Big Ten Conference

big ten conference

The Big Ten is known as one of the power five conferences in intercollegiate athletics. Some of the top athletic schools in the country, mainly in the midwest, compete in this conference. The Big Ten creates a structure of competition for programs in many sports supported by the NCAA, such as football, basketball, and golf.

History of The Big Ten

history of the big ten

The Big Ten started as the Intercollegiate Conference Athletic Association (ICAA) in 1905. As the first conference to officially establish rules and regulations for college sports, a lot of the initial structure became a model for future athletic conferences and the NCAA’s creation. The conference was founded by Purdue president James H. Smart and representative leaders from each of the seven initial ICAA schools. These schools were the University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin, Purdue University, and Northwestern University. All but one of these schools (the University of Chicago) still compete in the Big 10 today. The conference officially expanded to ten teams by 1917 with the University of Indiana, University of Iowa, and Ohio State University. The conference was officially named “The Big Ten” in 1987. The University of Chicago had left by then, and Michigan State University had joined.

What schools are in the Big Ten?

schools of the big ten

Although the name highlights the fact that the Big Ten conference long operated with ten teams, it has now had at least 11 competitors for the past 21 years. Today the Big Ten is a misnomer because the conference holds 14 teams. After being named the Big Ten in 1987, Pennsylvania State University joined soon after as the 11th team. The Conference operated without divisions until 2011, when the University of Nebraska joined. Since then, the conference has created two divisions. The east division features Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and the newly added in 2014 University of Maryland and Rutgers University. Meanwhile, the west division consists of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. These 14 main programs are what we know as the Big Ten today.

There are some partial programs that compete in individual Big Ten programs alone. John Hopkins competes in the Big Ten in lacrosse, while Notre Dame competes in the conference only in men’s ice hockey. The Big Ten creates a season schedule for teams in each sport. This allows each team in the conference to avoid independently scheduling every single one of their opponents. Once the season is over, the Big Ten often hosts some form of single-game championship or multi-game tournament to declare a conference champion. Doing this can help national NCAA competitions determine which teams are more deserving to compete for a National championship. Many sports give an automatic national tournament bid to the Big Ten champion.

List of Big Ten Teams By Division

East Division

  • Indiana Hoosiers
  • Maryland Terrapins
  • Michigan State Spartans
  • Michigan Wolverines
  • Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Penn State Nittany Lions
  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights

West Division

  • Illinois Fighting Illini
  • Iowa Hawkeyes
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers
  • Northwestern Wildcats
  • Purdue Boilermakers
  • Wisconsin Badgers


What is the Big Ten?

The Big Ten is a competitive midwestern collegiate athletic conference. It is the oldest athletic conference in the United States. Home to college programs such as Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State, the conference hosts top competitions for many NCAA sports, including football, tennis, and soccer. It is one of five major conferences in NCAA sports and often competes with teams from the other four major conferences for national championships.

How many teams are in the Big Ten?

Although it is named the Big Ten for having ten teams between the years 1912 to 1990, the conference has not operated with ten teams for over two decades. Currently, the Big Ten has 14 teams competing in two divisions of seven teams in some sports. The number of teams has changed a lot in the last decade. The University of Nebraska joined in 2011, and the University of Maryland and Rutgers University joined in 2014.

What sports do Big Ten teams participate in?

Although the Big Ten is most widely known for football and men’s and women’s basketball, the conference hosts competitions for many NCAA sports. Other sports include cross-country, golf, gymnastics, indoor track & field, lacrosse, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, and outdoor track & field for both men and women. They also hold competitions in baseball, football, ice-hockey, and wrestling competitions for men; and field hockey, rowing, softball, and volleyball competitions for women.