Blog Entry

Five things about the Big Ten

Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:04 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 8:12 pm
With the Big 12 media days kicking off Thursday here are five key issues to consider: 

1. The 800-pound Buckeye in the room: The world is waiting to see how the second-richest athletic department comes out of possibly its most disgraceful period in school history. Following a Watergate-like cover up, the head coach "retired" but not before allowing five players to compete while ineligible. No big deal. All it meant was that Ohio State won its sixth straight conference title and a $20 million BCS bowl. There are enough leftovers in this mess to be the subject of lectures in finance, history, ethics and sports law classes for years. While the NCAA weighs the football program's penalties, this year's Buckeyes will be the slow-down-and-look wreck on the highway. Everyone will be gawking. It is rookie coach Luke Fickell's job to unite Buckeye Nation and what is still a talented roster. Don't be surprised if Ohio State wins the Leaders Division and the Big Ten. Call it Jim Tressel's going-away present.

2. Quick, name the members of the Leaders and Legends divisions: No, really. I'm serious. All those corporate goofs talk about branding and synergy. In this case, the Big Ten paid some consultant or another six figures to confuse the public. Commissioner Jim Delany was looking for competitive balance so North-South or East-West were probably out. I get that. What I don't get is why the words "Schembechler" "Hayes" or "Grange" couldn't have been worked in there somewhere. This is a conference that is about to profit off the grainy images of old Joe Paterno coaching shows from the 1960s (on the Big Ten Network). Instead, the corporate goofs have succeeded in making the Big Ten (really 12) teams anonymous. Why is Ohio State a Leader given its current rep? Why isn't Penn State a Legend given that it is coached by one. An enterprising reporter could embarrass some coaches at the media days by asking them to name the members of each division. For now, the easiest way to remember is this: All the Ms (Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State) and the Ns (Nebraska and Northwestern), plus Iowa, are in the Legends. The Ps (Penn State, Purdue) and the remaining Is (Indiana, Illinois) are in the Leaders. That leaves Ohio State and Wisconsin to memorize on your own. A nursery rhyme, it ain't.

3. Nebraska assimilation: A tight-knit family hasn't been this charged up for a big move since the Clampetts figured California is the place they oughta be. In this case it's the Big Red loading up the U-Haul and moving to the Big Ten. Nebraska can't wait, per the wishes of Tom Osborne who had enough of Texas. Football-wise not much has changed. Some of the road trips are daunting. The Huskers move from one 12-team conference to another. They still haven't won a conference title since 1999. They still aren't "back". The Big Ten won't change those story lines. Talent-wise, Nebraska will compete just fine. It could make the Big Ten's title game in its first season. Other than that, Nebraska feels a lot better about itself having already inheriting some of that Big Ten arrogance on its way out the door from the Big 12. One thing, though: If the Big Ten is such a respected academic league why is Nebraska the only school not a member of the Association of American Universities. Expansion was not just about football. Yeah, right.

4. The rise of Sparty: In 2010, Michigan State won its first Big Ten title since 1990. (Tying with Wisconsin and Ohio State.) Next stop: The Rose Bowl. It's been 22 years since the Spartans got to Pasadena. After four seasons of steady improvement, Mark Dantonio has a chance to do it. To some, Michigan State is more than the trendy pick to win it all in the Big Ten. Kirk Cousins is one of the best pocket passers in a country in love with the spread offense. Edwin Baker (1,201 yards, 13 tds) may be the conference's best running back. A strong linebacking group must be rebuilt, although the schedule breaks Michigan State's way. It gets Ohio State in Columbus in the last game of the player suspensions. Michigan and Wisconsin come to East Lansing. Dantonio won't wow you with quotes but this is as solid a program as there is right now in the Big Ten. When the coach survives a heart attack and the team still wins 11 games something is going right. If it comes together, who knows Michigan State could get revenge on Alabama in a BCS bowl? (Bama trounced the Spartans 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.)

