Gophers football OK with Big Ten dropping divisions if rivalry games remain – InForum
MINNEAPOLIS — The Big Ten can stop dividing football programs into two divisions, according to an NCAA rule change on Wednesday, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers are okay with that, if there’s one thing left in a new setup. .
“Whatever we end up doing, I just hope we protect those rivalries because that’s a big part of who we are and what we are,” said the University of Minnesota athletic director, Mark Coyle, quoted by ESPN at Big Ten meetings this week.
The feeling within the Gophers football program is that this change is inevitable, and they too want the powerful rivalry games to remain intact, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has learned.
For Minnesota, of course, it starts with the battle for Paul Bunyan’s ax with Wisconsin and the battle for Floyd of Rosedale with Iowa. Gophers-Badgers is the most-played rivalry in FBS with 131 games since 1890, and both schools politicized for it to be postponed during the disrupted COVID-19 season in 2020. Gophers-Hawkeyes have played 115 times since 1891.
Minnesota also has a long-standing rivalry trophy, the Little Brown Jug, with Michigan and a more recent one, the Governor’s Victory Bell, with Penn State. The history of the jug goes back to 1903, but the bell only to 1993.
While change is underway, don’t expect all 14 Big Ten teams to be consolidated for the 2022 season.
The NCAA said this week that conferences can now select both teams for their championship game in any way they see fit. The Pac-12 moved quickly on Wednesday with a quick announcement that their title match will feature the two teams with the best records.
An ACC model seems like something the Gophers and their commitment to rivalries could support. The 14-team ACC discussed a 3-5-5 format in which a school would play three specific rivals each year and then alternate between the other 10 teams. “School A” would play five teams one season and the other five the following year.
Under the 3-5-5 format, the Gophers’ rivalry games against Wisconsin and Iowa would be slippers, but the third would be harder to decide. Michigan makes sense historically, but to face the Wolverines every year would be a constant and difficult challenge.
Two other ideas would be Purdue, where there has been beef between head coaches PJ Fleck and Jeff Brohm recently, or Nebraska, where fans have come and worked to instill their own rivalry trophy.
The Big Ten went to Divisions in 2011, with the “Legends” and “Leaders” setup. The names were not well received and were eventually scuttled and replaced with the current East-West configuration when Maryland and Rutgers joined the conference in 2014.
The Gophers have never won a division championship, finishing second in 2021, 2019 and 2014. Wisconsin leads the West with four appearances in the Big Ten title game, followed by two each for Iowa and Northwestern. .
The Western champion also never beat the Eastern champion in the Big Ten title game, going 0-8 and often getting blowouts.
SB Nation looked at what the conference title game would have looked like since 2014, if there were no splits and the top two teams advanced, given the tiebreakers. Three of the eight games in this period would have seen a second team from the East replacing the representative from the West. That means there would have been an alternate history in 37% of Big Ten title games since 2014, including last year when, theoretically, Ohio State replaced Iowa and had a rematch with Michigan.
Since taking over the Gophers program in 2017, Fleck is 15-14 in games against Western teams and 6-8 against Eastern teams. Here is his record against each team:
Penn State: 1-0
Michigan State: 0-1
Ohio State: 0-2
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