Delany talks title game; no name change

CHICAGO -- Future Big Ten football will have two divisions, a conference championship game and its teams probably will play nine-game conference schedules.

But the newly expanded league will still be called the Big Ten -- even though it will have at least 12 members -- and Notre Dame won't be a part of it.

Those were the messages Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany delivered Monday at his league's Kickoff 2010 news conference.

Since adding Nebraska as its 12th member earlier this summer, Delany has been tight-lipped about the future of his conference.

But on Monday, he began to reveal some of the changes that are coming:

  • Delany said he anticipates the first Big Ten championship game being played at the end of the 2011 regular season. He still isn't sure where the game will be played, and even said the league might sign a one-year contract with a venue this fall and then visit multiple sites next spring to find a permanent home.

  • Delany said the league's 12 teams would be split into two six-team divisions within the next 30 to 45 days. The divisions would go in effect in 2011, when the Cornhuskers join the league. He said league officials were examining several criteria as to how to divide the teams, from geography to on-field success to making sure long-standing rivalries are kept in place.

  • Delany said the Big Ten might play a nine-game league schedule, maybe as early as 2012 or at least within four years. He said adding an additional conference game would improve its teams' schedule strength and would make its games more attractive to TV networks.

  • Delany said the Big Ten would remain the Big Ten, even if the league decides to add more teams in the future. "The Big Ten is the Big Ten regardless of the number," Delany said.

  • Delany said the league wasn't currently exploring future expansion, and probably wouldn't address the issue again until its university presidents meet in December. The Big Ten could stop at 12 teams or explore the possibility of adding two or four more teams. Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who has long been a proponent of Big Ten expansion, said he hoped the league would add schools from the East Coast if it decides to further expand.

  • If the Big Ten adds more schools, Delany doesn't believe Notre Dame will be one of them. Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick has consistently said his school prefers to keep its independence in football. "I think Jack Swarbrick has been consistent from the beginning," Delany said. "I see Notre Dame playing in the Big East [in basketball and other sports] for many years to come and I see Notre Dame playing as an independent [in football] for many years to come."