If E!SPN.com Big Ten blogger is correct (and he usually is), then it looks like one of college football's oldest rivalries, as well as one of the best trophies in sports, may no longer be an annual tradition. Rittenberg received confirmation this morning from Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez that the Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes will be in separate divisions starting in 2011 when Nebraska joins the Big Ten. Logical thinking says that those two teams will continue their annual rivalry in a crossover game which means Minnesota is likely to lose their annual Floyd of Rosedale rivalry with Iowa. Rittenberg's best educated guess at divisions looks like this:
When it comes to divisional alignment as a Gopher fan I've always supported a simple geographic split that would have kept Minnesota with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska. This maintains not just our rivalries but everybody's in the conference, and I still believe it maintains competitve balance (there's no guarantee Michigan makes it all the way back, or that Iowa, Wisconsin or Nebraska will fade into what Mike Tyson would call "Boliva"). However, the Big Ten is looking to split up the top four schools of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska, and it sounds like just never seriously considered a straight geographic split. Minnesota has two of the oldest rivalries in college football with the Badgers and Hawkeyes, and while I've been bracing for us to not be in the same division as both schools, I had still believed we'd maintain annual games with both schools.
Looks like that may not be the case. If the Big Ten is looking to maximize TV dollars, then an annual crossover game of Wisconsin and Iowa is going to draw a lot more eyeballs to television screens than Minnesota vs. Iowa. The Gophers have noone but themselves to blame since they've lost eight of the last nine meetings, and most have been in gruesome fashion. People outside the two states don't really care about this game, and quite frankly even the Iowa fans are caring less, especially because they'll get an annual game with Nebraska in its place.
Still, I'm going to be angry if we lose this one because while I understand the dollars and cents of it for the Big Ten, this is one of our biggest rivarlies and I don't want to lose it. I have a Wes Mantooth feeling towards Wisconsin- I hate them but dangit do I respect them- but I have nothing but pure hatred for Iowa. Their fans, their players, their fans who have sex in the Metrodome bathroom. I loathe them more than any other, and because of that, even though they've been stabbing us in the heart with a trident for the last decade, I still want them on our schedule every year, and I look forward to the day when we'll take Floyd back to Minnesota.