By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Over the weekend, the Big Ten pulled off a heady play when the league leaked word that it’s mercifully dumping the much-maligned Legends and Leaders divisional monikers in favor of geographical names.
However, when it comes to actually rallying to win this conference name game, the Big Ten still stopped short of the goal line.
And Jim Delany’s league has more work to do.
On Saturday, ESPN.com reported that the Big Ten will finally replace the confounding Legends and Leaders names with the clear-cut East and West when Maryland and Rutgers join the expanding league in 2014.
In an additional refreshing move, the Big Ten West also will reportedly now include the six teams located in the Central Time Zone – Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin – as well as nearby Purdue. Meanwhile, the Big Ten East will include the Eastern Time Zone schools of Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.
It’s clean. It’s simple. And it’s smart.
But it also isn’t enough.
And that’s because the Big Ten’s bizarre array of hyphenated championship trophy names are still a mess. One that needs to be cleaned up before the conference adds the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights, potentially muddying up the trophies’ names even more.
Now, I’m guessing it’s likely that you pay scant attention to what the conference calls its trophies honoring individual achievements, which is a darn good thing because there’s almost no way you could remember them all anyway. But as a refresher – and a mouthful – here they are:
- The Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year, named in honor of Northwestern’s Otto Graham and Ohio State’s Eddie George
- The Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year, named in honor of Nebraska’s Dave Rimington and Ohio State’s Orlando Pace
- The Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, named in honor of Minnesota’s Bronko Nagurski and Michigan’s Charles Woodson
- The Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year, named in honor of Michigan State’s Bubba Smith and Penn State’s Courtney Brown
- The Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, named in honor of Minnesota’s Darrell Thompson and Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El
- The Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year, named in honor of Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler
- The Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, named in honor of Purdue’s Bob Griese and Drew Brees
- The Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year, named in honor of Wisconsin’s Alan Ameche and Ron Dayne
- The Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year, named in honor of Ohio State’s Jack Tatum and Purdue’s Rod Woodson
- The Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year, named in honor of Illinois’ Dick Butkus and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald
- The Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year, named in honor of Wisconsin’s Pat Richter and Michigan’s Desmond Howard
- The Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year, named in honor of Penn State’s Ted Kwalick and Iowa’s Dallas Clark
- The Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year, named in honor of Wisconsin’s Jim Bakken and Michigan State’s Morten Andersen.
- The Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year, named in honor of Illinois’ Dike Eddleman and Michigan State’s Brandon Fields.
Now, I love history. And the idea of using trophy names to give a nod to Big Ten greats of the past is, well, great in theory.
But in reality? Well, it’s a nightmare.
For one thing, you have trophies using the names of Nebraska’s Dave Rimington and Penn State’s Ted Kwalick to honor Big Ten standouts – even though Rimington and Kwalick never played a down in the Big Ten. And beyond that, some trophy names have true all-time greats sharing real estate with guys who really aren’t – Dick Butkus and Pat Fitzgerald, for example – all in a misguided effort to make everyone in the conference happy.
But this is supposed to be the Big Ten, not Little League.
And in the end, what’s meant to honor the conference’s past only ends up only confusing its present – to say nothing about how the complicated trophy names hinder the conference’s future.
After all, what happens when Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten in 2014? Do you triple-hyphenate some trophy titles with the names of even more players who never played in the Big Ten? Do you Frankenstein some kind of Boomer Esiason-Ray Rice award to make the Terps and the Scarlet Knights feel like they’re included?
Or do you just scrap the whole thing and chalk up the trophy names as a noble experiment that didn’t quite work out?
I vote for the latter. And this past weekend, the elimination of Legends and Leaders already got that ball rolling. Now it’s time for the Big Ten to just push the thing across the goal line.
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. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.