Rant of the Week
Rant #7: The Rise and Fall of Many a Conference
It’s been too long folks. I apologize for not keeping you up to par with things that bother or excite me in the world of college football. Let me just begin by saying that teams are jumping from conference to conference quicker than a grasshopper on crack, and boy do I love to see it! Why do you ask? Well, let me put it this way: Super conferences will make college football. Preparing against new, unseen teams along with their rowdy fan buses trailing beside them. Now since the name of the site is bigtennation.org (all rights reserved) I can only imagine the average reader is going “Well Mr. Ranter, those conferences don’t have anything to do with the Big Ten!” where I would then ask you “Who are you and how did you get into my house?!”
All kidding aside, I would just like to repeat my statement above: Super conferences will make college football. Conferences make more money, TV contracts become more valuable, new rivalries start to form thus creating new rivalry trophy games, stadiums sell out to capacity more often, student sections get larger, fans get louder, tail gating becomes even mightier, and announcer’s can’t stop talking about it. Imagine the Big Ten picking up a few schools that detached from dying programs like the Big East and the Big 12. We already did it with Nebraska and everyone knows that decision was huge. Let’s face it, sooner or later conferences like the ACC, SEC, and PAC 12 are going to catch on to the super conference way, they already have with Syracuse and Pitt joining the ACC and the PAC 10 turning into the PAC 12. It’s essential for us as a conference.
The question is who? Notre Dame would make an excellent addition to the Big Ten having already brewed a much heated rivalry with Brady Hokes Michigan Wolverines. Their location is also convenient being in Indian, and you can’t tell me that a controversial program like Notre Dame wouldn’t get some crazy Big Ten Fans inching to see their team go head to head with them. The only problem is that being independent, Notre Dame has a decent TV contract through 2015 and don’t have to rely on conference management for financial benefits.
Oklahoma is always question on their position of staying or going in the Big 12, and having it be no secret that Texas is the big money pot in that whole conference maybe OU wants to head out sooner than later. The only problem would be that the Big Ten might have one dominate division over the other, that being the division with Oklahoma in it. Lastly, why not add an East Coast school? Joe Paterno always has said he’s wanted the Big Ten to add an East Coast school, the reason being that PSU craves a rival for their crowd at State College. I could think of no better candidate than West Virginia, seeing as though they are in the ever weakening Big East and are a growing program in talent and in rankings. Only time will tell if the Big Ten emerges into the ever desirable super conference.
Week 6: The Journey for Top Dog: a Love Story
Not many things can make people gather like a fight. In bars, in rings, and back in Ancient Rome: in a Colosseum. We as humans prefer not to be in fights, but when we see one, you better pop some popcorn because we ain’t leavin’ until someone loses a limb (or anything else really). A fight is just a fight when you have nothing to lose, but when you throw a prize in the mix, then it’s a competition. What’s so great about the game of football, is that there’s always a prize. Always something to raise over your head in the end. Something that separates the boys from the men, the winners from the losers, and the pups from the top dog. This year, with a new coming Nebraska, a struggling Ohio State, a Michigan State with something to prove, and a North Western team dreaming; no one will hold the title of top dog untill they walk out of Lucas Oil Stadium with the covenant Big Ten Title raised above their heads with their chests puffed out high. Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
This year folks, expect dirty football. We all know that with figures like Ferentz, Paterno, and Dantonio it’s hard to see the Big Ten teams in the same breath as teams with rough histories like the Miami Hurricanes. This year ,however, is an exception. New rivalries will form with a new big team (that’s a given) but now that Ohio State has seemed to be overshadowed by negative spotlight, the scramble for top dog will be vicious. You better believe that blood, sweat, and tears will be among us, and I’m not talking about a school dance gone horribly wrong. The finish line is at Lucas Oil Stadium, but every destination has a journey, in the 2011-2012 journey for the Big Ten Title, every team will scramble to prove that they are the top dog in this new top conference. I’ll keep saying this again and again: the Big Ten is back, and the top team of this soon to be top conference will be top dog of the NCAA. A title we will all fight for, through the love of football. Making the desire to be number one, a love story.
