Spartans And Big Ten Future Set In Stone

The Big Ten Conference has started the ball rolling with the official announcement of the changes in the conference with Nebraska joining in 2011. So what does it mean for the Spartans? We take a look at the future of the Spartans football program.

Chicago was more than just a gathering of Big Ten coaches during the annual get together to kick off the start of another season. While media day was in full effect, member institutions of the Big Ten sat down and hammered out the course of the conferences future. Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon had the following to say about the upcoming changes.

"I want to acknowledge the hard work of Commissioner Delany, the athletic directors at the member institutions and the Big Ten office staff to develop both the Conference alignment plan, and the 2011 and 2012 football schedules. They worked tirelessly to arrive at solutions based on the core criteria of competitive equality, maintaining traditional rivalries and geography; values which I support. Their research and scenarios were extensive and exhaustive, and in the end they arrived at a plan that best positions our great conference for the future."

Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis was more to the point about the process that went into the announcement of the upcoming changes.

"You had 12 athletic directors sitting in a room and it was a process where each one of us was looking out for the best interest of our individual institutions, but also working with the best interests of the Big Ten at heart. You have to give credit to Commissioner Delany and his staff for bringing facts forward, whether it be on the traditional rivalries, geography, or competitive equality. As a result, we were able to come up with a balanced divisional breakdown.

Hollis stressed he had interest in keeping the Spartans in certain markets while also knowing changes would have to happen for the new alignment to work.

"During the meeting, there were some conversations about some issues that people felt very strongly about. There were others where we had a preference on where we wanted to go. An example of that is I wanted to keep Michigan State in Chicago, which meant a game against Northwestern. I think that's important to our University, as it is to a lot of other universities. To be able to take our fans and our team into that major market is important. We wanted to play Michigan for a divisional title; Michigan wanted to play us for a divisional title. And that gave us an opportunity to be in the same division. We looked at the Penn State game, one that's important to both of us, but there were some things each school had to give up in order to receive some other benefits."

In the end, Hollis came away feeling the Spartans future looks bright and the chance to play for a divisional title will help bring more top players to the conference.

"As an AD, you start to get anxious, thinking you have a tough schedule. But then you look at everyone's schedule and realize they're all difficult. From a recruiting perspective, it's a benefit to all of our programs. You want to see those big match-up games. Every week as you go through the schedule, you're going to see a big rivalry game; you're going to see a national game. It's going to create a lot of excitement leading up to the last few weeks of the season, as teams are jockeying for divisional titles. It's the kind of league that kids want to play in – you want to play in those big games."

In the end, the final product will be decided on the field and by fans of the Big Ten. For Spartan fans, the release of the 2011 and 2012 schedules gives them some clues into the future.

Here are the schedules for the next two seasons for the Spartans.

2011

Sept. 3 YOUNGSTOWN STATE

Sept. 10 FLORIDA ATLANTIC

Sept. 17 at Notre Dame

Sept. 24 CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Oct. 1 at Ohio State

Oct. 15 MICHIGAN

Oct. 22 WISCONSIN

Oct. 29 at Nebraska

Nov. 5 MINNESOTA

Nov. 12 at Iowa

Nov. 19 INDIANA

Nov. 26 at Northwestern

2012

Sept. 1 HOME GAME TBD

Sept. 8 at Central Michigan

Sept. 15 NOTRE DAME

Sept. 22 EASTERN MICHIGAN

Sept. 29 OHIO STATE

Oct. 6 at Indiana

Oct. 13 IOWA

Oct. 20 at Michigan

Oct. 27 at Wisconsin

Nov. 3 NEBRASKA

Nov. 17 NORTHWESTERN

Nov. 24 at Minnesota

Big Ten alignment is now official and in 2011 the Spartans will have a chance to battle for a spot in the conferences first championship game to be played on December 3, 2011, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany stressed there was no way to satisfy everyone in the conference.

"Over the past several months, Big Ten staff and directors of athletics have met on several occasions to discuss and finalize division alignments. We focused on competitive equality, traditional rivalries and geography. We considered multiple models and countless permutations in an effort to achieve the most competitively balanced divisions while at the same time respecting our traditions, preserving existing rivalries, and creating opportunities for the establishment and growth of new rivalries. We have listened to the feedback from our institutions, alumni and fans, and while we understand that no final alignments could possibly satisfy all of our constituents, we believe that we have achieved a very exciting result."

While the next two seasons are set, there is still talk of the rivalry game with Michigan State – Michigan being moved to the end of the season. At this time, the conference has stayed with Ohio State and Michigan playing on the final weekend of the season. At some point, you would have to think this would change as both teams could also play in the conference championship.


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