The Big Ten will realign their divisions as East and West and will scrap the Legends and Leaders names beginning with the 2014 season, ESPN has reported.
The divisions will be geographically split and will look very different than their current setup. Michigan and Michigan State will be together in the East, and they will be joined by Indiana, Ohio State, and Penn State. Also joining the East are newcomers Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East.
The West Division is highlighted by Nebraska and Wisconsin and looks to be the weaker of the two divisions. Here is a look at the rumored lineups for both the East and West:
Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers
Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin
The new alignment places virtually all traditional rivalries in the same division. The lone exception is Indiana-Purdue, and that will be a protected cross-division rivalry according to ESPN.
The Big Ten is expected to formally announce the new division lineup as early as next week, and at that time they will also approve the move to a nine-game conference football schedule in 2016.
“We like to play each other, and those are not hollow words,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in February. “We are getting larger and want to bind the conference together.”
A 10-game conference schedule was also under consideration, but likely didn’t gain support because it wouldn’t guarantee teams would be able to schedule seven home games each season.
Delaying the nine-game schedule is a necessity due to the fact that most teams have full or nearly full non-conference schedules through 2015. A switch to nine-games in 2014 would cost schools a lot of money in contract buyouts.
Also under consideration by the Big Ten is the end of scheduling FCS opponents. Although nothing official has been announced, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said in February that the conference will discontinue games against those teams.
“The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous,” Alvarez said. “It’s not very appealing.” Alvarez went on to say that Big Ten officials have “…made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools.”
Currently, Big Ten schools have 24 games scheduled against FCS teams from 2014 into the future.