Week 5: Age is just a Number, Even if You Don’t Wear One
I like anybody on this planet am inherently bias. I won’t sit and lie by saying that I don’t love rooting for Penn State every saturday during college football season. But despite our biases, my biases, and everyone else in the world who gave a rats behind about something they love, there comes a time where we have to admire something despite our feelings on it. As a Chicago Bears fan, I hate the Packers, watching them win the Superbowl was like watching your nemesis open your Christmas presents, but Vince Lombardi is still the greatest coach in NFL history. It can’t be disputed no matter what my feelings, because it’s the truth, although Ditka comes at a close second and still lead the most dominant team to ever play the game- but I digress. The point is the admiration comes before bias and well, no one can sit and tell me that Joe Paterno should just quit without me thinking they’re full of crap.
Unlike any coach in college football history, Joe Paterno has coach the same team for 45 consecutive years, he’s won two national championships along with countless bowl victories, has over 400 career wins, and his trademark glasses and one-of-a-kind personality have not only earned a living legend status with the folks at Happy Valley but with the NCAA as a whole. What motivates him? His love for the game, fans, and most importantly his team. At the recent Big Ten Media days JoePa was caught up after every question answering with one of his many stories and life lessons. His sense of humor is overwhelming and he has learned how to communicate from using the telegraph to skyping.
Recently, Paterno has seeked medical attention for a hip replacement after x-ray exams showed a hairline fracture in his pelvic bone. He pulled through successfully but many elderly can agree that a broken hip can be the kiss of death for many an old person. Do I think that this will phase Paterno? Not at all. No matter what your views on morality, I find that I can identify people who hold a big spirit; JoePa’s one of them. As far as he’s concerned, he’ll die coaching at Beaver Stadium, literally or metaphorically, and that’s because there’s no other place he’d rather be. When someone can hold so much success, with such good character, and such passion for what they do, who are we to say to them “stop”? A great man once said something that I believe captures the JoePa spirit: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious. ” Who was that man? Vince Lombardi. Like I said before, admiration comes before bias, even when we don’t want it to.
Week 4: Why Arrogance can Create Confidence
My house is the greatest house in the history of all houses. My toilets should be made of gold, garden hoses made of platinum, and a fountain with my statue in it should be in my front yard because that’s how awesome I am. It hurts to type those first two statements without feeling like I have my head shoved way, way up my- well you get the point. The point that people can’t stand it when other people are arrogant, unless you back the arrogant guy. But is being arrogant always a bad thing? Did Alexander the Great conquer most of the known world by being a “nice and humble guy”? No, not unless imperialism is your cup of tea. In the sports world, the same method can apply, especially for coaches.
I believe that most coaches want to live up to the all moral and wise coaching careers of true coaching legends like John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, Joe Paterno, and Bear Bryant. However, sometimes the shoe doesn’t always fit. For coaches, how you communicate to your players and coaching staff, as well as the media, can make your personality traits come to life for all to see. When that happens you can resemble great coaches with short fuses and a little bit of cockiness such as Bobby Knight, Mike Ditka, Phil Jackson, and Bobby Bowden.
When asked what he thought about his great up-and-coming recruits on the Big Ten Media Day, Michigan’s new coach, Brady Hoke had this to say: ” This might sound arrogant, and if it is, it is. We’re Michigan. We have a global education. We’re the winningest program in the history of college football. We have a tremendous staff of guys. The lifeblood for all of us, no doubt, is the guys you bring in your program.”
Is it an arrogant thing to say? Maybe a little, but it’s not hard to see that Hoke has the best intentions to turn this program around. By changing the offensive playbook from a spread offense to a pro-style offense, Hoke’s plan is to allow his defense to practice against an offense of most the teams in the Big Ten, which anyone can see will make progress on defense. The guy is stern and looks only one way; forward, which is something you’ve gotta admire.
Sure, having piss and vinegar run through your veins can be an adjustment for your team, but at the same time it’s what Michigan needs as a program. They’ve settled for less for too long, from their pathetic loss against Appalachian State a few years ago to the disappointment of the Rich Rodriguez era, Brady Hoke is the kick in the ass they desperately need. Only time will tell how the situation plays out, but I believe when the going gets tough the tough gets going. You can’t move a body without a brain, and since the coach is the brain of this body we call a football team, Brady Hoke is gonna have to be one tough fella for the tough to get going.
