And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through
~ David Bowie. Changes.
In the next couple of weeks, there is going to be an announcement regarding the future construct of the Big 10 conference. There have been very strong indications that Michigan and Ohio State will not be in the same division and THE GAME will not be played as the last game on the schedule.
This change will be met with predictable disdain and a universal outcry from both sides of the rivalry. Personally, I am not sure how I feel about it. I understand that M/OSU is the greatest rivalry in sports. I recognize this contest has been the jewel of the Big Ten conference for decades. I acknowledge the historical importance of Bo & Woody. In a perfect world this would go on forever. The days of the Big 2 and Little 8 are gone and they are not coming back.
The truth is, the rivalry has lost some of its luster at the same time other conferences have spiked in national attention. In some respects, I believe we brought this upon ourselves. I can’t help but think the bright national spotlight and overwhelming hatred has become so heavy it has collapsed upon itself. To many outside the rivalry, this thing we have with the Buckeyes is just not that important compared to real conference championship games. We have certainly not been holding up our end of the deal by losing 6 straight games. Couple this one sided situation with the fact Ohio State was whipped twice by SEC teams in the BCS Championship games, and you can understand why the Big Ten Conference is seeking this change.
To the leaders of the Big Ten, this is all about national perception and responding to the competitive challenge presented by the SEC/Big12/Pac12. They are faced with these choices.
- Place Michigan & Ohio State in the same division and leave THE GAME untouched at the end of the regular season schedule. Run the risk of creating a lopsided balance of power for a single division (see Texas & Oklahoma in the B12 South) and lose all possibility of Michigan/Ohio State ever meeting in the B10 championship game.
- Place Michigan & Ohio State in different divisions and leave THE GAME untouched at the end of the regular season schedule. Run the risk of having M/OSU face each other two weeks in a row. I (along with many others) didn't want to see this in 2006 and don't want to see it now.
- Place Michigan & Ohio State in different divisions and move THE GAME to another part of the regular season schedule. Allow the rivalry to continue and set up the possibility of a eventual M/OSU B10 championship game.
Yes, all this is very unsettling. In a perfect world, traditions would continue and no change would be necessary. In the real world, this change is necessary. We have been playing the Buckeyes the end of the season every year since 1935 except when we didn’t, like in 1942 (Iowa), 1986 (Hawaii) and 1998 (Hawaii). The world did not shatter during those seasons, and it won’t now.
There was a time when Oklahoma v. Nebraska was part of our last game of the season club. That rivalry game was changed with the birth of the B12 and both of those programs have moved on and have found new success. There is no reason we won't both survive and thrive.
Rather than rip my hair out and moan about the “good old days” – I am willing embrace this change and see it as a new opportunity. Replacing Ohio State with Sparty that weekend before Thanksgiving sounds like a lot of fun to me – plus if we are both good enough, the prospect of watching Michigan play the Bucks in the B10 Championship game is just too much fun to imagine.