Stories indexed with the term ‘Big Ten’

Column: Beilein’s Latest Surprise

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

On Tuesday night, the Michigan men’s basketball team beat Illinois to earn its first outright Big Ten title in almost three decades. What’s more impressive is how they’ve done it.

Michigan’s famous Fab Five left the stage 20 years ago, and were replaced by Tom Izzo’s Michigan State teams a few years later. For more than a decade, the Spartans dominated the state.

Izzo’s teams have earned 16 straight NCAA invitations – and they’ll get another one next week – seven Big Ten titles, five Final Fours, and one national title, in 2000, and he’s done it the right way. His players graduate at roughly an 80% clip, higher than the student body at large. Along the way, Izzo took 18 of 21 against the Wolverines, who have had four different head coaches during his tenure.

But what a difference a few years make. Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has beaten the Spartans in six of their last eight meetings, and returned the long dormant Michigan program to its previous heights.

And by previous heights, I mean 1986, which is the last time Michigan won the Big Ten title outright. I was a senior that year – about the same age as the parents of Michigan’s current players. [Full Story]

Column: How Big Is Big (10) Enough?

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

College conferences are going through a major upheaval – perhaps the biggest in the history of college sports.

In the past year, we’ve seen Nebraska join the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah join the Pac-10, and, this week, Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the Atlantic Coast Conference – geography be damned. In fact, DePaul, Marquette and Texas Christian University just joined the Big East. Which raises the question: Just how big is the East, anyway? Big enough to swallow half the Midwest and a chunk of Texas?

I’ve noticed a lot of people who don’t care that much about sports seem to care a lot about this. For non-sports fans, college conferences are kind of like your parents as you get older. You might not check in with them every day, but it’s good to know they’re there, safe and sound.

Our conferences have been there much longer, of course. Way back in 1895, seven university presidents – not athletic directors or coaches – created what we now call the Big Ten. Those seven presidents didn’t do it to make money. They thought it unseemly for a university to charge anybody anything to watch their students play football. The presidents didn’t discuss marketing or “branding,” either. They simply wanted to ensure everybody representing their university was a bona fide student, an amateur athlete, and safe. A good start. The Big Ten served as the model for just about every conference that followed, coast to coast.

Like so much that is great about college athletics, those conferences formed organically and authentically, bringing together schools of similar size, quality and character. They also defined our regions better than any labels. [Full Story]

Column: Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Today, for only the third time in almost a century, the Big Ten will officially admit another university to the league. Nebraska left the Big Eight conference to start playing Big Ten football this fall.

The Cornhuskers will receive a slice of the much bigger Big Ten TV pie, but that might not be the best reason to join.

To celebrate Nebraska joining the nation’s oldest conference, the Big Ten Network will be kicking off three days of non-stop programming. Now I’m the kind of guy who might actually watch three days of non-stop programming about the Cornhuskers, but you might have other priorities this holiday weekend.

So, I’m here to tell you what you need to know in three easy minutes. [Full Story]

Column: A Corn-Fed Rube’s Rant

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

This spring the Big Ten Conference added Nebraska, giving the league 12 teams.

So, what do you do – change the name to the Big 12? No, because that name’s already taken by another conference – which, naturally, now has 10 teams. So the Big Ten decided to keep its name – and change everything else, starting with the logo.

Now, to handle all this, they could ask some corn-fed rubes like you and your cronies, but you would probably do something silly like draw on the Big Ten’s unparalleled 115-year history and come up with something simple, honest, and authentic. Or you might just pay some art student a hundred bucks to make a new logo, like Nike did years ago, to create some swoosh-looking thing. It was so embarrassingly bad they got rid of it as soon as they could, which is why you’ve probably never seen it.

And that just won’t do, you mouth-breathing Midwesterner. Why, you probably don’t even use “networking” as a verb. You disgust me.

No, what you’ve got to do is lay yourself at the mercy of high-priced international image consultants – the kind of “branding experts” who cover the euro currency with geometrically perfect structures that never existed and name the streets of our finer subdivisions after purely abstract concepts, which are as suitable for your municipality as they are for Mars – and let them tell you what you’re supposed to like.

And, thank God, that is exactly what the Big Ten did! [Full Story]

Column: The Rivalry

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Ten years ago, ESPN viewers voted the Michigan-Ohio State football game the best rivalry in the nation. Not just in college football, or football in general, but in all sports. Since 1935, it’s held a privileged spot as the last game of the Big Ten season. More college football fans have seen this rivalry, in person and on TV, than any other.

HBO has produced dozens of sports documentaries, but only one on college football: the Michigan-Ohio State game. They titled it simply, “The Rivalry.” They did not feel they had to explain it.

But when the Big Ten added Nebraska, everything seemed up in the air, including the Michigan-Ohio State game. Next fall the Big Ten will have 12 teams, playing in two divisions, culminating in a title game – all new.

So that raised a few possibilities – not to mention plenty of rumors and fears. [Full Story]