But none of these are the answer.
You see, the Big Ten has not fielded a College Football Playoff candidate in the last two seasons. And, if the Big Ten is to become Great Again, we need to do something about it. No one gains from a 70-point pantsing of Rutgers. No one gains from a narrow home win over Illinois in which the head coach has pulled his starters midway through the third quarter but not actually bothered to have the game in hand first.
They’re albatrosses on our strength of schedule. And that needs to change.
So we need to go back to the year that changed it all with Jim Delany: 2014, when his two prize turnips, the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights, joined the conference. Did they add East Coast TV markets that will matter for a few more years until the Big Ten’s finances are rent asunder by some combination of cord-cutting, a la carte TV packages, concussion-related grandstanding, climate change, nuclear war, the secession of Minnesota into Canada, and the disappearing bees? Sure! But there was no need to...you know, actually keep them around once we got their markets.
It’s time for a change.
In the finest style of the soccer-loving douchebag that I am, and in the way that it is not the answer for the ills plaguing the MLS, the Big Ten must retroactively adopt a system of promotion and relegation, based on Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, dating back to the moment Maryland and Rutgers joined the conference. The Big Ten and its most-of-the-time regional whipping boys, the Mid-American Conference and Missouri Valley Conference, form the top, middle, and bottom tiers of this system. The Pioneer Conference, home to Noted Iowa State competitors the Drake Bulldogs*, was intentionally and hurtfully left out.
*Drake is still my favorite basketball team, though.
You’ll look at these and wonder: Why two teams promoted/relegated? Why Sagarin’s ratings and not something much better-looking and employing-you like S&P+? Missouri State plays football? UMass was once in the MAC?
Because, because, kinda, and yes.
The results of my system follow; yes, Big Ten, this is my official declaration of candidacy for the job:
2014: The Newcomers Can Stay
Thank God: We finally did it. In adding markets and pro-rel, we jettisoned America’s Crossroads. Goodbye, [NOPOLITICS]. Goodbye, shittiest non-Ryan Field stadiums in the Big Ten. Goodbye, Bucket. Goodbye, terrible basketball fans. We won’t miss you.
And way, way down the ladder? Well, two teams you’ll get very familiar with—the North Dakota State Bison and Illinois State Redbirds—make their first move upwards, replaced by the dregs of the MAC, the Kent State Golden Flashes and Eastern Michigan Eagles.
2015: Good Riddance, East Coast!
Do you remember that the Bowling Green Falcons were once good at football? Me neither! But you’d have dealt with them in the Big Ten in 2016! Why not?
Most importantly, though, what we’d all been waiting for has finally come true: Maryland AND Rutgers? Gone, baby, gone. We did it, everyone.
Along with the Falcons, of course, the North Dakota State Bison finally make their appearance in the conference. Within two seasons, Delany, you could’ve both kept the TVs, gotten rid of the teams, and added the Fargo metro area. THINK OF THE BISMARCK TV MARKET! You threw it all away. AND FOR WHAT?
Anywho, Miami Hydroxide gets the boot, because lol they bad. Here’s, though, where I had to make a judgment call; you see, after the 2015 season, the Massachusetts Minutemen left the MAC, opting for the lucrative lifestyle of independent football and Eleven Sports Network broadcasts. Things would never be the same, but I would’ve loved to have seen what Andrew Isabella would’ve done to the MAC week-in, week-out. Oh yeah, and Ball State got the boot. Oh well.
In their place, we add the Northern Iowa Panthers and South Dakota State Jackrabbits to the MAC. That’s cool, right? Any objections? No? Welcome to Tuesday Night MACtion, LIVE! from Brookings, South Dakota. It is November 8, snow is whipping across the Great Plains, and the windchill is -4. The West Division will be decided tonight, as PJ Fleck’s Western Michigan Broncos row their way across the Plains to take on the surprisingly-frisky Jackrabbits. AWESOME.
2016: Return of the Hoosiers; Or, YOU ADDED RUTGERS, DELANY
You read correctly: Rutgers is relegated to the Missouri Valley Conference. As long as the next commish doesn’t add a trainwreck of a program like this one, (s)he’s all good.
