No Ninth Game For Big Ten

By Adam Caparell - August 02, 2007

Expansion may have been the hot-button issue at this week's Big Ten Media Days, but it wasn't the only topic of discussion that could bring about big change to the conference.

The idea of adding another conference game to the schedule is something that's been batted around the league on multiple occasions, but - just like expansion - don't expect it to happen anytime soon.

"We had extensive discussions about that in our meetings," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "We looked at nine, had good discussions about nine, but we really couldn't have nine."

The concept just won't work mathematically. One team would play eight conference games while all the others would play nine, leaving someone with a competitive advantage.

Although, there already is competitive advantage issues with the conference as each school misses two teams per season. Illinois and Indiana lucked out on the schedule this year. Both miss Michigan and Ohio State.

Delany said the coaches were unanimously opposed to the idea of adding a ninth game anyway, but they'd love to have a bye week. The Big Ten is the only conference that plays 12 straight weeks in order to finish the season before Thanksgiving - a tradition they intend to uphold.

"Coaches were unanimously opposed (to a ninth conference game), unanimously supportive of getting a bye week, but split on whether the bye week was so important to move the last game beyond Thanksgiving," Delany said.

Some have suggested moving the season a week ahead in order to provide a bye week, but the NCAA mandates that the season starts when it starts and many coaches in the league already feel the season is as long as it should be.

Ohio State coach JIm Tressel and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz both said their players would all prefer to end the season before Thanksgiving so they could go home for a long holiday.

"They all want the Thanksgiving break," Ferentz said. "I know the argument for some people from a competition standpoint is that it's better to play after Thanksgiving. I don't particularly buy that argument."

With Michigan's and Ohio State's poor performances in their bowl games last January, some have pointed to the long layoffs as reasons for their poor performances. Ohio State, for instance, had over 50 days between its regular season finale and the BCS Championship Game. But the long layoff, everyone insists, wasn't why both teams where blown away by USC and Florida respectively.

From the players perspective, many like having a bye week. It gives their bodies a week of rest, a chance to reload mentally and the opportunity to catch up on school work that's taken a back seat to football. But they also like the fact that they're guaranteed to be home for Thanksgiving.

"What's been a luxury in the Big Ten is that Thanksgiving week as being a time when (the players) could get home and set some flights if they happen to be from a distance," Tressel said. "As I listen to players talk about open weeks, they say some times us coaches work them harder than they think they ought to be worked in open weeks so they don't consider them that open."

Ohio State has had its players vote on the issue and they unanimously said they'd prefer to be home for Thanksgiving. They want the season to end the weekend before the holiday and do not want the season pushed back.

"Some schools are fairly adamant about not wanting to do it. We have some schools that are willing to do it," Delany said. "There's been discussion about moving the season forward, but the students are on campus enough to begin with and there's a sense the season already starts early."

Starting the season any earlier is not in the Big Ten's hands. The NCAA mandates when the season starts. But Delany said one option for the schools in favor of moving the season back would be to use Week 12 as a bye week. But he believes that's just a short term answer.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 01:05 PM on August 02, 2007
Comments (1)


I think that the Big Ten should keep to their tradition of being off the Thanksgiving week. If they get around to inviting someone for the 12th team, then they could play the week after Thanksgiving in the Championship game. I personally liked the kickoff classics like we had before. This weekend Aug 25th should be the kickoff classic. Why not have one of the games at ND to celebrate the new College Football Hall of Famers? What all the conference need is to have to 2 decent OOC games each year. Why not have a Big Ten - Big Twelve or ACC - SEC challenge like basketball does? Instead of being at the mercy of a Div II school for a 12th game?

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