Report: Big Ten to reconfigure division model when USC, UCLA arrive
The Big Ten will introduce a new league configuration when it welcomes USC and UCLA to the fold in 2024, according to a report from The Athletic’s Scott Dochterman.
There was “strong consideration” given to changing the league’s divisional structure for the upcoming 2023 season — doing away with geographic divisions in favor of a single-conference model like the one the Pac-12 deployed this year. According to Dochterman, though, Big Ten officials didn’t want to unveil one system for 2023 and then another for 2024 when the two L.A. schools join the fold.
That could mean a number of league configurations are on the table once the Big Ten expands to 16 teams.
The current setup of East and West divisions has a power imbalance. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State are all on the Big Ten East side. The West hasn’t won a league championship game under the current structure and is 70-77 against the East in regular-season crossovers.
With hours of travel between USC/UCLA and the Big Ten’s easternmost programs, some have floated the idea of Big Ten pods when the league officially expands. A reconfigured divisional structure could make sense as well.
The Big Ten will be threading a needle trying to keep existing members happy while introducing two new schools with no historical attachment to anyone. The Big Ten plays trophy games seemingly every week, and some schools are more interested in rivalry preservation than others.
From Dochterman’s report:
… every school has a different idea of rivalry preservation. Michigan, for instance, wants to protect Ohio State and Michigan State annually. Iowa wants to play Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin each year. Penn State has no preference for annual foes.
Presumably, the Big Ten would want to get its new teams on the field with its other top teams as early as possible.
When Nebraska joined the Big Ten for the 2011 season, it played Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan all in its first season. And then it did so again the next year.
We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how the Big Ten decides to structure things with USC and UCLA in the picture.