On September 3rd, the Big 10 conference announced the composition of its newly expanded divisions. What would otherwise have been a somewhat hum-hum event immediately became the most significant event of the young college football season when the conference commissioner confirmed that the two historically-best teams in the conference-Michigan and Ohio State-would be split between the two new Big 10 divisions.
The conference, which will contain twelve teams with the addition of Nebraska in 2011, will be divided into two divisions of six teams each. The first division will consist of Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Northwestern while the second will have Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, and Indiana. According to Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney, conference leaders reached this decision because they felt that this split gave the conference its best chance at preserving local rivalries and achieving internal parity.
So what makes it such a massive travesty? Such a horrible mistake? Conference parity is fine and, to be fair, the Big 10 seems to have done a good job with that: each division has two elite programs (Michigan and Nebraska; Ohio State and Penn State), two capable programs (Iowa and Michigan State; Wisconsin and Illinois) and filler. Moreover, preserving internal local rivalries like Purdue and Indiana is laudable. But what makes it such a massive travesty is that the switch will end the nearly century long tradition of a Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry game to end the Big 10 season.
Michigan - Ohio State Football Rivalry.
Thanks to DRust at flickr.com for the picture.
The Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry is the oldest, and likely most passionate, rivalry in all of college football. Part of the reason that it has remained so charged even when one program or the other entered a period of decline was that the weaker team could always summon all its energies and play spoiler for the other. This happened on more than one occasion, kept the rivalry strong, and provided Big 10 fans with the most interesting regular season game of the college football season every single year.
If the game is moved to the early part of the season as a result of this conference realignment, the rivalry will lose much of its luster. Michigan and Notre Dame are major rivals, but how many people are paying major attention to their upcoming game this weekend? Not many, which is because it is in the second week and does not have the significance of a late season game between powerhouse programs looking to attend marquee bowls. If you take that super-charged atmosphere out of the Michigan-OSU game, then you will take quite a bit of the heat out of the program’s rivalry. That would (will unfortunately) be a shame for all of college football.
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