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Monday, December 13, 2010
Thoughts on division names, logo, trophies

By Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten finally revealed the new names for its football divisions, along with a new logo and 18 (count 'em) new trophies for football.

Sadly, my two suggestions for division names -- Delany and Delaney, and Adam and Rittenberg -- did not make the cut.

I'll get to my reaction for each part below. Overall, I feel like many of you do: The league could have done better and didn't help its national perception, at least in the short term. But unlike many folks, I care a lot more about who is in the divisions than what they are called. The amount of attention this topic generated really surprised me.

Overall, the reaction from fans and media members hasn't been positive.

"Any time you have something new, whether it’s a mark or trophies, it takes some time to get used to," league commissioner Jim Delany said on a teleconference.

That might be wishful thinking.

DIVISION NAMES

Meh.

After months of taking suggestions and brainstorming possibilities, the Big Ten ended up with Legends and Leaders. Here's the breakdown:

Legends Division: Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Nebraska

Leaders Division: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana

While the league's intentions here are understandable -- to honor its rich history and long lineup of legendary figures -- the Big Ten got too caught up in avoiding specific names. Make no mistake: The Big Ten was never going to name the divisions Woody and Bo. Way too exclusive. But there are former commissioners who could have been honored or historical figures who represent this area of the country.

The league also wanted to avoid geography in the division names. While I completely agreed that geography shouldn't have been the deciding factor in determining how teams were assigned to divisions, I didn't have nearly as big of an issue with geographical distinctions for division names. Lakes and Plains would have been just fine with me.

The Big Ten also couldn't have gone wrong with names that sounded patriotic: Liberty and Freedom or Stars and Stripes (suggested by the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein) would work.

"People suggested Schembechler and Hayes," Delany said. "Any time you looked at it, it seemed to be too exclusive and not inclusive enough. ... As we looked at ourselves, we believed at the core of who we are are our traditions and heritage. And those traditions are largely people, legendary people."

The Big Ten recognized plenty of those people in the new trophies. But Legends and Leaders is too generic, a little too arrogant and too Little League for me. Another good point raised by Greenstein: Two divisions that start with the letter "L" have a negative connotation in sports.

LOGO

As my wife often reminds me, I don't have a great eye for design. Aside from being named "Most Improved" in a middle school art class, my skills in this department are limited.

The Big Ten's new logo has its flaws, but I can live with it. The mark, created by Pentagram Design, certainly comes off a bit retro and looks more like something that would have been done when Delany first became commissioner in 1990 than now.

There's no hidden "12" in the logo like there is with "11" in the current Big Ten logo.

"A lot of people thought we would use negative space to [use] 12," Delany said. "Pretty much everybody in the design world said, 'No, don't do that.' "

What the league tried to do was create a link back to its pre-Penn State logo with the B-I-G 1-0, substituting the "I" in Big as the No. 1. Asked about the "G" looking like the No. 6, which feeds into the conspiracy theory that the Big Ten eventually will expand to 16 teams, Delany said, "We were thinking 10, not 16."

TROPHIES

Of the three new elements, the Big Ten definitely did best here. While 18 trophies is extremely excessive, the league was able to honor some of its great players and coaches.

The big additions are the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy given to the winner of the Big Ten football title game, which beings next year. The trophy honors former University of Chicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg and current Penn State coach Joe Paterno. The MVP of the title game receives the Grange-Griffin Trophy, which recognizes former Illinois star Red Grange and former Ohio State star Archie Griffin, the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy.

The complaint some have raised with these trophies is that they honor current Big Ten coaches like Paterno and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, whose name appears on the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year award.

I don't have a problem with this. We don't need to wait for Paterno to die or stop coaching to recognize what he means to the Big Ten and to college football. While he hasn't been in the Big Ten for most of his career, his presence in this league is felt.

Many of the league's greats are still alive, so why not recognize them?

"A lot of people say you can't honor somebody who was alive, you can’t honor somebody who was active," Delany said. "I don’t subscribe to those rules. We were trying to get a good blend of great people, deceased and alive, who stand for great athletic contributions."

I also like that none of the Big Ten's trophies will be connected with corporate sponsorships.

Here's the full list of new trophies:

Championship game trophies
Postgraduate Awards
Annual Awards/Trophies

Whew. A lot to digest. I'll have more on the announcement, so stay tuned.