Depending on how offensive/hilarious you found “Leaders” and “Legends” to be as division names, today was possibly a long time coming.
The Big Ten announced on Sunday a new divisional alignment — a much simpler “East” and “West” — that will become effective in 2014 in time for the additions of Maryland and Rutgers. The membership of the two divisions will be as follows:
In 2014 and 2015, each school will play the other six members in its division plus two teams in the opposing division. Beginning in 2016, the number of conference members each team will play from the opposing division increases to three as part of a new nine-game schedule — the first since 1984. In the new setup, only the Purdue-Indiana game will be considered a protected crossover game, but the new alignment does preserve 10 of the 13 trophy games in the conference. Perhaps most importantly to many, Michigan and Ohio State will now be in the same division.
Teams from the East Division will host five conference home games during even-numbered years, with West Division teams hosting five conference home games during odd-numbered years. Each school will play each other at least once every four years.
“Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. “The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll.”
Considering the criticism the Big Ten was taking from “Legends” and “Leaders”, the conference did a decent job this time around. The East definitely looks like the more top-heavy division, but there’s always going to be at least one gripe.
A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.
According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month. Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.
What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.
Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month. An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.
A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue. Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.
Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.
Texas A&M and UCLA announced Wednesday that their 2017 opener had been moved from Saturday to Sunday. As it turns out, that wasn’t the only scheduling news connecting the two football programs.
As part of a release announcing seven games being added to its future schedules, New Mexico confirmed that two of those contests will include A&M and UCLA. Both of those games, obviously, will be on the road, with the Lobos traveling to College Station Sept. 18, 2021, and to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sept. 13, 2025.
In its release, the school wrote that “[t]he game in College Station has a guarantee of $1,100,000 and 450 complementary tickets,” while “[t]he game in Pasadena has a guarantee of $1,200,000 plus 2,000 complementary tickets that UNM can sell for extra revenue.”
The last and only time New Mexico and UCLA squared off was in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 win for the Bruins. UNM and A&M actually completed a home-and-home series relatively recently, with the Aggies winning both games played in the 2008 (28-22) and 2009 (41-6) seasons.
In addition to the future Power Five games, a continuation of the long-running rivalry with UTEP will be extended. UNM will play in El Paso in 2021, then host UTEP in 2022. Those two games will mark the 79th and 80th contests in the regional rivalry.
Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.
Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).
The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.
Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).
Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.
Some fans of the Old Dominion football program may be getting a little impatient with the progress (or lack of) in the development of the football stadium, but Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig says things are coming along nicely and progress will start to be seen soon enough.
“Once we get the architects engaged, we’ll figure out what $55 million will buy in 2019 dollars,” Selig said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Then we’ll have an idea for how much additional money needs to be raised to support the project.”
Old Dominion is planning on tearing down Foreman Field at the end of the 2018 season and rebuild it with modern seating and amenities. The $55 million project remained on the books in the Virginia budget in February, allowing the university to move ahead with their plans. The first step is finding an architect to take on the job.
Because Old Dominion’s football stadium is among the smallest in the nation and will remain so even after the rebuild and renovations, the entire project is expected to move fairly swiftly once the work actually begins. Old Dominion isn’t building a grand football palace, so any concerns over the lack of updates on the stadium should be calmed.
If nothing else, the concerns raised about the lack of updates on the stadium renovations may just mean Old Dominion has some eager fans excited about the future of the program.