The Big Ten Conference meetings concluded this week in Chicago with no resolution on the possibility of a nine-game conference schedule.
While there is a definite split on the issue among the athletic directors (who favor it) and the coaches (who oppose it), it also seems clear the ADs will have the final say on the matter.
In comments to reporters after the meetings, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the biggest obstacle to approving a nine-game conference schedule is making sure Big Ten teams are still able to have at least seven home games per season.
"The onus is back on us," Delany said of his staff. "We've got some scheduling information in the out years. We've got to be able to put that together in a way so all 12 athletic directors, they can get seven [home] games."
Because schedules are worked on so far in advance, the earliest the nine-game conference schedule would likely begin is 2017 at the earliest.
During an interview with WTSO (1070 am) Thursday morning, University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema expressed concerns about scheduling tough non-conference opponents if the nine-game conference schedule ultimately goes through.
Bielema noted the Badgers play home-and-home series against Oregon State the next two seasons, as well as future home-and-home dates with Washington (2017 and 2018) and Virginia Tech (2016 and 2017). He said those types of games would be threatened by a nine-game conference schedule.
"It would be very difficult to keep that type of scheduling around in conjunction with playing a nine-game schedule, especially if five of your games in the Big Ten were going to be on the road," Bielema said. "There are a lot of things to look at and there was some interesting debate."
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez has previously stated his preference for playing nine conference games and thinks that could help beef up teams' schedules in the long run.
"I'd like to eventually go to nine," he said recently. "I just think, as prices continue to rise (guarantees given to schedule non-conference home games), it just strengthens the schedule and makes it a little easier for our scheduling. Not that easy (opponents) is good, I'd like a little more competition. I'd like to play another game in the league."