Big news breaking today. Pull quote from the USA Today story:
The Big Ten and Pacific-12 are extending their partnership well beyond the Rose Bowl, announcing Wednesday that they'll step up interconference scheduling, cross-promote on their respective television networks and even set up academic and cultural exchanges.
By 2017, each team's nonconference football schedule will include one game against a team from the other league. One could be featured annually as a preseason kickoff event, perhaps staged at the Rose Bowl. Others could be played in neighboring NFLstadiums, including the planned Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles, the San Francisco 49ers' new facility or Chicago's Soldier Field.
Basketball games similarly could land in such NBA arenas as Los Angeles' Staples Center or Chicago's United Center, four teams sometimes gathering for doubleheaders.
Many sports, including men's and women's basketball, are expected to start bumping up interconference scheduling as soon as 2012-13. Football's schedules typically are built years in advance and would require a ramp-up to 2017.
Analysis after the jump...
First, football, which is 90% of the story: this was something the Big Ten needed to do, because in the last few years Big Ten teams have largely played embarrassingly soft non-conference schedules and it's caused the month before conference play starts to be extremely boring. Although it will take a few years before these games start being played, all the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 games will become one of the biggest story lines of September in college football. The ACC/Big Ten challenge in basketball is currently one of the marquee events of the non-conference season, and these football games will likely generate the same type of national interest.
But while these games will undoubtedly increase the Big Ten's (and by extension, Northwestern's) exposure in September, it may unwittingly do damage in December and January, especially to the historically weaker Big Ten programs like Northwestern's. Under the current bowl system, all you need to do is win six games, and you're bowl eligible. The bowls don't care about strength of schedule or quality of win: they'll take any Big Ten team available. Adding what essentially amounts to another conference game to the schedule will make it harder for Big Ten teams to reach six wins, especially considering the Big Ten currently plans to go to 9 conference games in 2017 (although Delany has said the conference will rethink that). You certainly won't see 10 Big Ten teams bowl eligible in 2017 if everyone in the conference has to play a minimum of 10 games against BCS opposition.
In basketball, this is unquestionably a good thing for Northwestern, as NU's schedule could always use an RPI boost. Even though the Pac-12 is way down this year, it still has a lot of schools with strong basketball traditions, and even in down years a Pac-12 team will help out the computer numbers more than a SWAC team. And that doesn't even consider all the Northwestern connections currently in the Pac-12: I'm eagerly anticipating Craig Robinson and Oregon State or Kevin O'Neill and USC coming to Welsh-Ryan.