Two major football scheduling issues are expected to be on the table next week when officials from the Big Ten Conference and member athletic directors meet in Chicago.
University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said he expects there will be a vote about the number of Big Ten games — continue playing eight conference opponents or expand to nine — as well as a discussion about aligning with another major conference for non-conference scheduling purposes.
Alvarez is a proponent of staying at eight games because nine would mean playing five Big Ten games on the road every other season.
"Five (road games) and four (home games) could really make a heck of a difference" in the championship race, he said.
During a recent conference call between Big Ten ADs, Alvarez said there was one voice for a 10-game conference football schedule, but Alvarez doesn't think that will be part of the discussion this time around.
"There are some guys who feel very strongly about nine and some feel very strongly about eight," he said.
It was announced last week that a planned scheduling agreement between the Big Ten and the Pac-12 Conference, to begin in 2017, has been scrapped in part because the Pac-12 plays a nine-game football schedule.
Some Pac-12 members took issue with the idea of adding another Bowl Championship Series opponent to the schedule, believing the degree of difficulty is high enough already.
"It didn't surprise me," Alvarez said of the crumbled alliance, "because I could see the point a couple schools were making."
Alvarez said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has reached out to officials from the Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences with the idea of finding a new scheduling partner. Big Ten athletic directors and football coaches could give Delany the go-ahead for such a commitment when they meet in Chicago.
"I'd be all in favor if we could set up some type of agreement," Alvarez said. "I'd love to do that."
The ongoing saga at Penn State will likely be another topic of conversation during the two-day Big Ten football media get-together, but Alvarez declined to address any of the prime particulars.
What happens if the NCAA administers the "death penalty" to Penn State in wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case and subsequent investigative report that suggested a cover-up by Penn State officials?
Does the Big Ten have a contingency plan for football scheduling if the Nittany Lions are removed for a season or more?
What about the statue of Joe Paterno, the late football coach whose role in the apparent cover-up appears prominent? Should it be removed?
Alvarez said the issues of the case will be handled by Delany and Big Ten presidents and chancellors, and won't involve athletic directors.
"As I see it, it appears that the NCAA and our league are sitting there waiting for Penn State to step forward and say, 'This is how we've corrected our situation and this is how we'll move forward,' " Alvarez said.