July 23rd and July 24th mark the annual Big Ten Media Days. We’ll keep you updated on the Indiana related news that arises during the event.
A common frustration among Indiana football fans is the perceived inequality between the East and West divisions. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany was asked about that at his introductory press conference on Monday at the annual Big Ten Media Days.
As we have written in the past, “breaking through” for Indiana football doesn’t mean just beating one traditional power in the Big Ten East. To truly break through, Indiana would have to knock down the “Big Ten East Wall” consisting of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.
The question was posed to Delany with an interesting embedded statistic. Since the Big Ten moved to their geographic divisions, teams in the East have had 14 top ten finishes, while teams in the West have had four.
Here is how the Commissioner addressed whether the Conference has a concern about the divisions being uneven competitively:
“We’ve had two experiences with divisions, the first one was based on competitive balance over the last 20 years, and to be honest with you it wasn’t received that well. I think the identification by fans of their desire to play geographic rivals….and reinforce historical rivalries…was more important than trying to achieve, in any particular time frame, competitive equality.
I’m not sure that we have a long enough window to really arrive at that conclusion. All conferences except for the Big Ten have stayed with their geographic groupings, and there is probably a reason for that including the fan bases, and the natural inclination, even though conferences are larger, to see more geographic rivalries.
I think the data is self-evident for now, but I think you are going to see greater competitiveness. I think the SEC, you saw a decade of eastern dominance, but in the last fifteen years or so the west has been more dominant. So I think you are going to see more and more competition between the two divisions…and I don’t expect that there will be any changes.”
The bottom line here appears to be that the current construct of Big Ten divisional football appears to be the plan going forward, with no real concern by conference officials. No substantive changes appear to be on the horizon.
The Commissioner’s logic is sound in some respects, but we question whether the comparison to the SEC passes muster. The SEC has traditional college football powers in both divisions, with Florida, Tennessee and Georgia in the East, and Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the West.
Save for Nebraska, all of the Big Ten’s traditional powerhouse programs are in the East, although one could argue that Wisconsin has been good long enough to be considered a traditional power at this point. Even at that, Nebraska has been mediocre of late — although admittedly they could be a program on the rise under new head coach Scott Frost.
The four top teams in the Big Ten East have been major players in college football for nearly a century, with little sign of that ever changing. At least on paper, it doesn’t look like the composition of the teams will allow for the same natural cycles like the SEC has seen.
Nevertheless, the current divisional form and their respective teams appears to be here to stay.
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