In the early years of intercollegiate football, fights, injuries, and even deaths began to occur at an alarmingly high rate. In order to address these issues (as well as the practice of recruiting local steelworkers, boilermakers, or other factory workers), the aptly named Purdue president James Henry Smart invited the presidents of Chicago, Illinois, Lake Forest College, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin to a meeting in Chicago on January 11, 1895 to discuss the issues and try to create regulatory policies to put a curb to some of the bigger issues facing college athletics at the time. Although no consensus was reached during the 1895 meeting, it did result in a second meeting that took place February 8, 1896.
At the second meeting 128 years ago today, the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives was born with Michigan having replaced Lake Forest College in the intervening 13 months. Everything that happened after that date was a mistake.
The original seven would expand to add Indiana and Iowa and become more commonly known as the Western Conference and then the Big Nine. The secession of Michigan was following by the addition of the Ohio State. Michigan’s exit lasted longer than the Confederacy’s rebellion (primarily because the forces of good were not all that concerned about the loss of the ill reputed Ann Arbor), but the Wolverines were brought to heel just like the South. The inevitable readmittance of Michigan in December 1916 led to the conference being referred to as the Big Ten - a name it has kept ever since despite the addition of a 11th member in 1990 and the following conference expansion mistakes that have seen it balloon up to 18 members.
The date of February 8 is a special one around these parts not only due to it being the birthday of the Big Ten, but also due to it being the birthday of American hero William Tecumseh Sherman. Whether the Big Ten founders chose February 8th to meet in honor of William Tecumseh Sherman’s birthday is up for debate, but I think we can all agree that it’s an appropriate day to create found a conference containing only schools from the Union/Union territories.
BoilerUp89: Happy birthday to the Big Ten! Hopefully the conference finally rids itself of its March Madness title droughts in men’s and women’s basketball this spring. For your own sake, please stop expanding.
AlmaOtter: Happy birthday to the original athletic conference and one of the few still standing tall (albeit with a numerically-challenged name now) after a decade of cash-grabbing reorganization! And happy birthday to Willy T. Sherman, brother of the author of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which the NCAA is desperately trying to wriggle out of.
MaximumSam: *takes a long drag from a marijuana cigarette, as weed is legal in Ohio now. Hands the Big Ten a card. Written in the card is one word - “happy”
RUReady4Brazil: Parabéns pra você, Nesta data querida, Muitas felicidades, Muitos anos de vida! Hopefully the Big Ten continues to render the NCAA as a whole useless (which is an improvement from what it has been). And congrats on outlasting the Pac 8/10/12!
Presents for Everyone
What do writers want to see for their favorite programs in the coming year?
BoilerUp89: I’m not greedy, I won’t ask for a national championship. A Final Four for Purdue men’s basketball would be a present worth celebrating for the conference founder.
AlmaOtter: Give this desperate fanbase a run into the second weekend of March Madness and an Olympic gold medalist this summer and I think even Illini Twitter would be pleased. Just kidding, those folks are nuts.
MaximumSam: I just wants fans to stop hating our coaches. Peace on earth for Ryan Day. Chris Holtmann may get shot into the sun on April 1st, but if he’s still around I hope he can go out in public.
misdreavus79: I guess it’s too pretentious of me to ask for a title since my team isn’t Michigan or Ohio State, but fuck all y’all give me a title! Also give me sustained success in basketball! Both mens and womens! And another four titles in a row for volleyball! And, and...
RUReady4Brazil: For Rutgers football, another bowl bid and a QB completion percentage that is not worst in the Power Five (now Power 4?) for the third straight year. An upset over a top 25 to snap the longest streak in the nation would also be great on the gridiron and gymnastics. On the hardwood, Dylan, Ace, and Kiyomi to be as advertised. In Baseball, an NCAA tournament bid would be nice to flush the stench of 2022’s debacle.
Share your birthday wishes for the Big Ten in the comments. Tell us your favorite moments from the past year. What would you like to see before the Big Ten turns 129? You know, besides the exile of wisconsin.