The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Opinion | Getting rid of divisions won’t work for the Big Ten

The Big Ten is abandoning divisional play following the 2023 season.
Jerod Ringwald
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz throws a pass during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Mertz threw for 16 completions on 35 attempts. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 24-10.

Ahead of the 2011 season, the Big Ten decided to add divisions.

The divisions were titled “Legends” and “Leaders,” and traditional rivals were placed in opposite divisions, such as Wisconsin and Iowa. This change was met with a lukewarm reaction from fans.

After the 2013 season, the divisions were changed to accommodate the inclusion of Rutgers and Maryland. The new divisions were primarily focused on geographic regions and titled “East” and “West.”

Since introducing these new divisions, the East has come out on top in each conference championship game. Fans criticize the weakness of the West Division while marveling at the strength of the East Division.

Now, with the new era of college football in full swing across the country, the Big Ten decided to abandon divisional play following the 2023 season.

Here’s why getting rid of divisions is going to hurt the Big Ten.

Too many teams

Starting in 2024, the top two teams at the end of the regular season will play in the Big Ten title game.

In 2010, the final year without divisions, the conference only had 11 teams, and Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State all shared a piece of the conference title.

In 2024, the Big Ten will have a whopping 16 members when USC and UCLA join.

Simply put, it’s impossible to pick out two squads for a conference championship game when there are probably five or more teams that are good enough to win the title.

It will be the same teams

 Many Big Ten fans argue that getting rid of divisions will allow the best two teams to play for the championship game, and they have a point.

Within the first few years, the college football world will be captivated by a championship edition of “The Game” between Michigan and Ohio State.

Don’t get me wrong, those games will be incredible, but after a few years, fans will get tired of the same championship matchup between the same few teams such as Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State.

The bottom line here is that fans don’t want the same teams every year to win a conference title. I strongly believe that more people would tune in to watch a rematch of Iowa and Michigan State than another edition of “The Game.”

Divisions can be restructured

 The current divisional landscape in the Big Ten has been one-sided, as the West has yet to produce a conference champion.

But the divisions can be restructured to prevent lopsided title games.

The “Legends” and “Leaders” divisions were criticized, but those divisions allowed two good teams to battle for the title and led to amazing championship games.

One instance was the classic 2013 title game between 11-1 Michigan State and 12-0 Ohio State. Michigan State, a five-point underdog, won the game, 34-24, and knocked the Buckeyes out of the running for the national championship.

The Big Ten could easily rebalance the divisions, and as an example could have Ohio State and Michigan in one, and Penn State and Michigan State in the other.

Most teams won’t win a conference title

 This reiterates my point of having the same teams play in the title game every season, but it’s worth mentioning that over half of the conference most likely won’t ever win a Big Ten championship under this new format.

Sleeper teams that are consistently at the top of their divisions such as Iowa or Wisconsin have a steep uphill climb to be one of the top two teams in the conference. And rebuilding programs such as Nebraska or Illinois have little to no chance to win a title, although the right coach could change that.

Until the 1980s, the Big Ten was considered the “Big Two, Little Eight,” because Michigan and Ohio State were consistently the top two teams in the conference. Without divisions, the Big Ten will head in that same direction.

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About the Contributors
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter
Brad Schultz is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Sports Studies. This is first year working as a sports reporter and he has a deep passion and love for sports. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Brad is a contributor for Saturday Blitz, a college football site, with his content primarily covering Iowa and the Big Ten.
Jerod Ringwald, Creative Director
Jerod Ringwald is the Creative Director at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. He was previously a managing editor this past summer as well as a former photo editor. During his sophomore year, he worked as a photojournalist covering news and sports.