B1G Changes Coming To Football
One of the favorite pasttimes of diehard ‘Cats fans is surfing upcoming football schedules in the offseason. Well, based on what went on at the Big Ten’s headquarters in Park Ridge, Illinois the past couple of days, you might as well stick a pin in any future schedule starting with the 2014 season. There were five key headlines emerging from recent B1G athletic director meetings with B1G commissioner Jim Delany and crew. In no particular order:
- The current slate of eight conference games WILL change to either nine or ten games starting in 2014.
- There is a strong sentiment among ADs (and spoken to the media by Jim Phillips) to realign the conference divisions by geography and specifically by time zone.
- The B1G is open to lifting the lid on November night games.
- The B1G coaches and administrators dislike the NCAA recruiting rules which will allow for an open season in texting/communication come August 1, 2013.
- Urban Meyer’s much-hyped lessons in recruiting to other B1G schools seemed to have taken to more of a discussion on gameday environment.
I provided links to each of the above news-worthy items to either ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg or Brian Bennett’s posts on the matter. It’s my task to piece together the filter for Northwestern fans here. Division names has been a heated topic since the Legends and Leaders names first were announced. More important than a name change, is the potential for a complete shake-up of which teams are in which division. If you go with the geography argument that seems to have the most momentum and combine it with the “time zone” emphasis, you are looking at Northwestern in a division that includes Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota (all central time), but as noted in the ESPN.com post, there are eight teams in the eastern time zone (Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue). This is where things get interesting based on traditional powers. If you put Purdue in the “west” then you’d have what would seem to be in today’s perspective, a tougher east division. Candidly, I think it is a complete wash if you did that, especially given the uncertainty of Penn State’s near to midterm future. This obviously has huge implications on Northwestern’s schedule including teams we’d play every year and of course, the luck of the draw on crossover games. However, if the B1G moves to a 10-game slate, which for the fans would be simply incredible, it would leave only three teams per year that we wouldn’t face.
Schedules will get very interesting as NU has the likes of Stanford and Notre Dame already inked, along with several other schools including Duke and Rice slotted as far out as 2018 (click here to see current future schedules). So, would this mean that NU would drop the Ball States and Western Michigans and keep a 2-game non-conference schedule with the likes of Notre Dame and Duke, or will we be going for the lesser opponents to try and get those two much needed wins to start the season? One thing seems certain and that is the FCS opponents will go the way of the dinosaur, which I’m standing up and applauding right now. Obviously, there are a ton of logistics to figure out and most of it has to do with money. However, don’t kid yourself as this would be an absolute boom economy to the Wildcat coffers. As Teddy Greenstein noted, ESPN contracts are the backbone of the revenue model and a 10-game slate would increase the current total games from 48 to 70. Keep in mind that 48 game slate fetched $100MM+ per year for the B1G. As for NU, the increased B1G games won’t hurt attendance and season tickets which is still opportunity for uncaptured revenue. Overall, I’m extremely excited about the developments and think it is bold of the B1G to be doing.
Both Jim Phillips and Pat Fitzgerald are getting press on this as they’ve been relatively candid and honest about what is developing. Jim Phillips statement about getting out of the comfort zone goes in line with the recent Wrigley Field deal, which regardless of what you think about the actual games being played at Wrigley, you have to respect the aggressive manner in which Phillips staked out Wrigley Field in a manner that boxes out competitors from getting the limelight (read: Illinois). Fitz is the coaches’ spokesperson to the media on coaching topics and is getting positioned as the front man to beg the NCAA to reconsider its seemingly wild west approach to letting coaches call all in on barraging teenagers with communication. Clearly Fitz is representing the collective coaches’ view, but once again, it doesn’t hurt his or Northwestern’s brand to be associated with common sense approaches to the NCAA that seem to be in line with the Northwestern brand.
What’s not written about (yet) is the impact this would have on BTN, a billion dollar instant mini-empire and ultimate hedge strategy for the conference. Increased games across the board means increased games on BTN and more value to the “footprint” areas where each school resides. This was a huge implication of bringing both Rutgers and Maryland on board as the north of $1 per subscriber in market (as opposed to about $.10 per head out of market) also contribute to a spike in revenues which also account for more money back to NU.
We’ll have more on this in the coming days, but final decisions won’t be made until this spring. PRR has a post as you’ve read, already up on the NCAA rules so we’ve attacked that first. I’m excited to see your reaction on this bevy of B1G news.
NU Hoops Update – Swopshire Done For Season!
I’m late to the party on this, but Teddy Greenstein reported yesterday that both Alex Olah (concussion) and Jared Swopshire (knee) are out for Thursday night’s road game at Ohio State. Carmody plans to add James Montgomery III, a walk-on, in to the playing time mix, out of necessity. The ‘Cats feature only seven scholarship players that are either healthy and/or eligible based on the rash of injuries.
Update as of 4 pm ct: Northwestern released a statement that Jared Swopshire is out for the remainder of the year after undergoing arthroscopic surgery today. The ‘Cats forward was the unsung hero of this team, especially of late, and averaged 9.7 ppg and 6.7 rpg, and will be a crushing loss to the already short-handed team. Swopshire has run out of collegiate eligibility and will not be able to suit up again for Northwestern.