07.08.2010 / How the Huskers brand will stand in the Big 10. Blog posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine.
When Tom Osborne returned to Nebraska as athletic director and then hired Bo Pelini as football coach, the term culture became popular among sports writers. Osborne and Pelini understood Cornhusker culture. And such an understanding was essential to restoring tradition.
"If geography were the primary consideration, Nebraska would join Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern in a West Division."
Following the announcement that Nebraska will become a member of the Big Ten a year from now, the term “brand” has become popular. Even though the Big Ten will have 12 members, the Big Ten “brand” will preclude changing names, despite the numerical discrepancy.
“Brand” also is being used in discussions of divisional alignments for football with Nebraska on-board. The Big Ten will almost certainly have two divisions with the winners playing in a financially lucrative championship game, in an NFL stadium - among the possibilities Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ford Field in Detroit, the Metrodome in Minneapolis and Soldier Field in Chicago.
The divisions might depend more on “brand” than on geography. If geography were the primary consideration, Nebraska would join Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern in a West Division, with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State in an East Division. However, that would put three of the conference’s four most recognizable “brand” names in the East Division: Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
Nebraska will be the fourth of the most recognizable “brands” in the Big Ten. In fact, it will rank at the top along with Ohio State, based on national championships. Both have won five since 1936, when the Associated Press established its poll. The coaches’ poll was established in 1950. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has indicated that competitive balance will be the first consideration in determining divisions, followed by the preservation of rivalries such as Ohio State-Michigan. Only after those factors are considered will geography enter the discussion.
As a result, Ohio State and Michigan probably need to be in the same division, which means for competitive balance based on “brands,” Penn State and Nebraska would be aligned. Then rivalries would be preserved. That’s where the situation gets a bit tricky. One of the schools that would have been in the West Division had geography been the deciding factor will have to go east, despite an established rivalry. Iowa and Minnesota have been playing the Floyd of Rosedale game since 1935. Minnesota and Wisconsin have been playing for Paul Bunyan’s Axe since 1948. And Illinois and Northwestern have played a trophy game since 1945 – now the Land of Lincoln Trophy.
Of course, not every Big Ten team plays every other Big Ten team in a given season anyway. The Michigan-Minnesota rivalry, with its Little Brown Jug trophy, dates to 1903. Those schools have played each other most seasons since then, though not all. Still, that would seem to be a rivalry worth preserving. But it wouldn’t be, even if the basis were geography.
Creating two six-team divisions in the Big Ten is more complicated than it first appears. Nothing is certain at this point, but figure that Nebraska and Penn State will be in one division with Ohio State and Michigan in the other. That’s a good place to begin, based on competitive balance, “brands.”
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