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Sunday, April 28, 2013
Northwestern's Phillips on B1G moves

By Brian Bennett

And now even more reaction on the Big Ten's decision to go to nine conference games and align in East/West divisions. Here's what Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips told ESPN.com this evening:

On the Wildcats being in the West: "First and foremost, we have great rivalries that are going to be played on a yearly basis, whether that's Iowa or Wisconsin or Illinois. We also started a really nice rivalry with Nebraska. I know it's only been two years, but certainly the first two games been terrific. And the schedule now allows us to play three additional openers on the other side of the conference. So it's really, to, me the best of both worlds. We're able to maintain rivalries and feel like we're a Midwestern school. That, along with the opportunity to cross over and play schools from other divisions, makes a lot of sense."

On Eastern exposure: "We have a huge alumni base in the New York/Washington D.C. corridor. We have a lot of alums and students out there, so we're going to be able to get out there and maintain some of that. And though, yes, we're not going to go out there every year, we're also going to benefit by being in the Midwest, which is where our base for recruiting is. Everybody is going to benefit from how this is structured. It just depends what lens you're looking at it through."

On whether the West is weaker: "I would say to you, everybody's goal in the Big Ten is to play in Pasadena on Jan. 1, and the last three [Rose Bowl representatives] are from the West. I think that it's cyclical relative to division. If you look at it over the course of college football, then sure, you have some programs that have been stronger on the other side.

"But depending on what metrics you used, whether that's getting to the Rose Bowl and where you are in your respective divisions, you could come up with a number of different answers. I think both are going to be tough, and both are going to be respectable divisions and be a lot of fun as we go forward.

"Still, we're not foolish enough to think what we did today is what the Big Ten will look like for the next 100 years. We've had a lot of change in the last 24 months. We've proven under commissioner Jim Delany's leadership that we'll adjust and make changes. And if it's divisions, we'll look at that. We've changed names. We're not tone deaf to what people have said. But we don't have any data right now on where the divisions are and who's strong and who's not. We need to give it a little bit of time and let Maryland and Rutgers get in there before we make some judgments that one division's stronger than the other."

On future scheduling: "We want to continue to be aggressive. I love playing a ninth game. We aren't just a regional conference anymore, so why wouldn't we want to play each other more? We have to get used to nine games and see how all that goes. But we want to play similar institutions and BCS opponents like Notre Dame and Stanford. It's premature to say exactly what everybody is going to do, because we need to feel through some things.

"This is all driven by a variety of factors, but I can assure you that one of the leading factors is what the fans are saying. We're very attuned to what the public has indicated, and they want us all to strengthen our schedules. Well, we just did by going to nine games."