Like many other people, I disliked the Big Ten division names “Leaders and Legends” from the beginning. To me, it reeks of arrogance, while humility is an important part of what’s special about the Midwest, the home of the Big Ten.
Now, after the Ohio State University and Penn State University scandals, the division names are absurd. The violations at Ohio State took down one of the most popular and respected coaches in college football, a rare occurrence that indicates the seriousness of the violations. The Penn State scandal is the worst in the history of sports. It is a scandal that goes far beyond matters such as cheating or gambling. The Penn State scandal is the worst in the history of sports — all sports, all levels, all places. It might be the worst in the history of American academia.
The Big Ten needs to get back to basics, back to its roots. If some of the key people at Penn State hadn’t thought of themselves and their head coach as legends, and if certain people at Penn State hadn’t been concerned with their own image and greatness, perhaps they would not have handled the allegations as badly as they did. Whether this whole thing turns out to be “guilty as charged” or not, the allegations were handled as if the last thing in the world that mattered was the welfare of children. What seemed to matter just as little was how it would all look to the world. That is hubris. I learned in my Classics class long ago of the Greek adage that hubris is followed by nemesis, pride cometh before the fall. Declaring oneself to be a leader or a legend qualifies as hubris, no matter how you spin it.
I suggest some new names for the divisions. “Erie and Huron” sound good to me. Honor the Great Lakes that have been fundamental to the success of the Midwest. These names offer imagery, unlike “Leaders and Legends” which are abstract. Everybody loves lakes. It’s time for the Big Ten to take a dip in the waters.
1984 University alum