I spent the past two days trying to keep up with Big Ten commish Jim Delany. He’s a man in motion, literally, grinding out a trip over the past two weeks that culminated with some big announcements.
On Monday, Delany was in New York to trumpet a basketball series with the Big East named in honor of the late Dave Gavitt, a former Big East commissioner and northeast basketball luminary.
But the really big news came yesterday, with Delany unveiling plans to play the 2017 Big Ten basketball tourney in Washington, D.C.
You can love this move East or hate it, but it’s a reality. The conference couldn’t stand pat and needs to push forward and continue to evolve. Change or perish, right?
Will it all work? Who knows? But know this: It’s just a beginning.
Several times on the Eastern trip, Delany alluded to more announcements coming in the next 60 or so days. I asked him over breakfast on Monday and while riding a train from New York City to Washington on Tuesday what some of those coming announcements could be for the Midwest and East. Alas, Delany wasn’t about to tip his hand. Hey, I figured he wouldn’t, but I had to ask, right?
Since the news the last two days was about basketball, I was curious about football. Delany did say that the Big Ten football championship game wasn’t headed East—for now. He just didn’t think it would work with just two fan bases involved. Still, Delany talked about having “branded games” in the East for all sports.
“I think it’s an underrated impact of football brands coming to this area,” said Delany.
Football is what moves the needle. Football is what rakes in the big bucks. Football should have some big events in the East beyond the Pinstripe Bowl, a Yankee Stadium event Delany says will feature a different Big Ten team in each of the eight years of the agreement that begins this season.
Soon, we will find out what Delany has up his sleeve for events in the Midwest and East. Football-wise, I have an idea. How about a grand kickoff event at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., over Labor Day weekend?
There could be a game played on Sunday and one on Monday. And let’s make it a Big Ten-SEC doubleheader. How about Ohio State-Alabama and Nebraska-Florida to kick it off? If the SEC can’t do it, get other marquee schools from “Big Five” conferences to play the Big Ten. This would be a great way to start the season with a bang in the largest media market in the world.
If a double-header in the New York market is too much, how about one game in Gotham and one in Chicago’s Soldier Field over Labor Day weekend? It would be an East-Midwest “Kickoff Classic” in both Big Ten regions, giving the league “preseason bowls,” if you will, in the two biggest Big Ten markets that otherwise probably never will host the Big Ten championship game since each site is an outdoor venue.
The SEC already is doing a good job by beginning the season with a big event with its Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. The league has been doing this since 2008, with games like Alabama-Clemson, Alabama-Virginia Tech, North Carolina-LSU, Boise State-Georgia. There even was a double-header in 2012 with N.C. State playing Tennessee on Friday and Auburn taking on Clemson on Saturday.
With the schedules of most teams already made several years in advance, putting together such games could be difficult for the Big Ten. Still, it’s an idea to keep in the hopper.
|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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