Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Scheduling will be a big topic this week as Big Ten athletic directors gather in Chicago. The Big Ten is taking a more active role in nonconference scheduling, outlining a format it would like all of its members to follow (no FCS games, at least one game against a major-conference foe per season), and reaching out to other league's about scheduling possibilities. "The conference is going to try to help as much as we can and coordinate and communicate to other conferences who have a desire to upgrade schedules," commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com last month.
Today's Take Two topic is: How much should the Big Ten be involved in nonconference scheduling for its member schools?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
Scheduling is certainly a tricky topic and each school has its own interests to protect, but I'm in favor of the Big Ten taking a very active role. Big Ten teams have been criticized in the past, often justifiably, for playing weak September schedules. Delany always has strongly opposed these types of games, even if he hasn't been public about it. Remember, he's the guy who spearheaded the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in basketball and put together by far the nation's toughest bowl lineup. He wants Big Ten teams to challenge themselves, but in a sport where strength of schedule hasn't mattered, he didn't have a huge reason to get involved. The College Football Playoff changes things as schedule strength will be a big part of the selection process. A strong nonconference win could make the difference between No. 4 (in the playoff) and No. 5 (out of it).
Perhaps the Big Ten doesn't need a full-fledged scheduling partnership after being burned by the Pac-12 last summer, but agreements on a smaller scale could be very beneficial. Big Ten teams still should play Pac-12 teams often in nonconference play (I realize some games already have been scheduled). The same goes for Big Ten-Big 12, Big Ten-ACC and, when possible, Big Ten-SEC. Delany, who likes partnerships, should help the Big Ten's best teams get on the biggest stages, and he should push all of the league's programs to challenge themselves more out of conference. Some might see it as meddling. I see it as helping to craft a better product for fans after too many September clunkers in recent years.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
I like that Delany has issued the challenge to league schools that they need to take on better and bigger opponents. I also love the conference office's desire to end the practice of playing FCS opponents. And if the Big Ten is going to go to a nine-game schedule that will present problems for teams in nonconference play, then the league certainly has an obligation to help those teams rearrange contracts, set up opponents, etc.
However, I think this should only go so far. Not to sound like a Tea Partier, but every school needs to have its individual right to schedule how it sees fit. Ohio State's philosophy on nonconference games isn't going to be the same as Minnesota's, for example. Some programs are aiming to be in the mix for the College Football Playoff every season, while others will have more modest goals like bowl and perhaps division contention. Once the nine-game schedule starts, teams will only be able to control who they play three times per year, and they sure as heck don't need the league office telling them who one or two of those opponents should be. A partnership with another league is not necessary and would further take decision-making away from individual teams.
The Big Ten office should act as a facilitator, helping to arrange games when a member school requests the help. It should prod its schools to play better opponents. But it should not dictate how teams decide to schedule to suit their own needs and wants.