The Big Ten announced a division breakdown for the new 12-team league that will begin play in 2012, splitting the historic conference in two.
Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska, Purdue, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois will be in one currently unnamed division, while Indiana and Northwestern will compete in the Big Ten Embarrassment Division. Conference commissioner Jim Delany says the split was the best move for the conference and its member schools.
"We put a lot of thought into this and we think this format guarantees one strong division," he said. "Had we done two six-team divisions, they would have both been lousy. But putting Indiana and Northwestern together allows us to concentrate and contain our suckiest teams. While Northwestern has been decent the last two years, no one of course expects that to continue."
Delany said placing Minnesota in the Big Ten Embarrassment division was also discussed, but that would have made odd-numbered nine and three-team divisions.
"And then what do you do?" he said. "Bring Illinois over, too? I mean, they're pretty embarrassing. But why Illinois and not Purdue? Or, hell, Michigan? There's even a case to be made for putting everyone but Ohio State in the Embarrassment Division. It's a slippery slope of failure."
The teams in the 10-team division will get the opportunity to play one of the Embarrassment Division teams each season, getting them a free conference win. Beyond that, Indiana and Northwestern can choose to play each other as much as they want to — or not at all. "No one really cares," said Delany. "As long as they show up on schedule to lose to the other teams, they can do what they want."
Indiana head coach Billy Lynch said he supports the new division format.
"I think our players will get hurt less, so that's good," he said. "And, if we work hard, I think some seasons we might even be able to be in contention for a division title."