|Gene Smith, pictured at right with Michigan AD Dave Brandon, believes the two schools will share a division. (US Presswire)|
When Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten, the conference will realign its divisions. Many athletic directors around the conference have stated their preference or best guess on how the divisions should be split.
Whether there is a true geographical split is yet to be determined, but Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the Big Ten Network that there is a "strong likelihood" that the Buckeyes will share a division with Michigan.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines have maintained their historic rivalry on the field, but neither team has won the Legends or Leaders Division outright since the conference expanded to 12 teams and added a championship game. With the conference expanding and likely taking on a geographically focused division split, leaving the schools separated seemed nonsensical to many.
Allowing the Buckeyes and Wolverines to compete against five other schools for just one spot in the Big Ten Championship Game actually raises the stakes of the annual late-season meeting between the two schools. With Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer building on strong starts and leading the conference on the recruiting trail, both teams expect to be in contention for a division title on an annual basis.
According to the Big Ten Network's Mike Hall, Gene Smith has "no clue" on the status of renaming the two divisions. I, for one, would be shocked to see Legends and Leaders remain as the division names. Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner suggested last month that the first alignment was done with competitive balance in mind. With many programs in flux and the membership expanding, the discussion will likely have a different tone this time around.
The addition of Rutgers and Maryland establishes a new East Coast presence, and it appears that a logical East-West split could inspire the decision when the athletic directors meet in the coming months.
A full interview with Hall and Smith will air Monday night on the Big Ten Network.
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