Email Response from Bruce Madej Regarding Michigan-OSU Rivalry

Submitted by bklein09 on August 23rd, 2010 at 11:35 AM


First, my original email (short and to the point):


To Whom It May Concern,
     Please do everything in your power to maintain the importance and tradition surrounding "The Game" by ensuring that it continues to be played the last week of the regular season. I understand that with the conference splitting into two separate divisions there is a lot of concern about where to put Michigan and Ohio State, but as a Michigan Alum I can tell you that nothing is more important than keeping this rivalry special. 

And now the response:

Dear Me,


Thank you for your note on the importance of Michigan-Ohio State football game. President Coleman and other university leaders have asked me to respond on their behalf.


I want to assure you that no one understands the tradition of this Big Ten football rivalry more than Athletic Director David Brandon. He has experienced this legendary rivalry first hand as a player, as a fan and supporter of the athletic program and as a U-M regent.


Expansion of the Big Ten is certain to bring some changes. We know there will be a conference championship game in 2011 and we expect to soon learn the details of the divisional alignment.  Clearly we would like to have Michigan and Ohio State play the last game of the season for the Conference Championship (as has happened so many times in the past). However, based on a 12 Team - two division conference with a championship game format, in order for this to happen in the future both teams will have to play their way into the championship game.  Which, we hope happens many times!


Certainly one of the priorities of the Big Ten commissioner and the Big Ten athletic directors is preserving the traditional rivalries, like Michigan-Ohio State and Michigan-Michigan State.  This will continue to be a driving will creating competitive balance between the two divisions.


Just like the renovations to the Big House, we believe the Big Ten can move forward and make improvements while maintaining the traditions that are so important to fans.


Go Blue,




This does not sound good IMHO. I told him we wanted to have Michigan-OSU be the last game of the regular season. And he responded by saying they are hoping Michigan-OSU can play in the title game every year, but change is inevitable. Maybe I didn't explain myself well enough, or maybe this is just not going to end well. Anyways, I suggest you guys keep flooding the AD with emails, and when you do make it clear that Michigan-OSU need to be on the same side and play the last weekend of the regular season. No excuses!



August 23rd, 2010 at 8:30 PM ^

But the issue isn't whether or not you will watch it, but whether neutral observers will.  And that could have recruting implications.  The Michigan game is such a big deal in Ohio that it makes us the de facto alternative school to OSU.  If we get split up and the rivalry moved to the middle of the season, don't be surprised if PSU (which will become OSU's end-of-the-year rival) replaces us in importance to them.  Meanwhile, we could be left trying to sell out-of-state recruits on the allure of playing MSU the last week of November.


August 26th, 2010 at 3:26 PM ^

And anyone else who would sit idly by and watch the best rivalry in college sports turned into a meaningless midseason game at worst or a corporate, neutral site shibboleth at best.  Seriously, this kind of apathy is why the suits think they can get away with this crap.


August 23rd, 2010 at 11:43 AM ^

Same response.  In my email I made it pretty clear that having The Game occur as a second time in the season as a B10 championship is not preferable to having the teams in the same division.  Playing twice will not be good for anyone except TV execs.

But, it looks like the decision is made and Dave Brandon will live with this legacy, for better or worse.


August 23rd, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

But man, how form-y can a form letter get, you know? Say he knows all about tradition, but don't know what change will come.  If you know about it, and don't do something to stop it, does that mean you don't care?

Edit: And who exactly is it "clear" to that we want to play OSU for the Championship, if it means sacrificing everything else?


August 23rd, 2010 at 5:02 PM ^


Below is my response to the form letter than everyone seems to be getting:
While I understand the volume of responses necessitated a form letter it is disappointing that the form letter did not attempt to address the main issue.  The Ohio Sate/Michigan rivalry is so great BECAUSE it is the last scheduled game and so much depends on that win. There is no chance to improve your record in the Big Ten season. The Game and the entire rivalry will lose importance in college football if it is not played last and it will be the fault of the current Michigan Athletic Department for not fighting hard enough to maintain this most important tradition.
On the off chance that Michigan and OSU meet for the Championship you are willing to destroy something so near and dear to college football and all Michigan alums. That is not inevitable change. That is change caused by greed for TV money.
This was the new response:
Believe me, we understand your concern.  The issues being discussed are far and wide and trying to gain consensus with all schools is not easy.
I cannot predict as to how this will eventually be determined
In my lifetime, I have seen conference additions, expansion and the development of championship game. 
I have watched January 1 go from being just the four big bowls to a smorgasboard of college games.
And as I watch BYU maneuver and talk of further expansion by conferences, I think I will see much more change in the near future.
I really wish I could tell you more, but like you, I too am waiting for a decision.
Bruce Madej
Interesting in that it really seemed to try even harder to take UM's responsibility for moving The Game out of the equation.

