(Hey look at us, we're gonna give you everything you want fans… We promise)
Last week about this time the Big Ten unveiled it's schedule for the 2014 season and that 2015 would flip said matchups around (it's full slate will be released around June 1st). Some schools made out like bandits, others not so much, and while there will always be winners and losers there was a very clear message sent by Big Ten fans about these schedules – we don't like them.
No Wisconsin playing any of the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, or Penn State for two seasons? How does that happen? Thankfully as fans we at least get to see UW and Ohio State play one last time in primetime this year, right?
However, don't fret fans…. 2016 is just around the corner and all will be fixed!!! If you believe what is coming out of the Big Ten offices in Chicago that is – because "parity scheduling" is here to save the day. So is flexible scheduling to allow all teams to play each other at least once in a four year time period.
What do me mean by flexible scheduling? Well, ESPN.com Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg reached out to Big Ten scheduling guru Mark Rudner and came away with this:
"…. the league-wide directive to have each Big Ten team play every other conference member at least once every four years. That will happen in the post-2016 scheduling model. To meet that goal, the crossovers after 2016 will be staggered, so you won't always see the same teams in consecutive seasons. You also won't always see direct home-and-homes with crossover opponents. Eventually every game will be, in a sense, returned, but it won't be as "clean" as the current setup. The goal remains to avoid these long breaks without certain matchups."
All of this is sounds great on the surface, but forgive us if we're a little skeptical. Personally, I've had 31 years of the Big Ten shoving its initiatives and propaganda down my throat and as a result I've also had 31 years of knowledge that outside of a few things that have been done (Big Ten basketball tournament, BTN, adding Nebraska) a lot of these things have come up flat at best.
So, if the Big Ten's goal remains to avoid these long breaks without certain matchups, the question still remains, why not have the likes of Wisconsin playing Michigan at the very least in 2014 and 2015? As it stands the Badgers and Wolverines (two of the B1G's top four teams in overall wins over the past 20 years) won't meet for 6 seasons in a row at a minimum and that's just one example of this happening.
Additionally, the stated goal would then fly in the face of the agreement that was made when Purdue and Indiana were put in separate divisions going forward. That game is supposed to be a protected game, one that is played every year.
If that's the case then assuring us, as fans, that every team plays every team from the other division in a four year span while balancing parity (matching up a like team from the other division) and attempting to keep rivalries played as much as possible across divisions is a bit much.
Can it be done? Yes, but again as we pointed out, the balancing act that we're supposed to assume will give us everything we want with a near perfect balance is a leap too far for those of us who have been around this conference long enough to have been burned over and over again.
Further more, it appears that for the next two years the fans were the last consideration when scheduling was put together. Instead of giving the fans (who often pay around $1,000 dollars or more per season ticket with "suggested giving" included) mouth watering matchups in cross divisional play we end up with teams like Maryland and Rutgers getting screwed facing the big boys from the West and the likes of UW and Ohio State getting a near free ride through their cross-divisional games.
To be clear, I don't envy the position that Mark Rudner is in, having to balance rivalries, parity, travel, and much more in coming up with these schedules surely isn't easy. However, how the Big Ten couldn't find a way to get us more interesting cross divisional matchups in the next two seasons is beyond me.
While I may be skeptical that the new "parity based" scheduling is going to come up all roses and sunshine as the Big Ten office would like us to believe, it is important to stay open to what will be coming down the road and hopefully the fans end up the winners when this is all said and done. We've been losers in a lot of what the Big Ten has done over the past few years and it would be a refreshing change of pace.