An Open Letter to Jim Delany

Dear Jim Delany, 

I have some initial concerns about your new branding that you revealed today.

I understand that Joe Paterno is, quite literally, a living legend. And we will all be sad when he goes to that Great Sideline in the Sky. But the man has only been a member of the Big Ten Conference for seventeen years. 

How in the hell do you name the championship game trophy after him?!

Maybe you don’t realize it, but there were two other coaches who defined the Big Ten Conference. Maybe you’ve heard of “three yards and a cloud of dust”? And even if you don’t think they’re worthy, there are other coaches who have had more success in this conference than Joe Paterno. Hayden Fry, Barry Alvarez, hell, even Lou Holtz! Sure, maybe he was only there for a year before bolting to Notre Dame, but you clearly don’t hold “Length of Time in the Conference” as any sort of measuring stick.

And the division names? Legends and Leaders? Who was the genius who thought that giving two divisions in the same conferences names that look, sound and read almost identical was a good idea? I couldn’t tell you which division Ohio State was in, and I just looked at the damn list five minutes ago. What was wrong with North and South? Sure, Wisconsin would have been out of place, but the goddamn Dallas Cowboys play in the NFC East and they get along just fine. Although it could be worse, the divisions could be the Rotel and Advance Auto Parts divisions.

And the trophy names? I already talked about Paterno, but the other half of that is Alonzo Stagg, who, while a fine coach, was at a school that is no longer in the B1GTEN. And did every trophy have to be hyphenated? It’s a tight race between the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year and the Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award for the Needlessly Long Award Title of the Year Award. We have trophies in this conference that are named after pigs-sometimes, you gotta keep it simple, Jim.

Let’s look at the awards, Jim. The B1GTEN has been around for 1896. Hundreds of thousands of players have fought on the gridiron every year. Are you trying to tell me, that in the 114 years of B1GTEN football, your best options for naming awards were a tight end who never played in the B1GTEN, and a punter who graduated three years ago?

And don’t get me started on the logo. GAP is probably sending you a nice pair of khakis for sneaking in and stealing the “Most Ill-Thought Out and Crappy Logo of 2010” Award from them. (Hey, throw in a couple more hyphens and that could be a B1GTEN award!) And not to disparage the work of Pentagram, a quality design agency, but they’re in New York.  There are hundreds of design firms in Minneapolis, Chicago, and elsewhere in B1GTEN footprint that could have handled this rebranding with the dignity and understanding of tradition it deserves. I should know, I spent most of 2009 trying to get a job there. 

Jim, I know you’re a smart guy. And I know you take a lot of grief for being a cheerleader for the BCS, and having to clean up after Gordon Gee when he decides to stick his foot in his mouth, and that whole OSU/SEC National Championship thing. But the Big Ten Network was a stroke of genius, you handled the expansion brilliantly, and there’s no other guy I’d want leading my conference. But this branding is a disaster-you’re going to get slaughtered for it in the press, and rightfully so. In one fell swoop, you’ve turned the B1GTEN into a laughingstock. Not even playing a football game in a baseball stadium going in one direction managed to pull that off. 

Wondering if Michigan will have to change its fight song,

Dwight

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