Enjoy Life

August 23rd, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

Resistance is futile. As a manager once told me (actual quote): "I refuse to make decisions based upon facts and logic!"

Unfortunately this will be decided with little or no regard to facts or logic.

Mitch Cumstein

August 23rd, 2010 at 11:49 AM ^

that UM and MSU will play the last week of the season.  They are trying to build that rivalry it sounds like.  In no place in your email did you mention MSU, yet he went out of his way in the response to tell you how important that rivalry was.  This doesn't look good at all.


August 23rd, 2010 at 12:02 PM ^

Screw MSU. If it isn't Ohio State, I'd rather play Penn State or Nebraska (whichever is in our division) the last week before the champiosnhip.

If you look at which games get on ABC or ESPN (UM vs Penn State) versus which games are relegated to the Big Ten Network (UM vs MSU) ... well that's a pretty good proxy for which is the more marquis game for that last week.

Mitch Cumstein

August 23rd, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

I'm not saying I like where its headed, I'm just saying by the sounds of that letter it looks to be the way its headed.  Hopefully I'm wrong and reading too much into it though.  I'd love to play PSU the last game of the season.  Or Nebraska, or hell, even Iowa.  I think we could start a great tradition like that.  Playing MSU is garbage.  Its like a lose-lose game.  You win, well good you're Michigan you should always win that game.  You lose, and MSU gets 10 years of smack talk mileage out of it somehow.


August 23rd, 2010 at 3:00 PM ^

The reason the UM-MSU game is relegated to the BTN is because UM has been so bad the past couple of years. As UM fans are quick to point out, MSU has always been "irrelevant" in football. Therefore, it is up to MSU's opponent to make the game a marquis game. PSU can do it. And can anyone imagine OSU-MSU on the BTN? No way.


August 23rd, 2010 at 3:21 PM ^

We are the huge loser in that scenario. 

PSU gets a massive upgrade in its end-of-season rivalry, going from a who-cares Sparty game to OSU.

OSU loses us but at least gets a pretty good replacement in PSU.

MSU finally gets the game it's craved for decades - Michigan at the end of the season.

We get Sparty.  We'll go from having the nation's eyes on us the last week of the season to having no one care outside the state.

This sucks unbelievably bad.   Brandon needs to wake the hell up and fight this tooth and nail.


August 23rd, 2010 at 11:50 AM ^

I find it hard to get worked up about when we play them.  I've been watching UM football since the early 70s and only really care that we continue playing them every year.  I hate how the B10 has teams rotating off the schedule and if it ever came to OSU rotating off that is about the only thing that would really irritate me to the point of emailing Mr. Madej. 

Otherwise play whenever and lets hope for a B10 Championship rematch.

steve sharik

August 23rd, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

...doesn't mean you didn't explain yourself well.

To you and all of those out there who still want the rivalry to remain as special as it has:

It cannot.

Either you still want it to be special in terms of "you always play your rival the last game of the regular season," or you want it to be special in terms of "you want to play your rival for the championship."  Under the new format, both cannot happen.  For those in the first camp, that would put us in the same division, and Michigan-Ohio State will never play for the Big Ten Championship ever again.  For those in the second camp, that would put us in opposite divisions and the game would not necessarily finish the season.

I say again, the reason the Michigan-Ohio State game is the best rivalry in sports is because, historically, the Big Ten title was almost always on the line.  If The Game continues to be the last game of the regular season, it still is a huge rivalry, but it will no longer be as important in the sports world.  It won't be the biggest rivalry in sports, but simply the biggest rivalry in the Big Ten. 

The only way, in my opinion, to keep The Game as the biggest rivalry in sports is to have us play for the championship, and the only way to do that is to put us in opposite divisions.

So the question I have for you is: do you want The Game to continue to be the biggest rivalry in sports?  If so, then we cannot play simply for a Big Ten East Division Title.  That's not a big deal in sports.  Do any of us care that Alabama beat Auburn for the SEC West crown?  If we keep The Game where it is, that is exactly what will happen.


August 23rd, 2010 at 12:04 PM ^

There's nothing actually preventing them from being in separate divisions, and still playing the last week of the year. It would just mean potentially playing back to back, in rare happenstance. And OH GO NO, THEY CAN'T PLAY TWICE IN ROW is really no worse than NO THEY CAN'T NOT PLAY THE LAST WEEK or NO THEY HAVE TO BE ABLE TO PLAY FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP. 

