B1G Ten Tour -- Football Will Be Just Fine


Posted May 9, 2013


Despite some extremely poor showings on the field for Big Ten football in recent memory, the league has plenty of reasons to believe that it’s positioned to get things turned back around soon. Watch out SEC.


By Phil Harrison
Follow me@PhilHarrisonCFN

Big Ten Football Is Just Fine:

Unless you are more stubborn than a mule with an axe to grind, you have probably finally -- if not mercifully -- surrendered to the idea that the Big Ten is in a downturn. The fact is, it’s been down as long as the SEC has been up. From a lack of national titles, to flops in almost every big game that has mattered recently, to a precipitous drop in NFL draft picks, your arm has gone from one needing twisted to believe such things, to one slouched down at the side after a shrug of concession.

But all is not lost in the Midwest.

In the event that you missed it this week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke news that the Big Ten makes a lot of dough. More dough in fact than, well, anyone in the college-pigskin business. That leaves us all to ponder why the league can’t be more competitive than what we’ve witnessed for nearly a decade. If you fall in that camp, don’t give up just yet because there's plenty of reasons to believe the conference will be just fine.

Yeah the SEC is renting out real estate at the top of the polls and collecting more crystal than a bushel of wedding showers, but the world was once flat, humans couldn’t fly (at least voluntarily) and connecting to the internet once involved strange squealing beeps and honks. The point is, we need to all remember that these things do run in cycles despite the unending seven-year spin of dirty laundry the SEC has thrown out at other conferences. After all, the SEC won’t win every national championship from here until the apocalypse. Right?

Sure. Stay with me here.

What better place to start than what makes the world go round? Money. It has literally reshaped television, advertising, and the entire landscape of college football -- and it’ll continue to do so. That’s good news for Jim Delany’s puppet show by anyone’s figurative or literal account.

Though it was heckle at first sight, the league was the first to trail-blaze a course to the launch of its own network, has continued to turn on television sets, and sits in the footprint of many population centers, even with more and more folks deciding to move to the south and west. Oh, and there are other mega media markets on the way with the New York and DC/Baltimore areas once Rutgers and Maryland join the secret society in 2014. The addition of those markets should only sweeten the pot once a new television deal is brokered in 2016.

Cha-ching. Ba-da-bing.

Quite simply put, there are two leagues that are fat cats. It’s the Big Ten and the SEC, and then everyone else. It’s the reason why nary a team has defected from the two financial engines, and aren’t planning to anytime soon.

That’ll play.

But finances only take you so far. You can’t just stuff a wad of cash under the mattress and sit on it. The name of the game is investing and the league is beginning to understand Economics 101 by getting on board with the hiring of head coaches and the pay scales associated with their entire staff. Ohio State paid big bucks to bring in Urban Meyer and his posse that includes four former head coaches, while Michigan also opened up the checkbook with Brady Hoke and his assistants, led by defensive partner in crime Greg Mattison.

Don’t think it has gone unnoticed either. If other fine institutions in the bratwurst and beer belt want to stay competitive, they will be forced to keep up or be left in the dust. And if the amount of cash associated with the hiring of new Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell and his staff are any indication, keep up they will.

It doesn’t stop there. Recruiting -- which is the backbone of any program -- also seems to be on the rise with the talents of these new coaching trees. The two behemoth Big Ten programs, Ohio State and Michigan for instance, are pulling in classes and talents that have been lacking over the last few years. So much so that the two programs are finding themselves in the same neighborhoods and living rooms as the big, bad SEC schools.

The programs are becoming national again rather than regional, and the front doors of blue-chip recruits are beginning to be answered with a smile more often. And in case you haven't noticed, the Big Ten is winning a good portion of those battles. Kids from SEC country are deciding to brave winter’s chill, and that too means that the poor showings in those bright-light games could be ready to finally thaw. It might be Michigan and Ohio State leading the charge, but as those two go, so too will the rest of the Delanys’ … er Jones’.

You get it right? The ingredients are all there, they just need a little time to bake into a scrumptious souffle now. The oven has been preheated and the timer set.

So enjoy the ungodly amount of time in the sun SEC, because the Big Ten is getting its sea-legs back. It might not be an overnight sailing, but as sure as the wind blows, this ship is coming into the harbor to deliver some hardware of its own. You might even say it’s a new world that’s the stuff of Leaders and Legends -- or something like that.


Phil is the lead Big Ten columnist for CFN. Follow him @PhilHarrisonCFN