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 Big Ten football players will have less time to lie around and eat Thanksgiving leftovers starting in 2009.
The conference will extend the season to the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2009 and whenever necessary so teams can work an off week into their schedules. The university presidents approved the change Dec. 2
``It was more about adding the bye week than it was about playing after Thanksgiving,'' Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman said Wednesday.
In 2006, when the NCAA went to a permanent 12-game schedule for major college football teams to help schools increase revenue, the Big Ten was put in a bind. The league prefers to wrap up its season a week before Thanksgiving, but often that leaves only 12 weeks to play 12 games, starting Labor Day weekend.
Next year is an exception. With 13 weekends from the start of September to Thanksgiving, Big Ten teams will be have an off week without playing past the holiday.
Every other major conference plays games the weekend after Thanksgiving. The Big East, Pac-10 and other leagues without conference championship games, allow their members to play regular-season games until the first weekend of December.
The Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference play their conference championships games on the first weekend of December.
Illinois coach Ron Zook was among those who had voiced concerns about the grind of playing 12 straight weeks.
Ohio State and Michigan resisted the change. The Wolverines and Buckeyes usually play their traditional season finale the week before Thanksgiving, but not always. Most recently, in 2001 the teams played the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who will retire after the Wolverines' bowl game Jan. 1, has said he was against playing Thanksgiving weekend and advocated starting the season a week earlier.
Starting the season a week earlier would require the Big Ten to get NCAA approval, which was unlikely.
The Big Ten's early finish has played an unusual part in the Bowl Championship Series the past two seasons.
This year, Ohio State finished its season on Nov. 17 and appeared to be out of the national championship race. Over the next two weeks, the other contenders lost games that eventually landed the idle Buckeyes in the BCS championship game.
Last year, Michigan finished its season No. 2 in the BCS standings, but was jumped the next week by Southern California and the following week by Florida, when the Gators won the SEC title.
The pre-Thanksgiving end to the season also leaves Big Ten teams with the longest possible layoff between the final regular-season game and the BCS title game.
Ohio State lost 41-14 to Florida in last year's title game after a 50-day break. The Buckeyes will have 50 days between the Michigan game and the BCS championship against LSU this season.

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