So, actually, it can.

And what you're saying is, that it's going to stay more important, playing for the championship once every ten years, than staying at the end of the year. I don't buy that. It will be diminished some either way.  Expansion took care of that. But being a big end date as the last game of the season will annual make it be a bigger deal, other than it being just another rivalry game deciding nothing earlier in the year, and then ever so often being for the Championship. It's far more likely to come down to that game for the Division if they're in the same division, and thus have more meaning, as you say, than if they're separated. Because throw in Nebraska with PSU, and the other teams getting better, the two matching up on a neutral site might not be that frequent.

So, if you want to come to the conclusion that it will no longer be a big rivalry, because they're never going to play for a championship, or at least, not frequently enough to matter, you can.  But switching divisions and play date isn't going to fix that either...and it's going to harm far more.


August 23rd, 2010 at 1:26 PM ^

So, say both teams have locked their divisions up and are playing at the end of the season. If they know that they are going to play again in 2 weeks for all of the marbles, then the first game doesn't mean anything. You might even get some fans that decide to skip that game and go to the Championship game instead. That is a worst case scenario for both schools and the Big10.

At least if they play earlier on, both teams can be 6-0 going into the tough part of their schedules and the winner of the game can play a huge part in how the divisions look at that point. If both teams end up winning out, they will still play each other in the championship game later on giving us two meaningful games in the season.

It either has to be same division, end of season or cross division, middle/beginning of season.

And, while I'm posting, MSU would be the worst team to end the season with.

duffman is thr…

August 23rd, 2010 at 2:14 PM ^

 "If they know that they are going to play again in 2 weeks for all of the marbles, then the first game doesn't mean anything."

The Game always means something, It's Michigan-Ohio St.  The Game could be played in March or we could create a 366th day on the calendar called "The Day" and it will still mean something.  


August 23rd, 2010 at 8:35 PM ^

That might be true right now.  But if PSU becomes OSU's end-of-year rival, and their game decides the East Division title, to the next generation of recruits, "the Game" will be OSU-PSU.  Michigan-OSU will be just another game (lowercase), not even affecting the division race. 

Edward Khil

August 23rd, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

Re: Leaving it the last game of the regular season and putting them in opposite divisions: UM v. OSU will always be a Huge game.  If they meet a second week in a row in a BTC game, it will be a Huge game.  But, even if that scenario only happens every 8-10 years, there is a second scenario that is also Huge.  Consider that, at least every 3-4 years, an upset victory by one or the other would knock the favorite OUT of the championship game.

Leave it the last game of the regular season, and hope for a rematch.

steve sharik

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:11 PM ^

And what you're saying is, that it's going to stay more important, playing for the championship once every ten years, than staying at the end of the year. I don't buy that.

No, I'm not saying that because I don't think it would happen once every ten years.  I would say once out of every four years.  And in those other three years, The Game in October would still be a classic, much like the Red River Shootout, the Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, etc.

In my opinion, opposite divisions is the only way to keep The Game as the greatest rivalry in sports.  If we're in the same divisions, that's over...way over.


August 23rd, 2010 at 5:26 PM ^

Once every four years?  I think that's too optimistic, but it doesn't matter - even you're agreeing that 75% of the time we won't meet up in the BTCG.  You're banking on the idea that an occasional meeting in the BTCG will be enough to keep the rivalry as intense as ever.  It won't work that way.

Here's what you're missing.  Oklahoma-Texas and Florida-Georgia are intradivisional games.  Almost every year, those games help to decide the winner of the Big 12 South and SEC East divisions, respectively.  The games matter because winning them is almost essential to winning the division. 

If Michigan and OSU are in separate divisions, the Game will be peripheral at most to the division races.  We can lose to them and still win our division, and vice-versa.   The combination of being in separate divisions and playing in the middle of the season will be too much to keep the rivalry going.   In the long run, PSU will replace us as OSU's archrival, because that game will have divisional implications every year.  Meanwhile, if we're lucky our archrival will become Nebraska, but more likely we'll find ourselves playing a mediocre MSU every year to end the season.  Either way, you won't see ESPN calling it the greatest rivalry in sports. 


August 23rd, 2010 at 5:54 PM ^

If your argument is that playing in October ruins the rivalry, see the ones he listed. If your argument is that you need to be playing for a concrete title, see ND vs. Michigan, ND vs. USC, Florida vs. Florida State, or any other OOC rivalry.


