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Big Ten hellbent on taking $tupidity and greed to the next level

The drumbeat started low and slow, with hardly anyone at the time putting much stock in the insane ramblings coming out of the normally lucid and coherent Sweater Vest.

“There’s always going to be change,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said at the Big Ten’s media days back in early August when asked about expansion changing the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. “I don’t think — I can’t imagine that there would ever be a change from the fact that Ohio State and Michigan are going to square off and it’s going to be exciting and meaningful and all the rest.

“How it will be done exactly and where within the year and all those things, I’m sure if we look back in our history, most recently it’s been in the last regular season game. Prior to that, it wasn’t.

While Tressel’s quotes caused a more-than-minor ripple, Michigan athletic director David Brandon shed all pretense and cannonballed into the discussion of moving the UM-OSU game from the end of the season — where it’s been for 70-plus years — to earlier in the season and allowing for the possibility that the two long-time and hated rivals could meet twice in a given season — once in the regular season, once in a conference title game.

I think there’s a distinct possibility that game will be a later game in the season but not necessarily the last game of the season,” Brandon said. “That’s simply because I don’t think the coaches or the players or the fans or the networks or anyone would appreciate that matchup twice within a seven-day period.”

Brandon’s counterpart at Ohio State, Gene Smith, was a little more demure, but no less using a public forum to brace fans for what seems like the inevitable, when he said “we may end up playing the last game of the year, or not. I just don’t know that yet.”

The latest to chime in on this potential abomination is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.  And, just like Tressel, Brandon and Smith before him, Delany hinted strongly that the die has already been cast, and one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports is about to be devalued by moving up on the calendar when the conference announces its divisional alignments.

“I would put Michigan-Ohio State among the top five events in all of sports for rivalry,” Delany said. “It’ll get played. Now the question is, how best to play it? Are they in the same divisions or are they not? Do they play in the last game, the second-to-last game, the third-to-last game? How to do that is still under discussion. …

“You could make a good argument that Michigan and Ohio State should never really be playing for a divisional crown. If they’re going to play, play for the right to go to the Rose Bowl. When Tennessee and Florida play, when Auburn and Alabama play, only one of those teams is going to go to the championship game because they’re in the same division.”

How exactly has the Iron Bowl suffered by the two schools being in the same division, as Delany intimates?  Last time we checked, ‘Bama-Auburn in many parts of this country is viewed as the greatest, most heated rivalry in all of college football, and they’ve somehow found a way to keep that hatred alive and well for nearly twenty years while residing in the same division.

And what’s to say that the two schools intertwined in a decades-long conference rivalry have to have the opportunity to face each other in a title game, anyway?  There’s no sound logic or any semblance of a good argument in Delany’s attempt at justifying a move by shifting the attention to conference title match-ups.  How much more would be on the line if a shot at the Big Ten title game hung in the balance that weekend after Thanksgiving?  Certainly a whole helluva lot more than if The Game were the meat in a Indiana/Illinois or Northwestern/Minnesota October sandwich.  

What happens to the 2006 game or the 1969 game or the myriad other classics if they were played at any time before the end of the regular season?  Here’s a hint: they fade into oblivion and become a footnote to the rest of the regular season most years, with a slight chance that one could avenge the prior midseason loss in the conference title game.  And the reason they’d fade?  They’d be lost amongst what happened in the two or three or four games after The Game Lite was contested.

When those games were played had as much to do with the memories as how the games were played or ended.  There was something on the line, either a Rose Bowl/BcS berth or the opportunity to ruin the other’s season; move The Game from the end of the regular season, and you lose that something being played for every single year on the off-chance that they meet up, what, once every four, five years with something on the line?

This is not the era of the Ten-Year War.  There were no Penn State’s, Wisconsin’s, Iowa’s or Nebraska’s to speak of back in the days of Woody and Bo, at least not consistently.  This is a more balanced Big Ten, rife with top-shelf programs that would make the conference’s seemingly desired target of a twice-a-year grudge match between its two flagship schools much less likely than the league’s officials would care to admit or consider.

