Every Year. Same Time. Once. The Last Time.

Submitted by Brian on August 26th, 2010 at 1:32 PM

Two must-read posts: Ramzy at Bucknuts on whoredom and Doctor Saturday on the sheer lack of sense.

I'm not posting this in the hope that it will change anything. Since Dave Brandon came out in favor of moving the Michigan-Ohio State game to midseason there's been tremendous fan pushback, with opinion running about 10-to-1 against. It obviously doesn't matter, because the men in suits are ramping up the meaningless PR doublespeak to alarming levels:

…the reason the Big Ten is great is because of our fans. We had five and a half million fans come to games [in 2009]. Whether it’s the Rose Bowl or Ohio State-Michigan, we welcome that, and there’s an awful lot of discussion of, generally speaking, how our fans feel about what we do. We're not fan-insensitive, we're fan-receptive and are only interested in doing what is going to grow our fan base.

Whenever someone starts talking about how great the fans are, the fans are about to get it in uncomfortable places, especially when that's the first thing they talk about in the face of obvious, massive opposition. Meanwhile, the SID is trying to calm people over email by saying for Michigan and Ohio State to meet for the conference title they will "have to play their way into the championship game." If it was a trial balloon people would be walking it back by now after the reaction it's received. The thing is far enough along that Barry Alvarez is flat-out stating that Iowa and Wisconsin will be split up. It's actually happening.

So this doesn't matter. But here's why Michigan and Ohio State's athletic directors should be out in the streets rounding up pitchfork-toting mobs instead of rolling over like Indiana:

The financial benefits are almost literally zero. Dan Wetzel cites a TV executive claiming that at maximum, the vague possibility of Michigan and Ohio State meeting in a Big Ten championship game once a decade might be worth two million dollars a year ("it might be half that," he adds). Even taking the most optimistic number, the end result for Michigan is another 150k per year (the conference takes a share). Assuming an average of seven home games a year, Michigan could earn that by raising ticket prices twenty cents. Meanwhile, every other Big Ten team sees the same increase in their bottom line.

Twenty cents!

Michigan and Ohio State will almost never meet. The Plain Dealer looked back at the league since Penn State's addition and concluded that in the last sixteen years, a Michigan-Ohio State championship game would have happened all of three times.

In the future you can expect that to be far less frequent. Michigan will be guaranteed that 1) they play an outstanding Ohio State team and 2) three of the other five teams in their division do not. If the matchup is going to occur it's going to be the same for Ohio State. The loser of that game is going to have to overcome that deficit against teams that have a much easier schedule. The addition of Nebraska adds another historic power to the league. "Once a decade" is not hyperbole. It's a reasonable estimate.

As a result, you are turning M-OSU from something that will always have stakes to something you hope to do over. This is Delany's reasoning:

"If Duke and North Carolina were historically the two strongest programs and only one could play for the right to be in the NCAA tournament, would you want them playing in the season-ending game so one is in and one is out?" he asked. "Or would you want them to play and have it count in the standings and then they possibly could meet for the right to be in the NCAA or the Rose Bowl?

"We've had those debates. It's a good one. The question is whether you want to confine a game that's one of the greatest rivalries of all time to a divisional game."

Yes. Because the loser of that game is doomed and knows it. Moving it to midseason just makes it a particularly high hurdle that might not mean much—that the conference explicitly hopes doesn't mean much—at the end of the year, when the two teams can do it again, except indoors in Indianapolis. Doctor Saturday:

Keep the game what it's always been, the ritualistic culmination of an entire season in a single, freezing orgy of centuries-old hate that cannot be overturned or redeemed for at least another 365 days. In good years, the division championship (hence a shot at the conference championship) will be on the line, preserving the familiar winner-take-all/loser-go-home intensity that made "The Game" what it is in the first place.

You are doing something your fans hate. The kids don't get paid, the stadium doesn't have advertising, the idea that there is a Michigan Thing that it is possible not to "get" in a way that it is not possible Jim Schwartz does not "get" the Lions Thing: these are the things that separate college football from minor league baseball. For decades Michigan's season has had a certain shape defined by the great Satan at the end of it.

This is where the disconnect between the suits and the fans is greatest. Beating Ohio State isn't about winning the Big Ten, it's about beating Ohio State, just like the Egg Bowl is about beating that other team in Mississippi or the Civil War is about beating that other team in Oregon or any billion other year-end rivalry games that have been played since the Great Depression. M-OSU is the super-sized version of the old-fashioned rivalries based on pure hate. It's not Miami-Florida State, a game entirely dependent on the teams being national contenders for it to even sell out, but the Big Ten is treating it like the country's fakest rivalry game anyway.

