Big Ten sees many changes

Farewell, Legends and Leaders. Hello, East and West.

For all the good the Big Ten office has done – especially the Big Ten Network (which of course, I still can’t get on our cable) and expansion, first adding Nebraska (a plum pickup), then Maryland and Rutgers (two savvy business decisions) starting next fall – it has taken such grief for two years now for naming its football divisions Legends and Leaders, something that not many people understood why then or even now.

But rejoice, for along with the news late last week of division realignment for the 2014 season on a strictly east-west basis, came the new division names – East and West. I mean, what a brilliant idea! How novel, or cutting edge, can you get?

OK, I only jest. I guess, though, that simplicity was the best option after all the confusion of the last two years.

However, I am happy that the Big Ten did dispose of the Legends and Leaders tags. The bigger news nevertheless was obviously a second reshuffling in just the last three years of the conference’s football divisions – first for 12 teams and now for 14.

The split before was a nonsensical one with Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Purdue in the Leaders, and the Legends made up of Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan (in no particular order, just always like to see the Wolverines coming in last).

This time around, the breakdown will be purely geographical, with the east-west dividing line right down through the middle of the state of Indiana on a diagonal from northeast to southwest, splitting up Purdue to the west and Indiana University to the east.

The Hoosiers’ East Division compatriots will be OSU, Penn State, newcomers Rutgers and Maryland as well as Michigan State and (you probably guessed it by now) Michigan, while joining the Boilermakers in the West will be Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

”Just take a ruler and a map, and split the 14 teams,” noted someone on thedailygopher.com website.

I do though like OSU, Michigan, MSU and Penn State all being in the same division; it should make things both more interesting and competitive. In addition, although Indiana is down right now and Maryland has had only two winning seasons in the past six years in going 31-44, Rutgers has been no slouch with a 65-37 mark and seven bowl games in the last eight years,

Meanwhile, favorites in the new West configuration would have to be Wisconsin and Nebraska with quickly up-and-coming challenger Northwestern next, Iowa a rugged foe for anyone, Purdue always a threat, and Minnesota and Illinois looming in the rear.

Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at shemmelgarn@newsandsentinel.com