Big Ten Missing Out Big Time by Not Playing Thanksgiving Weekend

Michael MaxwellCorrespondent INovember 29, 2009

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Toby Gerhart #7 of the Stanford Cardinal is tackled by Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

While the rest of the country finished up its regular season slate with a host of traditional rivalries this weekend, in keeping with tradition, the Big Ten’s stadiums sat dark and quiet.  What a shame.


The college football weekend began on Thanksgiving night with a spirited No. 3 Texas-Texas A&M clash, continued with a full schedule of games on Friday that included a historic Iron Bowl between No. 2 Alabama and Auburn, and concluded late Saturday night with an epic back and fourth battle between Stanford and Notre Dame in what is almost certain to be Charlie Weis’ last game as head coach for the Irish.


Precious few things in this country are a more perfect fit than football and Thanksgiving and the Big Ten should strongly consider getting in on the action during this long holiday weekend.


The Big Ten is missing out on major publicity by not playing this weekend.  Think of enjoying your turkey and/or leftovers while Michigan battles Ohio State, Penn State fights Michigan St. for the Land Grant Trophy, Iowa tangles with Minnesota for Floyd of Rosedale, or the Old Oaken Bucket battle between Purdue and Indiana is waged.


Extending the season through Thanksgiving would also allow for at least one off week during the regular season.  


This is something that would be very valuable, given the bumps and bruises tend to pile up as the grind of the season wears on.


It would also provide a break in the mental grind related to playing 12 consecutive weeks, something most Big Ten teams endured this season.


I know the arguments against playing on Thanksgiving.  They include tradition and the fact that the players and coaches get to spend the holiday with their families. 


Well, the Big Ten has broken with tradition before.  Penn State was added to the league as the 11th member in the early 1990s.  The Big Ten was the first to add instant replay review to their games.


And while spending Thanksgiving with your family is a nice draw for recruits and current players, during the football season, a football player’s family is his football team and what better way to spend that holiday than gutting it out on the football field against a bitter rival?


There is no denying that the Big Ten’s bowl record has been abysmal of late.  I’m not going to sit here and say that extending the Big Ten’s season by another week or two will be the cure-all and suddenly the Big Ten will dominate again in the post season.  It isn’t.


But, in addition to the benefits mentioned above, I think this would be one step the conference could take to help level the playing field come bowl time.


With the exception of Illinois and Wisconsin, the rest of the league finished up November 21...the week before Thanksgiving.


The majority of the BCS games these days are played after New Year’s Day.  If a team like Iowa this year makes it to a BCS bowl game that is played after New Year’s Day, the bowl game will come more than six weeks after the last regular season game. 


If Iowa happens to play a team that participated in a conference championship game, then their bowl opponent will only end up having four weeks off and likely to have less rust to kick off in the bowl game.


Having six weeks off is more like starting the regular season over again than it is extending into a post-season game.


In 2010, the league is scheduled to begin playing a full slate of games on Thanksgiving weekend.  It has been a long time coming.  There are just too many benefits to be gained that have been ignored for too long.  I'm anxious to see how things work out with this new scheudule.