LAFAYETTE WEST – The NCAA on Wednesday approved two significant changes, including eliminating divisional requirements for conferences to decide who attends championship games.
The Division I Board also voted to eliminate the number of players a football program can recruit into a new recruiting class over the next two college years.
The Big Ten will likely eliminate divisions at some point, but not in the immediate future.
Following Wednesday’s announcement, the Pac-12 issued a statement stating that the league has abolished the divisional format starting the upcoming season. The top two teams will play for the Pac-12 title based on conference records.
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The Big Ten aren’t ready to go that fast. Expect the conference to stick with its East-West split format in the near term and wait to see the College Football Playoff structure, which will remain four-team through the end of the 2025 season.
Divisional elimination is an annual discussion among Big Ten athletic directors, but the topic was not on the agenda of recent conference meetings last weekend in Chicago, the athletic director of Purdue, Mike Bobinski, earlier this week.
“There are a lot of different models that you will have to consider and evaluate because you might want to plan for the future – how many opponents do you protect each year? What is the rotation in the rest of the teams?” Bobinski said during an interview in February.
The Atlantic Coast Conference aims to eliminate divisions and adopt a 3-5-5 scheduling format – three permanent games and a rotation of five schools every two years. The dumping splits would allow for home matchups with every conference opponent in a four-year cycle.
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Can the Big Ten achieve this kind of balance in a league of 14 teams playing nine league games and how many rivalries need to be protected if the divisions are eliminated? The Purdue-Indiana game isn’t going away, like in Michigan and Ohio State. Other trophy games would remain, but some would not be played every season.
It’s no secret that the Big Ten East drives both divisions and the top two teams usually come from that side of the conference.
If the league did away with divisions, it’s not impossible to see a scenario where Ohio State and Michigan could play for consecutive weeks. The teams currently face off on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the Big Ten championship game is next weekend.
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Would a rematch in another week be good for the league and television? What if it happened several years in a row?
From Purdue’s perspective, eliminating the divisions would make it harder to get into the championship game. Playing out West, the Boilermakers know the six opponents they will face each season, as well as the year-end game against Indiana.
After five seasons under Jeff Brohm, the program is in a better position to challenge for the Western title, but still has a lot of work to do to reach the top spot, as evidenced by the combined 1-8 record against Wisconsin and Minnesota. Brohm, however, is 4-1 against Iowa and 13-7 against unnamed Western teams Wisconsin and Minnesota.
With no splits, the unfolding of the calendar — other than protective rivalries — would play a role if Purdue were to top the leaderboard. Ultimately, the Big Ten usually decides what’s best for the league, not individual schools.
The NCAA Division I board also approved a measure that removed the cap on recruiting no more than 25 players in a recruiting class. The number was increased to 32 in October to deal with transfer portal issues, but now a program can sign as many players as they want in a single class, but cannot exceed 85 total scholarships on the listing.
Mike Carmine covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @carmin_jc