The reaction was immediate, deafening and nearly unanimous.
The Big Ten blew it with their pretentious, self-aggrandizing and over-the-top naming of its two six-team divisions.
Now, four days after being universally eviscerated, the conference is having second thoughts. And, best of all for everyone involved, they appear open to changing the abomination that is “Legends” and “Leaders”.
Speaking on WGN Radio in Chicago by way of Adam Rittenberg‘s ESPN.com Big Ten blog, commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday that the conference has been humbled by the near-unanimous derision of the names chosen for their divisions, and that he gets the sense that they did not connect with the fans as they had anticipated. In fact, he sounds downright shocked at the very visceral reaction from the fans as well as the media.
“We’ve had enough experience with names and expansion and development of divisions that we know that you rarely get a 90 percent approval rating. But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was really surprising. It showed that we didn’t connect with our fans in a way that we wanted to. It’s humbling, to say the least, because we’re trying to build fan bases, not push them away.
“I’ve been around this business a long time, and I would say it’s one of the more surprising things. There’s a sensibility there that we did not connect with, did not read well.”
As for the next step the conference will take in an effort to clean the egg off its face, Delany said that “[e]ventually, we’re going to have to address the issue of whether or not it’s sustainable, but I don’t think that’s a decision for today. We have to listen and we have to be humble about the reactions we’ve gotten.” Delany added that, as far as a timetable on a potential change is concerned, “[w]e’ll try to do a little education, let it breathe a bit and then probably revisit it after the first of the year.”
We were, rightly so, one of the multitudes that derided the Big Ten’s decision to pull a muscle patting themselves on the backs with “Legends” and “Leaders”. However, the Big Ten should be applauded for listening to the criticism — and, given the volume and ferocity, that couldn’t have been easy — and appearing willing to back away from an idea that never, ever should’ve been allowed to see the light of day.
So, which direction will the conference head once they officially come to their senses? In all honesty, they could name them after bodily functions and come out ahead by comparison.
The reality is that anything along the lines of “Stars & Stripes”, “Iron & Rust” or even “Black & Blue” would be better than what they’d previously wrought.
Hell, there’s no reason why they couldn’t go with “East & West” or “Plains & Great Lakes”. Being numerically correct is not an issue for the conference; why should geographically accuracy be any different?