Big Ten ADs form scheduling 'co-op'

CHICAGO -- The Big Ten office has pledged to take a more active role in scheduling as it wants member schools challenging themselves more in nonconference play.

Schools are also helping each other at the spring meetings. Athletic directors swapped scheduling notes Tuesday as they all try to shape their nonconference structure for the future, particularly after the Big Ten goes to nine league games per season in 2016.

"We collaborate a lot," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. "If we're looking for a game, does somebody know about one? Let's say somebody had a team on their schedule, but for whatever reason, they needed to move the game. Maybe you call Purdue and say, 'Hey, I've got X. You looking for a game?' And maybe you trade-off.

"It's kind of a co-op. We work together and try to help each other schedule."

Each school has a unique scheduling philosophy, although there are similarities, like the need of most Big Ten members to have at least seven home games per season. Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke on Tuesday reiterated that the seventh home football game provides the margin for the budget to stay in the black without significantly hiking ticket prices.

The fortunate thing for Big Ten fans is that schools are recognizing the value of more appealing nonconference games, whether it's for the gate, TV or to impress the College Football Selection committee.

"Football can be pretty boring in September if you've got all your teams playing down to competition," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "It's boring for the fans at the stadium and it's boring on television. We don't want to be boring, so we want to strengthen the schedule."

It can be a very tricky process with dates, contracts and rivalries. That's why it helps for the ADs to collaborate as much as they can.

"We're using [the spring meetings] as a sounding board to throw some things out there," Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez said. "So if it doesn't fit you, it might fit someone else."