division with Michigan.
In all, going to a straight geographic alignment would add a sense of regionalism, not to mention logic, that will serve the Big Ten well in the future. Iowa should play Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota every year, and Michigan State should play Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State on an annual basis. It turns out the most sensible solution may have been right in front of the Big Ten's face, they just had to go to the East Coast to see it.