NCF Nation: Jim Phillips

When the Big Ten decided early last year to institute a policy against playing FCS opponents, fans and common sense were the big winners.

Yet there's a long way between the conception of that policy and its actual execution, especially as the league faces some tough realities with scheduling and views the rest of the college football landscape. Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips was asked about the FCS policy on Tuesday at the College Sports Information Directors of America convention in Orlando.

"That was really a hard decision," he said. "I don’t know if we’re sure that’s the right decision to make.”

Is there some waffling on the Big Ten's part? If so, there are understandable reasons why.

Nonconference scheduling is becoming more and more of a headache, and a wildly expensive one at that. As this recent Fox Sports Wisconsin report illustrates, the cost of a guaranteed home game is skyrocketing. The average price to schedule a lower-level FBS team to come to a Big Ten stadium without a return date is $827,838 this year, with several of those games costing more than $1 million, according to the report.

[+] EnlargeBarry Alvarez
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsWisconsin AD Barry Alvarez believes there has to be exceptions to the Big Ten's FCS scheduling policy. "In some cases, they're a tougher opponent than some of the FBS opponents," he said.
Leagues such as the MAC have a lot of leverage now, with power teams needing seven home games to make budget and having to find a mid-major program willing to travel for a one-shot opportunity. Excluding FCS teams from the mix further shrinks the pool of available opponents.

Complicating matters is the arrival of the nine-game Big Ten schedule in 2016. The divisions will rotate the home-road ratio, meaning league teams will have four home conference games every other year. That leaves three nonconference slots that must be filled by guarantee games in order to get to seven home dates.

"When you put a pencil to it, can everybody get FBS schools?" Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez told Fox Sports. "Can you find enough of them? Do we have to make some exceptions and have some FCS schools? That's what you have to take a look at. In some cases, they're a tougher opponent than some of the FBS opponents. If your choice is to not play a game because you can't find anybody or play an FCS team, you don't have much choice."

And like the move to a nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten is going to a place where other leagues won't. While a few prominent SEC coaches such as Alabama's Nick Saban and Florida's Will Muschamp recently came out in favor of avoiding FCS foes (Muschamp might have ulterior motives), SEC commissioner Mike Slive said last month that his league does not plan any sort of anti-FCS scheduling policy. Yea, more exciting October and November clashes like this one and that one.

Similarly, the ACC has no interest in quitting its FCS relationships. All 14 ACC schools will play an FCS opponent this year. So you have two leagues whom the Big Ten might be competing against for spots in the four-team playoff who will soon be A) playing one less conference game per season; and B) scheduling easy wins over FCS teams. Sure, that sounds fair.

So you can understand why the Big Ten might not want to be alone on this island. Still, there are many good reasons why the league should not be scheduling FCS teams, as Phillips explains.

"With the new structure of the playoff system, you will be rewarded [for playing tougher schedules], like in basketball," he said. "Also ... our fans really want you to challenge yourself in the nonconference schedule. And candidly television [is a reason]; look at ratings, that had an effect.”

Athletic directors and administrators are already worried about declining attendance, especially among students, and what that means for the future. Schools are paying millions of dollars to upgrade their video boards and enhance Wi-Fi capabilities in their stadiums, all in an effort to keep people from staying home and watching the game on their high-definition TVs.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJim Delany says the Big Ten is "continuing to work with people" on future football scheduling.
So it runs counter to that movement to schedule a game against an FCS team that no fan wants to see. There are some exceptions, such as Northern Iowa vs. Iowa or North Dakota State vs. Minnesota. But for every one of those, there are dozens more unwatchable games like these 2013 thrillers: Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0; Wisconsin 48, Tennessee Tech 0; Michigan State 55, Youngstown State 17; and Indiana 73, Indiana State 35.

The argument that FBS schools should play FCS teams to help them with their budgets makes no sense. Since when did big-time football become a charitable organization? The power-five conferences are already trying to write their own rules and threatening to start their own division. How does that jibe with suddenly wanting to give FCS schools a handout? And if FCS teams can't make their budget without those one-time paydays, maybe they need to scale back their football programs.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com that the conference is "continuing to work with people" on scheduling and the FCS policy. Minnesota and Purdue have FCS games on their 2016 schedule, and Delany said it could be until 2017 or 2018 until the policy, which he said should not be described as an outright ban, really goes into effect.

Let's hope the Big Ten sticks to its guns here. Playing FCS opponents might save some money, but the league is rolling in cash, so it's hard to cry poverty. Neutral-site games are a potential option, too. The Big Ten's future TV partners won't want to see Citadels and Eastern Kentuckys on the schedule when they fork over billions for the broadcast rights.

The strength-of-schedule angle is also a big one for a conference that probably will need every possible talking point in its favor in the annual playoff debates. Better opponents make for better games, better experiences for fans and a better overall sport.

The Big Ten was right to go to nine conference games and is correct in eliminating FCS opponents. If other leagues are too cowardly to follow suit, so be it. Let the conference that once gave us a Leaders Division show some true leadership to improve the game.

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- College athletes' welfare is top of mind for athletic directors across the country, and one Big Ten school remains at the center of the debate about whether players are receiving enough for what they provide between the lines.

"Everybody's curious," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said.

Phillips on Tuesday addressed the unionization effort by the Wildcats football team in depth for the first time since it launched in January. During a break at the Big Ten ADs meetings, he outlined why he opposes a union but also praised the Northwestern players for raising issues that need to be addressed in a collegiate model that has been too resistant to change.

He's proud of the issues players have raised and not upset by the attention brought on Northwestern's program.

"I know [unionization] is not the right mechanism for change nationally, but areas of welfare and health and safety, those are the right things for us to be talking about," Phillips said. "There are some real positive residuals that have occurred from the conversation about unionization."

Phillips thinks players deserve not only a voice, but voting power on major issues that affect them. Players had been consulted in an advisory role in the past, but it's not enough.

"No one is living the experience like they are," he said. "We can do that in a way that makes sense, and it's necessary. I'm excited about it, and you're going to see some of the movement, like the unlimited meals. You're going to see some things on cost of attendance that we have to get our arms around.

"We have to make sure we're providing the necessary resources."

Northwestern is awaiting a decision on its appeal of the decision by the Chicago regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that its football players are employees of the school. Players voted April 25 on whether to form a union, but the ballots have been sealed and not counted, pending the outcome of the appeal.

