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April 28, 2013

Big Ten announces nine-game schedule for 2016

Since the Big Ten announced the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, there has been plenty of talk about the makeup of the conference once the two newest members join the fold in 2014.

Sunday, the conference announced its plans for the future. Starting in 2016, Big Ten teams will play nine conference games: six against fellow divisional teams and three cross-overs from the other division.

The 2014 and '15 seasons will be provisionary transition years, in which teams will continue to play eight conference foes and get a lay of the new Big Ten land.

The divisions, which have already been leaked, will be named East Division (Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and West Division (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin).

Almost every traditional rivalry (including Michigan's rivalries with Ohio State and Michigan State) will be protected within divisional play.

Indiana and Purdue, who played for the Old Oaken Bucket every year, have been split up. But the Big Ten announced the two will continue to play annually as the lone protected crossover matchup.

For every other team, crossover games will rotate.

"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," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a press release. "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."

The Big Ten also decided how to deal with the uneven nature of having nine conference games every season. Starting in 2016, East Division teams will host five home games (and play four away games) in conference play during even-numbered years.

During odd-numbered years, West Division teams will play five conference home games.

"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."

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