5. The traditional mob boss: And I mean that in the best possible way about Delany. He is simply -- with the possible exception of SEC counterpart Mike Slive -- the most powerful man in college sports. Delany doesn't speak often publicly but when he does, he is usually provocative. Look for more of the same when Delany speaks Thursday during his annual state of the conference address at the media days. This is the guy who deftly tried to lure Notre Dame to the Big Ten (remember the rumblings about breaking up the Big East?), then ended up with a hell of a consolation prize -- Nebraska. This is the guy who slapped down the non-BCS conferences with impunity during a December forum in New York. "The problem is," Delany told the BCS wannabes, "your big stage takes away opportunities for teams to play on the stage they created in 1902." This is the guy who created the model for the conference network. Remember, there is still no guarantee the Pac-12, Longhorn and all these other networks will succeed. Ask Delany. It was a long slog to get to this point. With all the issues in play -- Ohio State, NCAA reform, conference realignment -- expect Delany to make his opinion known this week.

Since: Jun 20, 2011
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:39 pm

Five things about the Big Ten

SB45CHAMPS, you just want Wisconsin to be in the B1G championship game every year.  While I agree that "Legends" and "Leaders" are questionable names for the divisions, there's more to figuring out who should be in which one then geography.  In your scheme, Michigan could never play Ohio State for the championship again.  Given the long tradition (which I'll admit has been derailed for a few years), that would be a travesty!
I hardly think Wisconsin would win it every year if they had to go against Iowa and Nebraska.

Another reason to do East/West is to keep geographical rivalries together. One of Wisconsin's biggest rivals is Iowa. But now, under this set-up, they will NOT play every season. Now, that it is a "travesty". Northwestern, which is stone's throw from Madison, is not in the same division either.

Look at the old Big 12. They had two huge powers: Oklahoma and Texas, who were in same division. This made that game even more meaningful because you knew the winner would most win the division. That game would not have been as meaningful is you knew they would just meet again the conference championship.

Since: Jul 2, 2010
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:20 pm

Five things about the Big Ten

Hey Dummy Dodd!  Nebraska was an AAU school when admitted to the Big Ten.  It lost is status late last summer.

Since: Jul 2, 2010
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:19 pm

Five things about the Big Ten

Hey Dummy Dodd!  Nebraska was an AAU school when admitted to the Big Ten.  It lost its status the end of last summer.

Since: Feb 25, 2011
Posted on: July 28, 2011 12:34 pm

Five things about the Big Ten

"If the Big Ten is such a respected academic league ."

Isn't 11 out of 12 schools pretty good? ... better than the other leagues? Maybe it's just a poorly stated question by Dodd, or statement since there isn't a question mark.

Since: Jan 19, 2007
Posted on: July 28, 2011 11:38 am

Five things about the Big Ten

How about naming them the "Six Division" and "Half Dozen Division" rather than "Leaders Division" and Legends Division."

Since: Jan 7, 2009
Posted on: July 28, 2011 11:26 am

Five things about the Big Ten

I agree North/South & East/West works just fine

Since: Sep 12, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2011 11:03 am

Five things about the Big Ten

Another criteria that hurt Nebraska is that the Medical Center is considered a seperate campus as it is in Omaha and not attached to Lincoln. And they count those dollars seperate. If they were to add those dollars into the factor Nebraska would be in the top 5 in the Big Ten in research.

Since: Apr 26, 2011
Posted on: July 28, 2011 11:00 am

Five things about the Big Ten

dodd is the biggest punk in the business. How thuis guy has a job with cbs is joke? CBS should be embarassed that this guy still writes for them.

Since: Mar 15, 2011
Posted on: July 28, 2011 9:41 am

Five things about the Big Ten

Dodd - what are the criteria to be a member of the AAU?  Do you know?  Did you know that they changed the criteria recently in a way that directly impacted how Nebraska ranked? 

AAU is research based.  Basically they take total research dollars and divide by the number of faculty.  Recently they changed it to not include agriculture research dollars, but they still included the agriculture faculty.  Since 10% of Nebraska's research dollars come from Ag research and the rest of the AAU schools average 2-3% this put Nebraska at a huge disadvantage.  I actually understand why they decided not to count agriculture research, BUT if you are going to disallow the research then you don't count that faculty in the calculation either. 

As a Nebraska alum when I found out how they determined the criteria my biggest issue wasn't that we were out - it was that we fought to stay in.  With as hosed up as their math was I didn't really want to be a part of it.

Since: Jul 23, 2011
Posted on: July 28, 2011 9:30 am

Five things about the Big Ten

Dodd isn't a journalist, he's a sportswriter.  Two entirely different things.

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