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UW's Alvarez: Big Ten Could Alter Rules to Boost OSU

Paul Steinbach

Big Ten Conference athletic directors may consider tweaking the rule that requires football teams to play at least six games to be eligible for the conference championship, particularly in light of Ohio State’s potential situation as the No. 4 team in the nation on the brink of slipping below the six-game threshold.

Ohio State, which has seen games against Maryland and Illinois canceled so far this season, intends to play Michigan State on Saturday for its fifth game. The yet-unbeaten Buckeyes would then need to play Michigan, as scheduled, to be eligible to appear in the Big Ten Conference championship game as the East Division representative. Running the Big Ten table would presumably keep Ohio State in the discussion when it comes selection time to selection the four-team College Football Playoff field.

In an interview Wednesday with The Detroit News, University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who chaired the Big Ten’s return-to-play committee, was asked if there has been any talk about trying to change the requirements.

“I would think that if something would happen to Ohio State and they’d have to cancel another game, that’s something that we’ve got to revisit,” Alvarez said. “They’re sitting up there still ranked No. 4. Our league can’t keep them from having the opportunity if they have a chance to be in the finals.”

Alvarez said the Big Ten athletic directors meet weekly and that this is a decision that would be made at the AD level, not by the league member presidents, who voted to return to play after initially postponing the season until the spring over COVID-19 and related health concerns.

When the Big Ten decided to reinstate the season well into the fall, it left itself scant wiggle room by scheduling eight games in eight weeks. However, a ninth, divisional crossover game during what the Big Ten is calling “Champions Week,” played on or around the time of the Dec. 19 Big Ten Championship game, could give the league some flexibility, according to Alvarez.

“Those are things we discuss,” he said. “We may make some adjustments on that last week. That’s sort of a flexible week of scheduling. But those are things we talk about and certainly you’ve got to consider, or reconsider.”

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