Big Ten Media Days roundup: The Big Ten Conference will always be known as the Big Ten, commissioner Jim Delany said Monday, no matter the number of teams in the league. Nearly everything else could change through expansion, divisional alignment and a conference championship game. The Big Ten, known as the conservative Midwestern league, is full speed ahead on integrating Nebraska into the enlarged 12-team conference, dividing teams into two divisions, protecting rivalries and picking a site for a championship football game.
The Big Ten Conference will always be known as the Big Ten, commissioner Jim Delany said Monday, no matter the number of teams in the league.
Nearly everything else could change through expansion, divisional alignment and a conference championship game. The Big Ten, known as the conservative Midwestern league, is full speed ahead on integrating Nebraska into the enlarged 12-team conference, dividing teams into two divisions, protecting rivalries and picking a site for a championship football game.
"We'll pause, but we won't necessarily turn our back on expansion,'' Delany said Monday at the league's kickoff meetings and first of two media days. "We're not involved in any expansion initiatives at this point.''
The Big Ten already has enough on its plate. The league will take 30 to 45 days to determine two football divisions and plans for a championship football game in December 2011. Delany may propose a site for one season before determining the long-range plans for the conference title game.
Further expansion is put on the backburner while the league transitions Nebraska into the Big Ten as a full-time member in 2011-12. Delany predicted Notre Dame wouldn't be a player in future Big Ten expansion.
Delany will also push for a nine-game conference schedule within four years, a move that would help protect rivalries such as Michigan-Ohio State.
While not speaking specifically about playing the title game in a dome or outdoors, Delany said the conference doesn't have time to inspect a half-dozen sites before playing a title game in 2011. By picking a venue for the inaugural game, the conference would then have time to finalize long-range plans.
The dome in Indianapolis is a likely spot for the first Big Ten championship game.
When determining divisions, the Big Ten will use several criteria, including national championships, conference championships, BCS bowl appearances, won-loss records in conference and non-conference play, and computer rankings such as the Sagarin ratings. As a time frame, the Big Ten will go back to 1993, the year Penn State joined the league.
The first priority is competitive balance between divisions, Delany said.
"Divisions need to be as balanced as much as possibly can be made,'' Delany said. "They have to be constructed in a wise way that we do everything we can to preserve traditional rivals.''
Delany doesn't see a need to use divisions for the conference basketball season.
While Delany is in favor of a nine-game regular season, coaches weren't so enamored with the idea of a conference schedule that could have four home games and five road games.
"We may have one of our Big Ten teams, they could be one of those special teams and maybe make a run at winning the whole thing,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "Then it just so happens they've got five away (conference) games, and they end up dropping one of those that hurts them and keeps them from the national spotlight.''
Delany may need to push athletic directors on the plan while also retaining strong non-conference games that help sell the league's TV deals.
"We have to do everything we can to make sure we play each other more rather than less,'' he said.
The Big Ten was too busy with launching the Big Ten Network during the past decade to move forward with expansion until this year. When the league again considers expansion, probably within 12 months, Notre Dame isn't a likely candidate, Delany said, after comments by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbick.
"I see Notre Dame playing in the Big East for many years to come and playing as an independent for football for many years to come,'' Delany said.
NOTES: Ohio State won or shared the Big Ten title in each of the past five seasons, and the Buckeyes were chosen as the preseason favorite by a conference media poll conducted by the Big Ten. Iowa finished second in the balloting while Wisconsin was third.
The Buckeyes were 11-2 overall and 7-1 last season after defeating Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Iowa posted an 11-2 record a year ago with a 6-2 league mark, capped by a win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Wisconsin won the Champ Sports Bowl to finish 10-3, 5-3. The Big Ten only releases the top three teams in voting.
Ohio State junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Michigan State senior linebacker Greg Jones were each named preseason players of the year for the second straight season. Pryor was the offensive MVP in the Rose Bowl last season and ranks 11th in school history in total offense with 4,808 yards. A consensus All-America last season, Jones led the Big Ten with 11.8 tackles per game.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.