The Post-Big Ten Expansion, Impending Divisional, Corporate Naming Rights Championship Game Blues

The Big Ten football meetings occurred yesterday and produced good news and bad news for football traditionalists.

The good news is that the Big Ten is going to move from an eight-game in-conference schedule to a nine-game in-conference schedule to try to preserve rivalries.  If that means that Big Ten teams will play a conference opponent rather than a cupcake, I’m all for it.  (Let’s hope, though, that the extra conference game doesn’t keep Big Ten teams from scheduling tough out-of-conference opponents, as Ohio State has done recently with Texas, USC, and Miami.)  The other good news is that further expansion is on hold, for now at least, and Notre Dame is off the table as a candidate.  The Irish apparently want to keep their independent status in football, and I say more power to them.  The reality, however, is that there are significant financial pressures favoring expansion, so our respite from more expansion talk is probably only temporary.

In my view, the bad news is more significant than the good.  The conference will split into two six-team divisions, there will be a conference championship game, and — horror of horrors! — the “naming rights” for the championship game will be sold.  So, instead of “The Game” ending the season for Ohio State and Michigan, we will have to endure a post-rivalry Blanditron Corporation Big Ten Championship Game at some non-campus location like Chicago or Detroit.  Sorry, but it just doesn’t have the same emotional clout for me.

A lot of this has yet to be worked out, of course.  The conference hasn’t decided which teams will go into which division — do you divide them east-west, north-south, or alphabetically? — or where a championship game will be played.  For now, all we know is that the Big Ten world is changing, and 2010 will be the last year for the conference in its hallowed, currently recognizable form.  Let’s enjoy it, in all its fleeting, tradition-rich glory!

Keep The Big Ten As It Is (Cont.)

Internet denizens who are rabidly interested in the issue of possible Big Ten expansion are abuzz about the recent comments of Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.  Swarbrick made some curious and evocative comments about conference expansion, suggesting that it could effect a “seismic” change that could “force” Notre Dame into a conference even though it dearly hopes to remain independent.  In response, a Chicago TV station has just posted a story quoting an anonymous source who says that Big Ten schools, which have been disappointed by Notre Dame’s flirtation with joining the Big Ten in the past, are like a groom left at the altar.  In effect, Notre Dame will have to commit first, and then convince the Big Ten schools that Notre Dame, the fickle female, will remain faithful and won’t change its mind this time.  

In short, the story of Notre Dame and the Big Ten has taken on the elements of a salacious tabloid tale about Hollywood types, complete with the jilted suitor with bruised feelings and the supposedly contrite former jilter.  Can the jilter convince the jiltee to take him back because he has now seen the light and will be true and committed to a meaningful relationship forever?  What do the ever-present, ever-lurking unnamed sources, who are typically described as a “close friend” of one party or the other, have to say about the circumstances that led to the break-up and then the rapprochement?  And to convince the Big Ten that it really, honest-to-god is serious about joining the conference this time, will Notre Dame have to feign interest in the Big Ten’s boring interests, pretend to listen to the Big Ten’s never-ending stories about some weighty emotional issue, or do penance by spending “quality time” with the Big Ten’s appalling family members?

I don’t care whether Notre Dame joins the Big Ten, and no one else should care, either.  Notre Dame will always have fans, even if it continues to stink in football as has been the case for more than a decade now.  Although Notre Dame would be a logical addition to the Big Ten from a geographic, rivalry, and scheduling standpoint, the Big Ten will do just fine without Notre Dame.  The Big Ten is like the kid who has suddenly grown five inches and put on some muscle and it looking pretty good, whereas Notre Dame is like the former popular kid who has experienced a debilitating acne outbreak and doesn’t quite realize it.  The Big Ten needs to man up and figure out that Notre Dame needs the Big Ten a lot more than vice versa.

What I mostly hope, though, is that we get past this silly season and back to some actual college football.  It cannot come soon enough.

Keep The Big Ten As It Is (Cont.)

Keep The Big Ten As It Is (Cont.)

Keep The Big Ten As It Is (Cont.)

Keep The Big Ten As It Is (Cont.)

Keep The Big Ten As It Is (Cont.)

Keep The Big Ten As It Is