Phillips opposes a union for several reasons:
  • College sports are not the minor leagues, and the college model doesn't include an employee-employer relationship. Phillips noted that more than 98 percent of all college athletes don't go on to play professionally.
  • Third parties shouldn't come between players and their coaches/administrators.
  • It would hurt the accessibility and affordability of higher education.

"Accessibility and affordability are the two things college athletics has provided for a number of years," Phillips said. "It's given a population in our world, certainly in our country, the opportunity to use sport to access great education."

But what about all the money major-conference schools are generating, and the even bigger projected revenues in the near future? Phillips pointed to the low percentage of athletic departments that operate in the black.

"If we want to ignore broad-based programming and we want to ignore equality and doing things equitable, you're going to get a completely different collegiate model," he said. "I'm not in favor of that. Maybe some people are.

"Are there more things we can and should be thinking about for our student-athletes? Yes. But it needs to be done in a way that really is prudent and equitable and doesn't just pay attention to one sport."


The idea of a union for college football players, which is being spearheaded by Northwestern student-athletes, is one that is making major news throughout college sports -- and likely making administrators very nervous.

The NCAA has issued a response to the union proposal. Surprise: It is not a fan. Here's the full NCAA response, as penned by the organization's chief legal officer, Donald Remy:
"This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.

"Many student athletes are provided scholarships and many other benefits for their participation. There is no employment relationship between the NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes.

"Student-athletes are not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act. We are confident the National Labor Relations Board will find in our favor, as there is no right to organize student-athletes."

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips released his own statement this afternoon. Here it is:
"We love and are proud of our students. Northwestern teaches them to be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact on their communities, the nation and the world. Today’s action demonstrates that they are doing so.

"Northwestern University always has been, and continues to be, committed to the health, safety and academic success of all of its students, including its student-athletes. The concerns regarding the long-term health impacts of playing intercollegiate sports, providing academic support and opportunities for student-athletes are being discussed currently at the national level, and we agree that they should have a prominent voice in those discussions.

"We are pleased to note that the Northwestern students involved in this effort emphasized that they are not unhappy with the University, the football program or their treatment here, but are raising the concerns because of the importance of these issues nationally.

"Northwestern believes that our student-athletes are not employees and collective bargaining is therefore not the appropriate method to address these concerns. However, we agree that the health and academic issues being raised by our student-athletes and others are important ones that deserve further consideration."

Of course the NCAA is going to fight this idea tooth and nail because it would change the very nature of how college sports are governed and administrated. Northwestern is in a trickier spot because the school does not want to be viewed as being callous to its own students' desire for better treatment and health. Yet, a full blown union of football players and a designation of athletes as employees who can collectively bargain must scare the bejeezus out of any NCAA administrator.

It's clear that this story is really only beginning.
Northwestern's recruiting wish list and sales pitch hasn't changed much in recent years.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his staff still seek a certain fit: an academically oriented player who clicks with the program's culture and recognizes the benefits of playing Big Ten football miles from the city limits of the nation's third largest market. Northwestern's coaches talk about "not only a four-year decision but a 40-year decision, the rest-of-your-life type decision," Matt MacPherson, the team's recruiting coordinator and running backs coach, recently told ESPN.com.

[+] EnlargePat Fitzgerald
AP Photo/Tony DingPat Fitzgerald has the Northwestern football program headed in the positive direction, winning games and attracting quality student athletes.
Northwestern is still identifying and bringing players who fit, but more of its targets are higher-level prospects and more of its competitors are higher-level programs. The Wildcats are hitting their mark at an unprecedented rate, leading the Big Ten with 10 commitments for their 2014 class, which ranks 17th nationally in RecruitingNation's latest ratings.

Colleague Jared Shanker writes that Northwestern's recent success on the field has boosted its recruiting to the next level.
The Wildcats went 10-3 in 2012 and ended the season No. 17 in the final AP poll. It was the first time that Northwestern had won 10 games in a season since 1995, when it went 10-1 and appeared in the Rose Bowl. It also marked the first time Northwestern finished a season ranked since 1996.

Fitzgerald was a linebacker on those '95 and '96 teams. He was an ambassador for recruits who signed in the winter of '97, one of Northwestern best classes ever.

Northwestern landed several national recruits in that class, much like it is doing in the 2014 class. Craig Albrecht, Chris Jones and Sam Simmons were all highly sought-after recruits who signed with Northwestern out of high school. Fitzgerald said then-coach Gary Barnett never broke the mold of what he was looking for in a recruit to bring in the higher-profile prospects.

Now Fitzgerald is following a similar path.

"[The 2014 recruits] stayed true to what fits our program," Fitzgerald said. "We feel great about all the young men, feel great we recruited the right fit. We respect you if you do it differently, but we're more focused on the right fit and if he fits the culture of our locker room."

According to MacPherson, Northwestern's message to potential recruits remains the same, but the way they view the program has changed after five straight bowl appearances and, finally, a postseason win on Jan. 1 in the Gator Bowl.

"From what we do and how we do it, not a whole lot has changed," MacPherson said. "From the perception of where our program is, that's changed a bunch. People see us now as a perennial bowl team. ... You look at Northwestern and you talk about winning football games, a great education, being in Chicago. What's not to like? Tell me when that gets bad.

"There's always been the great education, there’s always been the great city of Chicago. Now you throw the football success on top of that, and it's just a great package that opens a lot of people's eyes."

Northwestern's coaches also are talking up a new $220 million on-campus facility, announced in September, that will house the football program along the shores of Lake Michigan. Athletic director Jim Phillips said last week that $70-80 million has been raised toward the project, and ground could be broken this fall.

Fitzgerald talked with Shanker about the "great momentum" currently around the program. MacPherson sees it on the recruiting trail.

"We are getting in some battles with some different programs than we have in the past," he said. "Obviously, that's a good thing. But at the end fo the day, you still have to do your evaluation and those guys you bring into your program have to be valuable players and be productive players for you. Is it great for our profile and be competing against teams that you see in the Rivals and the ESPN Insider ratings? Yeah, that's great. But it'll always go back to production once you get 'em on your team."
The Big Ten made news a little more than a week ago by announcing its new division alignment for the 2014 season, as well as a move to nine conference games beginning in 2016. We covered all the news here and here and here, but several components of the moves merit further analysis.

