Football season kicks off tomorrow -- meaning we're about two months from the start of basketball. But the dying moments of the college sports offseason are more than enough time for a few more pieces of conference realignment info to make their way into the news. More on these after the jump.
The announcement of the Big Ten's divisional arrangement for football has dominated Wednesday's college headlines. Based on media reports (from the Indianpolis Star, ESPN and others) the two six-team groups will look like this. They are, as of this moment, not named.
Division A: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Division B: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
Now, it's unclear if these divisions will apply to just football or all sports. Big Ten basketball fans better hope the conference has other thoughts for hoops, as my first reaction when I saw these divisions was "Holy competitive imbalance, Commissioner Delany!"
From the football perspective, I can tell you there isn't a lot of happiness there either. Just visit our Big Ten football blog, Off Tackle Empire, for a sample. (Language Warning)
Now, you can talk all you want about how competitive balance is cyclical, but if these divisions do hold for basketball, a team looking to build a tournament resume will want to be in Division A for the foreseeable future (especially since Indiana is due to rise at some point). Sure, teams will beat each other up during the conference campaign, but there's potential for several good RPI wins among that group (outside of Penn State, of course).
On the other hand, Division B looks an awful lot like the SEC West, with one exception, Michigan State. Otherwise, that's a group of programs who have ranged from inconsistent (Minnesota) to downright bad (Nebraska) to historically inept (Northwestern).
Frankly, the Spartans better hope this divisional arrangement doesn't hold, as their schedule could soon feature a conference slate littered with RPI anchors.
In my opinion, the Big Ten should just forget the notion of a 16-game, divisionally-based schedule (one that ESPN's Andy Katz says is likely) and stick with the current 18-game slate, playing each team once and seven opponents twice. The conference can have the fun the Big East has every year in creating an unbalanced schedule, negotiating with TV partners and attempting to predict how teams will perform in the season to come. That would be sausage-making at its finest.
However, if the Big Ten insists on going the divisional route, it turns out that going with a straight East-West split -- flipping Michigan State with Illinois and Michigan with Wisconsin -- balances things significantly.
East: Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
West: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Considering that football and basketball schedules are two completely different animals, I'd be disappointed if the Big Ten didn't consider a different approach for hoops. But, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw the football divisions used for basketball. After all, the SEC, Conference USA, and Big 12 have gone that route (to differing levels). I wouldn't expect the Big Ten to rock the boat.
UPDATE (8:52 p.m. ET): The Big Ten will not split into divisions for basketball at the moment. (H/T SBN Chicago) That's a piece of good news.
The conference that looked most likely to try something new and different in setting up its divisions, the Pac-10, may not be so adventurous after all. Reports say that league is set eschew the proposed "zipper arrangement," which would separate travel partners into separate divisions. Instead, the members would be split along the more traditional, less creative North-South line.
But that's a topic for another day.
As for yesterday's big news, BYU's departure from the Mountain West for the green pastures of football independence and the West Coast Conference, the ripple effects are coming.
The Cougars' new home for most of their sports, the West Coast Conference, may not be done with expansion, according to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner. Denver, Pacific, and Seattle U could be likely targets for the WCC. After all, scheduling for 10 teams in basketball is a bit more convenient, especially if travel partners can be easily arranged, than drawing up a slate for nine.
The WAC could also see more departures (for example, the Utah State and Hawai'i moves I mentioned yesterday), and the news that the conference did strike a football scheduling deal with BYU, won't necessarily change that, since that arrangement is only in place for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
If Karl Benson doesn't extend the BYU deal, or have some Sun Belt and Big Sky schools on speed dial, the WAC's days are certainly numbered.
Staying in the West, the SBN College family has added yet another member, one representing the Mountain West (yes, a school that is actually staying put). So, I invite you to head on over to our new Wyoming blog, CowboyAltitude.com, and welcome Matt to the family.
To close this post, here are a few stories on recently released 2010-11 schedules.
Maryland (based on a leak of the ACC schedule)
I'm heading to Gainesville Friday for a fantasy football draft and the Gators' football opener against Miami University, so expect a new post early next week. Enjoy opening weekend for football and remember that hoops is almost around the corner!