Bone to Pick With Icons List

By Keith on November 10, 2010 at 3:00p

When Penn State plays Ohio State on Saturday, it will be 21 days since the last game in Ohio Stadium. A rejuvenated Nittany Lion squad is preparing for a trip to Columbus this week frothing at the mouth at being 17 point underdogs. If I had to guess, the oddsmakers know JoePa’s team averages about one touchdown per game against us over the last eight years. But, nevermind that for today, we’re back home which got me thinking about the Stadium which got me thinking about Chic Harley which got me thinking about the Big Ten Icon rankings.

The Big Ten Icons countdown has me mesmerized if for no other reason Keith Jackson’s beautiful timbre narrates the show. He may be retired and might have called Bam Childress “Barn Childress” more than we care to remember but the legend has a way about him. Right about now, in the background of my home, he’s gracefully outlining John Wooden’s place on the Icon list. It’s informative with bundles of information packed tightly inside the thirty minute capsule.

But, the list and the selections have problems. I certainly can’t argue about Wooden although a healthy debate could erupt that Wooden is more well known for his work at UCLA than his playing days at Purdue. I also can’t find much fault with having 15 different Ohio State athletes make the Top 100 list from which the final 50 selections are placed. However, I do have a problem with Chic Harley not being a candidate for inclusion. Or Bill Hoskett. Or Marcus Marek. Or Gary Bradds. But, my beef isn't really an Ohio State thing but rather more about the overall process and glaring desire to make pockets of fans happy at the expense of more deserving athletes.

Here's my three main issues:

  • Poor Selection Pool - I alluded to this above but the Top 100 list, while chock full of Buckeyes, lacks some players one would think would be automatic shoe-ins. On the flip side, the final 100 includes players which have absolutely no business even being in the discussion much less part of the final tally. Greg Oden, for one comes to mind. Make no mistake, I still carry a solid man crush for GO but his 20 some odd games doesn't constitute icon status. In the same vein but even worse is the shocking revelation that Illinois' Cory Bradford made the final 100. Todd Blackledge? Please. Dave Winfield?  He committed felonious assault during in the worst act of unsportsmanlike conduct in the history of collegiate athletics. This alone overshadows and any his athletic achievements.

  • Never Played in Big Ten -  Color me as confused how anyone can be a Big Ten icon when they never played in the Big Ten conference. They rarely if ever played against Big Ten opposition. They have no association with the Big Ten other than their team was added a few moons ago and the ultimate of grandfather rules was enacted. Yes, I'm talking about your beloved icons Penn State fans.

  • Too Political - One needs to look no further than the several people on the list that no one has heard of outside of their hometown. I'll leave the specific names out but you can figure them out pretty easily by just starting from the top and stopping each time when you say "Who?". One prerequisite of being an icon should be general acceptance that, yes, this person is well known in most general sports circles and doesn't require a Google or Wikipedia search.  Let's be honest, the list should be dominated by a couple schools and a couple sports and, if you happen to dominate in a sport that isn't football or basketball, you did so in such fashion that transcends decades and demographics. Mark Spitz comes to mind, who checks in at No. 11.

Then again, maybe this is my own personal Ohio State thing. Perhaps I do think we are getting the proverbial shaft so far with only three selections in the first 39 placements. And now that only the final 10 have yet to be revealed, it's hard to imagine how it couldn't be dominated by Buckeyes. Remaining on the list are locks like Archie, Jesse and Jerry Lucus. One has to also include Magic, Dick Butkus and Red Grange in the same category. Beyond that, you have the likes of Isiah Thomas, John Havlichek, Orlando Pace and Tom Harmon. If nothing else, the Big Ten Network has generated discussion even if the lists are flawed.  

Let me know your Top 10. 


