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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

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Readers Blog: Out of Right Field

The Big Ten's Big Bomb

I'm not here to talk about the new logo. No, I'm just going to gloss over the fact that the Big Ten Conference paid what was probably an excessive amount to have a graphic designer come back with block lettering and a G that kind of looks like a zero (they really made them earn that one).

I'm going to just pass by the fact that the G looks like a zero to honor the original ten members of the conference. It's not like that is already done by the conference's name being the BIG TEN. This quote, and my subsequent breakdown of it's meaning, really sums up everything you need to know about the logo:

"The new Big Ten logo was developed to symbolize the conference's future (that G does kind of look like a six doesn't it), as well as its rich heritage, strong tradition of competition (nothing screams competition like robin's egg blue), academic leadership, and passionate alumni," said Gericke. "Its contemporary collegiate lettering (Translation: we totally forgot about this until yesterday) includes an embedded numeral "10" in the word "BIG," which allows fans to see "BIG" and "10" in a single word (because before it was just too long). Memorable and distinctive, the new logo evolved from the previous logo's use of negative space (Translation: How much longer do I need to talk for?) and is built on the conference's iconic name, without reference to the number of member institutions (It was 10, then 11, then 12, then 16... oh wait that isn't official yet)."

No, that is not what I am here to talk about. It's something much more serious. The Big Ten Conference has committed a crime against nomenclature. Vocabulary itself should feel slighted for the absolutely atrocious name selections that the Big Ten has made for their first ever division titles.

Legends and Leaders. It sounds like an over-hyped movie. A campy pre-game speech. Something you'd hear in Friday Night Lights rather than in Saturday morning locker rooms. When the news broke I had to double-check to make sure it wasn't being reported by the Onion.

There are so many directions to go with this name choice and none of them are good. For starters, someone thought this was a good idea. Then when they brought that idea to someone else, that person didn't laugh in their face... he actually thought the idea was good too! And the ball kept rolling until it actually happened.

Did the Big Ten select the worst possible names? I guess not, I mean they could have named their divisions after Osama and Hitler, but in no way are these names good. Legends and Leaders, it's a good slogan at least, but this was not a slogan that they announced.

There is something out there called groupthink. The principle of it is that a group of people making some decision, in this case a naming choice, takes what most of them believe is a good idea and runs with it because nobody wants to cause strife or problems in the group by disagreeing.

This leads to the idea not being considered and analyzed as in-depth as it should be. Groupthink prevents an idea from being seen from all angles, but especially those that are critical of it. Nobody wants to be the odd man out so the idea sails through uncontested. Is that what happened to Big Ten officials? It makes the most sense, an idea got enough steam that everybody jumped on board just so they wouldn't be the black sheep of the group. If that's the case, hindsight is 20/20, we can forgive this mistake while there is still time to fix it - there is still time to fix it right?

The fact is good ideas were passed on for the Big Ten to end up with Legends and Leaders. Ideas both creative and commendable, select and superior. Yet every single one of those ideas was passed on, and we were left with Legends and Leaders. Let's all just hope this isn't a sign of the future decisions that the Big Ten brass will be making in the near future.

Not All Failures

There is a silver lining in all this, the new names for all of the conference awards. The titles will honor some of the best that college football and the Big Ten have ever seen and the Wisconsin Badgers are well represented.

The Championship Trophy is one of the most well-named, with the honor of the award giving due to Penn State Coach Joe Paterno and coaching legend Amos Alonzo Stagg. No one can argue against the impact Paterno has had on the college football world and Stagg deserves recognition on the Division 1 level (The Divsion 3 title game is named for Stagg and his 116 Big Ten wins are third all-time).

As for Badger representatives, one-time football star and long-time athletic director Pat Richter shares the "receiver of the year" award with a different sort of Wisconsin sports hero - Desmond Howard. The Packers Super Bowl MVP in  in their 1997 victory was also the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner.

Richter was a 9-time letter winner with the Badgers, three times each in football, basketball and baseball.  He also was an All-American for the 1962 season, when Bucky finished No. 2 overall. Richter went on to be the No. 7 pick in the NFL draft, but is best known for overseeing the revitalization of the Wisconsin football program... and hiring Barry Alvarez.

A Badger also has his name on the "kicker of the year" award, Jim Bakken, a 17-year pro and Madison, Wis. native will share that honor with Michigan State's Morton Anderson (yes that Morton Anderson).

But the most fitting award might be the "running back of the year" award, which honors both of the Badgers Heisman Trophy winners. The award will be called the "Ameche-Dayne" Trophy, paying homage to Wisconsin's 1953 and 1999 Heisman winners.

Ron Dayne is the all-time leader in rushing yards in the NCAA's top division with 7,125. He broke the record in the 1999 season's last home game, against Iowa.

Alan Ameche is a figure from another era of sports. He is not much more than a name to most Badger fans, but his 3,212 career rushing yards were an NCAA record at the time. Ameche's name and No. 35 are one of four to sit on the facade of Camp Randall Stadium.

In a year that the Wisconsin running game has been it's most dominant since  Dayne graduated, it seems fitting that the Big Ten name it's running back award after a pair of legendary Badger backs.

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