The Big Ten will enter its first year as a 12-team league with eight conference games, and when Nebraska joined the conference last year, Big Ten officials decided that — for the immediate future, anyway — that was going to be the case.
Starting in 2017, though, that will change.
Thanks to a conference press release, the Big Ten has announced that it will move to a nine-game conference slate beginning that year. This, of course, means that Big Ten schools will no longer have the luxury of a guaranteed even split in conference home games. According to the release, three teams from each division will have either five or four home games on odd or even years.
Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska from the Legends Division and Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State from the Leaders Division will have five home games in 2017. Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern of the Legends Division and Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin of the Leaders Division will have five home games in 2018.
That means securing that all-important, revenue-rich seventh home game could be harder during certain years if a team is already locked in a long-term home-and-home series with another program. Really, it makes scheduling, which is already like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, a little bit more difficult for athletic directors.
Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing; one more conference game means there’s another matchup that has Big Ten title implications. And there’s nothing wrong with that.