It took almost three years for the Big Ten to come to its senses, but the nation’s oldest conference finally renamed and re-aligned its football divisions.
After two seasons of the silly monikers “Leaders” and “Legends,” the conference has settled on “East” and “West.”
Generic as it is, it is at least accurate.
More importantly, the Big Ten has placed its two tradition-rich power programs, Ohio State and Michigan, into the same division, thus eliminating any chance the two would meet in the season-ending rivalry and then again a week later in the Big Ten title game.
The East will consist of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, Indiana and Michigan State; the West of Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota.
On its surface, the East would appear deeper and stronger as far as programs go, but in any given season, the West could be stronger on the field.
Nevertheless, the change is much welcome. You just have to wonder why Commissioner Jim Delany and the Big Ten’s brain trust had it all wrong for the past two seasons in the first place.
Here’s what I wrote on December 14, 2010 when the original divisions were announced:
I sometimes wonder if the powers-that-be that run the Big Ten Conference just search for ways to attract public scrutiny.
First, the conference splits Ohio State and Michigan into separate divisions, thus making it possible that the two longtime rivals could play back-to-back games to end the regular season. When it happens, the conference will realize what a disaster they have on their hands.
Now, the conference has named its two divisions “leaders” and “legends.”
If I were grading these names, I would mark a big fat ‘F’ over this decision.
What, was ‘A’ and ‘B’ taken? Or how about “Red” or “Blue?”
Seriously, “leaders” and “legends?” It has all the formality of two little league divisions. What could be more bland and non-descript? The national media will have a field day with this one, using it to poke more fun at the stogy old Big Ten, whose name has been a misnomer for 17 years.
The Big Ten needed to come up with something either unique to its region – such as “Great Lakes” and “Heartland” -- or honor the actual legends who made the conference what it is. How about legendary names such as “Hayes,” “Schembechler,” “Daugherty” or “Kinnick” or even past commissioners who left a lasting legacy such as “Duke” and “Wilson?”
Commissioner Jim Delany actually said thatthe conference couldn't decide on proper names because there were too many tochoose from.
He also said the conference was afraid that using names from certain schools’ history would show partiality. Those excuses are as flimsy as Michigan's defense.
If that was the case, we wouldn’t have proper names for any awards – Heisman, Outland, Thorpe, etc. If that was the case, the NFL wouldn’t award the Super Bowl-winning team the Lombardi Award, fearful it would show partiality to the Packers.
Nope, the Big Ten blew it again. The nation’s oldest conference hit a home run snagging Nebraska away from the Big 12. Since, it has gone 0 for 2 in the major decisions resulting from the expansion. The first was dumb, the second was even dumber.
What’s next? Will it name its championship game the “Leaders-Legends Annual Season-ending Gridiron Contest?”
So chalk this one up to: “PR blunder fixed, albeit two and a half years later.”