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Big Ten schools should bring their best players to Chicago

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Tommy Armstrong Jr. is just one of a few of the non-senior players attending media days. AP Photo/Nati Harnik

The Big Ten is proud of its history.

By now, you must know this. The conference promotes its tradition as much this week as any two days on the calendar -- headlined Friday by its 44th annual kickoff luncheon, a celebration of everything Big Ten.

At my first visit to league’s media days in 2011, after many years of covering the Big 12, I was startled by the pageantry on display in Chicago. Who knew that fans attended these events?

That said, we live and work in an era that shrugs at history. History? Oh, yes, Ohio State's 2009 Nike Pro Combat alternate uniforms left a legacy. If it wasn’t chronicled and dissected by social media, in the eyes of a sizeable portion of today’s college football audience, it didn't happen.

Yes, the Big Ten often fights an uphill battle.

Just this month, Penn State announced its move to again remove players’ names from the backs of its uniforms.

Only in the Big Ten, home to the Old Oaken Bucket and a bronze trophy in shape of a pig, is such a topic considered sacred.

Seriously, outsiders’ perspective on the conference is something of a mix of respect and confusion. Depending on the year -- even the week -- it can sway wildly in either direction.

Go ahead, Big Ten, embrace your old, proud side. But at the opening of media days Thursday, here's a tradition the Big Ten schools ought to consider sending the way of Michigan's "Legends" jersey program: the practice of bringing only seniors to Chicago to discuss the upcoming season.

For the record, it is not a Big Ten policy; simply, most programs observe the custom as a reward, if you will, to the seniors for their loyalty.

Fortunately, not every program falls in line. Nebraska and its fresh-thinking Pac-12 import of a first-year coach, Mike Riley, plans to bring a trio of juniors to Chicago, including quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.

Outside of the Huskers, though, just three non-seniors are scheduled to attend -- Wisconsin running back Corey Clement, Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner and Maryland cornerback William Likely.

Good choices, all of them. But what about Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and running back Ezekiel Elliott, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard, far and away the story of the offseason for the Hawkeyes, or cornerback Desmond King?

If nothing else, all returning starters at quarterback should make the trip. Of course, that gets too complex for Ohio State, which started J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones -- both staying home this week -- en route to the national title in 2014.

In fact, the decision makes sense for the Buckeyes. Barrett and Jones, set to battle in August after the announcement last week by Braxton Miller that he would switch positions, get enough attention. Nearly everyone in attendance will talk about the Ohio State quarterbacks, despite their absence.

But for the others, like Hackenberg, a two-year starter who has guided Penn State through its rebuilding under two coaching staffs and may not remain in college to attend next year as a senior, get them to the big stage in Chicago.

Let the fans hear from the best, most interesting players. It could be a new tradition.