Thursday, July 26, 2012
Should B1G select title game teams?
By Adam Rittenberg
CHICAGO -- The Big Ten is a bit lopsided entering the 2012 season.
The Legends division features three potential preseason top-20 squads -- Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska -- and two others that are riding multiyear bowl streaks (Iowa and Northwestern). Even Minnesota, which has won just six games the past two seasons, should be improved in Year 2 under coach Jerry Kill.
Then you have the Leaders division, which hardly fits its name. Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for the Big Ten championship game because of NCAA sanctions, so only four teams -- Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana -- will compete for the division crown.
Six teams competing for one spot vs. four teams competing for one spot. Seems a little unfair, right?
Well, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, whose team plays in the Legends division, has a solution. Take the Legends division champ and then have a selection committee pick the other title-game participant. It could come from the Leaders division, or it could be a second Legends division opponent.
"I hope we can have a little bit of equality from a standpoint of making all 10 teams eligible," Fitzgerald told ESPN.com "Have the winner of [the Legends] division automatically in, and the other teams go to a committee. And that committee would be the other [athletic directors] and commissioner [Jim] Delany. That would be a unique situation for our unique year and add another element to the Big Ten that I think would be awesome for all of our fans."
Fitzgerald thinks the committee only is necessary for 2012, as Ohio State's ban ends after the season. Penn State won't be eligible for the Big Ten title game until 2016.
Fitzgerald has passed along his idea to his boss, Northwestern AD Jim Phillips. It's unclear how much momentum the idea has, but other Legends division coaches see the value. Just a guess, but Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema might not be too thrilled about the idea.
"There's some imbalance there, maybe, that we can look at doing something," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "It's different."
Like Hoke, Kill hadn't heard about the idea until Thursday.
"Pat's been in the league a lot longer time than I have," Kill said. "It's certainly a good thought. It's a unique situation and so forth, and I'm sure our administrators and our commissioner have talked about those things."