Leaders & Legends: Name change ahead?

It seems the moment the Big Ten announced in 2010 that it would name its divisions “Leaders” and “Legends,” there was an outcry from people who found names are pretentious, arrogant and just downright confusing. Others preferred simple geographic names like, say, East and West.

Plausible. But isn’t the goal of a school—and a league—to produce leaders and legends? Get it? Plus, the names are unique and have some cachet and … ah, forget it. So is a change coming?

Big Ten
Conference Overall
Ohio State 8-0 12-0
Penn State 6-2 8-4
Wisconsin 4-4 8-6
Purdue 3-5 6-7
Indiana 2-6 4-8
Illinois 0-8 2-10
Conference Overall
Nebraska 7-1 10-4
Michigan 6-2 8-5
Northwestern 5-3 10-3
Michigan State 3-5 7-6
Iowa 2-6 4-8
Minnesota 2-6 6-7

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in a recent interview with ESPN that the league will reconsider the Leaders and Legends monikers as it moves to a 14-team (for now) conference with the impending additions of Rutgers and Maryland in 2014.

“We weren’t going to go with ‘Bo or Woody,’ ‘Black or Blue,’ or ‘Plains or Lakes,’ ” Delany told ESPN. “Obviously we got some acceptance [with Legends and Leaders], but not as much as we would have liked.”

To me, Leaders and Legends are reminiscent of the old NHL, which at one time named its divisions after famous league figures. Remember the Smythe, Norris, Patrick and Adams Divisions? There also was the Prince of Wales and Campbell Conferences. A neat way to pay homage to your history. But, maybe patterning yourself after the NHL isn’t a good thing. Because, well, you know, it’s the NHL.

In that interview, Delany went on to say he was surprised by the backlash of the names. Join the club. (Remember, people who complain have loud voices; those who like things generally say nothing.). In fact, the names have grown on me.

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For those who still can’t keep track:

  • Legends: Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern.
  • Leaders: Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

It wasn’t really that difficult to commit to memory. But, soon, that alignment will be altered, and apparently the division names could change, too. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Big Ten opts to follow the SEC’s and Pac-12’s lead and just use geographic division names.


About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (3 Comments)
Tom from Virginia on 1/15/2013 @ 3:54pm EDT Said:

The Leaders and Legends names have grown on me, as well. The bigger picture is on-field performance. Nobody makes fun of you (to your face) if you win. Many programs of the B1G are great legends on the field, but we haven’t been leading on the field lately. We do lead in academics and world-class research, which is refreshing, since this is still supposed to be about student-athletes and higher education.

Mike on 1/15/2013 @ 7:52pm EDT Said:

Count me among those who feel the Legends and Leaders names are pretentious and arrogant and confusing. These names seem even more so given the lack of “legendary” on field performances against teams from other conferences (how about that Rose Bowl record) and lack of “leadership” shown by some of our university leaders off the field (OSU and PSU). Please keep it simple: geographic alignment and names.

Will on 1/16/2013 @ 10:31am EDT Said:

Too much is being made of the Divisional names. Bottom line for me is; what kind of product does the B1G put on the athletic field of play that coincides with the product we carry inside the institutions walls. If we truly are the elite conference in research education, then we should be intelligent enough to outwit the other conferences on the field of play. Yes, the SEC may have “more” super athletes, but we have a large number of them as well and to go along with that, we should have the IQ’s to figure out how to get back on top of sports world.