As the Big East expands its conference members nationwide, the Big Ten has made a move to give itself a bigger national image.
Starting in the 2017 football season, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 will form a partnership to play an interconference slate, pairing each Big Ten team with a Pac-12 team.
Basketball matchups could begin as early as next season (2012-13).
This should not come as any surprise as it follows a pattern of what Delany enjoys doing: Matching up the Big Ten with other conferences. Basketball already has the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and baseball already has the Big East Challenge.
It does raise questions, as the Big Ten originally intended to go to a nine-game conference schedule in 2017, about the future scheduling for Big Ten teams. Delany has said he will reconsider going to a nine-game conference schedule.
Michigan State already has its 2017 nonconference opponents set in Alabama, Notre Dame, South Florida and Western Michigan — pending the Big Ten scheduling changes. If the Big Ten were to go to a nine-game schedule, and having the Pac-12 game including, it would leave only two nonconference games for the schools to schedule.
So Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State would have to decide whether to keep Notre Dame on its schedules.
The upside immediately is it strengthens the schedules of teams in both conferences, and removes early-season cupcake games. It is a major move to increase the national perception of the Big Ten conference — and the Pac-12, which needs it as well — as it forms a sort of mega-conference, but without actually expanding the conference in a manner such as the Big East.
The national exposure of both conferences and its members will increase with the Big Ten Network airing games, as well as the Pac-12 Network, which will debut this summer.
It is a money move, and a power play for both Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who recognize the changing landscape of college football and its conferences.
An interesting question it raises is how this might impact Delany’s stance against the plus-one model — which would set up a four-team playoff (No. 1 vs. No. 4, No. 2 vs. No.3; then a championship game). But as recently as this month, Delany still was against the model and knowing the start of these talks with Pac-12 was in the summer, and he still opposed it after this was in the works, maybe it won’t change his feelings about it.
Delany has a strong desire to keep the Big Ten ties with the Rose Bowl active, and fears the plus-one model would hinder that relationship among other concerns.
Another piece which might result from this partnership is a bowl game to air on the conference’s networks, according to the New York Times’ Pete Thamel.