But yeah, nothing big in the Big Ten, as Bowling Green is clearly terrible and already gone, while the Illinois Fighting Illini watch Tim Beckman’s replacement, Matt Campbell, keep the Toledo Rockets in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, as we all knew, the Western Michigan Broncos row into the B1G, meaning...maybe Fleck never joins the Minnesota Golden Gophers? What a world.
And Indiana’s back! Fun!
Meanwhile, a couple upstart coaches in the Missouri Valley really bring the noise to the MAC: Chris Creighton is ready to lead the Eastern Michigan Eagles to MAC mediocrity, and Bo Pelini would become the second former Nebraska coach to...y’know, just kind of exist in the MAC East. I’d watch it.
2017: WE DID IT—Illinois and Rutgers are gone, baby, gone!
The best of the Valley in, the worst of the B1G gone.
It’s staggering to think that, had Delany not fucked this all up, in just four seasons we’d be adding the Dakota Marker to the Big Ten’s rivalry games, all the while dropping Illinois Fighting Illini and Rutgers to the Missouri Valley.
And, in a marker of just how far this pro-rel system has shored up the bottom of the conference, the two teams relegated—NIU and WMU—have an average in the mid-60s, compared to 2016’s mid-50s and 2015’s Rutgers and Maryland. It’s a wonderful thing for college football. Anyhow, Purdue comes back, too, and that’s just fine and all. Long live Brohm.
The most pathetic thing, of course, is that Rutgers couldn’t have escaped the Valley in 2017—they’d be leapfrogged by perfectly cromulent-but-unthreatening Western Illinois Leathernecks and South Dakota Coyotes, neither of whom would actually be that threatening to the best of the MAC. And Bowling Green, so recently in the Big Ten, has collapsed out of the MAC and into the Valley without the leadership of Dino Babers.
2018: YOU DID IT, FRANK
Solich’s Revenge! It’s time. Welcome, Ohio Bobcats.
But, in case the point hasn’t been made enough yet, we’re relegating a program in Indiana that’s in the 70s in Sagarin’s rating system. That’s pretty damn good, and it’s an example of just how much improved the Big Ten would be. Toledo I can take or leave. Really, they’re just Maryland but more Midwestern. These are the perfect yo-yo clubs for the Big Ten-MAC pipeline.
Too bad about the ‘Yotes, but you don’t just walk into the MAC and win it all. Unless you’re North Dakota State or South Dakota State. And let this be a reminder of just how long ago Dan LeFevour was running the show in Mount Pleasant and getting a cup of coffee with the Bears. What a world. Meanwhile, Buffalo and Miami Hydroxide make their triumphant return.
2019: So what have we learned?
Five years on from Jim Delany ruining the Big Ten, we’ve pretty much corrected the mistakes. Illinois and Rutgers are far, far away, where they can never hurt anyone again. The East has somehow gotten tougher, and the West has somehow gotten weaker, giving East fans a reason to complain even louder. Minnesota has, somehow, gained even more potential trophy games—surely there’s something good out there with SDSU and NDSU.
What would the 2019 season look like?
- Give me North Dakota State to regress without Easton Stick...but not that much. We’re talking “kinda runners-up” in a 9-3 (6-3) shitshow with Iowa and wisconsin.
- How quickly does Ohio get relegated from the East? Oof.
- They’d be joined by South Dakota State.
- Indiana, in true yo-yo fashion, comes back from the MAC, joined by [/throws dart] Toledo.
- Illinois and Rutgers would remained comfortably ensconced in the Missouri Valley. I hear South Dakota and Bowling Green are in for big years.
That wasn’t the point of this, was it?
Eh. Mostly it was to demonstrate that Rutgers was such a terrible acquisition, it’s hard for the next commissioner not to improve the competitive outlook for the Big Ten. But laughing at Illinois is always a fun perk.
In conclusion, Big Ten Conference, MNWildcat for Commissioner, and promotion-relegation for all. Welcome, Bizon. You’ll like it here.