It so happens that a lot of the time OSU and Michigan do decide the Big Ten, but did anyone want to beat OSU less in the mid-90s when Michigan limped into the game with 3 or 4 losses every year? Or last year? No. Would it matter less as an October game to be followed by three or four more? Necessarily yes. Is that the worst thing in the world? Yes.

I have no tolerance for anyone too dense to grasp this, much less see it as a potentially good thing, as Dave at Maize N Brew does. I said his post on the matter was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen a Michigan fan write and it remains so. Orson's post on the matter is also the dumbest thing I've ever seen him write. The reason college football matters in a way the NFL does not is the idea it has that some things are not worth selling. Once the date of the Michigan-Ohio State game goes the only thing left is the labor of the players.

I'll still be there. I don't have a choice, really, but the special kind of misery I'll experience when Michigan plays Ohio State at 8 PM in October and Special K blasts "Lose Yourself" during a critical review will make me feel like an exploited sap, not a member of a community in which my opinions matter. They clearly don't. This will matter in the same way erosion does.


Jerry Hinnen:

Speaking as an Auburn fan on Big 10 moving M/OSU to midseason: If they'd tried that w/ the Iron Bowl I'd have burned SEC HQ to the ground

Doctor Saturday:

Because I have a soul, I've already firmly aligned myself with the "armageddon" crowd, made up of those of us who can't stand the thought of one side telling the other in mid-October, "We'll see you again when it really matters." Which probably means I've aligned myself with the losing side. Whatever the motivations of its less influential champions, the prospect of a Buckeye-Wolverine split only has traction among people who matter because the people who matter see a buck in it: If one Ohio State-Michigan game is good, two Ohio State-Michigan games must be even better, and I'm sure they have the ratings projections and accompanying ad rates to prove it. The rivalry has already defined and shaped the national perception of the Big Ten for the last 50 years; just think of the possibility of the rivalry-as-championship game as "expanding the brand."

Mike Rothstein:

Saving this game at the end is the culmination of a season-long crescendo.

Michigan-Indiana at the end of the year, for example, doesn’t offer the same cachet.

And it never will.

Stewart Mandel:

Are you kidding me? It's been played the last week of the season all but once since 1935, and it's the league's single most important franchise. You would think conference leaders would go to any length to protect it. …

Sometimes leaders make decisions without properly thinking through the issues. This one sounds like a case of over-thinking. Do the right thing, Mr. Delany, Mr. Brandon and Mr. Smith, lest the ghosts of Woody and Bo haunt you in your sleep.

John Taylor:

Be warned, Big Ten: you move The Game, you will rip the heart and suck the soul out of the single greatest property the conference owns.  And for what, a few more advertising dollars every few years when they do happen to stumble into a title showdown?  One that will, incidentally, likely be contested in a sterile, domed, neutral location as opposed to yet another reason that The Game is what it is -- The Big House and The Shoe.

So… yeah. Join the Facebook page. Maybe it will help. It won't, actually, but maybe you'll feel better about it.



August 26th, 2010 at 1:58 PM ^

Some tradition automatically goes by the wayside with the move to 12 teams and divisions.

If its the last game of the year and they are in different divisions, we will have several meaningless OSU/UM games. Probably each class will have at least one of The Games minimized because of clinched divisions, a more important game the following week, perhaps even against their rival again.

This I dont like. I dont like different divisions, period.

I am fine with The Game never determining the Big 10 title again. I am fine with losing that tradition.

Just put them in the same division and let The Game decide the Division Title most years. It's not the same, but its reality in the modern world.

The future of CFB is not a playoff, but the winners of the conference championship game playing a 4-team tourney.

What is so wrong with OSU/UM on the last day to decide a spot in the Big 10 title game. Sounds pretty fucking dramatic to me, even if its not the same. The winner advances one step closer to getting into the real postseason, while the loser licks its wounds and prepares for an OUtback Bowl.

Just fucking do this. You'll still make oodles of money. Why are people so dumb? Do I want to know that answer?


August 26th, 2010 at 2:30 PM ^


The Big Ten has been so successful, they think they can do whatever they want and it won't affect anything.

On the plus side, maybe the Angry Michigan-Hating God will be so pissed off (i.e., "Hey, screwing Michigan football is my job!") that it will become the Angry Jim Delany-Hating God. 


August 26th, 2010 at 1:59 PM ^

when they first talked about having to move some rivalries, everyone on the planet with two words to say about sports put Mich-OSU as either the only, or one of only two Big 10 rivalries that were obviously untouchable.

I maintain that there is an anti-intelligence field in Chicago.