We're breaking down the divisions and the new conference schedule model, their impact now and in the future, as the College Football Playoff is just a year away. These aren't exactly Take Twos, but they're similar, as we'll both be sharing our thoughts on these big-ticket items.

Today's topic is: How likely are these divisions to stand the test of time?

Brian Bennett

The Big Ten sometimes gets criticized for being too stodgy and stubborn, but the fact is the league is undergoing a serious football makeover for the second time since 2010. Yes, expansion played a major role in Legends and Leaders getting (thankfully) cast overboard, but the league didn't have to remake the divisions so drastically just to add Maryland and Rutgers. So no one ought to think that the new East and West formats will last forever, or even a mighty long time.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsIf Bill O'Brien's Penn State teams can recover from sanctions the Big Ten may need to re-examine its top-loaded East Division.
Yet the conference isn't going to make any quick knee-jerk reactions here, either. You can't properly judge competitive balance on just a few seasons, so I have little doubt that the Big Ten aims to let this play out over a number of years to see how it's working. If you're like me and you think the East has too much power, well, you'll have to wait and find out if that's actually true. A big key to all of this, I believe, is Penn State. As long as the Nittany Lions are on probation and dealing with sanctions, they are somewhat sidelined in the whole balance-of-power argument, even though they are eligible to win a division title. The scholarship reductions could have a major impact on the program beyond 2017. But if Penn State can regain its headliner status quickly, then the Big Ten may well have to re-examine whether it's right to have Michigan, Ohio State and the Nittany Lions all duking it out in the same division.

Of course, whether Michigan State can remain strong is also an issue, as is whether other West teams can consistently challenge Nebraska and Wisconsin for superiority. Again, this is something we're only going to learn over a long period of time, probably a decade or more.

But as we've seen, things can change rapidly. Who's to say there won't be further expansion that causes another reshuffling? Perhaps Michigan or Ohio State will get tired of finishing in the Top 10 nationally but only No. 2 in its own division. Maybe teams in the West will demand more exposure and recruiting opportunities in the East. The future, to quote Don Draper, is something you haven't even thought of yet. At least we know the Big Ten is adaptable.

"We're not foolish enough to think what we did today is what the Big Ten will look like for the next 100 years," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said the day of the division announcement. "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."

In other words, if you don't like the current alignment, just stick around a while.

Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten can't be shuffling the divisions every 2-3 years, unless there's more expansion. But the league also can't bury its head in the sand and let a Big 12 North/South situation take place. The potential for that to happen exists with so much firepower in the East, but I also think the league will let things play out for a while before entertaining serious talk of another shuffle. Keep in mind that the Big Ten's recent expansion and, to a certain extent, its division realignment is about building the brand in a new region. So if there's more attention on the East than the West, at least initially, the league office can live with that.

You bring up some great points about Penn State, and it will be important for Bill O'Brien's team to prevent Ohio State and Michigan from separating themselves in the East (and in the entire league). But I think the key to staying power isn't necessarily the "No. 1 seeds," as league commissioner Jim Delany calls Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State. And while Wisconsin can't match those four programs for historic excellence, the Badgers have been just as good or a little bit better than Penn State since the Lions joined the Big Ten. They've also been a better program than Nebraska in recent seasons. Wisconsin will boost the West division.

The teams to watch here are Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State. The West might not match the East in terms of strength at the very top, but it can match up with overall depth if Northwestern continues on its upward trajectory and Iowa gets back to the success it had in 2009. Northwestern has tremendous momentum right now with improved recruiting and a new facility coming soon. Iowa has shown the ability to rise up repeatedly under Kirk Ferentz. If both of those programs are winning eight, nine or 10 games in many seasons, the West should be fine even if Ohio State and Michigan create a bit of separation. Michigan State's role is to challenge the three traditional powers in the East and create at least some parity in the division. As I wrote last week, Michigan State has a great opportunity in the East division and shouldn't shy away from it. We're going to learn exactly who these Spartans are in the coming seasons.

As you mention, BB, there are a lot of unknowns out there. Ohio State and Michigan appear poised to separate themselves because of their recruiting efforts. But that might not be the case. Ultimately, it's up to teams like Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State -- as well as Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland -- to create enough depth/parity in both divisions. Otherwise, we'll eventually see another change.

More B1G Debate
The ouster of Tim Pernetti has cost the former Rutgers athletic director a shot at some hardware this year.

Pernetti is no longer a candidate for the AD year of the year award, presented by Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.

In announcing the removal of Pernetti from the nominees, the editorial committee said that it did not have all of the facts about the decisions of the Scarlet Knights athletic department in regards to the situation with the since-fired men's basketball coach Mike Rice, and the scandal and the fallout since has caused them to reconsider.

From the release:
We understand that this sets a precedent, but we don’t feel that recognizing him would be true to the spirit of the awards, fair to readers or, especially, the other nominees.

This wasn’t an easy decision. There are many sides to this story, and Pernetti’s full role isn’t clear, nor is he the only person at fault. But as a nominee for this honor, he represented not only himself and his actions, but the actions and reputation of his university, all of which have become tainted by this episode. Regardless of the advice from counsel or others about legal liability, there’s no denying that Pernetti and his superiors made the decision to retain a coach they knew was abusing players, verbally and physically.

Tim Pernetti will be heard from again in sports business. He is simply too talented not to be. But he won’t be recognized in the category of Athletic Director of the Year, and, as we move forward, we will highlight only the remaining four nominees in the category: Mike Holder of Oklahoma State, Tom Jurich of Louisville, the late Mal Moore of Alabama and Jim Phillips of Northwestern.

The award will be presented May 22 at the 2013 SBJ/SBD Sports Business awards, at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The committee had announced Pernetti and the other nominees on March 18, citing Pernetti's work in getting Rutgers into the Big Ten.
Shawn Eichorst isn't the highest-profile athletic director in the Big Ten. While Nebraska fans are a pretty sharp bunch, I bet some would have a hard time picking out Eichorst in a crowd. The fact Eichorst succeeded Nebraska legend Tom Osborne as AD also makes him fly under the radar.

But there's little doubt Nebraska considers Eichorst a rising star in the AD ranks. Either that, or Eichorst is a brilliant contract negotiator. Perhaps it's both.

When USA Today came out with its new survey of athletic director salaries, which not surprisingly are on the rise nationally, Eichorst's compensation at Nebraska certainly stands out. His base salary of $973,000 ranks highest in the Big Ten, and his total compensation of $1,123,000 ranks second in the league behind only Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($1,230,000). Eichorst served as Alvarez's deputy AD from 2009-11 before taking the top job at Miami.

