Sometimes it makes sense to “leave well enough alone.” Just because you CAN change something doesn’t mean you SHOULD (would anyone care for a New Coke?!).
Nowhere in sports is tradition more important than in college football. Whether its Notre Dame players slapping the “Play Like A Champion Today” sign or cadets standing arm-in-arm after the Army-Navy game to sing the respective anthems of their branch of service, these are the moments that link modern-day players and fans with ancestors from more than 100 years ago.
Likewise, there is no conference where tradition is more important than the Big Ten. College football’s oldest conference is home to some of football’s greatest traditions, such as dotting the ‘i’ in the Script Ohio, the Pink Locker Room, and the saying, “Those who stay will be champions.”
The Big Ten also claims some of college football’s biggest and oldest rivalries, such as The Old Oaken Bucket, The Little Brown Jug, and, of course, the greatest rivalry in sports – Ohio State vs. Michigan (also known simply as, “THE Game”).
Adding another team simply to implement a championship game is not needed! First, the addition of a new school would impact scheduling for all the Big Ten schools. Most likely, the conference would be split into two divisions, and each team would have room on their schedule for only two or three non-division opponents. What would that split mean for those rivalries? In a North/South split, would Ohio State play Michigan every year? If an East/West split was adopted, could Penn State play Minnesota for the annual Governor’s Victory Bell? Tradition would suffer.
Loyal Homer speaks to revenue gained, but the Big Ten conference is already the second highest revenue earner (behind the SEC) in college football. They are so successful, in fact, with the current financial formula that the Big Ten boasts three schools among the top 10 in revenue.
Let’s consider other potential sacrifices to tradition that would be made in order to accommodate this new team and championship game:
- “THE Game” between Ohio State and Michigan is the greatest rivalry for two reasons. First, the passion (read: hatred) shared between the two schools. Second, the game is often for more than just bragging rights. Nearly every year it has conference and national championship implications. Adding a championship game after it would GREATLY diminish the value of the rivalry. It would become “just another game” with no significant impact on the season’s outcome.
- The ‘best’ team doesn’t ALWAYS win. Consider the Big XII championship game. Some examples: in 2003 #15 Kansas State upset #1 Oklahoma and in 2007 #9 Oklahoma upset #1 Missouri. In the SEC, #13 Georgia upset #3 LSU in 2005. The best team on a particular day is NOT always the best team of the season. If the best team won every game, then every year would result in an undefeated champion… that just doesn’t happen.
- The possibility of a repeat game exists, rendering the previous game worthless. Consider 2006, when #1 Ohio State played #2 Michigan. Ohio State won and earned a National Championship bid. WHAT IF there was a conference championship game and Ohio State played Michigan AGAIN. IF Michigan beat Ohio State, would they be conference champ just because they won on the right day?
Loyal Homer boasts of Florida’s conference championship performance, claiming it propelled Florida to the national spotlight. The Big Ten (and PAC-10) has managed just fine WITHOUT that exposure. Ohio State has played in three National Championships in the past seven seasons. Michigan won the National Championship in 1997, and USC (albeit not from the Big Ten) has also made two appearances in the past seven years DESPITE lacking a conference championship.
To alter tradition for money would be like changing the lyric to “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” to “Buy me some peanuts and Taco Bell…” because of a new sponsorship deal. Sometimes, generating revenue is not worth the sacrifice of tradition, especially when the current system works.
P.S. The SEC is NOT the best conference, Loyal Homer… it IS the most OVERRATED, though!