Be warned, Big Ten: you move The Game, you will rip the heart and suck the soul out of the single greatest property the conference owns.  And for what, a few more advertising dollars every few years when they do happen to stumble into a title showdown?  One that will, incidentally, likely be contested in a sterile, domed, neutral location as opposed to yet another reason that The Game is what it is — The Big House and The Shoe.

The shame in all of this is not the fact that it’s nearly a done deal; the shame is the fact that it’s being considered at all.

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Respond to “Big Ten hellbent on taking $tupidity and greed to the next level”
  1. JaggedMark says: Aug 24, 2010 9:48 PM

    Expect the announcement prior to opening day Sep. 4

  2. grandavenue says: Aug 24, 2010 9:55 PM

    Jagg, you are expecting the announcement you mean?

  3. 78Lion says: Aug 24, 2010 10:08 PM

    Yipee. Now the conference can focus on improving the poorer programs (getting rid of DickRod would be a nice step for one of them).

  4. Deb says: Aug 24, 2010 10:41 PM

    I don’t understand the problem. The Iron Bowl is HUGE (so huge we’re having Thanksgiving on Tuesday this year to accommodate it). So what if Bama and Auburn wound up in the SEC Championship a week later? That would just ratchet up the intensity. What a scary brawl that would be!

  5. overratedgators says: Aug 24, 2010 11:01 PM

    JaggedMark: Opening day is actually Sept. 2, as some of the Big T(welv)en teams are playing that Thursday night.

  6. Miguelito says: Aug 24, 2010 11:04 PM

    I think calmer heads will prevail and they will see that moving this game to an earlier point in the season would be disastrous. This game has been the traditional closer for Big Ten football for 70 years! Here’s hoping that the football gods intervene somehow and force them to leave it the way it is.

  7. edgy1957 says: Aug 24, 2010 11:12 PM

    John, I do have to remind you that in the Big 12, THE game is between Texas and Oklahoma and it comes early and it’s just as passionate then as it would be later in the season. Both teams finish with their “natural” rivals but the game against each other is the biggest game of the year.

  8. grandavenue says: Aug 24, 2010 11:21 PM

    I have to agree with Edgy.
    The Big Ten has done everything top notch since the beginning of this mess, so because talk implies a change in the timing of “The Game” is now worthy of making it out that the Big Ten is doing a crap job? No, that’s way too much. The Big Ten hasn’t proclaimed losing two of their programs, including one with the National draw that Nebraska brings will someone equal MORE TV money. They also are not aligning their conference with 3 major teams in one division and 1 in the other. They also are making it about the entire group. Texas and the Big XII is a better name for the Big XII. It’s like KC and the Sunshine band. Texas is the leader of the band, everyone else is just along the ride for the royalties.
    I’m really impressed by the Big Ten, moving OSU/UM is the ultimate gutsy move. It doesn’t have the appeal that it used too. If mid October you told me, Michigan and Ohio State were playing mid-afternoon and Penn State and Nebraska were playing in the evening, I’d tell you leave the channel where it’s at. Four top notch teams, playing very important games, with a strong chance 2 of them are playing again later.

  9. Deb says: Aug 24, 2010 11:33 PM

    Well, John, I get you. Wouldn’t want the SEC moving the Iron Bowl. Some folks just don’t appreciate tradition.

  10. anygivensaturday says: Aug 24, 2010 11:47 PM

    Deb – “So what if Bama and Auburn wound up in the SEC Championship a week later? That would just ratchet up the intensity. What a scary brawl that would be!”
    They can’t play each other in the SEC Championship, they are both in the West division.

  11. edgy1957 says: Aug 24, 2010 11:48 PM

    That being said, I still favor an East/West alignment, which would keep both teams together.

