The B1G Reversal

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said on August 19th that the season was postponed and the issue wouldn't be revisited.

He was wrong. Or should I say, the conference was wrong.

The commissioner was wrong. The presidents were wrong. The research was wrong.

The Big Ten screwed up. It's really as easy and simple as that.

For decades, the Big Ten seemed to be the power broker of the Power Five. Growing up, the Big Ten had the bigger stadiums. The bigger names. The bigger brands. They boasted to anyone and everyone that they were the ultimate conference of athletic and academic success.

Things change, though. And one thing the Big Ten has had to learn, albeit the hard way, is that they are not the power brand or power broker that they thought they still were.

The Big Ten's decision to shut down early wasn't about health or safety. It was 100% a political decision.

They wanted to get ahead of the rest of the power leagues on the COVID issue. Shut it down early, knowing the Pac-12 would follow, then using their friends in the national sports media to laud their decision, tell the world what legends and leaders run the Big Ten and then force the rest of college football to follow their lead.

They did it, thinking it would assert their superiority and reset them as the moral and ethical standard, despite the conference going through moral and ethical dilemmas far worse than anything the other Power Five conferences have faced. They pointed to a study on myocarditis as a key reason for their postponement. And they did it days after creating and releasing a 10-game schedule.

And, one could make a pretty decent point that they did it to affect the presidential election, given the swing states that feature Big Ten teams. I won't go deep into that realm, as I think we're all tired of politics, but you can be the judge as to whether that was the case.

But the pushback the conference received was something that, quite honestly, they were as unprepared for as a student who never studied for the exam they were about to take.

For one, the SEC, the ACC, and the Big 12 refused to follow the Big Ten's lead. They were more cautious, more measured. Or, to put it plainly: smarter.

They listened to medical experts from Duke and the Mayo Clinic, respectively, whose opinions differed from the Big Ten's myocarditis claim. They took their time, laying out a cautious, detailed plan to keep playing football. They did what universities should do: research, study, and analyze a problem and methodically work out a solution.

Second, the pushback within their own ranks stunned them.

Nebraska was 100% against the Big Ten's decision, from the system president all the way down to the custodian. They were the loud, vocal opposition that drove the conference's old alums and friends in the national media crazy.

Desmond Howard hoped they were told to leave. Michael Wilbon mirrored Howard's comments. Both mocked Nebraska's status in the league.

I, for one, look forward to College GameDay's imminent return to Lincoln.

USA Today's Christine Brennan was even worse. Writing with an arrogance that was never earned or deserved, only self-applied for being a Big Ten alumnae, she mocked the SEC as if they were a third-world nation, bemoaned the "Nebraska-ization" of the league and said the Big Ten's return to college football was the "darkest day in the league's history."

Think about that: Returning to college football because your original data was flawed is the darkest day in league history?

I'd say Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting boys for years at Penn State was worse. So was Larry Nassar molesting gymnasts at Michigan State. So was Jordan McNair's death due to horrific treatment at Maryland. So was Tim Beckman and Kevin Wilson's dismissals at Illinois and Indiana, respectively.

We all could name many, many other things worse than Big Ten football resuming plans to start a football season. Brennan's tears were for political reasons. Her words redefined tone deaf, as many on social media that she blocked informed her.

The Big Ten should be thankful for Nebraska and Ohio State's push. Had the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, WNBA, and the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all resumed play successfully, albeit in different ways, while the Big Ten sat it out, they'd have never been able to live it down. They'd feel the repercussions from that for years.

Credit Ohio State for standing up and fighting back. But it was Nebraska who took all the media flack and never wavered an inch. Sure, Nebraska salvages some revenue, especially TV revenue, for bringing back football. But also, Lincoln would've lost $300 million in revenue with no football season. There are restaurants and bars in Lincoln that are thankful that Nebraska made its strong stance.

So no, Ms. Brennan. The Big Ten doesn't need less Nebraska. It needs more Nebraska. And it needs to remember that moving forward.

The Big Ten is back. We should be glad for it. College football is better and stronger when everyone's in the game. The other conferences that postponed are re-evaluating their decisions based on the Big Ten's reversal. Changing their mind was the right move and they can hang their hat on that.

But, they need to realize where they stand. They're a decently good athletic and academic conference. They're not the best, or the power brokers, in either.

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