August 26th, 2010 at 4:56 PM ^

Are in the same League.  Which is a more apt comparison, two leagues, crossover play, winners play for a championship at the end. Vs. Cross-Conference College rivalries, which aren't the same thing at all. (I guess Florida-FSU got a rematch, once). And really...if those are the best you can come up with...you've proven my point.


August 26th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

One thing has nothing to do with the other. Yanks-Sox is a great rivalry even when they play in May.

Michigan - OSU is and will be a great rivalry regardless when they play. And if they could play in the Big Ten Championship game, more power to the rivalry.

Also it's interleague, not inner leauge.  Neg for that and that alone.


August 26th, 2010 at 4:54 PM ^

Because they won't be playing for anything.  Because if they lose, they still have half the season to make it up. Because they might even get a chance to beat them, later. Because the whole season won't have been building to this point.

So will I care? Yes. Will I care less? Yup.


August 26th, 2010 at 1:59 PM ^

King Kaufman, who is (or at least was) the sports columnist on Salon.com, used to point out that sports executives always crap on the most die-hard sports fans b/c they know that those people, no matter how upset they are about something, won't go away.  Decisions are made for the sake of people who aren't really that big into sports but whom the executives hope they can win over.  


August 26th, 2010 at 2:00 PM ^

Thanks, Brian,  for putting my feelings to words.  You really captured the essence of the rivalry, and why it's worth whatever effort we can muster to keep it as it is. 


August 26th, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

So I can't get a playoff game because we need to preserve the Insight.dot com bowl, but you'll rip the only tradition fans really give a rip about and we don't have a decent answer why?   College football is the biggest dick tease in the world,  with her perfect tits and tight ass teasing me for month after month with no payoff.  I need MVictors to find a sicker 2 year stretch in Michigan history than these last 2.   We have a shitty record and then we take a tradition 2 hander right in the sack.   Thanks Delany ....make sure you keep that Rose Bowl tradition alive though you fucking dick.

Yinka Double Dare

August 26th, 2010 at 2:03 PM ^

Dave Brandon, Gordon Gee, and Jim Delany et al have done the impossible: Michigan and Ohio State fans are now both on the same side of something, wanting to fight together instead of fight each other. 

That alone should tell them how spectacularly stupid this idea is.  I can't believe this is actually happening. 

gpsimms not to…

August 26th, 2010 at 2:04 PM ^

While I, in general, agree with sentiment about the importance of the game, etc., there is one easy solution to the "how can UM, OSU win their division when they have a guaranteed cross-divisional game against the best team from the opposite division?" problem.  In-division record only determines who goes on to B10 championship game.


August 26th, 2010 at 2:07 PM ^

I was at The Game last year.  I can't believe it may have been the last one at The Big House during the last week of the season.  I didn't even get to share it with my Dad.  Fuck this.


August 26th, 2010 at 2:08 PM ^

Delany should also know his history.  Duke and Carolina have played at least twice, occasionally 3 times a year (if they meet in the ACC Champ Game, which is 80 years old btw) for nearly 100 years.  THAT'S ALREADY PART OF THEIR TRADITION!

The only thing close to what they want to do is to consider the Big12's handling of Oklahoma and Nebraska.  I'm pretty sure what everyone would prefer given a do-over there.


August 26th, 2010 at 3:44 PM ^

because when you say "Big 12" what you really mean is "Texas and the schools that do whatever UT says".

Texas doesn't care about Nebraska (obviously, which is why they bolted) and already slotted OU into secondary-rivalry territory, so what happened to the OU-NU rivalry was irrelevant to it and thus to the conference.

Perhaps I'm glossing over some of the details, but that's how I understand things to work in that area.

biakabutuka ex…

August 26th, 2010 at 2:10 PM ^

Why can't we still play OSU in the last game of the regular season? If we have to play them twice in a row once a decade, or even every bleeping year, so be it.

Doesn't everyone remember that this is what most Big Ten fans, schools and administrators were fulminating for in 2006? We were united that two games in a row between worthy opponents was just fine and dandy in determining a champion (since the second game would be on a neutral site). Why would anyone disagree with it now? This is not a rhetorical question.

As for the competitive disadvantage, I figured only your division record would count, no?


August 26th, 2010 at 2:43 PM ^

... back-to-back is worse for TV revenue, and (less meaningful) cross-division games really should be played before division games.  A lot of the time, the championship teams would be decided before UM-OSU played, which would be kind of anticlimactic.

All FBS conferences use "overall conference record" for determining standings. Years back, the MAC used division record only, but they have since joined everyone else.

