In the world of athletic directors, the phrase “no news is good news” generally runs pretty true. If the head of the athletic department doesn’t have to set up a press conference and make an announcement, that usually means the department is sailing smoothly on open waters.
The tides are easily maneuvered when coaches aren’t leaving, schools aren’t swapping conferences and alumni are donating what is considered “at least” enough. That is, until a Biele-monster tsunami comes crashing in.
Although he didn’t hold a press conference, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez broke some news Tuesday evening, and contrary to the recent years of controversial Big Ten announcements, this news was great news.
Alvarez announced Tuesday evening to WIBA-AM on his monthly radio show that the administrators of the now 14 schools constituting the Big Ten will no longer schedule football games against FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) opponents, the lesser-known, next-best version to the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) of college football.
After years of asking the neighbor girl to prom because, well, they had been friends for the longest time and both proximity and congeniality made her a great date, the Big Ten has finally decided to at least extend a worthy chase after the prom queen.
The conference will now pursue that hot date by scheduling nonconference games solely against the current assemblage of 125 FBS teams. Frankly, the move could not have come at a better time.
New entrants Maryland and Rutgers are on their way in and, besides sending a message to the nation, the Big Ten also made a statement to their easterly competitors of now and the future.
Leave those cupcakes at your East Coast bakeries; we don’t want them here.
The Big Ten is doing what it can to repair its image after a frightful season that witnessed an 8-5 team advance to the Rose Bowl and a week where zero teams were ranked in the Coaches Poll.
At one point in 2012, the Big Ten, once an absolute pillar of tradition and success, was the laughing stock of the nation, a nation now currently known as the extended homeland of the SEC, which just happens to house a few other conferences.
The word dominance doesn’t do justice. The last seven national championships, the top recruiting classes and the best coaches in college football all reside in the SEC. The best high school football players come from the southeastern region of the nation, by no surprise. Put simply, the SEC has become the measuring stick by which college football is defined.
That single conference owns all the bragging rights, and as the little brother to the SEC over the past few years, the Big Ten doesn’t think it’s very fair.
The chance to play against higher quality opponents should open the door a little wider for little brother. What was a sliver of light will soon become a crack, simply from a stronger schedule, or at least that’s the hope.
Even if the scheduling decision doesn’t bring immediate effects in the form of crystal footballs, the Big Ten is jumping onto a wider, brighter stage. Games with bigger schools and bigger conferences will only bring prominence to a conference that, as of late, has slightly lost its grasp over a one-time hefty piece of the college football pie.
But like most moves in collegiate athletics, this scheduling decision will not be a cut-and-dry regulation put in place tomorrow afternoon, this weekend or even next month. Football scheduling takes place years in advance and, at the moment, many Big Ten teams have FCS opponents scheduled through the next few seasons.
Wisconsin, for one, has a game with FCS-opponent Tennessee Tech slotted for Sept. 7. Multiple other schools in the conference also must wait a few years to fully wipe the FCS from their schedules, so the easier prom date isn’t going away right now, but it’s getting kicked out of the Big Ten’s way. And that’s totally fine.
Ask senior running back James White if he would rather earn a pair of touchdowns in a hard-fought game against Missouri or run for 200 yards and three scores in three quarters against Missouri State.
Ask head coach Gary Andersen if he would like to showcase his new program against greater competition in an early-season game televised on ESPN.
Ask your roommate if they would love to help Camp Randall reach its max in decibels after another Kenzel Doe punt return kills off an eventual upset.
Hell, it even makes my job easier, because covering a Wisconsin-Arizona State one-point stalemate is far more enjoyable and exciting than a 70-3 drubbing of Austin Peay.
So, at the outset, the decision looks almost flawless. Greater exposure, better reputation and superior competition seem like near-absolute byproducts. It’s a shame we’ve been waiting this long.
Sean is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. Do you think the new scheduling decision will benefit the Big Ten? Let him know with an email to [email protected] or with a tweet to @sean_zak.