Thursday, January 31, 2013
Badgers' Alvarez weighs in on re-alignment
By Brian Bennett
We talked to a majority of Big Ten athletic directors for our series of stories looking at the issues that need to be determined for the 2014 season and beyond. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez declined to speak with ESPN.com for those stories, but he's an influential voice among the league's athletic directors.
Alvarez has weighed in with some of his thoughts on how the divisions should look in Wisconsin's official online magazine, Varsity. The College Football Hall of Famer echoed many of his colleagues by saying geography needs to play a bigger role in division alignment than it did two years ago.
"When you add two teams from the East -- Maryland and Rutgers -- I think it's important that you consider the option of determining the divisions by geography," Alvarez wrote. "That only makes sense.
"I thought the Big Ten did a very good job in researching everything from the time that Penn State joined the league. It clearly showed that there were teams that separated themselves from the others. But I want to play Iowa every year. I didn't like not playing Iowa the last two years. I know our fans didn't like it either. I want to continue to play Minnesota every year. I also want to play Nebraska every year. That has turned into a natural rivalry for us. Those games are important to our fans because they can travel to the games."
The loss of the Iowa-Wisconsin game was one of the big drawbacks of the division system in 2011 and 2012 (the two teams will play in 2013). It makes perfect sense for the Badgers to play Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska every year, and unless one of those is a permanent crossover game, the best way to ensure that is by placing all four teams in the same division. That is easily accomplished by an East-West split, or even the Inner-Outer plan.
Alvarez's comments also illustrate what will be one of the main factors in the athletic directors' meetings, the first of which is a couple of weeks. Each school has a rival or a set of rivals that it would like to play each year. It will be difficult if not impossible to satisfy all those desires, so the conference leaders may have to prioritize which rivalries are most worth preserving.