EVANSTON, Ill. -- The Big Ten Conference office announced today (Sept. 1) football division alignments beginning with the 2011 season as recommended by conference directors of athletics and reviewed and supported by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors. Nebraska will officially begin conference competition in 2011, giving the Big Ten 12 football programs for the first time in conference history.
The winner of each Big Ten division will meet in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game, to be played December 3, 2011, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The championship game will determine the Big Ten Champion and the conference's participant in the Rose Bowl Game or Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.
The Big Ten football division alignments will include a division featuring Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin, and a division featuring Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern. Each school will play the other five schools within its division and will also face three teams from the other division, including one cross-division matchup guaranteed on an annual basis. The guaranteed cross-division matchups are Illinois-Northwestern, Indiana-Michigan State, Ohio State-Michigan, Penn State-Nebraska, Purdue-Iowa and Wisconsin-Minnesota. Names for each Big Ten football division will be announced at a later date.
"Over the past several months, Big Ten staff and directors of athletics have met on several occasions to discuss and finalize division alignments," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "We focused on competitive equality, traditional rivalries and geography. We considered multiple models and countless permutations in an effort to achieve the most competitively balanced divisions while at the same time respecting our traditions, preserving existing rivalries, and creating opportunities for the establishment and growth of new rivalries. We have listened to the feedback from our institutions, alumni and fans, and while we understand that no final alignments could possibly satisfy all of our constituents, we believe that we have achieved a very exciting result."
Quotes from Northwestern Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald and Quarterback Dan Persa on the Big Ten Division Alignment
"The Big Ten has done a great job of creating two competitive divisions that will feature entertaining football. I'm excited that we can maintain our Land of Lincoln trophy game against the Fighting Illini. That's a rivalry that both schools really look forward to, and be able to have that game as our protected rivalry is something that we'll look forward to each year.
The new division allows for new opportunities and a new school to compete and challenge for the Big Ten championship. As we look at the division we're in, it's going to be extremely hard, and extremely difficult. But at the same time, it's difficult on both sides, so the competitive balance is there. It gives everyone an opportunity in Big Ten country to think they can go out and compete for a championship.
I'm very appreciative to our athletic directors, and especially Commissioner Delany, for their leadership and for the sought-out approach. I'm looking forward to this new chapter in Big Ten football history."
"This is exciting for all Big Ten fans. The Big Ten did a great job creating balance in both divisions from top to bottom. I think I can speak for everyone in the locker room but we're excited to maintain our rivalry with Illinois and add a Big Ten conference championship game."
Northwestern's 2011-12 Conference Schedules
Oct. 1 at Illinois
Oct. 8 vs. Michigan
Oct. 15 at Iowa
Oct. 22 vs. Penn State
Oct. 29 at Indiana
Nov. 5 at Nebraska
Nov. 12 Open Date
Nov. 19 vs. Minnesota
Nov. 26 vs. Michigan State
Sept. 29 vs. Indiana
Oct. 6 at Penn State
Oct. 13 at Minnesota
Oct. 20 vs. Nebraska
Oct. 27 vs. Iowa
Nov. 3 Open Date
Nov. 10 at Michigan
Nov. 17 at Michigan State
Nov. 24 vs. Illinois