The Big Ten released their updated future football schedules for the years 2024–2028 on Thursday, including the addition of Oregon and Washington to the conference.
The most recent schedule will use the “Flex Protect XVII” style, so named because it combines protected opponents with rotating opponents for the universities.
Even though the league had already issued a schedule format in June, with the addition of Oregon and Washington, a new release was required.
We’ve added two extra squads, but that changes the whole dynamic. Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti remarked in a conference call that they needed to “go back to the drawing board” and try the scheduling rotation again. Many of the guiding principles, such as competitive balance and linking the whole league, that were established during the initial announcement of USC and UCLA’s merger were maintained. Protecting the traditional rivalries and making an effort to be cognizant of travel are both key parts of this procedure.
Since the addition of four West Coast schools raised logistical problems that needed to be balanced for student-athletes and finances, distance and travel have been major factors for Petitti and Big Ten chief operations officer Kerry Kenny. Athletes and directors were able to create a good work-life balance by ensuring that both were working efficiently.
“There’s an overarching narrative that’s being presented that every battle that’s going to occur in the Big Ten is going to be a midweek matchup pitting a club from Eugene versus a team from Piscataway. And that’s not really the focus here,” Kenny said. The addition of these four colleges is likely to have an effect on a number of sports, and we’ve given careful consideration to each one. When making schedules, it’s best to rotate opponents and use formats that reduce travel and other off-campus obligations as much as feasible.
Kenny said the sequencing was done with the players’ mental and physical health in mind, so teams who play in an away game two time zones away don’t have to play an away game at noon at a Central time zone school the following week. The league considered things like bye weeks and Friday night games that may impact scheduling and travel.
There are 12 guaranteed protected matches under the new structure that will be contested annually: Maryland-Rutgers, Michigan-Michigan State, Michigan-Ohio State, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Oregon-Washington, UCLA-USC, and Illinois-Northwestern all include rivalry games.
There will be a lot of road games for the new teams in 2024, with Oregon visiting Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, and UCLA. At away games against Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, UCLA, and Washington, the Trojans will play all five. The Bruins are planning road trips to Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, and Washington. The Huskies’ next schedule includes road games at Indiana, Iowa, Penn State, Rutgers, and Oregon.
The conference schedule calls for nine games every season, with each club facing the other eight times during a five-year span.
There will be no divisions in the 2024 season, and all 18 clubs will play together. The Big Ten’s top two regular-season finishers will compete in the conference title game since there won’t be any more divisions.