The BIG Ten is looking to become the first Super Conference in America for football. North Carolina and Virginia reportedly have received invitations to join the conference in all sports.
The additions of Virginia and North Carolina would give the league 16 members. The Leaders and Legends divisions would expand to 8 teams apiece. Realignment will most likely happen. As it stands now the BIG Ten has Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin in the Leaders division and Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern in the Legends division. With already adding Rutgers and Maryland and talks of adding Virginia and North Carolina this would give the BIG Ten four east coast teams. These teams would fit well together in one division and keep alive the UNC/Maryland rivalry, along with being geographically beneficial.
With these four teams the other four that make sense to be in the same division would be Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. As geographically perfect as putting these 8 teams together the Big Ten will never put Ohio State and Michigan in the same division. These two teams are the BIG Ten, and the cash cows. Putting them in opposite divisions gives the BIG Ten a chance to get “The Game” twice in a season. On top of getting “The Game” twice it aids in getting both Ohio State and Michigan in the new NCAA football four-team playoff system.
Most likely the BIG Ten would include Indiana in the new Leaders division and leave Michigan in the Legends division. With this theory you would have Rutgers, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Indiana in the Leaders division and Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa in the Legends division. This leaves most natural rivalries, and is optimal for the BCS.
Then there is the basketball aspect of North Carolina joining. Adding UNC puts Big Ten basketball even if not ahead of the ACC and any other conference in America. The Tar Heels bring 2083 wins, 108 tournament wins, 18 Final Fours, and 5 National Championships with them. There will be those that will complain about losing the Duke/UNC rivalry. There is one simple answer to this gripe, the BIG Ten/ACC Challenge, the other is UNC can negotiate the rivalry into their contract. The BIG Ten should have no issue will allowing UNC to keep the Tobacco Road rivalry alive.
There is still a lot that needs to happen before this merger happens. The BIG Ten is itching to make a splash and top the SEC. Landing North Carolina and Virginia to make a Super Conference would be that splash. Neither is a huge football power, yet they each are competitive and can make a run on some random season. The addition puts the BIG Ten in the SEC backyard. Helps them in recruiting, and image in the south. Joining the BIG Ten helps Virginia and North Carolina in recruiting. They can sell playing Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin on a regular basis. This move by Jim Delaney and the BIG Ten committee is strategic and opportunistic. A Super Conference is the next step in collegiate evolution, and the BIG Ten seems on the verge of history. By Steve Kish