The One Way the Big Ten Could Make Mass Expansion Palatable

Iowa v Maryland
Iowa v Maryland / G Fiume/GettyImages

The Big Ten -- or B1G if you're a modernist -- appears set to expand yet again. The conference has given the go-ahead for commissioner Tony Petitti to "explore expansion" with discussions centered around Oregon and Washington. Presumably, more teams would come after that to bring the conference's total number of schools to 20. If that is, indeed, the case, there is one way the conference could make all this expansion palatable.

When fans complain about conference expansion, several issues come up repeatedly. No. 1 is the destruction of traditional rivalries and conferences that were easy to understand. The Big Ten was ostensibly a midwestern conference forever, but now has Maryland and Rutgers, and will welcome USC and UCLA next year. It's no longer the "Big Ten" and it's no longer a midwestern conference. That could be changed with a few tweaks and a lot of negotiating.

I'll be honest, I didn't think of this plan, I saw it on Twitter, but it makes complete sense. The conference should get to 20 teams, then split into two, 10-team divisions. One eastern and one western. Call the eastern division the Big Ten, then create a western division and call it the Pac-10 -- since we know the Pac-12 is all but done for, maybe the brand could survive.

Here's how the teams could line up:

Big Ten: Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers

Pac-10: Cal, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Washington, Wisconsin

The plan would then call for each division winner to get an automatic spot in the College Football Playoff, while the best non-playoff team from each division would get a berth in the Rose Bowl. That maintains the Rose Bowl tradition, while also keeping the territorial and classic rivalries mostly intact.

The new alignment could also feature marquee inter-division games every year, but would prevent the nightmare of teams having to travel across the country on a regular basis. Keep the western teams playing in the West and the eastern teams playing in the East for the most part.

I truly can't see the downside to this plan. The divisions might be a bit unbalanced towards the eastern side, but how would it be any different than the situation now?

The plan of course would only apply to football. A 20-team college basketball conference isn't as unwieldy as it would be for college football.

While the Pac-12 is falling apart due to horrendous management and ruining its brand in the process, that name (and Pac-10) does still carry weight on the West Coast. Plenty of people would be sorry to see it go. This would be a chance for a mega-conference to revive that brand and strengthen it, while keeping it under the umbrella of a power conference. Additionally, no one out West thinks of USC and UCLA as Big Ten teams. The vibe is completely wrong.

This is a solution that would satisfy most people and the conference should seriously consider it.