Big Ten: Lou Anna Simon

Big Ten lunchtime links

August, 3, 2012
Welcome back to the practice field, Iowa and Ohio State.

Big Ten part of NCAA reform summit

August, 9, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rules violations and reform have been the key buzz words in the college football offseason. Now it's time to see if more talk can produce any substantial change.

A group of more than 50 university presidents, plus a handful of athletic directors, conference commissioners and other officials convene this afternoon in Indianapolis for a two-day retreat to discuss how to reform college sports. The issues that are officially on the agenda are fiscal sustainability, academic performance of student-athletes and integrity.

"I don't want to be melodramatic, but this meeting is very important," NCAA president Mark Emmert told's Dana O'Neil. "We do have serious challenges, and we do need to make some serious reforms. I don't think there is any debate about that. I want us to be able to build a consensus around those things that are most important for the NCAA to pay attention to and then address those things quickly."

Here are the Big Ten representatives at this week's retreat:
  • Gordon Gee, Ohio State president
  • Michael McRobbie, Indiana president
  • Harvey Perlman, Nebraska chancellor
  • Lou Anna Simon, Michigan State president
  • Graham Spanier, Penn State president
  • Jo Potuto, Nebraska faculty athletic representative, Nebraska

Gee will be spending a lot of time in Indy this week; Ohio State's case before the infractions committee will be held here on Friday.

The key question from this whole retreat will be whether the group comes up with specific recommendations and changes, or if like many university and NCAA endeavors, it simply leads to more reports and committees. The Big Ten, led by commissioner Jim Delany, has been out front in the call for changes to NCAA rules and practices, including cost-of-attendance increases to athletic scholarships. The league has some powerful people at the retreat to push forward those ideas.

I'll be here for both days and reporting on the developments. Stay tuned.
The Big Ten has some big-ticket items to tackle later this summer: division alignment, conference scheduling and a potential conference championship game, to name a few.

To me, these topics carry far more weight than deciding the name of the conference. But there's significant interest among fans and others about whether the Big Ten will still be the Big Ten when Nebraska joins in 2011. You've heard the jokes about the Big 11 for two decades, and as lame and unoriginal as they are, they're not going anywhere if the league keeps its name.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has gone on record as saying he was willing to change the league's name when Penn State joined in 1990. He's still open to a change, but the decision rests solely with the Big Ten presidents and chancellors.

And it sounds like those folks have no plans to scrap the Big Ten brand.

Here's Minnesota president Robert Bruininks in a recent Q&A with The Minnesota Daily:
Any talks of a name change?

Bruininks: No, I think it’s quite certain that we will keep the brand of the Big Ten, and that’s a historic reference to a conference that has been remarkably stable.

Longtime Michigan sports broadcaster Tim Staudt recently talked with Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, the chair of the Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors, who had this to say:
She does believe the name Big Ten will stand no matter how many schools are in the field eventually. She doesn't say it's 100 percent certain but she thinks the branding of the name will keep it "Big Ten."

The marketing community seems to agree with the Big Ten keeping its name, despite the mathematical inaccuracy in number of members.
Chuck Piper, who was a longtime vice president in charge of strategic services for Bailey Lauerman marketing agency, said the Big Ten brand has established too much equity to change names now.

“I think it really has nothing to do with how many teams are literally part of it,” Piper said. “You can’t be changing the brand every time you add or subtract. The Big Ten brings to mind a certain kind of entity, and that entity remains intact even though the players might change from time to time.”

I tend to agree. There's so much history in the Big Ten brand name, and you would lose something if it changed. Not to mention that the league's greatest new asset, a television network, has the Big Ten brand attached to it.

The logo has to change, but the brand shouldn't.
"The 'Ten' signifies an ideal, a way of conference life, more than it suggests the number of schools in the league. A name change is unnecessary."

Let the tired and annoying jokes continue, and keep the name in place.
I just got off of a teleconference with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne about Nebraska becoming the 12th member of the Big Ten.

