If the Irish ever did join the Big Ten. . .

SHARE If the Irish ever did join the Big Ten. . .


Even though there are no indications that Notre Dame is wavering on its

decision to keep charting an independent path rather than join the Big

Ten, it still makes a lot of sense.

And just in case that changes,

the possibilities of a two-division Big Ten are intriguing. There’s no

obvious can’t-miss alignment scenario. But here are a couple that could


NORTH: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin

SOUTH: Illinois, Northwestern, Penn State, Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue

OR. . . .

EAST: Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue

WEST: Illinois, Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin


matter how it’s done, preserving traditional rivalries would be

important. I don’t see Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State ever

being separated. Similarly, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin probably

shouldn’t be separated. Indiana-Purdue, and Illinois-Northwestern, also

are rivalries that should be preserved. And remember, it’s not like the

divisions would be all that separate. Teams would play the schools in

the other division half the time.

The North-South plan would have

the advantage of letting Penn State and Notre Dame, who met regularly

before Penn State joined the Big Ten, anchor the South. It also would

make the North a very rugged division, considering that Iowa and

Wisconsin have established themselves as strong alternatives to

traditional powers Ohio State and Michigan.

My East-West plan would

allow the Irish to maintain their annual rivalries with Michigan,

Michigan State and Purdue. It also would keep the three Indiana schools

together. (And if Dallas can be in the NFC East, Penn State can be in

the Big Ten West.) Nor would I be a fan of non-directional names, such

as the ACC’s Atlantic and Coastal divisions.

Other possibiliites

would be the Grange and Nagurski divisions. Or the (Wayne) Duke and

(Jim) Delany divisions. Now you see the appeal of the good old


I tend to favor my North-South plan, because I think

ND-Michigan-Ohio State in one division (the East) would be too many

traditional powers in one place. On the other hand, with the

North-South arrangment, the Ohio State/Michigan-driven North still

would be awfully rugged, considering what Iowa and Wisconsin have been


The only way to achieve better balance, though, would be to

break up more rivalries. And that doesn’t make sense to me,

particularly because predicting which programs are going to advance and

decline down the road is not easy to do.

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