Comments Show All Comments's picture

1. Owens  -- he must be No. 1. Greatest. Athlete. Ever.

2. Grange

3. Archie

4. Magic

5. Spitz

6. Butkus

7. Harmon

8. Lucas

9. (someone who I am surely forgetting)

10. The Shark.



Poe McKnoe's picture

Haha I bet the Shark is pissed he got beat out by 8 great names and somone else who is better than him.

RBuck's picture

You are so right on Jess Owens. Anybody who pissed off Adolph Hitler is absolutely No. 1.

Long live the southend.

TLB's picture

Jack at 18 is way too low, he is at least #9.

Joe Beale's picture

I was thinking the same thing when I saw that, and then even more so when I saw Ron Dayne ahead of the Bear.  Ron Dayne?  More of an icon than Jack Nicklaus?  Really?

Joe Beale's picture

Good call on Winfield.  I was outraged when I saw him on the list.

BucksfanXC's picture

But if felonious assault DQ's you, does that take Woody out of the running?

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Keith's picture

Good point.  Coaches are supposed to be omitted but if they were eligible the Bauman incident certainly would effect some voters.

Having said that, I view Winfield's role and multiple punches and subsequent hospitalization of players as far more egregious.

builderofcoalitions's picture

Naming the ten greatest athletes in Big 10 history is no easy task. I wouldn't even know where to begin. (Although, Keith and Mr. Green are on the right track.) That said, I can't believe Penn State's Ham, Cappelletti, Blackledge, Harris, and Warner have any business being on this list. THEY DIDN'T PLAY IN THE BIG TEN. What's also shockingly lazy is that Penn State only has football players recognized. As soon as I saw those above names listed, I knew the list was a sham.

Because we couldn't go for three.

Bucksfan's picture

Seems like it's sort of a failed experiment.

BucksfanXC's picture

I'll take my spin:

1) Jesse Owens

2) Red Grange

3) Jack Nicklaus

4) Dick Butkus

5) Archie Griffith

6) Magic Johnson

7) Mark Spitz

8) Jerry Lucas

9) Bronco Nagurski

10) Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

dr green's picture

Was Archie Griffith (sic) on that show with Opie Taylor (Ronny Howard)?

BuckeyeChief's picture

1. Jesse Owens

2. Jack Nicklaus

3. Magic

4. Mark Spitz

5. Archie

really too lazy to finish it up right now.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

My own personal top 10 would only consist of Buckeyes. 

poguemahone's picture

My personal top ten is

1. Justin Zwick

2. Justin Zwick

3. Justin Zwick

4. Justin Zwick

5. Justin Zwick

6. Justin Zwick

7. Justin Zwick

8. Justin Zwick

9. Justin Zwick

10. Justin Zwick

Ian_InsideTheShoe's picture

I'm going to see your bet, and raise you 5:


  1. Lydell Ross
  2. Lydell Ross
  3. Lydell Ross
  4. Lydell Ross
  5. Lydell Ross
  6. Lydell Ross
  7. Lydell Ross
  8. Lydell Ross
  9. Lydell Ross
  10. Lydell Ross
BuckeyeSki's picture


1. Ken-yon Rambo

2. Ken-yon Rambo

3. Ken-yon Rambo

4. Ken-yon Rambo

5. Ken-yon Rambo

6. Ken-yon Rambo

7. Ken-yon Rambo

8. Ken-yon Rambo

9. Ken-yon Rambo

10. Ken-yon Rambo

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

741's picture

Stanley Jackson!

jfunk's picture

Steve Belassari, FTW.

Scotch: It may be too early to drink it, yes; but people it is never to early to think about it.

KenK's picture

Well played young man, well played.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

Poe McKnoe's picture

All great options.

buckeyedude's picture

10a.) Stanley Jackson



741's picture

D'oh! You beat me to the punch.

BuckeyeSki's picture

The paparazzi just wont leave old JoePa alone after the big 400th win....not even at home!


Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Cross Village's picture


Here are a few names............