  12. 78Lion says: Aug 24, 2010 11:51 PM

    Deb,
    You might be a big fan, but not big enough to know that Auburn and Alabama can’t be in the SEC championship game against one another. Woops! :)

  13. BrownsTown says: Aug 25, 2010 12:48 AM

    AMEN! I never thought this idea would gain this much traction. This is almost a holiday in this part of the country. It can salvage the worst of seasons if you can ruin the other team’s good year.
    If they move it, I’m locking myself in my basement and watching the HBO documentary for an entire weekend while lamenting that my kids will never know the same version of the rivalry that we experienced with our dads, uncles, cousins, whatever. No, that’s not hyperbole either. Ohio State-Michigan in November, at the end, IS the only way to do this, especially now that it will be after Thanksgiving.
    Doug Lesmerises, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer had a great article the other day. OSU-Michigan would have only met four times since 1994 (when PSU joined the conference).
    This is one issue where I think Buckeye and Wolverine fans speak with one voice. This needs to stop. I’ll sign 50 petitions to add my voice to the cause.
    http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2010/08/ohio_state_vs_michigan_must_no.html

  14. tall cool one says: Aug 25, 2010 12:53 AM

    I agree that Ohio State and Michigan should stay in the same division and play the last game of the year, but if you write an article at least get some facts right.
    “This is not the era of the Ten-Year War. There were no Penn State’s, Wisconsin’s, Iowa’s or Nebraska’s to speak of back in the days of Woody and Bo, at least not consistently.”
    FYI:
    The 1968-69 Penn State football teams went 11-0 in consecutive seasons and went to bowl games every year but 1970 for the decade. They were also rated in the top 20 most years in the 70′s.
    The most “consistent” were Michigan and Nebraska.
    Nebraska finished with championships in 70, 71, and finished in the top 20 every year in the 70′s most years equal give ot take 4 spots of Ohio State and Michigan.
    Michigan did not win a National Championship in the 70′s but finished in the top 20 every year.
    Ohio State won a National Championship in 68 but not in the 70′s. In the 70′s Ohio State finished outside the top 20 in 71 and 78.

  15. Slim Charles says: Aug 25, 2010 7:28 AM

    Yeah, I’d be more worried about getting knocked down to FCS if I were Michigan.

  16. 78Lion says: Aug 25, 2010 9:07 AM

    This is entirely about the egos of michigan men and daOsu. The want to believe that they will match up in the championship game most of the time and want to structure the conference so they are the most important two schools. Delusion, thy name be Michigan.

  17. j-daddy says: Aug 25, 2010 11:47 AM

    I live in Michigan and don’t think they should “always” play the last game of the year. It’s going to be a huge game any time they play, the date has nothing to do with it. Sure, the stakes are higher at the end of November, but this is college football, the stakes are always high. One loss and you are basically out, no matter how cupcake your schedule is (Florida) or how hard it is.
    Too much whining from Ohio State and Michigan fans for me. Yeah, you have great teams and fanbases, but you aren’t that special.

  18. Brutus B Columbus Ohio says: Aug 25, 2010 12:14 PM

    An ESPN poll had OSU/Mich as the #1 football rivalry. The game draws huge national TV ratings. The fans consider the first 11 games of the season as a warm-up for “THE GAME.” What’s wrong with playing two weeks in a row? It gives the winner of the first game a chance to beat the loser’s brains in two weeks in a row. It gives the first game loser a chance at revenge. Why mess with the top rivalry in the country? Go Bucks! Beat Michigan (twice)!

  19. blitz4848 says: Aug 25, 2010 12:34 PM

    @ j-daddy
    MAC = Big 10+2 cupcakes

  20. Deb says: Aug 25, 2010 12:50 PM

    OMG!!!!!!
    @anygivensaturday & 78Lion …
    I am a BIG fan, lifelong fan. I DO know they can’t be in the SEC championship. What is wrong with me????? Wrote something INSANE to a friend last night and woke up thinking OMG!!!! Now this. No, I wasn’t drinking. Just overwork.
    Oh, Lord, I sent in an assignment last night (beads of sweat are forming). Must go back and proof.
    Thanks, fellas.

  21. Captain Hairdo says: Aug 25, 2010 2:37 PM

    The problem is they are trying to figure out how to divide the conference, and spread Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska so there is a competitive balance – so the title game is a big game. Do you put Penn State, the geographically eastmost school in the west?

