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UPDATED: Is The Big Ten Implementing A Conference-Only Schedule Amidst The COVID-19 Crisis?

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If this ends up happening, what western division foe do you want to add?

Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

According to internal discussions obtained by Tom Dienhart of rivals.com, the Big Ten is seriously considering a move that would be announced as early as next week that would cancel all non-conference football games among member schools and add one conference game for a 10-game conference only schedule this season.

This is based on an anonymous “Power 5 head coach” that Dienhart spoke with. Though one can naturally presume it was possibly one of the Big Ten’s 14 head coaches given the insight if ture. The important excerpt from longer comments he quoted in his article are:

“Yes, it hasn’t been officially decided,” said a Power 5 head coach. “We have a big meeting tomorrow (Thursday, July 9). But, yeah, it just seems to me that probably in the last week and a half, I could just kind of tell from the tone of our leadership that that’s the direction that they want it to go and felt most comfortable going. Nothing has been decided. Nothing’s official. But I would be surprised if it’s not that.”

The results of this decision, if it ends up being true and the conference decides to go this route, would mean that our Michigan State Spartans would cancel their road game at the BYU Cougars, and their home games this fall against the Miami-Florida Hurricanes and the Toledo Rockets. Of course, that is superior to the recent Banner Society scenario of only two games.

Interestingly, the season in the scenario being discussed would still extend the full 13-14 weeks, but would reduce the number of games played in order to provide flexibility in the schedule in case teams have to halt play due to outbreaks within the roster.

Also being discussed is whether the schedule may start earlier or later. The two frames of mind on this are that starting in “week zero” on August 29 could help avoid the theorized potential wave as the flu season starts later in the fall. The other is to push the season back as late as September 19 in order to provide a chance at more rapid testing and other safety measures in place with the delayed start. However, for now the schedule remains intact with the season opener in East Lansing against conference foe the Northwestern Wildcats.

As for the possibilities of the schedule, the details remain fuzzy on the exact result. There can be fun and wild speculation for now of crazy solutions such as regional home-and-home pods that ignores the current divisional alignment. Schools such as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights may end up being impacted by New Jersey state ordered mandatory visitor quarantines from certain states.

Rutgers v Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

For example, currently New Jersey orders all visitors from Iowa to quarantine for two weeks if visiting the state. Clearly the Iowa Hawkeyes cannot then add Rutgers to the schedule either home or away as either team would then need to quarantine after the game. What if New jersey adds other states in the Midwest that are already on the schedule such as the Nebraska Cornhuskers? Then again, how does that impact schools who are already scheduled to play in Iowa? I was thoughtful enough to check, and nobody plays them within two weeks of facing Rutgers for the record. However, many other states including Pennsylvania have a list of states that do not presently have fellow Big Ten schools in them, but that list could easily expand to include others within the Big Ten footprint depending on how things go wreak havoc on the season.

In the end, what seems most likely is that each division simply adds one more team from the opposite to the schedule as that is clearly the simplest and most efficient way to handle it. Given this scenario, the question now becomes who do the Spartans add? Keep in mind that besides the opener against the Wildcats, MSU has games at Iowa and home against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Just last season the Spartans played at the Wisconsin Badgers and hosted the Illinois Fighting Illini. Next season, in addition to the final protected cross-over against Northwestern, the schedule holds visits from the Cornhuskers and a trip to West Lafayette to take on the Purdue Boilermakers. Also, something to keep in mind, while MSU will give up a road trip to BYU, they also lose a major Power 5 home game in Miami.

In comparison to MSU, possible opponents give up:

Nebraska and Purdue open their season against each other in West Lafayette, like State does in East Lansing with a visit from Northwestern. Wisconsin similarly opens play with a conference road trip to the Indiana Hoosiers. However, their Notre Dame game is scheduled the same day MSU is in Iowa City. Nebraska has three home games, none against power programs, and all in September following their Purdue opener. It would seem most likely MSU would face Purdue or Nebraska in September as a result and would do so probably on the road.

The likelihood of a road game for MSU is because in the original nine game conference schedule, eastern schools are slated for five home conference games, whereas western schools get four in even numbered years and five in odd numbered years. While gate revenue will be fairly minuscule if fans are even allowed, the travel costs and home field advantage would be unfair to burden the western division with. Hence it will be most probable that all the eastern schools will add a road game for their conference game.

Some of the other top non-conference games that will be cancelled under this scenario include the Ohio State Buckeyes neutral site game against the Oregon Ducks; the Michigan Wolverines road trip to the Washington Huskies; the Penn State Nittany Lions road trip for the first time ever to the Virginia Tech Hokies; Minnesota hosting BYU; and the annual in-state rivalry of Iowa and Iowa State (but who will actually miss this besides Iowans).

Iowa v Iowa State Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

We will be sure to keep you updated with the latest news and developments if anything comes out of today’s meeting, but that’s all we have for now on potential updates.

Poll

Who do you want to add to the schedule?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Purdue
    (26 votes)
  • 32%
    Illinois
    (38 votes)
  • 31%
    Wisconsin
    (37 votes)
  • 13%
    Nebraska
    (16 votes)
117 votes total Vote Now

Big Ten Confirms Conference Only Schedule

The Big Ten Conference formally announced moments ago that it if sports can be played this fall, then it will be in a conference only schedule for all fall sports (football, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball). You can read the full announcement via the tweet below:

At this time there are no further details for what, if any impact, this decision has to the current conference schedule for football. There has been lots of speculation in the wake of this breaking news that the Big Ten will completely change the existing schedule. The suggestion I found most interesting was via Adam Rittenberg.

It should also be noted that Ohio State paused all voluntary athletic workouts on campus after their most recent round of COVID-19 test results.

We will continue to provide news updates as they occur in the coming days and weeks.