Last week, the football team announced the return of Nike Pro Combat uniforms for the Michigan game. The helmets are rumored to be scarlet, surely driving fans already sour over the '09 editions over the edge. But in a few weeks, the new unis will be the least of our concerns. The Big Ten is set to announce divisional alignment details within the next month, and talk of splitting the Big Ten's two traditional powers into separate divisions, with the kicker being The Game moving up earlier in the season, is picking up steam and athletic directors from the two schools have done little to calm the nerves of anxious fans on each side. In what would be a play for cash, the league would split Ohio State and Michigan in the hopes of pitting the two titans in the conference championship game. The rivalry between the two will be protected, so in order to avoid a rematch just a week after playing, the league would move the annual war to October. Obviously, you don't need me to tell you that this is not a good thing. In fact, there aren't many things short of curing cancer and defending an attack from an alien race that will bring Buckeyes and Wolverines together, but this is one of them. Cook:
And with both ADs at Michigan and Ohio State trying to prepare the fans for a soft landing, it's clear which way this is going: the stupidest possible way. ONE: It is extremely unlikely that Michigan and Ohio State would ever actually score a championship game rematch. Splitting the two teams is a pointless exercise in hoping that once every ten years you get another one. This is no longer the 1970s. TWO: Michigan's year-end opponent: Michigan State? Boy, that will fire up everyone on Rivalry Week: "It's Michigan! It's some team that's been within a game of .500 every year since SEC schools started recruiting black kids! On ABC!" THREE: Whatever damage the rivalry sustains because of the split is going to vastly outweigh the piddling slice of extra revenue Michigan and Ohio State will get from a 1/12th split of the incremental bump the Big Ten Championship Game gets because maybe once every ten years they'll get to pit Michigan against Ohio State. FOUR: Dennis Dodd thinks this is the way to go. QED.
What's left is Ohio State vs. Michigan. What's left is a game that goes beyond the records, that defines the season for both teams, that allows one team the delicious opportunity to play spoiler, that in good years could serve as an ideal de facto conference semifinal and that allows fans to recharge their animosity over a full season, building to the one game that matters more than any other. ... Change is necessary and often beneficial. But this change would be an avoidable choice. Separating Ohio State and Michigan isn't a must.
I struggle to believe that something so deleterious, odious to the conference’s two largest fanbases would be under serious consideration. It apparently is. Keeping it simple, and preserving the Ohio State-Michigan series while gradually cultivating Iowa-Nebraska out west would make the most of the new Mercedes that the Big Ten got when it added Nebraska and allowed itself to have a conference championship game. I guess we’re pleading with the Big Ten now: don’t be Charlie Sheen; don’t wreck that car off the side of a cliff.
I'm likely a little more progressive than some of my peers on the tradition front. I didn't lose any sleep when the team painted the endzones a few years ago and the "Rivalry" uniforms unveiled last season provoked a curious response out of me more than anything else. But this? This? This is madness. An adage comes to mind about fixing things that aren't broken. The two teams have played each other on the final week of the regular season every year since 1935 and I like to think it's worked out pretty well for the conference. Let me repeat that: EVERY YEAR SINCE 1935. Sure, the Wolverines are down a bit now, but there's not a serious Buckeye fan out there that doesn't believe they'll be back eventually.
I'm not even sure I can muster the appropriate hate for the game if it were to be moved up in the season or played under the cloud of a potential rematch. I mean, sure, I can get some hate going, but will it be the type of hate that this rivalry deserves? To get to that kind of hate, the weather must be pissy and the trees outside wet and leafless. Not leafy and with ghost decorations hanging from them. Delany a history of shrewd moves as the head of the conference, and by all accounts, Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman seems like a bright guy, but they're evidently willing to sacrifice the best thing the conference has going for it for something that will likely not happen as frequently as some would believe. Lesmerises went back to 1993 -- the year Delany has stressed as being the base year for split evaluations -- and determined conference championship participants based on an OSU/UM split and we're talking three matchups. 18 percent. Make no mistake about it, we're in the midst of a conference arms race, and some moves must be made with the bottom line in mind. This is not one of them. If Commissioner Delany is doing his homework, he'll reach out to the ACC to see how well the Florida State/Miami split has worked out.
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