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Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany: Conference is Discussing Getting Rid of Divisions

The Big Ten commissioner said on Wednesday that conference leaders have discussed making changes to the Big Ten championship game so that it features the two best teams and not division winners.

After missing out on the College Football Playoff for the second year in a row, the Big Ten is discussing the possibility of doing away with the conference's East and West divisions, commissioner Jim Delany said on Wednesday.

According to Delany, Big Ten decision makers have had conversations about making changes to the Big Ten championship game so that it would feature the two best teams and not the division winners. 

"It's an item that has been discussed before," Delany said at the Sports Business Journal Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York. "There is actually more discussion now than there was four years ago."

As it stands, the Big Ten's balance of power lies in the East Division, where Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State have won six of eight title games. The conference champion has come from the East Division every year since the Big Ten was realigned five seasons ago.

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The lack of balance in divisions has recently impacted the conference on a national level. For the third consecutive year, the Big Ten champion does not have a spot in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State defeated West Division champion Northwestern 45–24 in the Big Ten title game but was unable to earn a top four spot in the season-ending rankings, finishing at No. 6 with a 12–1 record.

Had the two best teams in the Big Ten faced off in the conference championship, Ohio State would have played in a rematch with No. 7 Michigan, who, like the Buckeyes, was 8–1 in the conference. A second win over the Wolverines may have propelled the Buckeyes into the top four over No. 4 Oklahoma, who earned a Big 12 title with a win over the No. 15 Longhorns.

Delany also addressed discussions surrounding the Big Ten's decision to play nine conference games compared to the SEC's and ACC's eight. 

"[The playoff] doesn't define us," Delany said. "I'm going to be disciplined about it. I know the quality of our football. I know our players, I know the coaches, I know the competition. What we created in our structure is not exclusively for the CFP. It's for the season-ticket holder, it's for the players, it's for our institutions to build a conference. That's why they play nine. If we wanted to get in and that was the holy grail, the No. 1 objective, maybe we would be at eight. Maybe we would be playing [more FCS opponents]. But that's not the only objective."

Ohio State will play in New Year's Day's Rose Bowl Game against No. 9 Washington. Michigan takes on No. 10 Florida on Dec. 29 in the Peach Bowl.