Big Ten officials might reshuffle its divisions with a priority on geography when Maryland and Rutgers join the league by 2014, according to Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner.
In an interview posted Tuesday on the Penn State athletic department’s website, Joyner said league officials have held several discussions about possible divisional alignments over the phone — with an emphasis on easing the financial issues required by increased travel.
“I have a feeling it will be more geography-based,” Joyner said. “There seems to be a lot of sentiment for that.”
The current 12-team Big Ten split into two divisions for football to accommodate Nebraska’s entry in 2011. The Leaders Division is made up of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin. The Legends Division is comprised of Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern.
Besides renaming the divisions, which have met with resistance, league officials will face the challenge of maintaining longtime rivalries such as Ohio State vs. Michigan in scheduling football.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon have both come out in favor being in the same division in any realignment plan.
“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.”