  22. FratBoyXXX says: Aug 25, 2010 6:33 PM

    In a perfect world(My World), the Big 10(+2) would look like this after realignment:
    East Division:
    Penn State
    Ohio State
    Michigan
    Michigan State
    Indiana
    Purdue
    West Division:
    Wisconsin
    Minnesota
    Illinois
    Northwestern
    Iowa
    Nebraska
    The smart thing to do would be to keep OSU and Michigan in the same division, that way they could play each other every year and keep the rivalry alive. Maybe it’s just me, but what would be the problem with scheduling the game as the last regular season game of the year on an annual basis? Seriously, alot of teams do this:
    Texas-Texas A&M; Oregon-Oregon State; Oklahoma-Oklahoma St.; Indiana-Purdue. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?!?!?!
    The idea of these two getting together twice a year does not excite me at all. If anything, playing each other twice in a year would take away from the rivalry.
    OSU Idiot: “Yeah, we beat your ass in ’11 in
    The BigHouse!!”
    Michigan D-Bag: “Well we kicked your ass the following week in Indianapolis when IT REALLY MATTERED!!”
    Games such as: OSU-Michigan;
    Notre Dame-USC; Texas-Oklahoma;
    Bama-Auburn; Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida-FSU are fun to watch because the winner gets the bragging rights for that particular season from that particular game. A split between rivals may be alright for the NFL, but for College Football which is the greatest game with the worst ending(BCS needs to become extinct), the beauty of rivalries is that everything is settled on the field with
    1 game on 1 day.
    Jim Delany, do us all a favor and pull your head out of your shitchute already!!!

  23. DCroz says: Aug 26, 2010 9:23 PM

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of ArizonaBuckeye:
    I gather from the above postings that the Big 10 is intending to use a 5-1-2 scheduling system as the SEC currently does, meaning each team plays all five teams in its division, has one permanent opponent from the other division, and has two rotating opponents from the remainder of the other division teams. Further, I think it is safe to assume that Michigan and Ohio State would be each other’s cross-divisional opponents (something the Big XII-II failed to do when it came to protecting the great Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry). Before the Big 10+2 sacrifices tradition by moving the OSU-UM rivalry away from its current end-of-season spot and starts printing tickets for the two teams to meet in the Big 10 Championship Game into the indefinite future, consider the following about the SEC Championship Game:
    * There are currently six sets of cross-divisional permanent opponents (used to be two on a 5-2-1 basis, but the SEC changed to its current structure several years ago): ‘Bama-UT, AU-UGA, UF-LSU, UK-MSU, UM-VU, and Ark-SC. Grand total of SEC Championship Game matchups involving a rematch in any of these series: ZERO. No rematches between the Tide and Vols despite their combined 12 appearances. No rematches between Auburn and Georgia, the oldest rivalry in the South. No rematches between the Gators and Bayou Bengals despite a combined four national titles since 2003.
    * The most common matchup by far has been Alabama and Florida, who have met in seven of the 18 SECCGs. Number of times this game has been a rematch of a regular season meeting between them: ONE (1999).
    * Under the old 5-2-1 one format, there were five rematches (none involving cross-divisional rivalries that survived the change to the 5-1-2 format). Record of the team that won the regular season matchup in those games? 4-1, debunking the old “It’s almost impossible to beat the same team twice in one season” myth. In fact, it may have even cost Auburn a slot in the 2004 BCS National Championship Game, as the Tigers beat a Tennessee team it had defeated earlier in the year but by a slimmer margin, quite possibly costing them some of the necessary credit among the pollsters and computers to move ahead of Oklahoma and into the title game.
    * So why so few rematches? Simple: the loser team of the regular season matchup has a harder time getting into the championship game than the winner (after all, they have a loss to make up for) and usually doesn’t.
    Something for the Big Ten to consider before it begins counting its money on potential Buckeye-Wolverine matchups in their title game by putting them in opposite divisions.

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