- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let the nine versus 10 debate really begin.
The eight-game Big Ten schedule soon will be a thing of the past. Big Ten athletic directors and coaches met Monday at league headquarters in Park Ridge, Ill., to discuss, among other things, how many conference games will be played following the additions of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014.
League commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com that all of the discussions focused on models with nine or 10 league games. There was "no support" to keep the current eight-game league schedule.
"There's real recognition that we now live in two regions of the country, and we want to make sure those are bound together as best we can, so more games [makes sense]," Delany said. "Eight games is not on the table. It's nine or 10."
The change likely won't be implemented until the 2016 season, two years after Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten. The league had told its athletic directors not to schedule nonleague games after forming the Pac-12 scheduling alliance, and then gave the green light once the alliance fell apart last summer.
A resolution on the final number of league games for future schedules is expected this spring. The athletic directors have several meetings scheduled in the coming weeks, including in March at the Big Ten basketball tournament in Chicago.
Several factors drive the Big Ten's move to more league games.
"We want to try and provide an opportunity for our league teams to be exposed to as many league venues and conference experiences as possible," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who chairs the Big Ten athletic directors' group. "There may be a situation where a student-athlete may go four years and play somewhere and never get a chance to play against another [conference] team. ... There's television considerations there. When you have intriguing conference matchups that are better than some of our nonconference matchups, that's an important piece, so there are a lot of different issues."
The downside of a nine-game schedule is an uneven number of home and road games for half of the league each season. A 10-game schedule maintains balance but makes it harder for schools to keep a minimum of seven home games per year, which has been a budgetary requirement in recent seasons.
Delany said if the Big Ten adopts a 10-game schedule, there would be discussions about an "equalization process" relating to revenue, possibly involving the Big Ten's next television agreement.
"If you go with 10 and you can't guarantee people seven home games, how do we financially make people whole?" Smith said. "Then how often does that occur? That's one of my challenges for Ohio State, not just the athletic department institutional revenue but the economic impact in our community. That's a huge discussion, the value of 10 versus nine is better for the overall good, so I'd be willing to say, 'OK, I can work with the alternative, where I'd have six [home] games once every X number of years, and we're made whole.' "
One concern with increasing the number of league games is its impact on future nonleague scheduling. Ohio State, for example, recently added series with big-name opponents Texas, Oregon and TCU.
Could those games be in jeopardy?
"We're going to hold onto those," Smith said. "That's what's going to cause us in a 10-game conference scenario to have some challenges with having six home games. If we move to 10 conference games, in a normal situation, I'd just buy in two games every year. Then I wouldn't have a problem. But we're going to maintain our philosophy of playing those type of [bigger nonleague] games, whether it's nine or 10.
"Those are great experiences for our kids. We're a national program. It's something I don't see us changing."