By Dave Wischnowsky–
This past summer, when the Big Ten announced that the University of Nebraska was signing on as the league’s 12th team, the Conference That Can’t Count hit a stand-up triple.
(It would have been a home run if the Huskers had a real hoops program.)
But then on Monday, when the Big Ten in its next at-bat, announced the names of its divisions and unveiled its new logo and trophies, it bunted foul.
On a truly awful pitch.
Jim Delany, what have you done to my Big Ten?
You and your cohorts took the snarling, mud-stained league of Butkus, Hayes and Schembechler and, as R. Lee Ermey would say, turned it into Mamby-Pamby Land.
It’s been 24 hours, and I’m still at a bigger loss than Indiana vs. Wisconsin (83-20, in case you forgot) as to how “Legends” and “Leaders” were the best division names that the Big Ten’s commissioner and school presidents could come up with.
When I first heard the news on Monday morning, I was quite confused. I honestly had no idea what the milquetoast monikers of “Legends” and “Leaders” were even supposed to mean or represent.
Might as well have called them the Big Ten “Enigmatic” and “Vague” Divisions.
Things didn’t get any better when I read Delany’s explanation in which the commish said, “ ‘Legends’ is a nod to our history and to the people associated with our schools who are widely recognized as legends – student-athletes, coaches, alumni and faculty.
“ ‘Leaders’ looks to the future as we remain committed to fostering leaders, the student-athletes who are encouraged to lead in their own way for the rest of their lives, in their families, in their communities and in their chosen professions.
“We’re proud of our many legends and even prouder of our member institutions that develop future leaders every day.”
New Coke was a better idea than this.
More popular, too.
Personally, I thought calling the divisions “Schembechler” and “Hayes” would have been incredibly cool and befitting the history and ferocity of the league. As alternatives, “Lakes” and “Plains” or “Black” and “Blue” would have worked for me, too.
But I wasn’t asked.
Which has me wondering, was anyone outside of the Big Ten’s boardroom? How could the conference possibly drop the ball this badly and be so terribly tone deaf? Where was the market testing?
On Monday, the hits didn’t even stop with the drab divisions. The Big Ten’s new logo – featuring a soft font and an even softer hue – is at least as unappealing as “Legends” and “Leaders.”
And perhaps even more confusing.
Why, I’d like to know, does the logo feature both a “10” and a “Ten”? Is the conference soon expanding to 20?
And then there are the new trophies, a Frankensteinian slate of 18 awards featuring more hyphens a corporate merger. With players from every conference team represented – now, remind me, are Antwaan Randle El, Pat Fitzgerald and Dallas Clark, leaders or legends? – the intent of the awards appears to be to make certain that everyone feels special.
The Big Ten: It’s just like Little League.
Next thing you know, the conference’s doormat will be awarded a 12th-place championship trophy.
Naming the divisions “Leaders” and “Legends” essentially serves that same juvenile purpose: To try to make everyone feel like a champ. And in a league and a sport built on fierce competition, that’s just incredibly silly.
The divisions could have just been named “Winners” and “More Winners.”
Wise TV dad and Temple University alum Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Well, the keys are in the ignition, Big Ten.
Too bad we can’t take them out and start this whole thing over.
From the list of rejected Big Ten Division Names:
1. These and Those
2. Left and Right
3. LOL and LMAO
4. WTF and OMG
5. Sharks and Jets
6. Guys and Dolls
7. To and Fro
8. Chips and Dip
9. Hope and Change
10. Epic and Fail
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.