Big 10 Division Names Just Silly

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - December 22, 2010
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Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is the smartest person in university athletics. We know this because we read it right here in September. But with last week’s announcement that the Big Ten has named its newly created divisions, and created a pool of post-season awards larger than the invite list to the NHL playoffs, one has to wonder if our earlier judgment was flawed or if there is another solution.

Perhaps it’s possible for genius to have an off day.

At one point Albert Einstein may have thought E=mc couldn’t be improved. Dante may have stopped at seven levels of Hell before getting the inspiration to add two more, just in case.

Thomas Edison knew the phonograph had no commercial value, and the president of Michigan Savings Bank knew an investment in the Ford Motor Company in 1903 was a bad investment. So perhaps Delany isn’t alone in this rare misstep.

Whereas the Big 12 has the North and South, and Conference USA East and West, the Big Ten has the Legends and Leaders. If the titles weren’t so darn laughable, they’d be arrogant.

To be fair to Delany, the naming was a bit more challenging since the conference was divided competitively, not geographically. There are no North and South or East and West schools, but a template exists for the geographically challenged. The Atlantic Coast Conference is made up of schools located on the Atlantic coast. Their solution? An Atlantic and a Coastal division. The Big Ten could have stolen the idea, announced the Great Lakes and MidWest divisions and be done with it. Now, everyone is laughing. And not just those watching the results of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Legends and Leaders is not just silly, but misleading. The two labels are hardly equal.

Jean Van De Velde was a leader, for three rounds at the 1999 Open Championship, until his historic blow up. That hardly puts him in the class of Nicklaus, Jones, Hogan and Woods. Perhaps Delany had Yaz in mind.

Carl Yastrzemski won the 1968 American League batting title with a blistering .301. It was hardly an awe-inspiring performance, and though he never led Boston to a World Series, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and that is legendary, like Ohio State and Penn State, which are Leaders, but unlike Northwestern and Minnesota, which are supposedly Legends. Get the picture? No?

Suddenly neither does Delany. After spending a few days explaining the choice, he has backed down a bit saying a name change is possible in the near future. Perhaps his genius does come and go. Dumb enough to approve the name, too smart to be miopic. Now, if he can just do something about the logo.

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