All things being equal in the Big Ten…

Mea culpa, folks.  I don’t know how I missed it, but it seems that with the Big Ten’s divisional re-jiggering and move to a nine game conference schedule, Jim Delany’s also hit on the big idea of parity scheduling.

… If you look at the schedules, what you’ll see is over time, the crossovers rotate. In the first 18 years, you’re going to see a lot of competition between teams at the top of either division. We call that a bit of parity-based scheduling. You’ll see Wisconsin and Nebraska and Iowa playing a lot of competition against Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan…

This is what you get when your conference commissioner puts on his programming director’s hat.

… From a business standpoint, I get it because TV completely drives the sport and having Nebraska or Wisconsin play Ohio State-Penn State-Michigan as much as possible is a no-brainer. But from an equity standpoint, it has some problems, at least during the 18-year period at the start of these new divisions…

Yeah, it does.  To start with, look at the question that drew that answer:

… How in the world did this parity-based schedule come to be? This has got to be a classic case of the decision makers being way too immersed in their task and completely losing sight of the big picture. I see the benefit, but this completely destroys any credibility in the process of crowning a conference champion. It’s one thing for the scheduling gods to bless a lucky team or two every year based on randomness, but to deliberately tip the scales so that some teams will have tougher/easier schedules than others is absurd. The concept of a champion has been completely marginalized. If a “mid-tier” team ever has a surprise year and wins the B1G, how could anyone call them a champion if the schedule is DELIBERATELY aligned in their favor EVERY YEAR?! How has this not been met with opposition by anyone with a brain? It’s not too hard to imagine this system malfunctioning. Example: Iowa wins the west winning a couple crossover games against Rutgers and MSU, while Nebraska comes in 2nd in the west going 0-2 against Michigan and OSU. A scenario like this is almost guaranteed to happen at some point.

I suspect that if you could get Delany to talk about it off the record, he’d tell you that it’s unlikely that a mediocre team, even one buoyed by a parity schedule, would get by a tough opponent in the conference game, and that in either event, the winner would come out with an enhanced position for the national playoff.  That’s the second purpose to this arrangement – to make sure there’s at least one team that emerges out of the conference race with a good SOS number.

It’s all about the ratings (TV and schedule, in that order).  Works for the NFL, doesn’t it?

Sounds great.  If you aren’t, say, a Minnesota fan, that is.

Delany’s announcement this week of the East-West football alignment that starts in 2014 will include “parity” scheduling — meaning more games for a traditional mutt such as the Gophers against Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana, rather than Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.

Get those tickets as soon as possible when the 2014 home schedule comes out. Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana are sure to pack the joint.

Some people lack an appreciation for the greater good.  Or the bottom line.


Filed under Big 12 Football

13 responses to “All things being equal in the Big Ten…

  1. Dog in Fla

    Delany comes home with awesome scheduling idea. Claims he got it from a campfire song he vaguely remembers from his college days, not from the NFL


  2. Go Dawgs!

    As a fan of one of the sport’s traditional “haves” I like the idea. But it’s just stupid to have to constantly mess with the schedule to make sure you’ve got good games. You’re a sports league, not a TV programming body.

    I don’t give a rip about soccer, but what we really need is promotion and relegation.


  3. Blutarsky, I’m surprised that you are skeptical of this proposal. It’s one of the few good ideas to come from Jim Delany in recent years. The flaw in Rittenberg’s reasoning is that he assumes that there is already equality between Big Ten teams to begin with and that the schedule should also be equal. In reality, Michigan and Ohio State have major advantages over everyone else in their division. (Penn State would be on par without the NCAA sanctions and they may be on par again in about six years.) If Michigan and Ohio State can’t win the division even when playing a slightly tougher conference slate than Penn State and Michigan State, then UM and OSU have squandered the advantages that a century of history have bestowed to their current coaches.

    The situation is a little different in the West because of the smaller differences between the teams. Nebraska and Wisconsin are the best teams in that division right now, but Nebraska is in a bit of a precarious spot (what is their recruiting base now that they are in the Big Ten?) and there’s nothing substantive that separates Wisconsin from Iowa or Illinois other than recent history. However, I’d imagine that the Big Ten will be flexible about scheduling so that if Wisconsin declines and Iowa rises, the schedules will be altered accordingly.

