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April 28, 2013

Boilers realign West

Purdue is headed west.

And, like the rest of their Big Ten brethren, the Boilermakers will soon be playing a nine-game league schedule.

Sunday, the Big Ten office announced new football division alignments - and the elimination of the Leaders/Legends Divisions - plus the addition of a league. The new East/West Division alignment will start in 2014, with the nine-game slate beginning two seasons later. The changes were unanimously recommended by conference directors of athletics and supported by the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors.

Purdue joins Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin in the West Division, while the East is made up by Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. Although they are in separate divisions, Purdue's annual Oak Oaken Bucket game with Indiana is protected, meaning the programs will play each other each year; it's the only such protected cross-division game in the new Big Ten.

"We looked at lots of data and discussed multiple options," Purdue AD Morgan Burke said in a release. "The east/west split seemed to make the most sense as long as the Bucket game was protected. It is just easier for everyone to remember. In addition, we have taken steps to enhance scheduling by adding a ninth conference game beginning in 2016. This will create some challenges to nonconference games already scheduled and we will be working on this issue in the days ahead."

Under the new alignment, each school will play the other six schools in its division plus two teams from the other division in 2014 and 2015, which will serve as transitional years in which the schools will still be playing eight-game schedules. Beginning in 2016, each school will play three teams from the other division as part of its nine-game schedule.

"Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in a release. "The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll."

With the start of the nine-game conference schedule in 2016, teams from the East Division will host five conference home games during even-numbered years, while teams from the West Division will host five conference home games during odd-numbered years. As a result of the nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten's schedule rotation, every player will have the opportunity to play against every other team in the conference at least once during a four-year period.

"I'd like to thank the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and all the directors of athletics for working so hard and well together on the conference realignment and nine-game schedule," Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said in a release. "It is an exciting time for the Big Ten Conference and we are very appreciative to our leaders for maintaining the great Old Oaken Bucket rivalry we share with Indiana."

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