Here are 11 of the 12 Big Ten athletic director salaries (as a private school, Northwestern doesn't disclose AD Jim Phillips' salary), sorted from highest to lowest:
  • Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: $1,230,000 ($1,143,500 from university, $86,500 in outside pay)
  • Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska: $1,123,000
  • Gene Smith, Ohio State: $1,099,030
  • Dave Brandon, Michigan:$900,000
  • Mark Hollis, Michigan State: $700,000
  • Mike Thomas, Illinois: $589,250
  • Norwood Teague, Minnesota: $500,000
  • Gary Barta, Iowa: $490,842 ($487,842 from university, $3,000 in outside pay)
  • Morgan Burke, Purdue:$464,437
  • Fred Glass, Indiana: $430,746
  • Dave Joyner, Penn State: $396,000

Eichorst received a one-time payment of $150,000 for moving expenses from Miami. Alvarez received a one-time payment of $118,500 for coaching the football team in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. He would have received a $50,000 bonus if Wisconsin had won the game.

Ohio State's Smith has the highest maximum bonus in the league ($250,000), followed by Michigan's Brandon and Illinois' Thomas, both at $200,000.

Alvarez and Eichorst rank fourth and fifth nationally, respectively, in total compensation. They trail Vanderbilt vice chancellor/general counsel David Williams (who oversees athletics and seemingly everything else at the school), Louisville AD Tom Jurich and Florida AD Jeremy Foley. Smith ranks seventh nationally, and Brandon is tied for 12th with Iowa State's Jamie Pollard.

Michigan State's Hollis, named 2012 athletic director of the year at the Sports Business Awards, last summer received a significant raise -- the highest bump among any incumbent AD from a public school since October 2011. Purdue's Burke is the Big Ten's longest-serving AD (started Jan. 1, 1993) but ranks near the bottom in salary. Joyner began his term as Penn State's acting AD in November 2011 after Tim Curley took leave. He had the tag removed in January and will remain in the role through the term of university president Rodney Erickson.

Looking ahead to the future Big Ten, Maryland AD Kevin Anderson earns $499,490 (max bonus of $50,000), while Rutgers' AD Tim Pernetti earns $410,000 (max bonus of $50,000).
Most Big Ten athletic directors entered their meetings Sunday and Monday at league headquarters thinking that geography would drive the discussion about the soon-to-be revamped football divisions.

When the ADs emerged from the meetings, their sentiment hadn't changed.

"This time, it's geography that's probably the No. 1 priority," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips told ESPN.com.

"We wanted to try and find a way to be geographic in our divisions," Ohio State AD Gene Smith said.

"There's nothing unanimous about this," added league commissioner Jim Delany, "but there's strong support for geography."

Although the Big Ten presented the athletic directors -- and several university presidents who came to the league office Sunday -- with several models for divisions, don't be surprised if the league decides to keep things simple with an East-West alignment following the additions of both Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The simplest solution -- one the athletic directors are discussing -- is to assign teams based on their time zone (Eastern or Central).

The lone caveat: there will be eight Big Ten teams in the Eastern time zone -- Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue -- and only six in the Central time zone (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois). So one team from the Eastern time zone would need to move.

"Sometimes the best thing is to do the most logical thing," Phillips said. "It just makes logical sense to everybody. Let's try to make sure whoever we move over is the right institution, and it's good for them and good for their school, but it's hard to argue against that.

"We tried a variation last time with Wisconsin going over in that direction and Illinois. As we listen to everybody, it just makes sense to do it this way. Again, it's not finalized and nobody's declared anything that we know which seven is going to be where, but it certainly feels like we're moving in that direction."

The four schools located closest to the time zone border are Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan, so it's not a stretch to think one of the four is likeliest to move to the Central time zone division. There are two meaningful rivalries between the foursome -- Indiana-Purdue and Michigan-Michigan State -- one of which could be preserved with an annual protected crossover.

Although my divisions proposal had Purdue moving to the West/Central division, keep an eye on Michigan State (Brian Bennett's pick). Athletic director Mark Hollis loves showcasing Michigan State in the Chicago market against Northwestern, and the Spartans and Wisconsin have formed a nice rivalry in recent years that would continue if the two schools are in the same division.

"We don't want to throw out competitive balance and those other important areas of rivalries," Phillips said, "but what's leading this ... is geography, what's best for our fans, what's the easiest travel for them and what makes the most sense."
Northwestern wants to be known as "Chicago's Big Ten team." That's a major reason why the school announced a unique partnership with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday that will see several of its sports teams play at one of the city's most iconic settings: Wrigley Field.

That deal includes five planned football games that could begin as soon as 2014.

[+] EnlargeWrigley Field
Jerry Lai/US PresswireNorthwestern, which played Illinois at Wrigley Field in 2010, is aiming to establish a bigger presence for several of its sports teams in the Chicago market.
"It's historic," athletic director Jim Phillips told ESPN.com. "This has a chance to be transformational for our department."

The Wildcats played Illinois at Wrigley Field in 2010 in a game that was notable both for its atmosphere and for dimensions that didn't quite live up to expectations. Both teams' offenses had to march to the same end zone because of how cozy the friendly confines was for football.

That's expected to change as the Cubs do some renovations at the grand old ballpark. Phillips said he's seen the plans for renovations and believes Wrigley will be better suited to host a football game in the future.

"They have to do something with the wall down the third base line, something with the Cubs' dugout and the first several rows," he said. "But we've looked at it, and I think everybody feels comfortable about it."

Phillips hopes Northwestern can play there in 2014, but that depends on the Wildcats' schedule and the progress of construction. The Big Ten schedule in 2014 is up in the air until league athletic directors decide on division alignment and how to organize the conference slate before Maryland and Rutgers join the league that season. Their first meeting on those topics is this weekend.

Because of the baseball schedule, the Wildcats are most likely to play football at Wrigley in November to avoid conflicts with the regular-season or playoffs in baseball. (As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I am showing great restraint here by not making a joke about the Cubs playing in October). A November game would almost certainly mean facing a Big Ten conference opponent in Wrigley, though Phillips said nothing is set in stone.

"We're targeting November, but I wouldn't rule out anything," he said. "I wouldn't rule out September. That really has to be a Cubs call."

