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Big Ten's Nine-Game Conference Schedule: Good News, Bad News

I had the chance to catch most of the Big Ten Media Days coverage on the Big Ten Network, and I must say - it was impressive. Consider the idea that the Big 12 media days took place over three days while the Big Ten finished their Q&A sessions in a single day, without any media problems. Nice job. 

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany stated that he'd like to see a nine-game conference schedule (although not until 2013 in order to honor existing schedules and avoid having to buy out contracts), and that a championship game will be played in 2011. 

News about a championship game isn't shocking, but a nine-game conference schedule? That would mean the elimination of one non-conference opponent, which also means the elimination of a guaranteed home game for every team (and a guaranteed win for every coach). It would give the Big Ten a chance to designate a rival or two across divisions, but let's be honest - this doesn't concern Husker fans so much does it? 

No doubt there'll be some hand-wringing going on about losing money from a home game, but it's just hand-wringing, nothing more. The increased payout by joining the Big Ten will more than make up for it (and subsequent increases as the network grows and ad revenues increase). 
Coaches will be against it, obviously. They want that  tune-up game against Youngstown State, Rice, or Sun Belt opponent. Can't blame them too much - the pressure to win is heavier than ever at the same time it's becoming more difficult for lesser-privileged programs.

The good news - one more guaranteed quality football game a season (snicker if you want, but Nebraska vs Indiana is still a better game than Nebraska vs Western Kentucky). More television coverage - you know the Big Ten Network will cover conference games. 

The bad news - less quality non-conference games. If coaches are forced to play another high-quality opponent in conference, they're sure as hell not going to schedule a high-quality non-conference opponent. Think of it as the way the SEC has operated for years, except they only play eight conference games. It would be even worse news for the polls, as it will make it even more difficult to determine the strength of highly-ranked teams.  

It'll be interesting to watch what happens with scheduling in the next two-to-three years. Things could well swing the opposite direction where there are more high-quality games due to increasing payouts for body bag games and more pressure from television to deliver on high-priced contracts. 

Things could sway further that direction if the BCS would put a heavier emphasis on strength of schedule. I wouldn't hold my breath on that, though, the BCS seems to be content with the status quo. 

I am going off the grid for the next few days, taking a trip to the BWCA. BWCA - that's the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota for you non-wilderness types. Never been there, but always wanted to go so I am really looking forward to it. No internet, no cell phone, and plenty of fishing. Hurray for me!