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Jim Delany on division names, logo (Part I)

12/13/2010

I had to chance to catch up with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany earlier this afternoon before he boarded a flight from O'Hare Airport.

Judging by most reaction to the league's announcement of division names, a new logo and 18 new football trophies, Delany might benefit from skipping town for a while.

I kid, I kid.

Here's the first half of my conversation with the commish (just as a heads up, any reference Delany makes to a "mark" means a logo):

You settled on Legends and Leaders for the division names. What other possibilities did you strongly consider?

Jim Delany: We had one from Teddy [Greenstein], Stars and Stripes. We had Traditions and Legends. We had all of the Prairies, Lakes, and cities and countries. We had lots of names of people. Not much geography. People think [the choices are] generic. Well, everybody in the Midwest, in the country, had an opportunity to submit [suggestions].

Were there any people under consideration for division names, past commissioners and such?

JD: No. We thought about it a little bit, but not a lot. We pretty much dismissed the notion of naming it after people simply because the big ones were the coaches. There was a little commissioner talk, but not much. We just felt there was a much better way to get at that through the trophy process.

What about more generic geographical names: Plains, Great Lakes, Prairies, and so on?

JD: Well, we thought that those were not compelling. Like Coastal and Atlantic [in the ACC], you've got people in the mountains that are coastal. We've got schools and how do you tie them in? We've got people who are near cities and near prairies. When you really started doing it and testing it, you're going to run into anomalies of schools not necessarily being in prairies or on lakes. We really examined the lakes concept and we really examined the prairies concept, what I would call the geological concepts.

Do you think the response would be different if you had been more specific with the name choices?

JD: First of all, I take a little bit with the grain of salt any reaction that comes up in the first 10-20 seconds. The reality is any mark [logo] or any divisional name is a vessel, and it will be filled over time with experiences and memories. I don't care whether it's the mark or a name, it'll take on status, structure and meaning over time. It's not going to happen in the first hour.

Between the logo and the names, which process took longer?

JD: They're different kinds of processes. The mark is more a function of people reacting to professional [logos], being creative and then trying to tie it in to a little bit of history and a little bit of other marks and a little bit of usage. So it's a very different process than selecting the names, which I think is more tied to deciding which categories you're not going to go to and deciding which categories you will go to. If somebody thinks Mountains and Plains or Plains and Lakes are better, that's a value judgment. We think that we have a pretty good idea of who we are.

We think that there is connection to the Red Granges and the Gerald Fords and the Joe Paternos. We think that there's direct tie-ins, and it allows us to speak about our past. We think the leadership issue is a powerful issue, whether it's Tony Dungy or whether it's Pat Fitzgerald or whether it's [former Big Ten commissioner] Wayne Duke, whoever it is. We think that those things resonate and carry meaning that's tied to who we are, who we want to be. In the case of leadership, that's an awful lot about it, if you've ever been in a locker room or if you've ever been on a team. That's probably the No. 1 experience that people take away.

I resist the temptation to judge the judges because we're the creators. But I would say we've seen significant connection to who we are. Not to say others don't have it, but in terms of the 115 years and in terms of the kinds of people that have been turned out, whether it's the guy who runs Google or whether it's the person who ran the country or somebody like a Tony Dungy, we think that those leadership qualities are powerful.

We're not running away from them. We're trying to run toward them.