Tate: Big Ten football could use schedule boost

Tate: Big Ten football could use schedule boost

The Big Ten is moving quietly into a nine-game conference football schedule, and it’s a huge deal.

Realistically, it decreases the chances for teams like Illinois and Minnesota to reach the postseason. Illinois went 4-0 in nonconference play in 2011 and 3-1 in 2014, and both those teams qualified for bowl games with 6-6 overall records.

Every Big Ten team now faces one additional pressurized game.

Compare that with the Southeastern Conference. The SEC not only has better talent but the superior schedule-makers. League members play eight conference games.

And take note: Whereas Illinois has generally kept nonconference games in September — all Big Ten teams except Michigan State play their non-league foes in the first three games this year — Alabama mixes them in.

Nick Saban’s national champions open against Southern Cal as the highlight of an extraordinary Sept. 3 slate, then have it carefully chalked out after that.

Alabama surrounds Ole Miss with Western Kentucky and Kent State, is idle Oct. 29 prior to the showdown with LSU and plays Chattanooga before the finale with Auburn. Nor does Saban have to face two of the top teams in the SEC East, Florida and Georgia.

LSU is also off prior to the Alabama clash, and plays South Alabama before the finale with Texas A&M. Georgia tunes up for its 12th game against arch-rival Georgia Tech by playing Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 19.

As noted, the southerners have the best teams and are the smartest when it comes inserting weak teams, wherever possible, ahead of big-rivalry showdowns.

Coming and going?
Ever since Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby expressed seriousness about expansion, teams outside the Power 5 have been lining up like in the Oklahoma land rush of 1893.

Money does it every time.

The Big 12, with just 10 members, has been in a quandary since Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M left. Failures to place a team in the four-team football playoff have impacted the thinking.

As an independent, BYU is an obvious choice. Boise State and Colorado State are pushing. So is Houston, a likely fifth member from Texas.

And imagine the embarrassment for AAC Commissioner Michael Aresco when Houston is just one of the conference members petitioning to leave. Other AAC programs demonstrating clear interest in the Big 12 are Cincinnati, Memphis, Central Florida, East Carolina, SMU and, yes, Navy.

That’s practically the entire conference. And if two or three leave, watch the dominoes fall again.  

The media rights income of the Power 5 conferences is setting them apart.

Latest example: Utah had an athletic budget of $29.7 million as a member of the Mountain West, and five years later it is $72.2 million with the help of Pac-12 distributions and prestige.

Hacking away
Without comparing Chris Correa’s sentence to that of anyone else, isn’t the UI graduate’s jail term too severe?

Forty-six months! Nearly four years.

The St. Louis Cardinals face more sanctions and penalties for accessing the player evaluations of the Houston Astros, and Correa was the scouting director who did the trespassing. He deserved to lose his job, pay a fine and perhaps serve some form of detention.

But isn’t 46 months off the charts for hacking? The 35-year-old stole mostly minor league information, right? In the realm of cyberspace theft, haven’t we seen others, even public officials (no names, OK?), do far worse and receive lighter or no sentences?

Best advice: Avoid federal court. The sentencing guidelines don’t leave much margin.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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Moonpie wrote on August 02, 2016 at 9:08 am

Ah, I see--translation: The hand-wringing and moaning is because the Ancient Scribe demands one more doormat team (schedule padding) for the Illini to trounce (if they are lucky) on the way to pretending that six wins and an appearance in the Terlet Bowl is a good season.

jjohnson wrote on August 02, 2016 at 1:08 pm

I seldom agree with Moonpie, but as a long-time season ticket holder, I do this time. Blow-out wins against non-competitive teams are fun, but one a year is plenty. If we wanted to watch practice scrimma103ges, we would not have to pay for expensive tickets.