As we SEC fans learned earlier this year, expansion was a big win for the Big Ten (according to many sources, such as here and here). It was going to make it lots more money and this would be nothing but good things for everyone. Some people expressed reservations about the future of divisions, and the like, but really, it was a good thing.
Unfortunately, it's because they forgot that with more money comes more problems.
Take it away Bad Boy Records:
Notorious BIG - Mo Money Mo Problems Feat. Puff Daddy, Mase (via thetruthmusicgroup)
Because now this is happening: Delany talks Michigan-Ohio State
Reactions to this after the jump...So now NO ONE is happy... See MGoBlog, Eleven Warriors, Bucknuts for the more extreme reactions. Even on the sites, such as Maize n' Brew, where the response was more speculative, the comments certainly were not (warning, language).
Now, this isn't to gloat (maybe a little) or to say "whew, we dodged a bullet" (because I think there are many folk that still wouldn't have minded the SEC additions that were speculatively being kicked around), but it is to say that the notion that "tradition" was going to get in the way of what administrators thought best was fairly naive. What most people applied to the notion of divisions was "fan-logic," and a lot of it is explained through the early division models thrown around here and here. Most telling is this quote from the second link, a speculative Stewart Mandel piece at SI.com on the prospective Pac-10 and Big Ten divisions:
"As we get set to form our divisions, we do so with the following understandings:
1. Ohio State and Michigan MUST be in the same division. There's no way either the conference or the schools wants to touch the tradition of these teams' season-ending showdown, and you certainly don't want the possibility of them meeting again a week later in a title game."
That is fan logic. The fan says that this is/has been the most important game played in the Big Ten most years. It has a documentary on HBO. It has a period called the "Ten Year War." It has the identity of both schools wrapped up in it. This is Important. This is not only Important to me, it is Important to all those who understand Big Ten football.
Here is admin logic:
Dave Branden: "Because we're in a situation where one of the best things that could happen in a given season, in my opinion, is the opportunity to play Ohio State twice. Once in the regular season and once for the championship of the Big Ten"
Delany: "If Duke and North Carolina were historically the two strongest programs and only one could play for the right to be in the NCAA tournament, would you want them playing in the season-ending game so one is in and one is out? Or would you want them to play and have it count in the standings and then they possibly could meet for the right to be in the NCAA or the Rose Bowl?"
And now the admins are being called out by any number of folk for selling out tradition. How is this surprising? The job of the admin is to maximize profit potential (even if at the moment that seems too small to justify, according to MGoBlog's reaction piece). They were just fine hunting all over for new college teams to entice with big money in return for leaving behind their own traditions; what, you thought they had an uncrossable line? Why? People will say "common-sense" or "an understanding of history" or some other such argument, but the fact of the matter is simple: Delany, Branden, and Gordon Gee know that UM/tOSU fans will watch the last game of the year, whether it's the Game or not. They will attend, they will buy concessions, and they will cheer. They are also aware that if the Game is moved to the first or second week in November the fans will still show up.
If, after expansion, you thought that the College Football was going to go back to some idyllic tradition-respecting state, you were wrong. Administrators care about tradition for as long as it is convenient. That is why they are administrators, and not historians.
As fans, do we like it when this happens? No, we don't. But let's state the facts: the Big Ten almost caused the largest realignment in CFB history, jeopardizing the existence of one league, threatening the dismemberment of others, and we're to believe that this one particular game (which they still intend on holding, just potentially at a different time) was too sacred for them to touch? Clearly no, and in the end, again, the fan is left feeling cheated when if they had thought this through, they might have seen such irreverent behavior coming down the pike.
And remember SEC fans, we are not immune to this. The movement of Auburn/Alabama by a day, to maximize TV potential, recently caused an uproar. The Third Saturday in October is no longer as special as it used to be, either. The league didn't participate in realignment this year, and we have a more sensible arrangement division-wise and schedule-wise than any other league, but the SEC and its traditions are not immune to administrative pragmatism. And that's the point of this post. When watching the landscape shift in the future, don't make the mistake of thinking that YOUR pet issue is too sacrosanct to be altered or eliminated. Because it probably isn't.