Adding Maryland and Rutgers is a good play for the Big Ten in terms of keeping up with the Joneses. I do believe it’s inevitable there would be more expansion with everyone getting bigger, and I understand the potential value of those two programs with those two markets. I still don’t like it in general.
I think expansion leaves fans worse off in the long run with regionalism and familiarity suffering in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. I’m pro capitalism, but at some point enough is enough. That’s especially true if you look at the ways a lot of these programs choose to spend their money.
Maryland has been intriguing to me ever since they came up; Rutgers not so much. I don’t believe Jim Delany is really going to get the benefits he expects from the Scarlet Knights, but it probably doesn’t matter at this point. Maryland I can see being competitive in a variety of sports and actually bringing the TV market that they want. I suppose there’s a good chance both programs can bring some talent into the conference, but I think it remains to be seen how much conference affiliation means in recruiting overall. Plus Big Ten schools already recruit both areas regularly, as some do Virginia, Georgia and especially Florida.
I’m also willing to believe that this is the beginning of a more powerful play, maybe even one that still brings Notre Dame around. I’ve heard the chatter about Texas, but I have a hard time believing it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
What got me fired up on Twitter earlier this week was a report that might turn out to have been premature about the Big Ten divisions. Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virgina and others have their own appeal as well.
I think in general Jim Delany and the conference presidents have done things they needed to do to keep the Big Ten competitive. However, I think they’ve made several missteps along the way that have lessened the overall positives.
The number one issue is the divisions, which were botched from the beginning, so I’ve looked at the further expansion of the way as a good chance for them to undo that gigantic blunder.
While the league and its members overall will be stronger financially based on the moves that have been made, I think Ohio State and Michigan have gotten the smallest benefit of all. Maybe that’s one of the symptoms of being on the top, but I think that the damage has been greater than it needs to be based on some decisions that have been made within the context of the overall expansion.
The best thing this conference had going for it for a very long time was Ohio State’s football rivalry with Michigan, and I think it was already asking a lot to push it down the line in terms of prestige by adding a conference championship game. They really added insult to injury by splitting the teams up and creating the possibility of a rematch, something that changes a fundamental dynamic of the rivalry that exists throughout amateur football: you play your rival once a year for all the bragging rights and whatever conference spoils come with it. In basketball (and the NFL), teams play twice (once at each home venue) so it remains symmetrical. One at your place, one at mine. That’s fun and still easy to digest, but it doesn’t offer the finality of the once-a-year-and-done cycle in college and high school football. Maybe there is a rubber match in the postseason, but that has as much a chance to dilute the product as it does decide who’s boss for the year.
We tend to be admittedly OSU-Michigan centric here (for obvious reasons), but it should be noted they split up a significant historic rivalry for just about every team in the conference, too, with their totally misguided attempt to set the divisions (with their pretentious and embarrassing names) by competitive balance. Programs are inevitably going to rise and fall through the course of time, and I’m not convinced they split the teams in the most balanced way, anyway. Yes, they locked in many rivalries yearly with permanent crossover games, but that screws up the competitive balance, too, and wouldn’t be necessary in as many cases as it is with the current set up if they just split the league geographically.
Why the leaders of the two most powerful programs in the Big Ten don’t recognize this and push for it is beyond me.
In closing I’ll say the Big Ten divisions and the Ohio State Pro Combat uniform experience are similar to me in that they aren’t necessarily terrible ideas but their execution has made them more disruptive than they needed to be to the good things the conference and the Buckeyes already had going for them.
I don’t have an issue with alternate uniforms, especially properly executed throwbacks, but Ohio State has accepted them from their Nike overlords in the worst possible way in time every year but one.
Like concluding the regular season and deciding conference and sometimes national title fates, part of the Ohio State-Michigan mystique is seeing the winged helmets against the silver ones covered in a Buckeye leaves. Both schools have changed their looks throughout the long and storied existence of their football programs, but they’ve largely remained the same since the era that defines it most began. The Buckeyes moved to their current look – including the beginning of the Buckeye leaf helmet sticker tradition – in the late 1960s, and the Ten Year War soon launched with legendary head coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler stalking opposite sidelines and making national headlines.
Just like the Big Ten can expand without altering as many traditions as it has, Ohio State can play ball with Nike and offer one little caveat. There are 12 games (or more) every season, and I see nothing unreasonable about insisting one is off the table when alternate uniforms are discussed. Just like divisions.