Big Ten Realignment Upsets Competitive Balance
The Big Ten is realigning again. The motivation is understandable. The plan is crazy.
ESPN (“Sources: Big Ten to realign divisions“):
The Big Ten will replace Legends and Leaders with East and West when Maryland and Rutgers join the league in 2014, league sources told ESPN.
So far, so good. Legends and Leaders was lame. And expansion is as good a reason as any for realignment.
The proposed Big Ten West includes the six teams located in the Central time zone — Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin — plus Purdue, sources said.
The proposed Big Ten East includes Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.
“Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams],” a source said.
Well, that’s logical enough. Except for one wee little thing: This creates an incredibly lopsided competitive balance.
Football is the king of college sports. It’s the reason Maryland and Rutgers, neither of which is exactly a traditional powerhouse, was added. Gaining a foothold in the DC and New York television markets is huge. But the proposed Big Ten West contains only two schools that are typically good in football: Nebraska and Wisconsin. And, frankly, it’s been a while on Nebraska. The proposed Big Ten East, meanwhile, contains three traditional football powers–Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State—and another very solid football school in Michigan State.
The same holds true for men’s basketball, the other major revenue sport, only moreso. Wisconsin is a decent basketball school. But Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are regular contenders for the Final Four. Maryland has won a national championship in the past decade.
If the “just take a rule and a map” approach is going to be taken, perhaps they should consider holding the ruler horizontally and going with North and South. While still not perfect, it would put Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin in the North and Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, and Indiana in the South. That would be much more competitive in both football and basketball.