Welcome aboard. We're pleased to have you. How's orientation so far? Information overload, right?
I can only imagine. I've been here for 99-years and I still see things I've never seen before. Like Sunday, when our mens hoops squad set NCAA records for the most consecutive three pointers (14) and highest 3-point FG percentage (93.33%) against Wisconsin. What is it they say about payback?
Anyways, I'm Ohio State, CAO (Chief Athletics Officer) of the Big Ten Conference. Commissioner Delaney asked me to get in touch with you to talk about how to be successful in our league. I know you got off to kind of a rough start in your last endeavor, and want to make sure your career here is as productive and rewarding as possible.
To that end, let me start by telling you a little about myself. I joined the Big Ten in 1912, fresh out of the Ohio Athletic Conference. Just four seasons later I won my first football conference championship. I won my first national championship in 1942. Overall, I've been conference champion 35 times in football, and I've produced 7 Heisman Trophy winners, 78 consensus All-Americans and 7 national titles.
I don't share that to brag, I say it because you remind me a lot of myself. I'd like to think that with the right leadership and investment you could join me in January in a BCS bowl. Your experience playing on that stage in the past is one of the things that attracted us to you. After all, we've been pitifully lacking in strength at the top.
As you undoubtedly are aware, for many decades this league was unofficially known as the "Big 2" and "Little 8." This, of course, was a nod to the fact that management responsibilities were divided evenly between us and That State Up North. From 1968 to 1982, one of us won the conference every year, fueling one of the most contentious rivalries in all of sports. In 1969, we traveled to Ann Arbor ranked first in the country, riding a 22-game winning streak and led by the Great Woody Hayes only to be upset by a rookie Bo Schembechler. The loss ignited the infamous "Ten Year War."
You might be wondering what ever happened to the conference's other overlord. I probably shouldn't say, but then again, you're going to find out anyways so you might as well hear it from me. A few years ago, Michigan started acting a little strange. They dropped four bowl games in a row. (Actually, that wasn't really all that odd since the legendary Bo Schembechler had a terrible postseason record and what's more Michigan than Bo?). They were beaten by FCS Appalachian State at home. They fired a Michigan Man and hired a non-Michigan Man. They turned in their first losing season in four decades. They were put on NCAA probation for the first time in their 131 year history. They turned in a second losing season...
You get the idea. Anyways, lets just say that Michigan fell "off the wagon" and leave it at that. I'm happy to report that they're in Phoenix at a clinic getting help, and they should be back by the start of spring practice. Just remember, when you see them, try to act normally. Remind them of how they're the winningest program in college football history and pretend to be amazed when they claim they have 11 national titles. (Do not under any circumstances question why they've only won one since 1948, or ask why ESPN only recognized 2 of them when it ran its Title Town segment in 2008).
Okay, that's enough statistics. You're probably wondering what it will be like to step foot on campus at The Ohio State University. Like most of our conference bretheren, Ohio State is a large public land-grant institution, the flagship of a state system of higher learning. Our Columbus campus is the third-largest in the United States, hosting over 55,000 students. Unlike most Big Ten institutions, however, Ohio State is located in an urban setting, smack downtown in Ohio's Capital city. Columbus is the 16th largest city in the United States, and the metropolitian influence means that you'll have access to a full host of dining and cultural opportunities. Skeptical? The Washington Post called C-Bus a "cullinary powerhouse."
I recommend coming into town on Friday night for a burger and beer at Thurman Cafe in German Village (of Man vs. Food fame) then getting up early to grab a coffee at Staufs' in Granview. Head over to campus in time for a quick walk on the "Oval," and a visit to the newly renovated Thompson-Library. (Make sure to take the elevator to the Campus Reading Room on the 11th floor for amazing views of downtown and campus). Then walk down to the Horseshoe.
Ohio Stadium, or the "Shoe" as it is affectionately known by Big Ten fans, is one of the premiere venues in all of sports. Take a full walk around the footprint and check out the handsome iron gates with Block O accents and towering arches, then stop at the closed end to admire the stained glass rotunda. Every week over 102,000 pour through the gates turning the stadium on the banks of the Olentangy into a scarlet sea.
But you're here to tailgate, so wonder over to the French Field House lot next to St. Johns Arena. And hope you're not allergic to peanuts, because chocolate and peanut butter "Buckeyes" are all the rage. Wash 'em down with a cold beer, then get ready to talk shop.
After all, I'm here to teach you how to be successful in the Big Ten. And here's what I know:
Defense > Offense
The good news is it sounds like you've already figured this one out. We don't play pinball in the Big Ten, so don't expect to join the league and score points in bunches. 10-6, 13-9, 17-14. These are perfectly acceptable final scores in B1G country.
I know you come from the land of Nintendo-numbers, and don't get me wrong, it's fun to watch an air raid offense dissect a Cover 2. But you know what's even more fun? Watching a fundamentally sound 4-3 defense make a stop on 4th and 1 at the goalline. Hearing the pop of the pads, and the rumble of cleats stomping to the pile.
Welcome to the Big Ten. And good luck.
We'll be here if you have any questions.