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Big Ten announces switch to East and West divisions

PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AP) -- No more "Legends.'' And no more "Leaders.''

The Big Ten is giving them the boot and following a more conventional route for its division names.

The conference is going with "East'' and "West'' instead and switching to a nine-game scheduling format after presidents and chancellors approved the moves on Sunday.

The new division alignments will begin in 2014 when Rutgers and Maryland join the conference, meaning "Legends'' and "Leaders'' will be a thing of the past. That will probably come as good news for fans who have criticized those names ever since the league unveiled them in 2010. To many, they were confusing and didn't help identify where teams play, but that won't be an issue any more.

Besides the new division alignment, teams will go from playing eight conference games to nine in 2016.

"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,'' commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. "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.''

Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers will be in the East division. The West will consist of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Schools will play six division games plus two against teams from the other division in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, they'll play three cross-division games.

Indiana and Purdue will meet on an annual basis. But Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said each school had to make compromises.

"Fourteen athletic directors came to the table with different objectives and our goal was to compromise to the point that we could move together with one plan,'' he said. "Each of us had things that were extremely important and things on our wish list. I wanted us to play Michigan State and Ohio State every year and for the Michigan-Ohio State game to be the last one ever year. I'm pleased we're going to be able to do those three things.

"But it's not a perfect setup because no school got everything they wanted.''

East division teams will host five conference games during even-numbered years starting in 2016, with West teams hosting five in odd-numbered seasons. Under that format, teams will be guaranteed to play each other at least once every four years, and in a statement, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman called that "an important feature.''

He also praised the changes, saying they are "the best option'' and "will serve us well.''

Brandon said a 10-game format was "carefully considered to even out the home-and-away problem,'' but that would have hindered nonconference scheduling.

"If you take away another nonconference game, it would have a detrimental impact financially for everybody in the conference, and we would've taken the biggest hit because we have the largest stadium,'' he said.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini praised the division alignment and the nine-game format.

"Geography seems to be a logical way to determine the divisions, and it should allow for easier travel for our fans,'' he said in a statement. "The nine-game conference schedule will help improve the strength of schedules across the board in the Big Ten, and I think everyone anticipates strength of schedule being a key component for choosing teams to participate in the new playoff system.''

Delany said athletic directors met in person or talked on conference calls six times from December to March to discuss the changes.

"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,'' he said. "We are all looking forward to ushering in this new era of Big Ten football.''

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