Two years ago, expansion took center stage at the Big Ten spring meetings. Last year, league commissioner Jim Delany revealed a proposal being discussed that would allocate more money to student-athletes on full scholarships.
What will be the big topic at this year's Big Ten spring gathering? You'll have to wait and find out. The meetings take place Tuesday and Wednesday at a downtown Chicago hotel.
A major change to this year's joint group meetings is that the Big Ten football coaches will not attend. The coaches held their annual business meeting Feb. 3 at Big Ten headquarters in Park Ridge, Ill., and opted not to join the spring get-together. Most if not all Big Ten athletic directors will attend, along with senior woman administrators and faculty representatives. Delany and other top league officials will be on hand, along with Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman and other BTN representatives.
Let's look at some of the big items to be discussed during the next two days:
1. The Big Ten's place in a future football postseason model: Delany has generated headlines in recent weeks with his so-called top 6 proposal as well as his desire to have league champions and division champions in a playoff ahead of those who didn't win either title. The Big Ten's top priority, in case you've been in a cave, is to protect the Rose Bowl, which Delany regards as the league's most important external relationship. Although the presidents have the final say -- Big Ten presidents meet June 3 in Park Ridge -- and no BCS officials will be attending the meetings, Delany will brief the ADs on the models being discussed. "To me, the the Rose Bowl is still the pinnacle and it’s very important," Purdue AD Morgan Burke told The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier. "The question is how can that can be integrated." What's best for the Big Ten? On-campus games, strong access for league champions or simply Rose Bowl relevancy? There's much to discuss this week.
2. The Pac-12 scheduling partnership: Athletic directors Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin) and Gene Smith (Ohio State) told ESPN.com last month that some details still must be worked out for the Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership, which is set to begin in football in 2017 but likely will have a staggered start. Alvarez told Brian Bennett that some Pac-12 schools are "dragging their feet" a bit on scheduling, and Smith told me that Ohio State won't begin the partnership until 2018 because of previously scheduled games. The partnership surely will be discussed this week.
3. The bowls: The league is halfway through its four-year cycle with most recent bowl lineup, which remains the nation's most challenging, given the locations. It's a good time to evaluate the bowls and whether to look for any adjustments going forward. The automatic-qualifier status is gone, and there's momentum to revamp the way top bowls select teams in order to generate better matchups. Will league tie-ins even matter going forward? Also, bowl-eligibility requirements might be increased from six wins to seven wins, which Big Ten athletic directors like Iowa's Gary Barta and Michigan's Dave Brandon support but others may not.
Other items: The ADs will discuss football league championship game, how the first event went in Indy and possibly how the first season went with division play. As usual, they'll discuss NCAA proposals/changes (scholarships, academics, recruiting, compliance, etc.), nonconference scheduling and the league's media agreements (BTN, ABC/ESPN). While Big Ten expansion isn't on the horizon, it's hard to imagine realignment won't come off after all of the recent news around college sports.
Who knows, maybe the ADs will have the sudden impulse to approve November night games for football. Ah, to dream ...
Check the blog for spring meetings updates throughout the next few days.