By LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Big Ten football players who stay in school for five years can still end up not playing in every stadium in the conference.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said it would be a good idea to try to change that by scheduling at least one visit to each Big Ten stadium every four years.
The topic became a conversation this week because No. 19 Michigan will play No. 5 Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday for the first time since 2009.
“I heard it’s awesome, one of the best environments in the country,” Wolverines center Patrick Kugler said. “They’ve got the “Jump Around” at the end of the third. I’m excited about it. I’ve never played there. I’ve been here five years. So, I was excited when we found out that we were playing at Wisconsin. You want to play in every stadium. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in the Big Ten, unfortunately, even in five years.”
Kugler lamented the fact that he’ll never experience what it is like to play at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Michigan hasn’t played at Nebraska since 2012, and isn’t scheduled to go back there until 2021.
“It’s kind of sad,” Kugler said. “But that’s the way the Big Ten is now.”
The Big Ten’s 14 teams are scheduled to play nine conference games each season. Six of those matchups are played within the division and three are against the other division. Over a four-year stretch, Big Ten teams go on the road for six games outside their divisions and that makes it mathematically possible to schedule them in every conference venue relatively regularly.
“(The) idea of playing everybody within a four-year period is a really neat idea,” Fitzgerald said.
Even if everyone loves the idea, though, it may not happen soon because Big Ten schedules are in place through the 2021 season.
The Big Ten went from eight to nine conference matchups in football last year. When that change was announced in 2013, the conference touted the fact that every athlete would have a chance to face each school in a four-year period.
East Division teams host five Big Ten games in even-numbered while the schools in the West get to be at home for five conference games in odd-numbered years such as this season.
Fitzgerald, whose team played Duke this season, suggested the league consider a 10-game schedule “then allow us to play whoever we want in those other two games.”
“If we’re going to have to play another Power Five conference game as kind of a mandate from the league, I would just prefer to just go to 10 games,” Fitzgerald said. “Let’s make it five at home, and five on the road. It would be great if we partnered up with the MAC and then for us, I’d like to play our FCS schools in the state of Illinois. We lost to (Illinois State) a year ago. They kicked our butt, but I think that’s great for those kids and those programs, especially here in our great state.”
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