Well, how about the Big Ten. The news broke tonight, two divisions, and they'll start playing next season in 2011. I've been thinking about this for a couple of hours now, and given what a story it is, I think it's worth a blog entry.
First of all...let's be selfish. What matters the most to me is Michigan. That being said, I am pleased with the way it shook out. The rivalries and tradition that Michigan has built over the years is the key for me. When you look at this divisional set up...the most important traditions and rivalries, in my opinion, were preserved.
We will play Michigan State every year. They are in the same division. Rivalry and tradition preserved!
We will play Oho State every year and it will be the last game of the regular season. Even though they are in another division, as a protected crossover rivalry we are guaranteed that game on that date. Rivalry and tradition preserved!
The biggest issue with this from others seems to be that it may come to pass that Michigan and Ohio State will play the last game, and then meet again a couple weeks later in the post season Big Ten Title game. While that is not my favorite scenario, the idea of Michigan and Oho State never again playing with all the marbles on the line in a championship game is NOT acceptable to me.
Lions play by play man Dan Miller and I spoke about this tonight. He doesn't like it. He says it may be like getting a mulligan, and he doesn't like mulligans. I can understand that, but, lets face it, how often may that happen. Maybe not that often. I just can't stand the thought of the two never meeting again for the big prize. When they meet with nothing on the line, it's great. It's a rivalry. It's a border war. So it happens twice within 3 weeks some years. The more the merrier.
Overall the conference will be very tough. I'm telling you, we may never have another Big Ten team in a national title game. You almost have to go through the season unbeaten to get to a BCS title game these days. It's conceivable that a Big Ten team could have a four week run of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Penn State with two of them on the road. How many do you think will come through that unscathed. If they do, and don't stumble anywhere else against say, Michigan, Iowa, or Michigan State then they deserve to play in the national title game. Is it too tough to a fault?
The SEC claims they are the best conference in the country. The Big Ten just made a move against them. Adding Nebraska into the mix makes a very formidable line-up. this whole deal is going to force everyone to get better. Coach's will have less time to build a program up...imagine how the faithful will react if for three years you are at the bottom of your division, or you don't sniff the title game in 5 years. It's going to be tough.
Certainly the conference will be more visible. The Big Ten network is loving this. Every week you'll have marquee match-ups somewhere around the league. TV sets across the country will be, in essence, watching a season long elimination tourney. One loss you are in trouble, two and you are out. TV will draw in more viewers and recruiting area's will be expanded.
Whether you like it or not, it is done. The conference will get their big money, brought to you by (you fill in the blank) Big Ten title game the second week of December. It will be an EVENT. The SEC, and the Big 12, and the other conference title games won't have the stage in December to themselves. The game keeps the Big Ten alive into mid December.
For the conference, this is progress. It's about maximizing the brand. It's about growing the product. I's about generating revenue. If you owned stock in a company that was doing this, you'd be delighted. Wall Street analysts would be excited about the future of the company. The stock price would go up. In other words, it's the times we live in. We can still recognize the league. We still have our rivalries. Kids who play the game are still doing it because they love it, not because they are getting paid. The bands are still exceptional. We'll still have homecoming. Let's see what develops with the new system, and be thankful we still have what we have.