LINCOLN — The Big Ten appears headed for two geographically based divisions that ditch the much-discussed — and occasionally derided — Legends and Leaders names.
ESPN reported Friday night that in 2014 — when Rutgers and Maryland join to create a 14-team league — the Big Ten will split into East and West Divisions.
The West, according to the report: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue. Of the seven teams, only the Boilermakers are in the Eastern Time Zone.
The East: Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland.
In 2013, the Legends and Leaders Divisions will remain intact. In 2014, the league flips to the East/West split.
Currently, the only Big Ten West team not on NU's 2014 conference schedule is Wisconsin. Michigan and Michigan State — Legends Division teams headed to the Big Ten East — are on the slate, as is Penn State as Nebraska's “crossover” opponent.
Last month, ESPN reported that Purdue and Indiana would be the only “crossover” game in the new divisional split. All others will be dropped.
A CBSSports.com story Friday reported that Big Ten athletic directors could approve a nine-game conference schedule, effective 2016, as early as next week. Wisconsin Barry Alvarez was quoted as giving the timeline.
The Big Ten will have a new TV deal in 2016, and more conference games create better inventory for contract negotiations. Alvarez told CBSSports.com that league commissioner Jim Delany has asked teams to improve their nonconference schedules, as well.
“To improve our league football-wise, we all agree as directors and driven by our commissioner that our nonconference schedule has to get better,” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “(Delany) is going to the table to renegotiate TV contracts, and we have to improve that inventory. Our nonconference schedule is not strong at all.”
Nebraska currently has four nonconference games scheduled for 2016: Home games vs. Wyoming, Fresno State and Tennessee; and a game at Chicago's Soldier Field against Northern Illinois.
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