Big Ten splits up Michigan and Ohio State
Any Michigan man will tell you, there is nothing quite like beating Ohio State. Every Buckeye agrees, a win over that team from up North is priority No. 1.
Well, now Michigan and Ohio State could get two chances in a season to beat their fiercest rival.
The Big Ten announced its divisional breakdown for football Wednesday night, and Ohio State and Michigan will be in different six-team divisions when the league expands to 12 members in 2011.
Neither division has been named, but they break down like this: Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern in one; Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana in the other.
“We felt like we could do equal competition and tradition with this move,” Delany said.
Michigan and Ohio State will be a cross-divisional rivalry and continue to play each other each year in the Big Ten regular-season finale, as they have since 1943. That means they could wind up meeting again for the conference championship a week or two later. Not in the Big House or the Horseshoe but on a neutral field. Maybe even a domed stadium.
“Basically, we decided to go with the final season date because that was a way to maintain the tradition,” Delany said. “The conference has a wonderful history of not only rivalry games but also trophy games.”
Big Ten teams will play eight conference games the next two seasons, but that could increase in the future.
“The athletic directors have the intention of exploring a ninth conference game in 2015,” Delany said.
For now there are no plans for divisions in other sports. Delany said he sees no benefit to basketball divisions, but if conference leaders decide they want them, they would have to be drawn differently.
Nebraska will join the Big Ten as its 12th team next year, allowing the conference to split into two divisions and add a lucrative championship game. The first Big Ten football championship game will be played in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, the indoor home of the NFL’s Colts.
The expansion put the conference in a delicate balancing act, trying to add to its coffers without diminishing its rich traditions, none bigger than Michigan vs. Ohio State.
“I’m very pleased that we came out of this with protected rivalries that will go on permanently with Ohio State and Michigan State,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Associated Press. “We’ll play Ohio State in the last game of the regular season, following a tradition that has lasted for decades. And if we both earn the right, we can play the Buckeyes again in the Big Ten championship game.”