Week 3: Leaders for a Reason and Legends to Become
Paper or plastic? Biggie or Tupac? To be or not to be? Sometimes we are asked to compare things where choosing one over the other plays a burden on our decision making. Lucky for you folks, I don’t have this problem. Not with this subject at least, yes we in the Big Ten Conference are blessed with two divisions that I believe one day will paramount us to being the undisputed top dog conference in all of college football. However, to say that these two divisions are equal in talent, coaching, and as programs would be like saying that manikins are people too. So where do I stand? Look at the title folks, it’s clear to me that although with the overwhelming display of talent that Bo Pelini’s Huskers bring to the conference, the leaders are still the leaders. Although, Kinnick Stadium is still an intimidating place to play the Hawkeyes, the leaders are still the leaders. Although both Michigan and their foe Michigan State are more up and coming than weeds in a garden, the leaders are still the leaders. Why? Wisconsin’s dominance, Penn State’s atmosphere, and Ohio States drive to rebuild. Everyone fears the Badgers in this up in coming season, not just in the Big Ten, but in the whole NCAA. I see them as possibly the only national title contending team in the conference this year. With a playmaker like WR Nick Toon on your team, it’s hard to count you out of anything. As for Penn State, with their ever young and prospering roster with standouts like sophomores Silas Redd and Rob Bolden and legendary coach in Joe Paterno, Beaver stadium gets more difficult to play in as it is intimidating. With over 100,000 screaming fans all dressed in white, you better hope it’s just a nightmare from watching too many ghost movies. Ohio State knows they have to make a stand to prove their program is stable and strong again. Expect the Buckeye’s to do whatever it takes to turn their program from a defeated disgrace to a top contender in the Big Ten. I’m not taking anything away from the Legends, like I said, they will become a great force in the conference as displayed in the athletic talents of Denard Robinson of Michigan. Time will tell if the Legends will take over as top dog of the Big Ten, but for now, I’m giving it to the leaders. What I can tell you, is the Big Ten is back baby, and we’re ready for some football.
Week 2: Farmageddon is Upon Us
Strap into your seats folks, because this fresh and upcoming rivalry is gonna be intense. The outcome of the rivalry games between the Hawkeyes and Huskers will be uglier than a trailer-park divorce. Why such a hostile beginning to teams playing in the Big Ten together for the first time ever? Well, the answer to that is the similarity of the fan bases. No one likes to admit that they’re near the same to someone else, unless that person is Mr. T. However, take the biggest rivalry in the Big Ten (and arguably the entire NCAA) for example in Michigan and Ohio State. The two teams hate each other more than two girls in a mud wrestling match but they both come from states that are synonymous with industrial labor and large urban areas. It’s no secret that both Iowa and Nebraska thrive and take pride on the fact that farming is almost everything to them. I say almost everything because what takes up the rest of everything to them is their college football clubs. With hundreds of consecutive sellouts for both Kinnick and Memorial Stadiums, it’s no doubt in anyones mind that the Iowa and Nebraska fans are some of the most dedicated and passionate fans in all of college football. The battle for Rural America will change the sports fans of these two states, forcing them to temporarily change from kind and happy folk of the midwest to vicious corn loving maniacs. No matter what anyone says, whoever takes part in watching this game will pick a side to cheer for. Personally as a Penn State fan, I’m going to dislike both these teams come opening day. However, come Farmageddon when these two teams square off, I’ll be rooting for the Huskers to increase the strength and prestige of the Big Ten. They owe us that much for letting them join the club.
Week 1: Ohio State of Emergency
It’s no secret that there is corruption in college football. It’s no secret that the state of Ohio has had a dramatic demise in the sports world; with the dramatic departure of Lebron James and the terrible success rates of the Cleveland ball clubs. It definitely wasn’t a secret to anyone that the pride and joy of the Ohio sports world since Lebron’s departure was the ever popular Buckeyes football program of Ohio State University. However, when a long kept secret of an ongoing scandal of drugs, tattoos, and deals on cars broke loose (along with a resignation of a head coach in Jim Tressel for covering it up) the pride and joy of Ohio became another dagger in the heart of its sports world and fan base.
So what’s to make of this? Should the Ohio State program be forgiven now that they’ve vacated all of their wins from the 2010 season plus their Sugar Bowl title? No. They let down the Ohio fans that needed them at a time when they felt that their sports teams had reached an all-time low. They let down all the people who looked up to Jim Tressel as a potential coaching legend and an outstanding member of the community. They let down their student body, their alumni, and every guy who subscribed to a special cable package to watch them play. They let down all of them, and no vacated wins, trophys, or seasons can fix that. To the Ohio State players and coaches who were involved with this scandal: You screwed up. The best thing you can do is rebuild your program, find a new QB, and win important title games. Except this time, do it the right way, without scandals and disgrace.