Big Ten Bashers and the Big Game

Roy LaFaverCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2008

You are probably looking at this story with expectations of an attack on Big Ten bashers.  You won’t find it here because I’m one of them.  What you will find is a hidden reason why many older fans love to see Big Ten teams humiliated.

Young people don’t remember the days when the Big Ten Conference conspired with the Rose Bowl to lock up millions of dollars and football championships for the Big Ten and Pac 8 while locking out the rest of the country.  The rust belt was not the rust belt then, and TV ratings were pretty much determined by the Midwest, Northeast, and Pacific coast areas. 

So who at the networks cared whether a Texas, Alabama, or some other Podunk team was relegated to a quarter of the dollars and a tenth of the respect given often inferior teams?  The refrain in the board room at NBC was, “I got my money!”  They could host “The grandaddy of them all” every year and rake it in, right along with the Big Ten.

Now it is 2008, and those days are gone, but they are not forgotten, at least by some of us (didn’t you just love it when the Rose Bowl and Big Ten were forced into open competition, primarily for the MONEY?).

So when the SEC locks up millions in TV contracts and people in the Midwest, New York, and LA cry foul, I say let them cry.  The SEC did it the right way.  It reformatted its program and created a highly competitive atmosphere for every team in the conference, and every athletic department in the conference has been on board from day one. 

Those days of Alabama and the other seven are gone.  The days of Tennessee and Georgia Tech running the show are gone.  A once pitiful program in Florida is long forgotten history.  LSU is more than the two or three seasons of the Chinese Bandits; it is a two-time BCS Champion and a force to be reckoned with every year. 

Auburn is no longer a piñata for Bear Bryant.  Arkansas woke up after decades and came to where it belonged in the first place.  South Carolina is no longer regretting its exit from the ACC and the hard times that came with it.  Even Vanderbilt, a once perennial doormat, puts a competitive team on the field, and every coach prepares for them just as if they were playing Georgia.

The Big Ten once locked up their money in closed door meetings with network execs, Rose Bowl officials, and an equally greedy Pac 8.  The SEC did it on the field.  And now many other conferences have followed suit with two-division/championship-game formats.  Notably, the Greedy Two are the only majors (and I use that term loosely) who have yet to adopt this competitive idea. 

So this weekend could be a win-win for those of us who remember.  If OSU blows out USC, yippee!  If USC blows out OSU, yippee!  Unless by some miracle this is a close game, I can’t lose.  How about you?