Dear Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors,
Come this time next year, Texas A&M will leave the Big 12, lawsuit or no lawsuit, and the SEC will add another team to its ranks on the march to become the first super-conference in college football. The Big 12 is crumbling; the Pac-12 and the Big Ten helped kick start the fall of a shaky structure by removing Colorado and Nebraska from the conference ranks.
As the Big 12 falls apart, conferences are hot on the chase for new teams to add, meaning new money, new television contracts and new markets. What will the Big Ten take from the Big 12 when the smoke clears? Only time will tell, but our conference must make a strong pull to add as many teams as it can when the Big 12 falls apart to keep up with the frantic pace of the Pac-12 and the SEC.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said the formation of super-conferences “seems the direction the world’s going,” in an interview with the Associated Press. Stoops words ring true in the time we live in. In a country of Wal-Mart, the success of large franchises crushing all smaller business in its path seems to validate that bigger is indeed better. More teams in a conference mean more money, more publicity and a stronger brand of football to sell to the athletic market.
The super-conference direction makes sense. Fourteen to 16-team conferences will only solidify the major programs and the BCS automatic conference bids. TV contracts will be larger and television channels will be created (The Pac-12 announced the creation of several regional and one national channel this past summer, while the Longhorn Network solidifies Texas’ independence from the Big 12). Smaller schools like Baylor and Iowa State will lose huge amounts of revenue and relevance as their conference dissolves. But just as the United States is an open and competitive market, so too is college football.
Let’s be honest here. Texas A&M is a solid football program, but in the SEC they will be a doormat. As I see it, the SEC only wants to crack open the recruiting strongbox of Texas and the state’s exclusive affair with the Big 12.
With the Big 12 schools constantly gobbling up the top-tier Texas high school players, the SEC would very much like to have a school in Texas to play against and thus effectively reach millions of eyes that do not witness the SEC on a weekly basis. The SEC is brilliantly using Texas A&M as a marketing tool to expand its national grasp on football by infiltrating one of the last remaining large markets to withstand the powerful reach of the SEC.
When the rest of the Big 12 teams leave, where will they go? With the SEC and Pac-12 looking to absorb the remaining teams and expand their grip on college football, here are a few things the Big Ten should look at changing as well as making a play at expanding the conference once more.
Step 1: Legends and Leaders? Yawn.
I have to say the first time I heard the names of the Big Ten divisions I felt the conference was playing a bad joke. Did someone come up with these names while on a Keystone Light drinking binge? The names reflect zero creativity or relevance, and when the news of the names went public message boards across the Internet were mocking the anemic name choices, effectively ridiculing the Big Ten.
Here’s a better name for the divisions, “The Heartland” and “The Great Lakes.” Both names are more marketable and creative than what currently exists, and they actually have a relevant meaning to the pride of the Midwest.
Do you think the teams in Legends and Leaders fit their titles? Someone explain to me what makes Minnesota a legend? They claimed national championships in the 1930’s and ’40s; now only the memory of Minnesota winning is the stuff of legends. Did it actually happen? No one really knows.
Step 2: Realign the Divisions
Put the big rivalries in the same divisions. I understand you had enough foresight to continue the Wisconsin-Minnesota and Michigan-Ohio State games, but what about Iowa-Wisconsin? The Heartland Trophy I’m sure is more comfortable staying in Madison for the time being, but why have you deprived the fans of this game?
And pardon me for saying this, but I think you separated Ohio State and Michigan in different divisions to give them a chance to play each other twice a year. I think these respected rivals should be in the same division, just as Wisconsin and Minnesota. Separate the divisions according to location. I’m not sure why you did it the way you did, but the separation of perennial rivals in different divisions displays no leadership. It’s a legendary grievance.
Step 3: Add Missouri and Iowa State
Adding these two schools makes sense. Before the Big Ten announced Nebraska was to become its 12th member, Missouri’s name was all over the rumor mill.
A natural fit because of the high level of their sports programs, academic prowess — ranked in the top 50 of public universities — and geographical location, Missouri is a promising school to add to the Big Ten. Iowa State is an odd pick I admit, but they will be one of the easiest pieces to grab once the Big 12 ceases to exist. Our conference already has one team in Iowa; why not bring in another?
While other conferences continue to expand, we must make every effort to keep pace. Reckless expansion is not what I’m advocating. What I’m advocating is expanding with an already proven program and a team that already lies within the reach of the Big Ten market. Clean up the names of the divisions to something more respectable and understandable than “Leaders and Legends,” and realign the divisions to bring back yearly rivalry teams to the same conference.
By adding Nebraska and a championship game you have already taken steps to increase the relevance and prosperity of the Big Ten. Now continue it by absorbing parts of a crumbling conference before other conferences do it first and put the Big Ten in the national spotlight as the premier conference once more.
Have your own opinion about better names for the Big Ten divisions? Better ideas to help the Big Ten keep up with the other conferences? Email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him your ideas.