The Big Ten announced Sunday early afternoon that their recently leaked, long desired East/West geographical divisional setup are officially set to begin with the 2014 football season. The reported nine-game conference schedule will follow there after in 2016. Per the league, the changes were unanimously recommended by the league's directors of athletics and backed by the conference's Council of Presidents/Chancellors.
"Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll."
As expected, the new divisional alignment's East division will feature Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers while Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin will comprise the West division. Each team will play the other six schools in their division plus two from the opposite in 2014 and 2015, and beginning in 2016, each will face three from the other divisions. As expected, the lone protected cross divisional matchup annually will be the all-Indiana rivalry of Indiana and Purdue.
Beginning in 2016, teams from the East will host five conference home games during even-numbered years, while teams from the West will host five conference home games during odd-numbered years. Additionally every team in the league will face every other team at least once during a four year period. The league had previously featured a nine-game conference schedule in the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
"Big Ten directors of athletics met in person or by conference call six times from December to March to discuss a new Big Ten football model," Delany said. "The level of cooperation and collaboration was reflective of what we've come to expect from this group of administrators who have worked extremely well together on a number of complex matters over the past several years. We are all looking forward to ushering in this new era of Big Ten football."
UPDATE: ESPN caught up with Jim Delany on the new divisional/scheduling configurations which added this gem:
Big Ten also will use "parity-based scheduling" for initial crossover rotations. Top teams in divisions will play more, Delany said— Rittenberg/Bennett (@ESPN_BigTen) April 28, 2013
In terms of the 9-game slate's non-conference impact on the Buckeyes, Ohio State presently has four such games scheduled in 2016 when the new format is slated to go into effect (Bowling Green, Tulsa, at Oklahoma, and Central Michigan). You have to think that Tulsa is the odd team out, with the Bucks not wanting to punt on a lucrative home-and-home non-conference with a so-called "group of five" power program and wanting to keep the in-state Falcons on the docket. It's also possible Central gets the boot (though Tulsa's been the higher caliber operation of late).