The Big 16

Ten years after their last expansion that left the Big Ten Conference with fourteen teams, the league grew again this week when news broke that USC and UCLA, formerly of the PAC-12, would join the conference on August 1, 2024.  The move extends the reach of the Big Ten from the Atlantic to the Pacific and follows the expansion of the SEC last year by adding Texas and Oklahoma.

For the Big Ten, the benefits are obvious.  First, in keeping up with the SEC, they show they are serious about competing for championships in a future of super-conferences.  Adding traditional powerhouses in high revenue sports, USC for football and UCLA for basketball, also gives the conference an added boost in media rights, with their next deal expected to surpass $1 billion.  Another bonus, and huge revenue generator, is the opportunity to expand the reach of the Big Ten Network into southern California and the nation’s second-largest market.

For USC and UCLA, the benefit is mostly money.  In 2019, the last pre-pandemic season, the PAC-12 dispersed approximately $33.58 million to its member schools.  The Big Ten schools, however, took in $54.29 million.  By the end of this decade, that number is expected to be $100 million.  In that regard, the PAC-12 just could not keep up.

The downsides for both sides include increased travel times and costs, though that is expected to hit the two Los Angeles-based schools harder as they will have more frequent travel to the far reaches of the conference.  With the additional time comes increased time missed in the classroom, which will impact the non-revenue generating sports harder.  The biggest loser in this agreement may end up being the Rose Bowl, the traditional New Year’s Day meeting ground between the Big Ten and the PAC-12.

Logistically, this means Purdue will most likely move to the East division in football, helping to maintain their yearly battles against Indiana but also ensuring more games against Michigan and Ohio State, making their road to a bowl game more difficult.  Sixteen teams may also force the introduction of divisions into the basketball ranks as well.

Is this the end?  It seems unlikely, as this move will cause ripples throughout the NCAA.  With more consolidation into fewer elite conferences, good schools in the remaining conferences, like the rest of the PAC-12 and the ACC, for example, may start looking for new landing spots.  Notre Dame may see that, with many of their traditional rivals now located in one conference, their desire to stay independent will start to wane.  Only time will tell where this eventually ends up.

By The Numbers – 23 Bonus!

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees. By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues. Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Sunday, we continued our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #23.  Today, we take a special bonus look at player who famously wore #23 for other Chicago teams, making it possibly the most successful jersey number in town.

Michael Jordan was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft.  He would go on to become the greatest player in the history of the NBA, leading the Bulls to six titles, nabbing six Finals MVP awards, five MVP awards, three All Star Game MVPs, one Defensive Player of the Year award, and the 1985 Rookie of the Year award.  He was a 14-time All Star, 10-time first team All NBA, 9-time first team All-Defensive, 10-time scoring champion, 3-time steals leader, and 2-time Slam Dunk Contest champion.  A member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary teams, his #23 has been retired by both the Bulls and the Miami Heat, for whom he never played.

Selected by the Bears him in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Devin Hester quickly became one of, if not the, greatest return specialists in NFL history.  In his first 13 weeks as a professional, Hester recorded six return touchdowns, including three punt returns, two kickoff returns, and a then-record tying 108-yard touchdown from a missed field goal against the New York Giants.  As the Bears advanced to the Super Bowl, Hester became the first and only person to return the opening kick of the Super Bowl back for a touchdown.  2007 added an additional 6 touchdowns, followed by 2 quieter seasons.  In 2010, he added an additional 3 punt returns for touchdowns, followed by 2 punt returns and 1 kickoff return in 2011.  He added an additional punt return in 2013, his final season with the Bears.  This past September, in his first year of eligibility, Hester was nominated for the induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2021 Final Standings

The 2021 college football season, at least the regular season, has come to an end, after Purdue beat the dreaded Hoosiers last weekend to notch their first 8 win season since 2006.  After going 5 seasons without a football game, I attended 3 (almost 4) games this year, my highest total of all time.  I also managed to travel to two different venues, bringing my lifetime total up to 5.