August 23rd, 2010 at 6:24 PM ^

I don't want it to be like an OOC rivalry.   Conference rivalries are more meaningful.  When we play ND, it's fun but doesn't really affect our season that much.  When we play OSU, it very frequently affects the Big Ten title picture.  Putting us in separate divisions will change that radically - the game won't affect either division's race very much.  In the long run, PSU will replace UM in importance to OSU, because that game will be essential to winning the division.  When they play us, the stakes won't be very high.  It won't be the same. 

The SEC understood that the most important games are intradivisional.  That's why every rivalry in that league is intradivisional.  Every rivalry in the Big 12 also was/is intradivisional, save for Nebraska-Oklahoma - and I don't have to tell you what's happened to that one.






August 23rd, 2010 at 7:53 PM ^

I think you have your logic backwards. The SEC realized that the most important games are the rivalry games, which is why they have all the rivalry games in the same division (so they can play each other every year). As long as there are cross-divisional rivalry games, the necessity to have each rivalry game in the same division is eliminated.

If Michigan and OSU play early in the season the losing team has more pressure put on them to win out in their division to make it back to the championship game, rematch or not. If Oklahoma and Texas Tech were in the North division, and Texas and Oklahoma met in the Big12 championship for a rematch, would you say that the first game meant nothing? Texas beat Oklahoma in October and Oklahoma would have had to beat the rest of the North to including the team that snuck by Texas in order to get the rematch. That puts a lot of pressure on Oklahoma or Texas to win that first game and then win the rest of their games to get the rematch. I don't think that detracts from the rivalry at all.


August 23rd, 2010 at 5:30 PM ^

Nebraska and PSU, not to mention Wisky and Iowa (plus the odd ball out of no where good season team) if you think it'll happen every four years. Plus probably an inflated opinion of us. It's funny all the other rivalries you list as classic are all in the same division.


August 23rd, 2010 at 12:05 PM ^

you do speak some truth. i would still rather stay in the same division and play the last week. however, i understand that the new format is going to diminish the rivalry. the rivalry can be preserved as long as both teams stay competitive. will it be for a big ten title anymore? no, but it will be for a chance to play a beatable team in the big ten championship. as long as it comes down to The Game for this opportunity, i think it will be fine. 


August 23rd, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

Do any of us care that Alabama beat Auburn for the SEC West crown?  If we keep The Game where it is, that is exactly what will happen.

I don't think anyone cares whether Alabama beats Auburn for the SEC West crown, or the SEC crown, or any crown.  They care that, after a full season of build up, Alabama beat Auburn.

steve sharik

August 23rd, 2010 at 4:59 PM ^

They care that, after a full season of build up, Alabama beat Auburn.

Yes, they care, but we don't, and that's why The Game is the greatest rivalry in sports: everyone cares.  If The Game is simply for a divisional crown, only we will care and it will no longer hold its place as the greatest rivalry in sports.  I, for one, don't want to lose that.


August 23rd, 2010 at 5:08 PM ^

If you split us up into different divisions, the large majority of the time the Game won't decide anything.  You seem to think we'll meet up regularly in the title game.  We won't.   Chait made this point in his article.  Say each team is good enough to make the BTCG once every three years.  Then the odds of the two meeting in the BTCG would be once every nine years.  If you don't believe that, look at Miami and FSU.  How often have they met in the ACC CG?  

If we're only meeting OSU in BTCG once a decade (give or take), the rivalry won't keep its luster.  PSU will become OSU's archrival, because they'll meet every year at the end of the season, with the division up for grabs most of the time.  People are kidding themselves if they think a non-divisional game in the middle of the season can be as intense as what we have now.   In the long run, our division rivals will be more important to us. 

steve sharik

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:16 PM ^

But that doesn't make it a fact.  Chait is not omniscent, nor can he predict the future.

We won't.   Chait made this point in his article.  Say each team is good enough to make the BTCG once every three years.  Then the odds of the two meeting in the BTCG would be once every nine years.

I don't believe that would happen.  If you believe that Michigan is as good a program as the other schools, you haven't been paying attention.  And do you really think Ohio State would win its division only once every three years?  Shit, now they win the 11-team division every frickin' year, what's a mere 6-team division with no Michigan in it?


August 23rd, 2010 at 12:22 PM ^

I don't think it's an EITHER OR choice in terms of what's made the rivalry special. To a large degree, it's BOTH. Traditionally this game is at the end...and BECAUSE it's at the end it plays a very large role in determining the Big Ten's outcome.

In most year's this game AT THE END will be a huge decider of the BT Championship. It's a great rivalry because 9 times out of 10, one or other or both teams absolutley MUST win this game to close out their regular season. Even in recent years when OSU had the upper hand, UM had a chance to ruin their season.

