Now comes the shuffling.
After the Big Ten made its official announcement Sunday that it will begin a nine-game conference schedule in 2016, Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke went to work tweaking future schedules.
There's no other choice, he said.
The bump from eight to nine conference games means divisions will alternate how many home games they get in a season. In odd-numbered years, Purdue's West Division will have five. But in even-numbered years, the East Division gets five.
That places a priority for scheduling non-conference home games during those even-numbered seasons especially.
"If you're going to balance the budget, run the business and be self-supporting, you better have seven home games, which is true of most of your BCS conferences," Burke said Monday. "You can't make the numbers work (with six)."
There already is a contract with Nevada for a home-and-away and a "handshake" agreement with Missouri for the same, Burke said. But those two discussions will take a back seat to Notre Dame, the rivalry that Burke would like to continue but will need some work to do so.
Currently, the Boilermakers are scheduled to play at Notre Dame in 2016 in the alternating home-and-away series that's been in place since 1946.
Even though home games against Cincinnati and Nevada already are scheduled that season, Purdue would need a third non-conference home game to get to seven total.
And, thus, the tweaking.
"You need to get that. That becomes kind of a domino," Burke said of Notre Dame. "You understand where you are in terms of your holes. We've been pretty careful. … I don't think we're way out of whack. We've got some sequencing issues. That's our issue with Notre Dame right now. 2016, we have five away Big Ten games, and Notre Dame is away, and it just doesn't work. The business model is predicated on having seven home football games."
Burke said he's already started preliminary conversations with Notre Dame, but he hopes to sit down with AD Jack Swarbrick soon, fully realizing Swarbrick has his own scheduling challenges.
The ACC recently released its five-game schedule against the Irish through 2016. In 2016, Notre Dame is scheduled to play two of those five games on the road.
"Jack Swarbrick and I have known each other for a long time and we respect the tradition that's been handed down to us by our predecessors and we'll do everything we can to protect it," Burke said. "If there has to be a pause for a year or two in order to get the thing synced up for us, we'll do that. But we're certainly not going in with a defeatist attitude that we can't get it done. We'll just have to lay schedules side by side and see what we can do."
More Bucket battlesBurke didn't have to worry about fitting in Purdue's other rivalry game against Indiana. The Boilermakers and Hoosiers got the only annual crossover game in the new division alignment.
Burke said that wasn't a point a contention with the other schools, which have some trophy games but not all games Burke considered true rivalries.
"This one has a trophy and it is a rivalry. So I think people understood this one would have to be protected," Burke said. "It's just good for the state of Indiana for both schools to play each other. It really wasn't a contentious issue."
Though first-year football coach Darrell Hazell has yet to play in the Bucket game, he also thought it was important to continue the tradition against the Hoosiers. He's been involved in plenty of other rivalries - he mentioned specifically Penn vs. Princeton, Army vs. Navy, West Virginia vs. Pitt, Ohio State vs. Michigan and Akron vs. Kent - and he knows what's at stake.
And he quickly dismissed the idea that it's a nice get simply because Purdue has won eight of the last 10 games against Indiana and holds a 72-37-6 overall record in the series.
"The rivalry games, in my mind, you better approach them like it's the biggest game in the world because you throw out the records when you play in a rivalry game," Hazell said Monday. "Everything is going to be that much more significant. Everything is worth double in a rivalry game."
Faster to the title?Geography was a higher priority in this new realignment process than competitive balance, which was the basis for the current Legends-Leaders format.
That's obvious to some with the new divisions: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State are all in the East Division. The West has only two traditional powers with Wisconsin and Nebraska.
That has some believing that the Boilermakers may be able to have a fast(er) track to the Big Ten championship game.
But Burke and Hazell wanted nothing to do with that perception.
"I don't care if we have to play in the NFL. We're not going to worry about that stuff," Burke said. "Trying to handicap this program is going to be good when, bottom line is, we've got to get better. The variability of our play the last few years has been our downfall. We've either been very good or very bad, and we've got to close that variability. Darrell understands that, and I don't care who we play."
Said Hazell, "Every single football game you play is hard to win. I don't care who you're playing. It doesn't matter who you're playing if you're not getting better, other people are. If you're not getting better, it's hard to win football games."
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