2021 Team Records
TeamName Won Loss Winning Pctg
Purdue Boilermakers 3 0 1.000
Northwestern Wildcats 0 1 0.000
Michigan State Spartans 0 1 0.000
Illinois Fighting Illini 0 1 0.000

2021 College Football Kickoff

rossadeMy alma mater, the Purdue Boilermakers, kick off their 2021 gridiron campaign today, looking for their first winning season since 2017.  With Danny now entrenched in the marching band and COVID restrictions lifted, I’m sure to make it to a few games this year, regardless of how good the team is.  With that, it’s time to take a look at the results of the 21 college football games I have attended since the 1993 season, covering 4 different stadiums in a whopping 2 states.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Penn State Nittany Lions 1 0 1.000
Ohio State Buckeyes 1 0 1.000
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4 1 0.800
Purdue Boilermakers 12 7 0.632
Northern Illinois Huskies 1 1 0.500
Illinois Fighting Illini 2 5 0.286
Western Michigan Broncos 0 1 0.000
Northwestern Wildcats 0 2 0.000
North Carolina State Wolfpack 0 1 0.000
Michigan Wolverines 0 1 0.000
Indiana Hoosiers 0 2 0.000

Book 17 (of 52) – Football For A Buck

Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL – Jeff Pearlman

Originally conceived in 1965, the United States Football League finally took shape in 1982, taking the field for the first time in the spring of 1983.  While not a huge success, the fledgling league showed promise.  For the 1984 season, the league, unwisely, expanded and brought in new ownership, including a young, brash real estate developer from New York named Donald Trump.  Angling for a merger with the NFL, Trump pushed the USFL to abandon the concept of spring football and, following that second season, the league announced that it would move its schedule to the fall and take the NFL on head-to-head.  Following a lame duck season in the spring of 1985, the future of the USFL depended on the vision of Donald Trump and the outcome of a lawsuit he thought would pave the way to NFL riches.

Even if you have never heard of the USFL, if you’ve lived through the past 5-6 years of American history, you can imagine how this turned out.  The NFL’s lawyers used Trump’s general unlikability and inability to be truthful against him.  When the dust settled, the USFL did indeed win their lawsuit against the NFL. with damages assessed at $1.  The league had followed Donald Trump into the abyss and, as a result, was out of business after only 4 years.

Jeff Pearlman recaps the strange experience that was the USFL in Football for a Buck.  The players, a mixture of over-the-hill NFL pros looking for one last chance, college players who couldn’t quite make it at that next level, and actual college star who were showered with money in an attempt to legitimatize the upstart league, joined a motley crew of owners, many of whom were not fully vetted and did not actually have the funds necessary to run a franchise, to make an entertaining product in hindsight, even if they didn’t get the full recognition at the time.  The parallels between Trump’s actions as the ringleader of the USFL’s destruction and his actions as president are uncanny.  All told, the story of the USFL is one that deserved to be told, and Pearlman does an admirable job in doing so.

 

Guess Who’s Back

Reversing their earlier decision, the Big 10 voted today to play football this fall, starting the weekend of October 23-24 with a slate of at least eight games in nine weeks and a conference title game on December 19.  Student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games will be required to undergo daily testing prior to each practice or game.  Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through daily testing would require an additional PCR test to confirm the result of the initial test.  Games will be played on campus, with only family members allowed to attend, at least at the outset.

There are still a couple of issues that will plague (heh) the upcoming season.  First, a number of the leagues top players had already opted-out of the season prior to the postponement back in August.  Second, some of the Big 10 campuses are either shut down or partially closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The conference said it will provide updates on winter sports and other fall sports “shortly,” but, aside from basketball, I doubt they are in any sort of a hurry.  This was a decision that had very little to do with the health and safety of the student-athletes and everything to do with pleasing broadcast partners, upset fandoms, and a cry-baby president.

