Being from the Midwest, I have seen countless games and heard countless stories about this conference since it was founded 115 years ago. Think about that for a minute—115 years. To be around that long you have a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment. The Big Ten was always defined by these characteristics. Along with great rivalries and even greater players and coaches, the Big Ten has produced many great memories for sports fans.
I feel like the direction the Big Ten is heading in doesn't follow the values and actions of the past that made the conference great. This manifests itself most in the great game of football. Let's start with the idea of expansion itself, which had been in play for quite some time. I have no problem with Nebraska joining the Big Ten. I happen to think Nebraska belonged in this conference all along and look forward to their yearly rivalry with Iowa.
What I have a problem with is the way the Big Ten looked to expand. It wasn't about improving competition or balancing the two divisions with equally talented teams. It was all about money. I know about 80 percent of you out there are thinking "Justin, get your head out of the sand, everything in the BCS era has been all about money, often at the expense of many of the student athletes."
Bringing in Nebraska creates a need for a championship game (can you say cash cow?) and brings in a huge fan base and TV market. If you think Nebraska was brought in because of the prestige of the program, think again. The conference also closely looked at bringing in Syracuse to capture the New York market. Yes, I'm sure football fans are dying to see the Orange and Indiana play to a 10-10 tie every year.
What should the Big Ten call their two divisions?
When I think of this conference, I don't think of money-hungry schools looking to cash in on a championship game. I think of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno pleading with his school to invest money into academic programs first and football tenth.
When I look at the Big Ten's new logo, I feel like I'm looking at a basement full of shag carpet or a bunch of disco movies. Yes, I'm fairly certain the Big Ten paid the 1970s to design their new logo. For it to have been plain is one thing, painfully simplistic is quite another.
The real kicker is that the Big Ten spent millions in developing the new image with a European design firm. This image posted above is the best their seven-member design team could come up with. The Big Ten I know would have hired one design student from each conference school and let them design a portion of the logo. Hey, I'm just some sports writer, you would think someone in the conference would have had this kind of idea.
Also troubling are the names of the new divisions. Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota will play in the "Legends" division. The "Leaders" division includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. Who came up with these names? I bet it was the same people who come up with every cheesy, unoriginal, movie line or song title.
I bet Pentagram Design liked the idea as well. Don't even get fans started on the separation of rivals Michigan and Ohio State or the Badgers and Gophers, at least with a conference championship game we could end up with an OSU-Michigan game at a neutral site and I suppose that isn't all bad.
I know East and West becomes a little boring for divisions. Why not "Great Lakes" or "Great Plains" divisions? They say the titles pay tribute to the history of the Big Ten and the future leaders it will produce. The thing about great leaders and great legends is that they tend to speak through their actions. They don't need some athletic conference to tell people for them. The world of sports tends to produce egos big enough on their own, we don't need help from our conferences.
I'm not one to badmouth change. I don't see a problem with conference expansion. By adding Nebraska and a championship game, the Big Ten gained a ton of respect in the BCS computer and voters' minds. I just wish the changes were handled in a manner that kept the dignity earned by numerous generations of honest, hard-working, athletes, coaches and fans.