Oh, so the Big Ten is expanding again. No, not again again, we don't have some surprise news about Notre Dame or anything; we're talking about Maryland and Rutgers. Those two schools represent the Big Ten's farthest foray east, and even if we're done with Big Ten expansion right then and there (unlikely), the Big Ten still has some decisions to make about alignment.
Right now we've got the Legends and Leaders. Those division names are effectively meaningless, as there's nothing more legendary about the six schools in that division nor is leadership the exclusive providence of those programs. One should at least expect division names to be halfway representative of the actual things that divide those teams up, after all.
Now, yes, the ACC—you know, the Atlantic Coast Conference—does have the Atlantic Division and Coastal Division, and those names have persevered in spite of being nonsensical divisors. But do we really want the Big Ten emulating the ACC?
(looks at list of expansion candidates)
Actually, don't answer that.
This expansion probably ends with the Big Ten at 16 schools. That's what prophecy has foretold for years now, and we're as close to that as ever. The good news is that the conference is at 14 teams and there are seven "pairs" of teams in place as of right now: Maryland and Rutgers; Penn State and Ohio State; Indiana and Purdue; Michigan and Michigan State; Illinois and Northwestern; Wisconsin and Minnesota; and Iowa and Nebraska.
That's good news because as long as the Big Ten adds one more logical "pair" of schools, the conference can easily be divided into an East and West setup.
For example, let's say the Big Ten expands to the west of the Mississippi and adds Oklahoma and Texas. That gives us this new setup:
That's a dream conference right there. Now, if the Big Ten went with, let's say, Kansas and Missouri, the split would still be along the same lines, but the West would be weaker in football. You could then swap either Illinois and Northwestern or Minnesota and Wisconsin to the West for Michigan and Michigan State and still probably get away with the directional names. It wouldn't be as clean, but it would work.
And if the Big Ten went east by picking up, oh... Georgia Tech and North Carolina, we could have this setup instead:
|Michigan State||North Carolina|
And again, that still works. The East is a little light on football, but at that point having added so many ACC teams, the entire conference would be a little light on football. You could switch the Michigan and Indiana pairs if you wanted, but then the West would be even less strong than the East is without the switch.
These aren't the only expansion possibilities, of course. But there are a finite number, and as long as the next two schools (if there are two more, and there probably are) can be reliably paired, the Big Ten can easily make a logical, geographical split.
That means no more Legends. No more Leaders. No more foolish divisional nicknames. Let's please not screw this up, Big Ten.
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