The five-game deal isn't tied to a specific timeline, so Northwestern might not play five straight years at the baseball park. Phillips said he likes the flexibility of the arrangement because it allows both sides to adjust based on schedules and construction.

Though the Wildcats lose a home game at Ryan Field by going to Clark and Addison, Phillips said there is a financial advantage to it. In 2010, fans had to buy season tickets to be guaranteed a seat for the Wrigley Field game against Illinois. More than 90 percent of new season-ticket buyers that year renewed their packages the following season, he said.

Having Northwestern teams like baseball, lacrosse, soccer and softball play within the ivy-covered walls also strengthens the school's bond with the city of Chicago. That can only help the Wildcats' marketing and branding efforts.

"We're in a real crowded marketplace, and that's challenging," Phillips said. "We have an alumni base that's the smallest in the Big Ten, and we're only ahead of Penn State in terms of the number of alums in Chicago.

"Having been born and raised here and having always rooted for Chicago teams, I know people here have gone to other schools and have other college teams. But what we hope is that they will have a second favorite college team, and that they will identify Northwestern with Chicago and Chicago with Northwestern."

The school's athletes will also get a chance to play in one of the most famous venues in sports. Can you imagine what it would be like for a Northwestern baseball player to hit a home run at Wrigley, even if it's just in batting practice? The agreement also brings opportunities for students to pursue internships with the Cubs.

"At the end of day for all of us at Northwestern, it's about the student experience," Phillips said. "I don't think anybody can put a value on what it means for our kids. The players who were in that 2010 game still talk about it, and they'll be talking about it for the next 50 years. They will tell their children and grandchildren about it."
As we've written for the past several days, Big Ten athletic directors have a whole host of decisions to make over the next few months, including how many league games they should play, how to align the divisions, the next bowl lineup and even what to call the divisions.

"We've got some heavy lifting to do here for the next few months," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said.

But what if all that huffing and puffing turns out to be a Sisyphean task? There's one thing that could send conference leaders scrambling back to the drawing board: more expansion.

The decisions the athletic directors will make for the 2014 season and beyond will be based on the new 14-team format with Maryland and Rutgers joining. Many people suspect the Big Ten is not done adding members and could soon grow to 16 or even to 20 members. Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee recently informed us that conference expansion talks are "ongoing."

The athletic directors are well aware of the possibility that more teams could be coming at just about any time.

“Based on the last three years I’ve been in this business, you’d be crazy not to think about it," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "But it’s hard to model anything because you don’t know what to model. The minute you get yourself convinced that you’re going to go from 14 to 16, for all you know you’re going to 18, and a lot of people think the ultimate landing place is 20. Who knows?"

For now, all the decisions they make will be based on a 14-team model only.

"You make your decision based on today," Iowa's Gary Barta said. "And today, we have that many teams. We can’t worry about something that’s not established yet. I don’t know if and when there will be more teams. Right now, we’re going to make decisions based on the additions of Rutgers and Maryland, and we’re going to make them with the information we have, consistent with our principles."

"It’s hard to predict the future," added Northwestern's Jim Phillips. "No one would have predicted we’d be at this place we’re at right now. I don’t think you can get polarized by the what-ifs or the potential of what might be and lose sight of where you’re at."

The league's ADs will do their best to come up with the best framework for a 14-team league. If future expansion arrives in time for the 2014 season or shortly after it, at least the conference has gained lots of recent experience in how to deal with it.

"When you get into the discussion of things like 10 [conference games], you say, 'Wow, if we had a couple more teams, it would be easier,'" Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "That's a natural. But it's not something that motivates you to say, 'We've got to position this in case we have another team, or two more teams.' We don't do that."

"What I've liked about our league is, when we added Nebraska, we felt like we needed to settle and watch the landscape. We thought the East Coast was important, and we got two good pickups relative to that principal. So I think we deal with what we have now, sit, monitor the landscape, and if something emerges down the road, we're positioned to be able to absorb."
In September 2010, the Big Ten spelled out clearly that geography wouldn't be the driving force behind its new divisions.

How do we know? Two words. L-E-G-E-N-D-S. L-E-A-D-E-R-S.

The controversial division names spawned in part from a desire not to make geography the chief factor in alignment. Otherwise, the Big Ten likely would have used simple directional names (East-West, North-South) or regional ones (Great Lakes-Great Plains). The league aligned its initial divisions based on competitive balance, with a nod to preserving traditional rivalries. Although the Big Ten said it also considered geography, the end result showed it didn't matter much.

As the league prepares to realign its divisions to accommodate new members Rutgers and Maryland in 2014, its power brokers seem much more comfortable saying the G-word.

"Maybe it was competitive balance last time," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips told ESPN.com. "Maybe geography wins the day this time. … It wasn't the most important [factor in 2010], but we should look at it this time because we are spread farther than we ever have been."

The Big Ten athletic directors will meet several times in the coming months to discuss division alignment and plan to make a recommendation to the league's presidents in early June. Several ADs interviewed by ESPN.com in recent weeks mentioned that geography likely will be a bigger factor in the upcoming alignment than the initial one. It's not a surprise, as geography was a much bigger factor in the most recent expansion than it was with the Nebraska addition in 2010.

When the Big Ten expanded with Maryland and Rutgers in November, commissioner Jim Delany talked about becoming a bi-regional conference -- rooted in the Midwest but also having a real presence on the East Coast. He described the move as an "Eastern initiative with a Penn State bridge." It would be a major surprise if Penn State doesn’t find itself in the same division with the two new members.

"Maryland and Rutgers are about three-and-a-half hours away [driving], and Ohio State is about five hours," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. "That's a nice, comfortable distance for us, and we've got huge alumni markets in those areas. From those standpoints, it's a really good thing. … No matter how the conference is aligned, you've got to believe that there are some efficiencies in travel that are going to come out of it."

Michigan and Ohio State are going to play every year no matter how the divisions are aligned, and if there's any push to move The Game away from the final regular-season Saturday, "the meeting will keep going on and on and on," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said with a laugh. But there also seems to be momentum to put Michigan and Ohio State in the same division, especially if there's a geographic split.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith favors being in the same division as Michigan, and Brandon has no objection.

"We will likely be a little bit more attentive to geographic alignment," Brandon said. "If Michigan and Ohio State being in the same division turns out to be what's in the best interest of the conference, that would be great. Obviously, it isn't the way it is now, and certainly that's worked. Certainly if we go to a geographic split situation and it's in the best interest of what we're trying to accomplish for Michigan and Ohio State to be in the same division, that would be just fine."

