- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Despite a few speed bumps, the Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership is "a go," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told his league's athletic directors this week.
The details are still being worked out, which isn't a surprise when you have 24 major-conference programs with unique interests, scheduling philosophies and scheduling agreements. But Delany hopes to have a more specific idea of the scheduling models in the next few months.
"We do want it all fit in," Delany said Wednesday. "Whether that means you have 12 games or 11 games or 10 games in the first cycle ... we're going to want 12 games ASAP. A lot of scheduling has been done in other nonconference areas that's reliant on this."
The original goal was to have a full round-robin schedule by 2017, but it could be wishful thinking. Ohio State, for example, has games scheduled with both Oklahoma and North Carolina, and athletic director Gene Smith told ESPN.com last month that he wouldn't add a Pac-12 opponent to the slate in 2017. Pac-12 teams have their own issues, namely a nine-game conference schedule -- as opposed to eight in the Big Ten -- and long-term agreements with teams like Notre Dame (USC, Stanford).
The partnership eventually will feature six home-and-home series, but it might not be complete until after 2017.
The scheduling process will be a "hybrid" effort between the schools and the two league offices. Big Ten and Pac-12 teams are facing one another with more frequency in the coming years -- three matchups take place this fall -- and some series are already set for 2017 and beyond. Northwestern and Stanford, for example, have a four-game series set for 2019-22.
Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner and Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, are overseeing the scheduling elements.
"We may have to do less," Delany said, referring to the league. "In other words, if there are three or four games [set] in '17, '18, '19 and '20, maybe the conference will only have to come in and pick seven or eight other games."
Before announcing the Pac-12 partnership, the Big Ten had approved a nine-game conference schedule, supporting Delany's frequent statement that league teams should play one another more, not less. But the Big Ten decided to stay at eight league games because of the Pac-12 agreement.
"On balance, it's a close call," Delany said. "But in the nine-game conference schedule, who you don't play was one factor, but the other fact was five home games, four away. If you can create a situation where you improve your schedules, you improve the fan experience, you improve the games that are going on television without affecting the home/away segment inside of the conference, [it] was the preferred method. If we hadn't done the collaboration, we'd do nine [league games]. If we do the collaboration, we'll do eight.
"We're able to attract a higher-quality of game."
One potential concern is how the scheduling partnership will impact teams' other nonconference agreements. Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke has made it clear he wants to keep the annual Notre Dame series going as long as possible, and added that the Boilers have played Notre Dame and a Pac-12 team (Oregon, Arizona) in the same season before.
"It adds some name recognition to your schedules in September," Burke said. "Working together, we can try to get the programs in comparable stages of development, to compete against one another so we don't have an imbalance. It's not easy to do that, but that's something to work toward."
18hTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney