Farewell Legends and Leaders, the Big Ten Hardly Knew Ye (or Liked Ye)
Legends and Leaders, age 3, of B1G, passed away peacefully on April 19. The twins were born to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany in December of 2010. The funeral service will be held in 2014, and no one is invited because, seriously, did these names actually happen?
The Big Ten’s attempt at catchy division names is dead, soon to be removed from college football for eternity. As much as I’d like to believe we will get beyond the tremendous Internet jokes and timely jabs taken as a bold (but awful) attempt to differentiate from other conferences, this one will linger for a while.
In all honesty, I will miss these jokes a great deal.
Let us not forget, however, that divisions named Legends and Leaders existed. This actually took place, regardless of the thousands of hours you will spend in therapy trying to convince yourself otherwise.
ESPN.com was the first to report the story late last week. The news broke late Friday evening, the perfect time for the Big Ten to take a PR mulligan:
The Big Ten will replace Legends and Leaders with East and West when Maryland and Rutgers join the league in 2014, league sources told ESPN.
The proposed Big Ten West includes the six teams located in the Central time zone—Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin—plus Purdue, sources said.
The proposed Big Ten East includes Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.
"Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams]," a source said.
The new divisions and names will be approved by Big Ten presidents and chancellors this week, and it’ll soon be a done deal. Also on tap is the likelihood of a nine-game conference schedule that will kick into gear starting in 2016.
No, the new names aren’t flashy. In fact, they’re so straightforward that any sensible fifth-grader could’ve hashed them out in five or so minutes with colored pencils and spent the rest of this critical brainstorming session on the swing set.
And you know what? They'd be exactly correct in their logic, which would most likely be the result of drawing a straight line down a map. The most common-sense and logical solution of them all—the one that will have been three years in the making—will go live after one more season.
The Big Ten’s initial attempt at setting divisions was actually conducted while trying to achieve a competitive balance. Although this wasn’t as big of a swing-and-miss as the naming, it was awfully close. Trying to pinpoint "competitive balance" for a conference that often shifts a great deal, especially outside the top teams, was not a worthwhile initiative to take. In fact, it’s damn near impossible.
Of all the gripes, the largest, of course, centered on Michigan and Ohio State being placed in separate divisions. Because they play late in the season, this created the possibility of playing back-to-back games. It’s not the end of the world—just ask Stanford and UCLA in Pac-12 land—but it didn’t sit well with many from its inception.
The only rivalry game that will be protected starting in 2014 will be Purdue and Indiana. I can feel your heart rate beginning to return to its normal state now that this news has been confirmed.
As a whole, the entire Legends and Leaders experiment was bad advice, bad PR and bad execution. Initially greeted with a resounding 90-percent disapproval rating, the experiment was booed only moments after it left the gate. Less than a week after it was announced, Delany opened the door for changes down the road.
It took slightly longer than anticipated, but here we are.
Legends and Leaders will go on one final farewell tour before the plug is pulled. If you’ve yet to remember which teams are in which divisions—and don’t worry, you’re not alone—there’s no use starting now. You might as well get the jump on the next batch of changes and start from scratch. Given the geographical nature of these changes, I like your chances.
And, because I feel obligated to remind you once more: Someone named divisions Legends and Leaders in college football, and someone else liked the idea enough to put this plan in motion. This part’s important.
That’s enough bad-mouthing, however. We will now let the divisions slowly drift to irrelevancy. Although this would be the ideal moment for a touching montage, cued up with the soothing sounds of Sarah McLachlan in the background, I simply cannot. I will not.
Somehow, this feels far more appropriate.
So long, Legends and Leaders. May you rest in pieces.
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