Despite being in opposite divisions, Michigan and Ohio State had their series preserved through a protected crossover. Other rivalries weren't so fortunate. Wisconsin and Iowa, for example, didn't play in 2011 or 2012.

Wisconsin was the most obvious example of the non-geographic focus of the initial alignment, as it moved away from longtime rivals Minnesota and Iowa into the Leaders Division.

"I do think we have a chance to have a little bit more of a geographic look to it, which I think is great," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. "It's great for fans, it's great for student-athletes, it considers travel, rivalries. With us, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska, those just make great sense.

"It would be terrific if it works out, but we have to make sure we maintain and achieve competitiveness as well."

The ADs understand the need to maintain balance. As Purdue's Morgan Burke put it, “You don't want somebody to come through an 'easy' division."

But as many fans have pointed out, the Big Ten still could maintain competitive balance with a more geographic split. Ohio State and Michigan could form an Eastern bloc of sorts, but Wisconsin has won three straight Big Ten titles, Nebraska played for one last year and other programs like Michigan State and Northwestern have emerged.

Can the Big Ten align based both on geography and balance?

"I believe we can," Brandon said. "And that will always be somewhat subjective because all you can look at is history, and how a program has performed in the previous 10 years isn't necessarily indicative of how it’s going to perform in the next 10. So there's some subjectivity to that, but the objective will be to create a circumstance where both divisions feel like they have equal opportunities to win and compete for the conference championship."

B1G ADs weigh number of league games

January, 28, 2013
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Big Ten athletic directors will meet several times over the next few months to hammer out some key decisions for the 2014 season and beyond. The most pressing, and arguably most important, issue will involve figuring out how many times to play each other during the season.

League officials chose to stay with eight conference games per season after Nebraska joined the league in 2011. But when Maryland and Rutgers come aboard next year, that could change. ESPN.com interviewed several conference athletic directors, who confirmed that a nine- and even a 10-game league schedule are on the table in the upcoming discussions.

"That’s something that we have to really resolve quickly, because the ramifications of that discussion are significant," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told ESPN.com. "It’s a high-agenda item."

The reason for the priority is obvious: More conference games means fewer nonconference opportunities. Some schools, like Nebraska and Minnesota, already have four out-of-league opponents lined up for the 2014 season and beyond, while others are waiting to see what the league decides before signing contracts with future opponents.

The Big Ten announced in August 2011 that it would go to a nine-game league schedule. That was scrapped a few months later when the Pac-12/Big Ten alliance was brokered, but then that agreement was canceled the following spring before it ever began. Athletic directors we talked to were at the very least interested in revisiting the nine-game schedule idea.

Commissioner Jim Delany has said he'd like to see more conference games. Brandon and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith both told ESPN.com that they favored that idea when the Big Ten balloons to 14 teams.

"As the conference expands, it would be unfortunate if a student-athlete came to the University of Michigan, played in the Big Ten Conference for four years and never even got to play or compete against one of the schools in the conference," Brandon said. "That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. As the number of institutions has grown, I believe we should take a look at at least moving to nine."

"I would like to go to nine or 10," Smith said.

Of the major conferences, only the Pac-12 and Big 12 currently play nine league games per season. No FBS conference plays 10 league games per year. The main advantage of adopting the latter, more radical idea would be balancing the conference schedule. Every team would then play five home and five road league contests, instead of having years with five road conference games and only four at home in a nine-game slate.

"Nine is challenging because of the statistical advantage for the home team over time," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said. "If you have some teams with five home games and others with only four, do you really have a true champion? To some people, that is a stumbling block."

But a 10-game schedule would bring its own share of obstacles. Such a plan leaves only two nonconference games and could make schools less inclined to play home-and-home intersectional matchups versus big-name opponents.

For example, Ohio State has already scheduled several high-profile series for the future, including home-and-home deals with Oregon, Texas and TCU. But with a 10-game conference schedule, the Buckeyes would have only six home games in years when it traveled to play opponents like the Ducks, Longhorns or Horned Frogs -- assuming it decided to keep those series.

"Most of us need seven home games in order to make our local budgets," Smith said. "Is there a way to overcome that? I don't know. We'll have to look at that. The conference is aware that it's an issue."

Would the extra inventory of conference games add enough value to the Big Ten's next TV contract to make up for the loss of home dates? Smith also points out that, with only two nonconference games, schools could potentially avoid paying huge guarantees to lower-level conference teams to fill out their schedule. Such teams are routinely getting $1 million or more to play sacrificial lamb against power programs in their giant stadiums.

Still, giving up home games is not a popular idea in a tough economic climate.

"Let’s face it, we have a stadium that we’re putting 112,000 people in every week," Brandon said. "It doesn’t make a lot of sense to be shutting that stadium down and not playing as many events, and going to places where you’re playing in front of crowds that are far less. We have to think about that financial consideration, and how do we leverage the assets we have in the most positive way for the conference and all the institutions?"

The forthcoming four-team playoff also complicates matters. Strength of schedule is expected to be a main component for the playoff selection committee. Would playing 10 games in the conference help or hurt Big Ten teams? In years when the league was viewed as down, like in 2012, it would most likely damage a league contender's chances, not to mention that 10 conference games means seven more guaranteed losses for Big Ten teams.

"I think [a 10-game schedule] could work if you're trying to schedule strong opponents in those other two games as well," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. "The decision is, are you going to play two, three or four games outside of conference? I think a lot of it will depend on what the feeling is on how that would affect strength of schedule."

So a nine-game schedule appears to be a more likely option, but the thorny problem of an unbalanced number of home games remains. Could the league try to get creative, and perhaps add more neutral-site conference games to the mix? Anything and everything appears to be up for discussion.

"Maybe you could do it divisionally, where one division plays five home games one year, and then that division plays four home games [the next year]," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said. "I don’t know. But it should be interesting.”

That last part is the only guarantee right now.
From the moment he was hired as athletic director, Mike Thomas has set out to make Illinois the “king of Chicago” and the state's definitive college program.

Many Illini fans would argue the Orange and Blue already had such a distinction. But mediocre football results combined with Northwestern's marketing campaign, built around the slogan "Chicago's Big Ten team," had clouded the picture a bit.