    The point of college football, like any spectator sport, is to deliver entertainment. Michigan-Nebraska and Ohio State-Wisconsin are more entertaining than the alternatives. It’s no different than the reasoning for a nine-game schedule in the SEC or Big Ten. We would rather see top teams playing one another than top teams playing mediocre or bad teams. Wouldn’t you prefer to see Georgia play more of LSU and Alabama and less of the Mississippi schools? After we’ve both complained about Georgia’s home schedules, wouldn’t parity scheduling in the SEC be a nice benefit?


    • If you’re a fan of a “have”, it’s great, Michael. If you’re a fan of a “mutt”, not so much.

      Call me crazy, but as an SEC fan, I like seeing my school play every other school in the conference. As far as not playing bad teams, that’s what going to a nine-game schedule should help with (although my guess is that it won’t). The games I really don’t want to see are against the crappy Sun Belt and 1-AA schools.

      The NFL does fine with parity scheduling because there is a greater degree of true parity on the pro level than there is in college and because there isn’t any functional equivalent to college tradition.


      • AusDawg85

        When you started this blog several years ago, there was likely little if any mention of the NFL (other than the drafts effect on UGA players). Two years ago, some content and arguments contained more comparisons of CFB to the NFL, but with an emphasis on the differences and desire not to have too many similarities.

        Now the reality of a playoff, and discussion of marketing/endorsement payments to players, conference networks and parity in scheduling is nothing but a direct comparison to “how the NFL does things.”

        Time to toll the bell for CFB?


      • Given that Michigan State fans have not been wild about the new divisional set-up because it has made their potential path to Pasadena a lot harder, I’d bet that they would be happy to know that they will at least have one advantage under the new system: an easier draw in terms of cross-divisional games. Thus, the fans of the elite programs like the new set-up because they get more attractive games and their strength of schedule will be better for playoff purposes. The mid-level programs will probably like the new set-up because their chances of winning the league will go up. Fans from other conferences will like the change because there will be more attractive games to see. The only people who wouldn’t like it would be the fans of the worst teams. Given that the latter category comprises the smallest fan bases, I think that John Stuart Mill and Mr. Spock would be happy with this change.


  4. Roy Kramer navigated these waters wonderfully in 92. The big 6 were all locked into each other and they also got a game against the bottom 6 on a rotating basis. Only UF and AU got screwed in that deal.

    In 02 when we went to 5-1-2 from 5-2-1 they still kept the Big 6 playing each other. And the Bottom 6 got each other with Sc vs Ark as also being relatively balanced.

    I have no problem with what Delany wants to do because it’s what we did. It just sounds like he wants to take it to its logical have and have not extreme.


  5. Cojones

    What Delany is doing to that conference with this type of reasoning is ensuring that the “haves” in the conference will continue to have at the same rate. There is just one small flaw: If the “have” teams keep out-recruiting and representin’ where would a “have not” team get the hope or incentive to play in that conference or to improve each year.

    Senator, you are correct that the round-robin competition is the correct flavor for teams to improve and take their chances as to the relative strength of other programs EACH YEAR. Who in hell can tell what anyone else will put on the competitive field every year? Obviously, ole Jim thinks he can. Don’t think so or he certainly would be in Vegas during recruiting and just before games to be winning all those insightful bets.

    Nah! Ole Jim is stirring the advantage pot any way that he can besides hard work and competition. He still doesn’t know that the Southern black player is what elevated the Big10 up in the 40s and 50s, but they have been going a-wantin’ since those players have been recruited to Southern teams, principally to the SEC teams who really appreciate all it’s citizens. Seems their recruitin’ advantage was married to their winning advantage. Nevermore, dumb shit!

    Ole Jim has been suffering from a “Bad News Bears” nightmare for many years. He doesn’t get it that we threw the 2nd place trophy into the dirt because we don’t accept and we competitively have been kicking their excuse-makin’ ass aggressively for years.


  6. reipar

    My favorite Delaney comment is where he explains the location of the schools and says the conference stretches all the way to the mid-south. Not sure if he is talking about Maryland or Indiana University as they both appear about the same latitude, but if that is the mid-south they are teaching some kind of geography I am not familiar with.


    • Dog in Fla

      Shrinkage has moved the Mason-Dixon Line north


      • The Lone Stranger

        One could also argue that a certain brand of shrinkage has afflicted Ole Jim as well. His increased dollars per TV won’t get the Big Integer over “The Hump” in the games that count for the marbles.


  7. Cosmic Dawg

    I am curious why you have a football conference at all if you’re just going to segregate the teams in this way. Why not just do two different conferences and set up a showcase playoff between the winners?