Owens, Griffin, Grange, M Johnson, Harmon, Lucas, Havlicek, Nicklaus, Butkus, Jim Parker, Kirk Gibson, Eric Heiden (was a Wisconsin ugrad) and of course, Bob Ufer.

Hayes disqualified himself with his bad martial arts imitation plus both he and Schembechler never played a down of Big Ten anything.

Cross Village's picture

BTW - Your blog clock is still on DST if time matters to you.

buckeyedude's picture

What is "time" anyway?



iball's picture

Didn't Michael Phelps(scUM) break Spitz record?

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

iball's picture

1. Magic

2. Archie

3. Desmond Howard

4. Drew Brees

5. Woody hayes

6. Bo Schembechler

7. Eddie George

8. Charles Woodson

9. Bob Knight

10. Tom Izzo

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

iball's picture

Your accomplishments while affiliated with the B10 should be a requirement to be on the list. Mark Spitz? John Wooden? Gimme a break.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

I agree, because that is how you are an Icon of the big ten.  This would leave our beloved golfer off the list, unfortunately, but appropriately.  Jack was probably unknown during his time in the big ten, and the vast majority of big ten fans have no idea where Jack came from, including ohio state fans (at least until he dotted the I).  It was only later that he became famous. In order to be an icon, according this blogpost, you must be someone that is immediately identified with the conference, and those that became famous for accomplishments totally unconnected do not fit that description. Hell, Pat Fitzgerald is more of a big ten icon than many of the people on the list (or was he on the list? I don't know)

BuckeyeChief's picture

I agree to a point, but put this slant on it: Media coverage didn't include the internet and cable TV, so info was limited. Wooden I agree doesn't belong; Spitz and Jack do because they did their work as students (Spitz was either still in or just graduated) or right after.

"2014 National with it!!!"

TLB's picture

Wooden is in the HOF as a player, I have no problem with him.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Boy was I a dumb ass...


There was substance to match his style. Wooden averaged 8.9 points as a sophomore and made All-America and All-Big Ten for a Boilermakers team that won 13 of 15 games and was a perfect 10-0 in conference play. His scoring average “slipped” to 8.2 as a junior as Purdue went 12-5 overall and finished second in the Big Ten at 8-4, but Wooden repeated as an all-conference and All-America selection.

In his senior year, it all came together. Wooden averaged a remarkable 12 points a game and was the unofficial player of the year as the Boilermakers rolled to a 17-1 record, an 11-1 Big Ten mark and the consensus national championship in those pre-NCAA tournament days. He tied the school record with 21 points in the season finale against the University of Chicago and was college basketball’s first three-time All-American, but he was just as proud of the Big Ten Medal of Achievement he won in recognition of his academic and athletic excellence.  

"2014 National with it!!!"

BuckeyeChief's picture

Mateen Cleaves needs to be on the list somewhere. I wouldn't say top 10 though.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

I honestly would have lost a lot of money on a bet whether Wooden was a HOF player.  I never would have thought so.

BuckeyeChief's picture

OT but anyone know if the game vs FLA is on TV next week?

"2014 National with it!!!"

BuckeyeChief's picture

Thanks. Too busy to look it up. Highlights of the day include putting out a fire on my grill, and leaking transmission fluid.

"2014 National with it!!!"

buckeyedude's picture

I didn't know Keith Jackson was still alive.



JakeBuckeye's picture

Teeps (credit to Sam for this, I admit I stole this from you and now use it quite often) reaffirmed staying today, for those of you that were/are still doubtful.'s picture

How could I have forgotten Ken-yon?

jrgdds's picture

No.  You only get DQed if you send someome to the hospital.

jfunk's picture


A Big 10 icon ladies and gentlemen.

Scotch: It may be too early to drink it, yes; but people it is never to early to think about it.

Morgan's picture

here is the SI article written after the game. draw your own conclusions.

buckeyedude's picture

I have more questions, than conclusions. Were the Minnesota players involved arrested for battery? It is all on tape, after all.