Doomsday Scenario

The Big Ten announced yesterday it was postponing its fall sports season, including football, because of concerns about competing during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It becomes the first Power Five conference to postpone and follows the MAC, who postponed their season last week, and the Mountain West conference, as well as Massachusetts and Connecticut, both football independents, who canceled their falls seasons this week.

Illinois recently announced it had 23 athletes, including 18 football players, test positive since June.  Northwestern paused workouts earlier this month after one player tested positive and 37 players were quarantined, until it was determined the test was a false positive.  Michigan State quarantined its entire team after 16 players tested positive, and Rutgers halted workouts after players reportedly contracted COVID-19 while attending a party, raising the team’s positive cases to 28.  A dozen Big Ten football players had previously opted out, including Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore.

The conference hopes to move the fall sports to the spring, assuming the pandemic lightens up and allows for it.

The Decade In College Sports

The 2010s have drawn to a close and its time to take a look back at the previous decade.  Today, we are wrapping things up with college athletics, specifically football and basketball.  On the gridiron, this was not a particularly successful ten years for the boys in gold and black, with only 4 bowl games, none of which were particularly prestigious.  Things were considerably brighter on the hardwood, with 8 appearances in the NCAA tournament, including 2 losses in the Sweet Sixteen and 1 Elite Eight appearance.  Not to mention 2 Big Ten regular season titles.

I only managed to take in 3 football game over the past 10 years, all at Ross-Ade Stadium.  The home team managed to win only the first of those, and were frankly somewhat embarrassed in the other two.

Team Records
Team Won Loss Winning Percentage
Northern Illinois Huskies 1 0 1.000
Illinois Fighting Illini 1 1 0.500
Purdue Boilermakers 1 2 0.333

Things were a little better on the basketball side.  I made it to 9 different contests over the course of the decade, at 5 different arenas.  Of those 9, 4 were tournament games.  Purdue was involved in 8 of the 9 games, mostly against the Illini.

Team Records
Team Won Loss Winning Percentage
Virginia Commonwealth Rams 1 0 1.000
Northwestern Wildcats 1 0 1.000
Butler Bulldogs 1 0 1.000
Purdue Boilermakers 5 3 0.625
Illinois Fighting Illini 1 3 0.250
Vermont Catamounts 0 1 0.000
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 0 1 0.000
Iowa State Cyclones 0 1 0.000

Big Changes In Lake Forest

The Jay Cutler era officially came to an end today as the Bears announced that Cutler had asked for and was given his release after 8 disappointing seasons.  Cutler appeared in only 5 games last season, due to shoulder and thumb injuries, and speculation was high that his time with the team was numbered.

Expected to be the team’s first “franchise” quarterback, Cutler instead managed just one playoff appearance in those 8 seasons.  To be fair, he was not always set up for success.  He went through 6 offensive coordinators in those 8 seasons, leaving very little room for consistency.

Also gone is one of Cutler’s favorite targets, Alshon Jeffery, who signed a one year deal with the Eagles.

To replace Cutler, the Bears are expected to sign former Buccaneer backup Mike Glennon to a 3 year deal.  Glennon has thrown 11 total passes over the course of the last 2 seasons.

2016 College Football Kickoff

rossadeMy alma mater, the Purdue Boilermakers, kick off their 2016 gridiron campaign tomorrow, looking for their first winning season since 2011.  Time to take a look at the results of the 21 college football games I have attended since the 1993 season, covering 4 different stadiums in a whopping 2 states.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Penn State Nittany Lions 1 0 1.000
Ohio State Buckeyes 1 0 1.000
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4 1 0.800
Purdue Boilermakers 12 7 0.632
Northern Illinois Huskies 1 1 0.500
Illinois Fighting Illini 2 5 0.286
Western Michigan Broncos 0 1 0.000
Northwestern Wildcats 0 2 0.000
North Carolina State Wolfpack 0 1 0.000
Michigan Wolverines 0 1 0.000
Indiana Hoosiers 0 2 0.000