The Big Ten and Pac-12 used to be besties. Remember that? We're not talking about the recent "partnership" that fizzled long before it came to fruition, either; we're talking about the '50s, '60s and '70s, when the Big Ten and (then) Pac-10 routinely scheduled each other in non-conference games, and where schedules were just as likely to contain two inter-conference games as they were to contain none.
So when the Big Ten tried to reconnect with the Pac-12 last year, it was no surprise; it's in those conferences' DNAs. And while that failed on account of the Pac-12's nine-game conference schedules, the Big Ten isn't about to shy away from getting with another conference if it needs to.
Here's more from ESPN.com:
The sting from the collapse of the short-lived Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling alliance isn't totally gone for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, but his desire to form partnerships with other conferences hasn't wavered.
"We would like to discuss [partnerships]," Delany said. "We were disappointed that the [Pac-12] collaboration didn’t work. Whether we're at nine or 10, there will be fewer nonconference games, but we hope the fewer are better improved in quality. We would be very energized to sit down with others who were interested in also upgrading their schedules to see how we could do that."
Delany points out that different Big Ten programs have different goals, whether it's competing for national championships or making bowl games on a regular basis. But the message from the league office to its members is to push themselves more in non-league scheduling.
This is a profound shift from recent history, as is the whole "no more FCS non-conference games" thing. The Big Ten is not only cutting down on the number of non-conference games it plays, but it's also seeking a pretty big role in determining who those non-conference opponents are.
But the reason the Big Ten pursued this with the Pac-12 last year is the same reason it's at it again: It's better football. It improves the quality of the product, which is going to be necessary as programs try to figure out how to make up for lost opportunities for home games.
The obvious answer is to charge more for the games they've got, and fans are going to respond negatively to such a change unless the quality of the product substantially improves. So goodbye Idaho State, hello...heck, maybe Kansas State, if the Big 12 and the Big Ten get something going together.
And as Gene Smith notes later in that ESPN.com piece, agreements with other conferences could lead to bowl deals down the road, which would theoretically increase the amount of bowl destinations available to an eligible school. Now there'd be no reason for a team to go to a bowl in the same location twice—well, unless it's the Rose Bowl, anyway, and we don't hear anybody complaining one bit about trips to Pasadena.
But for the rest of the teams out there, the ones dreading repeat trips to the likes of Dallas or Phoenix on account of their teams not climbing up or down on the Big Ten's ladder, a bowl partnership with another conference opens up the possibility of swapping out a bid and bringing in a brand new bowl, one the Big Ten otherwise wouldn't have been in contention for. That's exciting. It's an improvement of the bowl process.
So just realize that when you hear Delany talk about partnerships like these, it's actually with the fans' best interests in mind. Sure, there's also the fact that these deals would be more profitable to the Big Ten, but they'd be that way because they lead to better, more interesting football first and foremost. If that's not fan-friendly, we're not sure what would qualify.