The signals were on the horizon and now they appear to be true -- the Big Ten is set to adopt a nine-game conference schedule, according to a report from CBSSports.com. Conference presidents and chancellors will vote and likely approve the measure as early as next week, and the nine-game schedule would go into effect for the 2016 season.
That timeline would allow Maryland and Rutgers to spend two years acclimating to the Big Ten after joining in 2014, and it also leaves more time for schools to set their non-conference schedules. The conference is also likely to vote on a divisional alignment next week, one that ESPN.com reported last month is likely to geographically oriented.
The optimism in the vote passing comes from one of the conference's most authoritative voices, Wisconsin Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. In speaking with CBSSports.com, Alvarez said he views the vote as a formality. It could come as early as next week, or early May at the latest. The Big Ten spring meetings are May 13 to 15 in Chicago.
"To improve our league football-wise, we all agree as directors and driven by our commissioner (Jim Delany) that our non-conference schedule has to get better," Alvarez said. "[Delany] is going to the table to re-negotiate TV contracts and we have to improve that inventory. Our non-conference schedule is not strong at all."
On that note, Wisconsin has already adopted a philosophy the rest of the Big Ten will likely take on before long -- no longer scheduling FCS schools as part of non-conference play. Alvarez said the Badgers will play one or two BCS schools in non-conference play, in addition to a smaller-conference school, perhaps from the MAC.
Wisconsin took yet another step in that direction earlier Friday, as it announced a home-and-home series with South Florida. USF will come to Madison on Sept. 27, 2014, while the Badgers will travel to Tampa on Sept. 16, 2017.