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Commentary: What the B1G can learn from High Schools

BY TOM CLOS | JUNE 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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I read that the Iowa Department of Education's has decided to dissolve the Big East Conference (of Iowa high schools) and form two separate 13-team leagues. Then I immediately emailed a copy of the proposal to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.

I think he could learn something from it.

The new alignment splits up schools from the Big East and assigns them to either the Cedar Valley Conference or the Tri-Rivers Conference.

Clearly, the Department of Education made sure location and rivalries were taken into account. All of the old Cedar Valley rivals were kept together and several of the larger Quad City schools all play one another in the Tri-Rivers Conference.

Location and rivalries — something the Big Ten is apparently unaware of.

The Big Ten was divided into two six-team divisions following the admission of Nebraska last fall, launching us into the "Legends and Leaders" era.

But instead of dividing the conference geographically, Delany and his cohorts decided that "competitive balance" was the most important factor.

In other words, they wanted to make sure Michigan and Ohio State could one day meet in the conference championship game and produce big bucks for the organization.

Several classic rivalries, most notably Iowa and Wisconsin, have become endangered species because of the new alignment.

Compound this with the recent release of the 2015 and 2016 Big Ten football schedules, and it's sheer blasphemy that these 86-year rivals will meet in only two out of six seasons.

Please, Jim, end the madness, and divide the conference geographically.

If the conference were divided simply by where the schools are on a map, more rivalries would be preserved, and everyone would be happy.

Iowa would play Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin every year in an East/West format. Illinois-Northwestern, Iowa-Illinois, Michigan-Michigan State, Michigan-Ohio State, and Minnesota-Wisconsin matchups would all be preserved. This would also create some interesting new rivalries, such as Nebraska-Wisconsin.

So why is it so difficult that a conference full of world-class institutions of higher learning and is led by a man with a Juris Doctorate fails to see how the states are arranged on a map?

The common argument against geographic divisions is that the East division would clearly be more powerful than the West and would almost always produce the eventual conference champion. But why should such schools as Iowa and Wisconsin be punished by losing a long-standing rivalry because the Indianas and Minnesotas of the world can't get their act together and produce a respectable product on the field?

If these tiny Iowa high schools can get it right, why can't the most powerful conference in college athletics?

Now, I doubt any of the big wigs in the Indianapolis headquarters of the Big Ten will read this plea, and if they do, it probably won't sway them one way or the other.

But if Jim did at least one thing, it would be greatly appreciated.

Get rid of the "Legends" and "Leaders" monikers.

Any division where Iowa isn't with Wisconsin is hardly legendary.

Follow DI sports reporter Tom Clos on Twitter.


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