I was born in Minneapolis, Minn., raised in Lansing, Mich. and now live in the Columbus, Ohio-area. I’m a Midwest born kid with deep, deep roots cultivated in the fertile soil that has long hosted America’s most prestigious and richest athletic conference, the Big Ten.
Like many of you I possess many of the positive traits that come with being a Midwesterner.
I’m courteous, humble, and understanding. I say hello to strangers in public, I don’t dread winter but do look forward to the summer months. I prefer every one of my meals to include some type of meat and I love me some Big Ten football.
Yes, I’ve been watching the Big Ten since I could walk. The iconic Big Ten and all of its pageantry and tradition have been a part of autumn Saturday’s my entire life. But as times change and the league change, I’ve got to wonder if the league that I have always loved will begin to change.
On Tuesday Rutgers University and the University of Maryland became official members of the Big Ten, instantly bringing a whole new East Coast vibe to the conference. I had no issues when the conference added Penn State in 1990 because even though its in Pennsylvania, the school is more Midwest blue collar than East Coast flash.
I was kind of disappointed to see Nebraska join the oldest athletic conference in America in 2011, not because the school doesn’t fit the Big Ten mold but because it’s Nebraska and the move instantly killed what was once one of the best college football rivalries. The Cornhuskers annual match-ups with Oklahoma went bye-bye once Big Red came under the Big Ten umbrella.
With Nebraska and Penn State on board the Big Ten had its 12 schools needed to create a conference championship game in football and was still holding onto its Midwestern footprint in the wholesome heartland of America.
But as the conference realignment game started to send geographic curveballs a couple years ago, I was confident conference commissioner Jim Delany would make the best decision for the Big Ten, and then he delivered us Rutgers and Maryland, not exactly a decision to get excited about.
In case you were wondering Rutgers is located in Piscataway, New Jersey. Yes, that Jersey…you know the Sopranos, Bruce Springstein and Atlantic City. Yes the state with the highest urban population in the country, that’s right 90 percent of the people in the state live in an urban area, definitely a far cry from a city like Madison, Wis. or Bloomington, Ind.
Then there’s Maryland with its crab cakes, oh the crab cakes. OK I really don’t have an issue with Maryland other than the fact that it’s not the Midwest. The state actually does have a history of having Midwestern-like qualities as the state gave up some of its land to form Washington, D.C., and Francis Scott Key was from Baltimore and wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.
The decision to add Rutgers and Maryland was nothing more than a money grab for Delaney and his highly successful Big Ten Network. By adding the New York City and Washington, D.C. markets its estimated that each Big Ten school will get yet another huge pay day, likely around $45 million each a year.
The addition of Penn State and Nebraska added football powerhouses to the conference, adding Rutgers and Maryland doesn’t offer much more than households. The football at the two schools has traditionally been awful and I can’t see how it’s going to get much better anytime soon.
If Delany had asked me I would have told him to go after Texas as hard as he possibly could. If the Longhorns refused I would’ve gone hard after their biggest conference rival Oklahoma. No, Texas doesn’t border any Big Ten states but the UT is the perfect match for the conference. A large state school, with a strong athletic program and one that’s also academically superior to all the schools in the Southeastern Conference not named Vanderbilt.
For years the Big Ten had pursued Notre Dame and the millions of fans the Irish would have delivered but after they said no for the umpteenth time, I would instruct all of my institutions to drop Notre Dame from the schedule in all sports. Forget the Irish, my last pick for a school to fill out the new 16-team Big Ten would be the University of Virginia.
Yes, Virginia is even farther from the Midwest, but since you’ve already added Maryland you could have a school with an excellent academic reputation and an athletic program that’s going to at least try to be competitive.
The world is changing and I know this. Football Saturdays are changing too and I guess we won’t be going back to the way it was, but can we make some decisions that aren’t based around the almighty dollar?
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.