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Big Ten football is coming back but it doesn't negate its self-created disaster

September 18, 2020

When I think of what transpired in the Big Ten’s decision in August to cancel fall sports, I think of the Mel Gibson movie “The Patriot.”

There is a scene in which Gibson’s character is trying to concoct a plan to take on Lord Cornwallis. When he tells his second in command that pride can be a weakness, it fades into the final scene in which his band of solider ultimately help in the defeat of the British. 

The Big Ten has a lot of pride. They also have a lot of ego. And those things both are why they decided to cancel and un-cancel their season. The big boys from the Midwest made the mistake of thinking they were the moral compass of college athletic —as if there is such a thing. And guess what? They would up finding out that no one but the PAC-12 cares what they think and the other are conferences that can make up their own minds. Simply because you say it does not mean that you will see the rest of the Power 5 fall in line. 

Again, yes, the PAC-12 did, but they have had approximately zero leadership for a long time and it’s easier for Larry Scott and the overall academia-first institutions to ask the Big 10 what they are doing and play follow the leader. They are the Grover Dill to the Big 10’s Scut Farkus. (Bonus cool points to any reader that can name that reference.) 

Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Cont
Luann Fox of Coshocton, Ohio holds up a sign while watching a rally organized by parents of Ohio State football players outside the rotunda of Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on August 29, 2020.

Ultimately the Big Ten realized that their decision was not going to sit well with anyone. That was obvious when Scott Frost and Nebraksa, through an insanely enormous amount of unnecessary criticism, fired back. The parents of the Cornhuskers players parents cried foul in a lawsuit regarding the Big Ten’s lack of transparency in the decision.

Led by the former Big 12 program—an incredibly ironic correlation considering the history of ineptitude in the league—it was proven that there was not a very clear process in the Big Ten’s decision, and what was the backbone of the decision proved to be based on incomplete information.

If there is a common thread through any decisions made within college athletics, that’s it. Working in the shadows and doing so with only part of the story. That’s how you fall apart. 

Then the second wave of criticism hits. The coaches, who know that playing in the spring was always a red herring, began to chime in. Ohio State’s Ryan Day was facing massive opt outs of his best players while Penn State already lost Micah Parsons to the same reasons. If they were going to play, it was going to have to be soon or none of the premiere talent would be participating. 

That’s were the ego comes in. The now Power 5 are playing, and while it’s not perfect, they are getting on the field and they are finding out ways to deal with the pandemic that is not feast or famine. Those leagues are (gasp) compromising. Fancy that. Finding somewhere in the middle to operate so you can get things done. Funny how that seems to work all throughout human history.

“You can’t let the other guys play and win. We have to be in on that! How come they can and we can’t?” 

Like the waving of a magic wand and Big Ten football is back for eight games. Unless all of your lineman get COVID. Then maybe five games. But it’s back. 

What now for the Big 10? What happens when you show up at your high school reunion and no one cares what a big shot you used to be? That’s when you look at yourself in the mirror and realize that it’s time to do things differently. Because you’re not the king.

And even when you were, it was a paper crown. 

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Big Ten football is coming back but it doesn't negate its self-created disaster

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