The conference will re-divide its teams into East and West divisions beginning in 2014. Northwestern will be included in the West, along with Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin. The realignment also includes the move towards a nine-game conference schedule by 2016.
"We thought the geography was a good way to bind the conference together," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. "We also wanted to preserve as much tradition as we could, and we do that through the protection of the rivalries. Everybody will play everybody at least once in a four-year cycle, even though it's a bigger conference."
NU President Morton Schapiro said at an on-campus address this week that the school fought to be placed in the West division, as the Daily Northwestern wrote on Sunday. Schapiro said NU is "proud to be Midwestern." With Purdue being the only exception, the schools were split across the Eastern and Central time zones.
The nine-game conference schedule makes the prospect of an undefeated slate–and berth in the eventual four team College Football Playoff–even more daunting. Still, it likely adds to regular season excitement, and reduces the frequency of non-conference mismatches.
With Rutgers and Maryland set to join the conference and another stretch of realignment set to be implemented, there's never a dull moment in the Big Ten.