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McElroy: Big 10, watered down

BY BENJI MCELROY | NOVEMBER 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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In between licking wounds, the University of Iowa’s lackluster football program should be licking its chops at the prospect of playing Maryland and Rutgers as soon as 2014. These latest additions to the Big Not-So-Ten will possibly water down the Hawkeyes’ competition for years to come.

By crudely implanting two programs without an ounce of history, rivalry or tradition into the conference, the Big Ten is borrowing a Drake rap lyric for its newest motto: money over everything. That includes the UI.

Iowa football has, against all odds, stayed competitive for decades. Neither Kirk Ferentz nor Hayden Fry before him have had a pipeline of five-star recruits in their backyard.

Iowa will never sell itself like a USC, Florida, or Texas. Iowa’s success lies in the creative recruitment done by Ferentz. A sales job built upon a proud school with proud tradition in a proud conference is nothing to scoff at. But between the 4-8 sinking ship (that has caused a fan-led mutiny against said ship’s captain) and the soiling of the Big Ten’s bedrock, the future of Iowa football looks bleak.

Ferentz’s program isn’t left without a seat at the table of realigned conferences, but playing in a watered-down conference that increasingly looks like the little brother of the SEC, while being centuries — in college football years, at least, just ask Gene Chizik — removed from a BCS bowl isn’t much better.

In the most blatant of short-term money grabs, the Big Ten has cast a shadow over its blue-collar, Midwest members. Evidently, even tradition has a price, but the cost of additional cable bucks will be far greater than just Maryland’s ACC fines for everyone from Champaign to Iowa City.


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