Big Ten Experiencing an Identity Crisis of Conference?

Nebraska FansContributor IOctober 11, 2010

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: A fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team takes on the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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Why is Doc Sadler in this photo?

Some might take me to be a rabble rouser. Rest assured I’m not. At least not intentionally. Not usually. Ok, except in my fantasy football leagues, but they ask for it.

Yet after my last article which was somewhat…we’ll say “harsh” on the Big 10 and their respective fan bases, one of my esteemed colleagues on the weekly podcast made known that he was not entirely pleased with my article. He didn’t feel that the Big Ten fan bases were fairly represented and actually said he stopped reading after I launched into my diatribe before the midpoint of the article. This is not what a writer wants to hear.

Now, I can concede that my own perception may be heavily influenced by a handful of interactions which may not necessarily be representative of the whole. I would like to make clear that I did live in Michigan for 7 years, and that these 7 years happened to correlate with the Callahan Era Infection.  Suffice it to say that Big Ten fans were less than supportive through it all. (Thankfully I had a first floor dorm room and could access the window for reentrance into the dorm after watching the game at off-campus destinations. That surely helped me to avoid a lot of potential confrontations in the lobby.) Regardless, my distaste for the Big Ten has reared its ugly head early on.

So I’m here to make amends.

You see, recently the Big Ten has taken a lot of heat for its decision to retain the title of the Big Ten. Many slow-witted sorts have poked fun at the irony that after the conclusion of this season, the Big 12 will have 10 teams and the Big Ten will have 12 teams. I can just see their collective 1st grade math teachers’ chests swelling with pride right now. Still, one must concede that this is a problem, and I thought I might be just the person to help solve this Identify Crisis of Conference.

After all, if not me, who? Dan Beebe?


So for those of you not already aware, a quick history lesson:

In 1896, seven schools came together to form the basis of what would eventually come to be known as the Big Ten Conference to discuss eligibility criteria of student athletes. These schools included the University of Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. By 1899, Indiana and Iowa were added, warranting the first reference to the conference as the “Big Nine.” Ohio State came into the fold in 1912, and Michigan took an 11 year hiatus starting in 1896 before rejoining in 1907 and giving us the basis for the Big 10 we largely know today.

Changes was in the air in 1946, however, when the University of Chicago elected to de-emphasize varsity sports in the post-WWII era and soon found they could not compete athletically, leading to a wholesale withdraw from conference participation in 1946. As a replacement, Michigan State was added in 1950, but it took another 37 years before the Big Ten name was formally adopted in 1987 when it was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation.

This name was only numerically valid for 3 years before Penn State was invited in 1990. At that time, it was decided that the conference would continue to be called the Big Ten, but its logo was modified to reflect the change as seen by the number 11 being disguised in the negative space of the traditionally blue "Big Ten" lettering.

A little known fact is that Texas also entered into negotiations with the Big Ten in 1990, prior to the formation of the Big 12, to gauge the Big Ten’s interest in adding the Longhorns to the fold. However, the Big Ten had established a 4-year moratorium to further expansion after adding Penn State, and ultimately rejected Texas’s proposal on the grounds that the putrid burnt orange was hideous and would clash with Illinois’ more regal shade of orange. Or maybe it was the almost 900 miles to the next closest school. Hard to say. Either way, Texas lost, and that’s just the way we like it.

Fast forward to December 2009 when the Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced the conference would begin looking to expand in order to secure a title game and lengthen the reach of the omniscient Big Ten Network which was proving to be a cash cow. After a whirlwind courtship that would make even Nicholas Sparks uncomfortable, Nebraska applied for membership on June 11, 2010, granting a twelfth team, creating an annual conference championship game, and leaving Missouri (who had openly pleaded for admission) left to return to the icy marriage that had become the Big 12.

In the process, this seismic shift in conference power also altered the numerical universe of these respective conferences, and the search for a new logo to represent the Big Ten has begun.

(Note: The Big 12 has already found their new logo, shown here:

Not surprisingly, Texas has also offered a proposal for a new motto: “In Texas we Trust.” They should have a blast.)

Now several clever alternatives to the logo have been identified that the Big Ten may be wise to consider. Given that rumors continue to swirl around the possible expansion to 14 or even the first 16 team mega-conference, the following logo seems plausible: 

Yet perhaps this overstates the confusion just a little, so we’d better take a pass on this one. Instead, let’s keep this prospective 16-team representative in the back pocket in the event that we ever decide to go beyond 12:

Now those who lack imagination have recommended a more simple approach to the traditional negative space alteration, opting for this…

...however I’m not a fan. What the Big Ten needs is a logo that symbolizes a shift away from the old pattern of thinking, something that represents the beginning of a new era in Big Ten football, something that really emphasizes the newfound strength of the conference. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my proposal for the new Big Ten logo:

It seems abundantly clear to me that this is the best way to integrate Nebraska tradition in with that of the Big Ten Conference. It would also serve as a nice token gesture by Delany in return for the brutal 2011 schedule facing the Huskers, as well as would start the conference relations off on the right foot. Because after everything that happened with the Big 12 fallout, all Dr. Tom really wants is a little peace.

--Chase Francl