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February 12, 2013

Big Ten to play nine or 10 conference games

With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, the Big Ten will play nine or 10 conference football games the league announced Monday. The league will make a final decision this spring, but has definitively taken eight conference contests, the norm since 1985, off the table.

"The thinking is we like to play each other, and those are not hollow words," Commissioner Jim Delany told the Chicago Tribune. "We are getting larger, and we want to bind the conference together."

A nine-game conference slate will create an imbalance in scheduling, with teams rotating between five and four home games every other year. The Big Ten adopted this model from 1981-84 when there were only 10 teams in the league. Michigan went 8-1 in both 1982 and 1983, capturing the conference crown in 1982 (the Wolverines finished second the following season).

"As the conference expands, it would be unfortunate if a student-athlete came to the University of Michigan, played in the Big Ten Conference for four years and never even got to play or compete against one of the schools in the conference," U-M athletics director David Brandon said in an interview with ESPN.com. "That doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

The current eight-game slate creates 48 intra-conference contests each year. A nine-game schedule would foster 63 games and a 10-game schedule would increase that total to 70.

The league is also considering proposals to allow more night games in November, a request made to increase the visibility of the conference and contend with the night games featured in the SEC, Big 12, ACC and Pac 12.

Additionally, the league will decide this spring on divisional realignment, favoring a geographical split that takes into account competitive balance.

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