Joe Pa got it started popping off about how the conference goes "into hiding for six weeks" thanks to the lack of a 12th member and subsequent conference championship game but Jim Delaney had the last word - for now - offering a slippery retort as to why that issue is currently on the "back burner".
This, of course, prompted much discussion yesterday as to which team the conference should add and why. Personally, I find myself in the somewhat unenviable position of agreeing with Delaney's decision, even if for entirely selfish and different reasons.
Considering I seem to be in the minority, I keep asking myself what I'm missing here? I'm pretty sure the majority of sports blog readers are looking at this largely from a football, and to a lesser degree, basketball standpoint and when I form my opinion focusing on the bread and butter known as football - specifically OSU football - I don't see the benefit of adding a 12th team. I think we can all agree Delaney, university presidents and athletic directors look at the issue through a much wider lens but let's put that stuff on the 'back burner' for now and look at a few reasons why adding a 12th team is unnecessary.
Which Team is Really A Good Fit?
If the move isn't vital to the success of the conference, and it isn't, what's the point of adding a school if they aren't a slam dunk? I get adding Penn State. You get Joe Pa. You get a historically relevant football program and one big ass stadium, among other things. That makes sense.
I keep reading the Notre Dame talk but why would they join a conference? They have a sweetheart TV deal and the inside track to a BCS bowl. I haven't checked their balance sheet but I'm guessing they aren't desperate for scratch, either. So, if not a powerhouse program (historically, not currently), then who is worthy?
I'm reading names like Pitt, West Virginia, Rutgers. Seriously, Rutgers? We've already got a Rutgers, at least a midwestern version that plays in Bloomington. Honestly, Pitt and WVU wouldn't be bad choices, they do compete in both major sports but why would schools like OSU and Penn State be excited about adding a team in such close proximity to their campuses? I say no thanks.
The Football Season Ends Too Soon
There's no doubt the conference teams stink up the bowl season - I want to say I heard Hooley quote a record of 15-28 in the last 43 games - but doesn't the honest fan believe an overall lack of talent, bad match ups, inferior top-to-bottom coaching and games played against southern teams in their climate comfort zone are just as viable 'excuses' as the season ending in November?
Plus, with the upcoming change pushing back the end of the conference season isn't this argument at least somewhat tempered? If that's not good enough then maybe the conference can slowly phase in another bye week. That could even give the teams an opportunity to stay healthy.
Lastly, Joe Pa's whole argument about the conference going into hiding in December and essentially becoming an afterthought nationally is pretty much useless commentary when you consider the Big Ten has placed at least two teams in the BCS bowls in 8 of 11 seasons. Are we sure that's going into hiding?
But We Need A Conference Championship Game
The other conferences do make a ton of money marketing their championship tilts but at what cost? I'm sure some of you will insist this is simply me wanting to duck opponents but what's the point of playing an extra game and increasing your chances of falling victim to an upset when one loss can ruin your season if you truly don't have to? In most cases, an undefeated Big Ten team is going to find themselves in the title game whether the rest of the country likes it or not. Knowing that, I'd just as soon play one less game. Call it what you want.
Finally, and selfishly once again, adding a 12th team puts a huge damper on the meaning of The Game, ie. the first or second greatest rivalry in all of sports. I can't imagine OSU v. Michigan not being the climax to the end of the conference season. I've heard all the different arguments - putting them in the same division, opposite divisions etc - I don't want to hear it. The Game is the The Game. Please don't mess with it. Ever.
So there you have it. Now it's your turn to let me have it. Why is adding a team the right move?