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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Road games a concern with 9-game sked

By Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Like many of his Big Ten colleagues, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis needs to schedule at least seven home games a year.

Michigan State's appearances at Spartan Stadium supply much of the revenue that sustains the entire athletic program.

Home game requirements have been at the center of the debate about whether the Big Ten can implement a nine-game conference schedule. The magic number for nine (conference games) has been seven (home games).

But Hollis pointed to road games as another potential drawback of nine conference games, especially as the Big Ten begins to crown a true champion with divisional play. If the Big Ten makes a change, half of its teams will play five league road games, while the other half will play just four.

"I have some concerns and reservations about nine games with equity in the championship race, five [road] versus four home games," Hollis said. "[In 2010] you had three teams tied for the [Big Ten] championship and all three of them lost a game on the road."

Wisconsin (loss at Michigan State), Ohio State (loss at Wisconsin) and Michigan State (loss at Iowa) tied for the Big Ten title last season.

"That's a bit of a concern," Hollis continued. "I'm always a proponent for playing tough schedules. I don't think we've ever shied away from that kind of thing. That's not what the issue is. The issue is I want to make sure when you're building a champion, it's going in an equitable way, competitively on the field, not based upon the luck of the draw with the schedule. ...

"How would you like to be a team sitting there, maybe tied for the championship but you lose the tiebreaker and you ended up with five road games? You're going to be really kicking yourself from that competitive standpoint."

Hollis also noted that nine conference games would limit schools' ability to schedule multiple marquee nonconference matchups per year.

Michigan State, for example, plays both rival Notre Dame and Alabama in 2016 and 2017. The Spartans also play both Boise State and Notre Dame in 2012, 2022 and 2023.

"Those types of situations couldn't happen [with a nine-game conference schedule] because you could only have one [nonconference] road game every other year," Hollis said.