We definitly cannot keep all aspects of this rivalry the same with the new divisional aparatus.  However, in my opinion, the best opportunities arise in a split-division format with a traditional cross rivalry at the end.  In a few cases that will mean playing twice in a be it. In those weird years you'll still have the opportunity to end the season AND determine the BT Champion. In all the other years, you still get a season ender (of sorts) that is still a requisite win to take the championship (albeit with a game to follow). 

If "The Game" is mid season, there is still way too much that can happen down the road. By definition, the game will only determine someone's fate AFTER THE FACT in hindsight.


August 23rd, 2010 at 1:17 PM ^

and they should play the last game of the regular season.

In a six team division, the odds are good that most years they will play for something special - a Division championship and a slot in the B10 championship game.

As long as we are playing OSU the last game of the season for some kind of championship, I'm happy.  Next up:  B10 championship game, Rose Bowl.  It's good.


August 23rd, 2010 at 3:29 PM ^

Yes, things will change no matter what.  But if we want to keep things as close as possible to what they are now, we should want to be in the same division and play on the last week.  Then the Game will most likely decide the division winner most years.  It will be meaningful on a yearly basis.  That is as close to the status quo as it gets.

You cannot count on us meeting up with OSU on a regular basis in the conference title game.  It will not happen as often as you think.  Conference title games are weird, and frequently involve arcane tiebreak scenarios.  Even if UM returns to prominence and OSU remains strong, it's unlikely that we'll both make it to the title game more than a couple times a decade.  Are you willing to water down the rivalry just to bank on that scenario?  (Do not forget, too, that even on those fluke years that we'd meet in the final, it would be a rematch, rendering the earlier game meaningless.)  

Look no further than the SEC - which unquestionably has the most successful title game in terms of fan interest - for the roadmap here.  The SEC didn't split up any rivalries.  It put all rivals in the same divisions (UF-UGa, Ala-Aub, Ole Miss-Miss St, LSU-Ark, etc.).  By contrast, the least successful title game belongs to the ACC - which thought it'd be a good idea to split rivals up.  I don't want us going down that road. 


August 23rd, 2010 at 7:24 PM ^

Exactly.  All of these hypothetical scenarios suck except the one you've proposed: follow the SEC model, keep rivals together.  We're all forgetting that splitting the Big Ten into two groups creates two new divisional champions, so some years The Game will become the de facto divisional championship, deciding who goes to the Big Ten title game.  And when that happens, UM-OSU will each have the opportunity to spoil the others' season by winning The Game and preventing the other from a shot at the Big Ten title.


August 23rd, 2010 at 5:05 PM ^

Just ask the Sooners and the Longhorns about how the only way to have the biggest rivalry in sports is to be in opposite divisions.  The whole premise that their game decides who represents the Big 12 South (at least used to) actually INCREASED the passion in the game.  If you're in opposite divisions then, wow, great, you might actually get to play again thus making the first game kinda pointless.  If you're in the same division there is no "we'll get you back in the championship game" - you have to let it sit for an entire year and watching your bitter rival go to the championship game.  Hate, as much as anything, fuels a rivalry and having to watch your bitter rival represent your division makes you even more upset and motivated to kick their ass the next year.  We can say all we want but the proof is in the pudding - UT and OU has quickly become, arguably, the top rivalry in CFB and it's quite clear that one of the biggest reasons is because they are in the same division.


August 23rd, 2010 at 8:18 PM ^

Since the start of the Big 12, which rivalry has grown and which rivalry has subsided?

Texas and Oklahoma in the same division with the winner on the inside track to the B12 championship game every year, or

Nebraska and Oklahoma in different divisions with the vague hope that they occasionally play in the B12 championship game (by the way it's only happened ONCE in the history of the B12.)



August 23rd, 2010 at 8:45 PM ^

"The Game" has become The Championship Game. Like it or not, that's the way it's happening. I've been saying this all along and I'm not afraid of you asshole negbangers. I'm going to speak what I feel is the truth whether you like it or not.

I was at the '69 The Game. Change was good then, because we won, and it will be good now, when we start winning again and go to The Big Ten Championship Game. Revenue sharing, is that socialistic and does it mean everyone gets the same or do the two teams vying for the championship earn more? That's the way it should be and what I would like to know.


August 23rd, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

anyone who wants to split them into separate divisions needs to the watch hbo's special on The Game. i don't remember who said it exactly, but they said "what makes this game great is not only that it happens every year, but that it happens at the same time every year." it's like a holiday. 

also, if they do play twice, it could lead to a saturation of The Game. the yankees and red sox play around 27 games a year or something like that. how many casual fans just sit there and watch one game? they need to stay in the same division, and play the last week of the regular season. i know it's all about money, but come on. just...come on.