There are so many subtopics to discuss in the coming months, but here's a bit more about what we know now:

Further Big Ten expansion: It definitely could happen. Delany and Simon both said the league remains within its 12- to 18-month time frame to study expansion and could act again depending on the climate. The Big Ten only acted now because of circumstances with the Big 12 and Nebraska. Delany admitted the league might not have been ready to act three months ago. The Big Ten now will return to "the slower tempo sort of game" with expansion, but Delany said the league is prepared to act quickly again. "We have two-thirds of study period left to go and we’re real anxious to work with Jim and others around the next step," Simon said. Added Delany: "If we can be as successful with a 13th or 14th member as we were with Nebraska, that would be great."

Championship game: Delany has never been rah-rah about them, but he expects the Big Ten to begin playing a championship game in football in 2011. Venues and locations haven't been discussed, but Big Ten associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner and others will begin examining the possibilities. Feedback from athletic directors and coaches will be gathered before any decisions are made. "It’s important to get it right, and there’s no silver bullet," Delany said. "There will be different views on it."

Division alignment: The Big Ten also must figure out divisions in the coming months. Delany listed three main criteria for sorting them out: competitive fairness, maintenance of rivalries and geography. He stressed that competitive fairness is the No. 1 priority, which I believe to be the correct approach. Geography shouldn't determine divisions. You don't want another Big 12 South scenario.

Scheduling: Osborne hinted that the number of conference games could increase in the new Big Ten. He expects at least three nonconference games and, like many Big Ten athletic directors, wants to keep as many of those at home as possible. The Big Ten's challenge will be figuring things out for Nebraska's arrival in September 2011. "Mark Rudner and Mike McComiskey have done a lot of models," Delany said. "The issue for us it the short turnaround."

Rivalries: Delany has often talked about the intimacy of a league and how vital rivalries are to its fabric. "They're part of who we are," he said Friday. But he added that rivalries have to be evaluated independently to see which ones are worth preserving in an expanded league. "We’re going into this with the idea that rivalries really matter," Delany said. "But not all rivalries are equal."

Timeline with Nebraska: Delany and other Big Ten officials met with Nebraska officials three or four weeks ago to have informal discussions in an undisclosed location (it wasn't Lincoln, where Delany made his first trip Friday, or Chicago). Osborne also had briefly discussed expansion with Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez (a former Nebraska player and coach), both of whom told him the Big Ten was considering the Huskers. The process only really heated up after the Big 12 issued stay-or-go ultimatums to its members. If the Big 12 -- and Pac-10 -- didn't speed things up, the Big Ten would have continued to move along slowly. But Nebraska seems happy with the way things worked out. "We don’t feel like we’re walking into a room of strangers," Perlman said. Added Osborne: "We feel we share a lot of common values with what we know of Big Ten institutions."
Unless you've been under a rock the past few days, you've probably heard something about the Big Ten inviting teams to join its league.

Truth is, there are no invitations to be part of this league, only invitations to apply for membership.

Thom from Lancaster, Pa., writes: Hello, Adam.....Isn't it a fact that a school does not need an invitation to apply for membership in the B10? Come Friday, Nebraska can just tell the B12 that they mailed in their application to join the B10, right? Also, is there an application fee? How much is it?

Here's the way it works, according to the Big Ten's Dec. 15 statement about its expansion study.

Step 1: Commissioner Jim Delany, in conjunction with Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, would decide that formal discussions need to be initiated. Obviously, Delany and Simon wouldn't make this decision without consulting the other presidents and chancellors.

Step 2: Delany would inform commissioners from any affected conferences. In the case of Nebraska, he'd call Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.

Step 3: Formal discussions would begin with a candidate, who then would apply for admission. Again, no invitations, only applications.

Step 4: The Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors, chaired by Simon, would vote on the applicant school. The school would need at least eight "yes" votes to be admitted to the Big Ten.

This is the formal process for expansion. And while it likely will be just a formality -- the Big Ten doesn't want to embarrass any institutions -- it's important to note that there aren't invitations. Just like Penn State did in 1990, Nebraska would have to apply for admission.

I'm not sure of the application fee, Thom, but I'll check on it.