- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
The reaction to the Big Ten's unveiling of its new football division names -- Legends and Leaders -- has been almost universally negative.
The outcry about the names has been substantial from fans, media members and casual observers. After reading dozens of e-mails from passionate Big Ten fans, I can say that most of you simply don't like these names.
The good news? Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany hears you.
Delany on Thursday acknowledged the negative reaction in an interview with WGN Radio in Chicago. The commissioner also for the first time acknowledged the possibility of re-evaluating the names and changing them in the near future.
"We've had enough experience with names and expansion and development of divisions that we know that you rarely get a 90 percent approval rating," Delany told WGN AM-720. "But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was really surprising. It showed that we didn’t connect with our fans in a way that we wanted to. It’s humbling, to say the least, because we’re trying to build fan bases, not push them away.
"I've been around this business a long time, and I would say it’s one of the more surprising things. There’s a sensibility there that we did not connect with, did not read well."
So what happens next?
"We want it to breathe a little bit," Delany said. "I don’t think you make a judgment in 48 hours or 72 hours. Eventually, we’re going to have to address the issue of whether or not it’s sustainable, but I don’t think that’s a decision for today. We have to listen and we have to be humble about the reactions we’ve gotten.”
This is certainly an encouraging sign. The Big Ten is open to change, and in this case, it should be.
The Big Ten tried to show who it is with Legends and Leaders -- "It was an effort to recognize the past," Delany said -- but in the process failed to resonate with its fans. As a few users have suggested to me, "Legends and Leaders" is a good slogan for the league, but the terms don't work for division names. It's important to note that the Big Ten reached out to fans for suggestions, and a lot of folks felt misled when the names came out.
You want to keep it simple and not confuse the public with similar-sounding, overly general terms.
Delany seems to get that now, and while the division names remain in place for now, he's leaving the door open for change.
"We’re still listening and trying to figure things out," Delany said. "We'll probably make an assessment about whether or not it’s sustainable. We’ll try to do a little education, let it breathe a bit and then probably revisit it after the first of the year.”
Very interesting stuff from the commish. Stay tuned.