Illinois made a power play Friday, revealing a marketing campaign built around the theme, "ILLINOIS. OUR STATE. OUR TEAM." The theme and logo will be introduced throughout the state beginning this fall.

From the news release:
The theme will be used in a variety of ways including advertising, street banners, team posters, schedule cards, stadium signage and video board graphics. ... The "ILLINOIS. OUR STATE. OUR TEAM." campaign will be incorporated into a large-scale brand evaluation program that the DIA will partner with Nike beginning in 2013. The 18-month collaboration will result in an updated brand identity including new football uniforms for 2014."

Thomas said of the campaign, "This theme becomes a way for all of our fans to rally behind one central concept -- that the University of Illinois is our state's school. As the Fighting Illini, our student-athletes, coaches and staff are proud to represent the people of Illinois and we are proud to wear the state's name on the front of our jerseys."

Thomas certainly is looking to make a splash, especially after coming under criticism for his football and men's basketball coaching searches. Rallying the fan base always is a good idea.

On the other hand, this seems like a pretty obvious response to the campaign Northwestern launched in the summer of 2010. Led by athletic director Jim Phillips and marketing chief Mike Polisky, Northwestern made a marketing push for the Chicago market, which Illinois feels is its territory, and has been successful. Now Illinois is countering with a push to claim the state.

If there was no "Chicago's Big Ten team," would there be an "Illinois. Our state. Our team." campaign?

The rivalry between the two schools -- and athletic departments, for that matter -- clearly is getting spicier, which isn't a bad thing in my book. Illinois played "Sweet Home Chicago" over the public-address system immediately after its victory against Northwestern in football last October. New Illini football coach Tim Beckman also is playing up the Northwestern series with signs in the complex.

What's your take?
When the Big Ten's scheduling alliance with the Pac-12 crashed and burned July 13, it created a new set of headaches for Big Ten athletic directors.

They had been asked by league commissioner Jim Delany to hold off on scheduling games for the 2017 season and beyond -- a moratorium of sorts -- so that the Pac-12 alliance could be set up. Many Big Ten teams -- Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan, to name a few -- scheduled Pac-12 opponents in advance of the alliance, in part because of Delany's nudging. While many of those contracts still will be honored, the Pac-12 alliance added structure to scheduling in the distant future.

Things are cloudy again.

"It was an obvious disappointment," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told ESPN.com. "There was an excitement beyond just football and basketball with the possibilities that could take place. We had put so much into the collaboration with the Pac-12, and now that's off the table, so we all need to step back and make some decisions about our future."

Several big decisions could be made this week as Big Ten athletic directors gather in Chicago for preseason meetings. Scheduling will be a major topic on their agenda. The ADs simply can't afford to drag their feet on future scheduling issues.

Among the questions to be asked:

  • Should the Big Ten maintain an eight-game conference schedule or go to nine games? The Big Ten announced a move to nine league games last August, but shelved the plan when the Pac-12 alliance surfaced late last fall.
  • Should the Big Ten consider playing league games earlier in the season? Most major conferences play league games in early to mid September -- some even play them in season openers -- while most Big Ten teams complete their nonconference schedules before opening league play.
  • How should the Big Ten schedule for a playoff environment? Schedule strength will be a factor for the football selection committee, but a schedule loaded with difficult opponents could cost teams in their quest for the crystal football.
  • Should the Big Ten revisit a scheduling alliance with another conference?

Let's look at each issue ...

CONFERENCE GAMES: 8, 9 ... 10?


This topic likely will get the most discussion in Chicago. Although the Big Ten's ADs agreed to a nine-game league schedule last summer, they might not go down that road again.

Hollis and Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips both have reservations about nine-game league schedules because of the imbalance they create with home and away games.

"That's hard to swallow when you're trying to define a true champion," Phillips told ESPN.com "But we don't live in a perfect world, and sometimes scheduling isn't perfect. My preference is eight right now, but I haven't heard what other folks have had to say."

Hollis acknowledges that other major conferences, like the Pac-12 and Big 12, play nine league games. The ACC is going to a nine-game league schedule when it expands to 14 teams.

Although nine-game league schedules typically increase teams' overall schedule strength and make it easier to sell tickets to home games, they have drawbacks.

"The biggest issue I have with it is the inequity with a conference championship," Hollis said. "In college football, I think it's about a 60-40 ratio of home team winning vs. visiting team winning. When you get to the end of the season, and a team is winning a championship because they have five home games vs. four, it's something I have pretty big concerns with. ... If you look at the end of the year and you have two rivals that are separated by one game, there’s going to be some bad feelings."

[+] EnlargeMark Hollis
AP Photo/Al GoldisMichigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, left, is concerned about the inequalities a nine-game league schedule would bring.
Hollis prefers "an even number" of league home games and league away games -- meaning eight or 10. He acknowledges a 10-game league schedule would restrict teams from scheduling blockbuster nonleague opponents, but it would balance home and away games, and allow Big Ten teams to play one another more, not less.

A 10-game league schedule might not be realistic. It certainly wouldn't sit well with Big Ten football coaches, who opposed the initial move to nine league games.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema noted that the SEC, winner of the past six national titles, plays an eight-game league schedule, although that soon could change.

"Nine games changes things dramatically," Bielema told ESPN.com. "I hope we stay with an eight-game format. That's what the SEC uses, and that's the model everybody's chasing right now. That's the part that gets frustrating when anybody starts talking about nine conference games. The beloved SEC doesn't have that, and we don't want to jump into that world, either."

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is "on the same page" with Bielema about the conference games issue.

My take: Don't be shocked if the Big Ten eventually goes to nine league games, but the thinking since the announcement last August seems to have shifted quite a bit.

EARLIER BIG TEN GAMES

Bielema also would like the Big Ten to mimic what the SEC and other conference do with league games earlier in the season. Both he and former Illinois coach Ron Zook brought up the idea last year, noting it would give the Big Ten showcase games every week in September and prevent some of the sorry September Saturdays we've seen in recent years.

The movement needs a jolt, however, as the Big Ten schedules through the 2016 season essentially follow the traditional format: most if not all nonconference games first, followed by a full league slate.

"They [the SEC] front-load the schedule," Bielema said. "I saw they released their September games, and everyone goes gaga over those games. Well, we could have the same effect if the Big Ten would play them in September. I would much rather go that road than playing nine [league games], because it gives you an opportunity to get two out-of-conference, BCS opponents [on the schedule], travel to one and play one at home. That would bring a lot of excitement."

