The Big 10 is the Rodney Dangerfield of college sports. Remember Rodney? Never got any respect.
Every week, college hoops is showing us that nobody is playing like the Big 10--even if the major sports media have left the building on this one.
As a sports writer, I never wore make-up--just concentrated on college athletics. For decades. I've covered all top 6 conferences, am surrounded by ACC and SEC schools and have kept in touch with Big 10 sportswriters by e-mail for years, to get an objective view from a distance. I am acutely aware that weather and a limited recruiting pool present a challenge for the Big 10 in almost all sports, almost all the time.
Case in point: Here are excerpts on these issues from my recent letter to Wisconsin Athletic Director, Barry Alvarez:
"Most "seasoned observers" miss things like the last week of 2009. It was something special for Wisconsin. An almost flawless bowl game by an underdog and an absolutely flawless basketball game on New Years Eve, with a star role for a UW scientist on a PBS national documentary about Darwin sandwiched in between. It was really national exposure of UW at its best—the whole package.
"I live in South Florida—you can imagine the drivel I heard all through December—nobody down here could spell John Clay, let alone Wisconsin. The week after was a torrent of abuse for Jacory Harris (how many passes did Unitas complete lying on his back?)—for the locals, Wisconsin had nothing to do with it. But what I saw was a team better prepared for a specific game than I have ever seen.
"Then I saw near-perfect execution against Ohio State at the Kohl Center. How does Bo Ryan fail to recruit less McDonalds All-Americans than Bill Self or Coach K even meet and yet keep pulling this off?
"A few decades ago the Big Ten was King and feared by the nation. But recent years seem to have turned all that upside down. Wisconsin's colossal victory over Duke produced a 5-minute post game report on this stunner --entirely focused on Kyle Singler? Why? ESPN believes in the ACC and Big East in hoops, the SEC and Big 12 in football—and damn little else.
"Reports down here and nationally made the Champ Sports Bowl entirely a Harris-Miami story—the Badgers were just there to make up the numbers. Stunning the Buckeyes by 22 points (twenty-two) was dismissed by Jay Williams and ESPN, post-game: ‘Well they’re always good at home—we won’t know if they’re any good til they’re on the road in conference.” This is right after Steve Lavin showed the nation stats of top coaches, with Bo having the best winning percentage in Big Ten history.
Bottom Line, The Conference now gets very little respect and UW gets none. This has become insane.
"Maybe because it's now more more about marketing than scheduling or recruiting. Look at the Heisman—how could Ingram possibly trump Gerhart, Suh, etc—with lesser numbers and smaller impact on their teams’ ranking? The SEC knows how to spin its conference. So does the Big 12. Learn from them. Forget the 12th team until you and the folks in Chicago have returned the Conference to prominence—and then you can start a profitable championship game that the nation will hunger for, like Florida-Alabama. "