Big Ten makes changes to schedule for 2009 season

By The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – Thanksgiving leftovers and the Ohio State-Michigan game could become a new tradition.

The Big Ten will move to a 13-week schedule beginning in 2009, pushing the rivalry game and the rest of the conference’s schedule to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Big Ten school presidents voted to support a 13-week schedule on Dec. 2, spokesman Scott Chipman said. That will allow teams one week off during the 12-game regular season.

Since the NCAA adopted a 12-game schedule in 2006, many Big Ten coaches have been calling for a week off to give coaches and players a mental and physical break instead of three straight months of football.

Other coaches, including Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and retiring Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, supported the Big Ten tradition of ending the season before Thanksgiving, though no other conference in college football finishes as early.

“I really like the fact our players and coaches can go home for Thanksgiving,” Tressel said on Nov. 20, three days after the Michigan game and two days before Thanksgiving.

“We ask so much of these kids, to train all year long, and for them to get four days to just be kids with their parents, I put a lot of value on that,” Tressel said.

In the end, it was money that won out over tradition. The 12th game allows most major schools an extra home game, and Ohio State turns a $4 million to $5 million profit off each game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

The move to after Thanksgiving isn’t unprecedented.

Since President Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation in 1941 that officially decreed the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving, the Ohio State-Michigan game has been played after Thanksgiving 16 times, but only four times in the past 29 years. The most recent was in 2001.

Chipman said teams may choose to move a game to after Thanksgiving next year if it is cleared through the Big Ten, but Ohio State won’t be changing its schedule. The presidents instructed the league office to start adjusting the 2009 schedules.