Today at the Big Ten Media Days, conference commissioner Jim Delany announced a “strength of schedule commitment” for its member teams beginning in 2016.
The conference is already slated to begin playing a nine-game conference schedule next season. Today’s news further stipulates how Big Ten teams should schedule moving forward.
Each Big Ten school should schedule a non-conference game against an “autonomy five opponent” (commonly referred to as Power Five). That means a game against a team from the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC.
In addition, Delany stated that games against BYU and Notre Dame will count towards the strength of schedule requirement.
Also, as first mentioned back in 2013, the Big Ten will discontinue the scheduling of FCS teams beginning in 2016. According to Delany, this component is considered an “athletic directors agreement” rather than a mandate.
Delany stopped short of saying his schools will be penalized for not following the Big Ten’s strength of schedule commitment.
“I’m not sure that there’s penalties. We haven’t really talked about that, but everybody has agreed,” Delany said. “We have the nine conference games. We have a commitment to schedule an intersectional game. We have a conference championship. And we have a commitment to play only FBS opponents.”
So it remains to be seen whether every school will stop playing games against FCS members completely. Currently, eight Big Ten teams have games scheduled against an FCS team in 2016. From 2017 onward, there are only six such games scheduled.
The ACC and SEC, which play eight conference games, both previously announced strength of schedule mandates. Beginning in 2017, ACC schools must play one non-conference game against a Power Five team (or BYU or Notre Dame).
The SEC has a similar mandate that begins in 2016 and possibly includes Army, although no official statement has been made by the conference. Both conferences, however, will still schedule FCS teams for the foreseeable future.