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Big Ten has full agenda slated next week

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Pete DiPrimio
July 29, 2010

Next week a group of mostly men will gather behind closed doors at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago to decide the fate of the football free world.


We’re going to try opening those doors and give you a peek inside.


First, free isn’t part of this money-matters scenario, but that misses the point, which is that Big Ten officials—commissioner Jim Delany, the 11 Big Ten athletic directors, a few other league bigwigs, plus Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne—will hash out what to do about expansion, dividing the conference into two six-team divisions, a conference football championship game and what city should host the game.


Big Ten expansion has so far netted one team--Nebraska, which will leave the Big 12 and join the Big Ten in 2011. Don’t think for a minute it will stop there. Delany wants a presence on the East Coast, which is why Rutgers, Syracuse and Connecticut remain possibilities.


Notre Dame, of course, remains the biggest prize of all, although it will take the arrival of 16-team super conferences to force the Irish to give up football independence and join the Big Ten.


And so it will linger.


As far as football divisions, Delany has three priorities, with No. 1 being competitive balance followed by preserving existing rivalries and geography.


It would make no sense to have Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State in the same division, although schools such as Indiana and Purdue probably wouldn’t complain as long as they’re not in that division.


Figure a scenario with Penn State and Nebraska in one division, Michigan and Ohio State in the other.


The next most successful Big Ten teams over the last 10 years after Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are Iowa and Wisconsin, so split them up. The next most successful pair after that are Purdue and Northwestern, so split them up. Then it’s Michigan State and Minnesota, and Illinois and Indiana.


By doing it that way, you could have Division A with Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State and Indiana. Division B would be Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois.


The Big Ten will have a conference championship game_likely the first weekend in December starting in 2011—that will make mega millions. Host contenders are Chicago’s Soldier Field (61,500 capacity), Detroit’s Ford Field (65,000), Minneapolis’ Metrodome (64,000), Cleveland’s Browns Stadium (73,200), Green Bay’s Lambeau Field (72,928) and Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium (70,000).


Yes, Lambeau Field has a rich football heritage, Soldier Field looks like a freak flying saucer and Cleveland Browns Stadium has, well, who cares?


Surely Big Ten officials will not duplicate NFL officials’ knuckleheaded decision of putting a championship game outdoors in the winter. In case you missed it, the 2014 Super Bowl is set for New York City in February, when winter might be at its fiercest.


They deserve a blizzard.


Anyway, the best site for team performance and fan comfort is an indoor stadium, which is why the SEC has hosted its title game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome since 1994.


For the Big Ten that would leave Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Detroit. Of those three, the most bang for the buck, including central location, world-class facility, proximity to hotels and restaurants, lower prices and officials who know what they’re doing, is Indianapolis.


The city already hosts the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments (the five-year deal is good through 2012). It hosted last spring’s basketball Final Four. It will host the 2012 Super Bowl. And don’t forget the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400. The city knows how to do big-time events right.


There’s your peek. For a clearer view of a new football world, wait till next week.



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