It's depressing that they're talking about this as if it's a done deal.  Here's the letter I sent to Brandon and Smith (OSU AD):

Mr. Brandon and Smith,

I'll try to be brief:

1. There is a special urgency to the last game of the season.  Last year, even though it was an off-year for Michigan, they knew bowl eligibility was on the line in The Game.  Had that game been in October it would have been seen as: "a down Michigan team versus a decent OSU team, so what."

2. Cross-division games are less meaningful than in-division games.  Losing to a good cross-division team is not a big deal, as it does not prevent one from running the table in one's division and getting to the conference title game.

3. The last 20 years of Big Ten historical data suggest that Ohio State and Michigan would each be about 1-in-3 shots to win their division if separated, and about 1-in-10 to 1-in-15 to meet in the Big Ten title game.  (Oklahoma and Nebraska met in one Big XII title game in 14 years.  Miami and Florida state have yet to meet in an ACC title game.)

Because of (1) and (2), an October cross-division version of the OSU-Michigan game is about as meaningful as Michigan-ND.  It's an interesting game between perennial powers, but it is far less meaningful than The Game is now.  And -- this is the important part -- it is also far less meaningful than The Game would be if it were a season-ending division decider.

Nine years in ten, that less meaningful (October cross-division) version of The Game will be the only one that is played.  Is it worth taking that hit, in return for a once-a-decade shot at meeting in the title game?  That does not seem to be a good trade, to me.  You will be recruiting kids who were in kindergarten the last time OSU-Michigan "played for the Rose Bowl" -- they will know OSU-UM as something less than what UM-PSU is today.

biakabutuka ex…

August 26th, 2010 at 3:09 PM ^

I still believe a Michigan-OSU game will get top ratings no matter the circumstances, but who am I to argue with stats.

The way I see it, the rivalry has had significance over the years for three reasons: beating OSU, sealing up the Big Ten, and sealing a Nat'l Championship berth. With realignment, you can trade sealing up the Big Ten for sealing up your division (yes, even if they split up) and kinda sorta retain the Nat'l Championship significance. But only if you play the game when the stakes are the highest possible.

I still prefer keeping them in the same division, but playing in the middle of the season is what I consider unforgivable.

edit: "sealing", not just  "winning"

Elno Lewis

August 26th, 2010 at 2:13 PM ^

sat in south end zone. rushed the field. tore down north goal posts. 


that was my UM baptism, so i cannot be objective about this. 


it ain't broke. don't try to fix it please.


August 26th, 2010 at 2:13 PM ^

That Michigan and Ohio State will most likely never play in BSC games in the same year? Its hard enough to get in, knowing that one team will have at least 1 loss. If they play again in the Championship game, then they another loss shared between the two of them almost gauranteeing they both won't go to BCS games in the same year. With at large bids chosen based on fans as much as anything, you think you would want to avoid this.  


August 26th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

Both teams could be 11-1 with a loss to eachother in TGame1 and TGame2.  In that event, I would imagine you would have two top 10 teams.  Look at Bama/UF the past two years.  While Bama came out unscathed this past year, both teams walked out two years ago with 1 loss and went BCS-ing.  So it's possible but it would be harder than it once was.  Again, you said it, it's about fans/viewers/$$'s (which has become painfully obvious recently) in which case UM and OSU are obvious picks for at large bids.  It's not likely but neither was what happened in 2006, nonetheless, it could still happen and likely would somewhere down the road. 


August 26th, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

My freshman year was 1996.  Among my new friends in East Quad, I was far and away the biggest football fan.  I was the only one who'd played the game in high school, the only one who hadn't missed a Michigan game on TV in years.  My new friend, Ryan (who is now Godfather to one of my children), had given up on the team after a few losses meant we weren't going to the Rose Bowl.

I tried to convince him that didn't matter, that the Ohio State game, even if we had lost the rest of the games, had the power to redeem an entire season.  That three perfect hours could - and would - make or break an entire year.  I tried to explain to him that, as a player, this is one you live for, that one moment - not one season, but just one fucking moment - when you can be a hero on the greatest stage in sports.  And that stage is not the greatest because it is the shiniest or newest, but because it is old and cold and the same stage on which thousands of players have fought the same battle every year for decades. 

He watched that game with me.  And believed.  We drove to Pasadena together the next year.


August 26th, 2010 at 2:39 PM ^

That was the mid 90s in a nutshell. Fight through a four loss season, upset Ohio State at the end of it, rejoice! Who knows if Carr even gets to stick around for 97 if he didn't salvage 95 and 96 with season ending upsets over Ohio State. I am just as disgusted by this as everybody else here, and I there is nothing Delaney or Brandon can say that will change my opinion of it.