While moving Big Ten games earlier didn't have much traction before, the end of the Pac-12 alliance creates "a whole different scenario" with scheduling, Bielema said.

"I think we'll talk about it," Phillips said. "I'm for whatever creates the most interest and is best for the fans. If that allows us to have some better games for the fans earlier in the year, I'm all for that."

Hollis, an out-of-the-box scheduling wizard who helped create unbelievable moments like this, also is open to the topic, although he wants any change to be made for the right reasons.

"If you do shake it up, how are you shaking it up?" he said. "Why are you shaking it up? Are you doing it for television? Are you doing it for strength of schedule? I'm open to looking at things like that. I think those are all things we have to turn over."

SCHEDULING FOR A PLAYOFF ENVIRONMENT

A playoff comes to college football in 2014, and major conference athletic directors must be cognizant of it in crafting their teams' schedules. The selection committee will look for teams that have challenged themselves outside their leagues, but overly taxing schedules often remove teams from the playoff picture.

In the current BCS environment, a Big Ten team likely has to run the table to reach the title game. While perfection might not be required to qualify for a four-team playoff, a lot of good 1-loss teams are sure to be left out.

"You kind of have two parallels going," Hollis said. "It's kind of a given that to win a conference championship right now, with rare exception, you need to go undefeated. If you go undefeated, you have a shot to play for a national championship. Well, playing Alabama and Notre Dame selectively in our nonconference schedule [as Michigan State does in 2016 and 2017] isn't real conducive to the odds of winning 12 games. As [the playoff] goes forward and they talk about how the process is going to work, that's an important component."

ANOTHER SCHEDULING ALLIANCE

The Big Ten will be cautious about pursuing another scheduling alliance after the Pac-12 pact fell apart, but the league isn't ruling it out. Remember that the Big Ten/Pac-12 agreement fizzled because several Pac-12 schools ultimately didn't get on board. All 12 Big Ten schools were willing, and if the Big Ten can find a league with the same across-the-board commitment, it could seek another agreement.

"I don't know what shape or form that's going to result in," Hollis said, "but obviously playing games against opponents in the ACC, opponents in the Pac-12, opponents in the Big 12 and many of us are already doing the SEC, it's so complicated. If we could get some organization into it, I think it could be a positive."

A potential problem: number of conference games. Had the Pac-12 played an eight-game league schedule like the Big Ten, the alliance would have worked, sources told ESPN.com. With the Pac-12, Big 12 and, eventually, ACC, at nine league games, a partnership could be difficult.

"We'll be pretty sensitive, much more sensitive about conferences that have nine games," Delany said. "They have less flex. We're going to have a discussion about it."

There will be plenty of discussion in Chicago, and several big scheduling decisions will be made "in the very near future," Hollis said.

Although each Big Ten school has different scheduling models and desires, it's important to reach consensus on these items.

"One thing we've always done in the Big Ten that I'm proud of is we've had a collaborative group, and we've always tried to get to the right destination," Phillips said. "I don't recall us having any of those 6-6 votes.

"So wherever we get to, I would hope it'll be a 10-2 or an 11-1 vote."
The termination of the Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling alliance on Friday was a major disappointment, but it doesn't drive a wedge between the two leagues. Just the opposite, in fact.

While the enticing possibility of 12 interleague matchups per year beginning in 2017 isn't happening, there are plenty of matchups between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams still on tap in the coming years. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany made it a point to encourage his athletic directors to schedule games with Pac-12 opponents in advance of the partnership, and as long as most of these matchups are honored, teams from the two leagues will see plenty of one another, and not just at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

There are 19 games between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams scheduled to take place during the next four seasons, as well as several other matchups in 2016 and beyond. Here's the full rundown:

2012 (four games)

Illinois at Arizona State, Sept. 8
Nebraska at UCLA, Sept. 8
Wisconsin at Oregon State, Sept. 8
California at Ohio State, Sept. 15

2013 (five games)

Washington at Illinois
UCLA at Nebraska
Northwestern at California
Ohio State at California
Wisconsin at Arizona State

2014 (five games)

Illinois at Washington
California at Northwestern
Michigan State at Oregon
Utah at Michigan
Wisconsin at Washington State

2015 (five games)

Oregon at Michigan State
Michigan at Utah
Washington State at Wisconsin
Oregon State at Michigan
Stanford at Northwestern

Other upcoming series include Michigan-Colorado (2016), Wisconsin-Washington (2018-2019), Minnesota-Oregon State (2017-18) and Northwestern-Stanford (2019-2022). Purdue and Colorado have a verbal agreement for a home-and-home series in 2016 and 2017, which Purdue says will remain intact despite the end of the scheduling alliance. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips both confirmed that their teams' games against Pac-12 opponents also will be honored.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema told ESPN.com on Monday that while disappointed the scheduling alliance fell apart, he still looks forward to the Badgers' many future matchups against Pac-12 foes.

"The deal wasn't going to affect us because we have a Pac-12 opponent on our schedule every year," Bielema said. "I was amazed at how many crossover games there were already. The part we were hoping the format would [help] is that scheduling probably ends up being one of the hardest non-field-related issues you deal with. It's just very frustrating, at least from my point of view, to get home-and-homes with quality people. People want you to go play in their place, but they don't want to come play at yours."

Bielema recently tweeted about his desire to add Notre Dame to the schedule, especially when Notre Dame and Michigan take a break in 2018-19. But that series is unlikely to happen. Alabama also declined to play a home-and-home series with Wisconsin.

The Pac-12 matchups -- along with a home-and-home against Virginia Tech (2017-18) and a soon-to-be-announced three-year agreement against an independent (reportedly BYU) -- give Wisconsin's schedule more weight entering the playoff era, where schedule strength matters will matter.

"Whenever there's a coaching change, if I know somebody, we go at it pretty hard," Bielema said. "For the change at Washington, we sat down and got in there pretty early, [Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian] and I have gotten to know each other, and we locked that one in as soon as we could."

The Pac-12 alliance put a moratorium on athletic directors from both leagues to schedule games in 2017 and beyond. That should be lifted for Big Ten ADs in a few weeks, after they meet in Chicago to discuss whether to keep an eight-game league schedule or increase it to nine.

While some shuffling could take place with future schedules, most, if not all, of the Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups are expected to take place.

"If they're contracted," Delany said, "our people will comply with their contracts."

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