Big Ten musings: B1G & Baseball don’t fit; Delusional Delaney The Enlightened Spartan: Big Ten musings: B1G & Baseball don’t fit; Delusional Delaney

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Big Ten musings: B1G & Baseball don’t fit; Delusional Delaney

Three items surfaced recently in the media with relation to the Big Ten. One item, that Michigan State would be in the East division when Maryland and Rutgers join in 2014; second, that B1G baseball should start later because of the weather; and, the other item, is the recent article in Sports Illustrated with interesting comments by Commissioner Jim Delany. Let's get into football divisions first.

MSU in the East

So, if Michigan State were to join an East division as has been recently reported, their climb to the Big Ten championship game in football every year would likely need to include two victories against division foes Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State in addition to wins over bottom feeders Maryland, Rutgers, and Indiana. So, out of the six divisional opponents each year, it seems reasonable that it will take five victories in the “three yards and a cloud of dust” division to be in contention. With nine conference games every year, that leaves three games against opponents from the Western division; winning at least two of those would lead to a 7-2 conference record, which seems to be a reasonable minimum to advance to the conference championship game.

Now, the Big Ten has also agreed to eliminate scheduling of patsies, like Appalachian State, Youngstown State, Northern Colorado, Northern Iowa, or other Division I–FCS football programs. This is a good thing, in that the strength of schedule for the Big Ten and particularly for Big Ten East division members, should be strong enough for the Big Ten championship game winner out of the East division to also be considered for the new BCS football playoff.  In other words, an 11-2 Michigan State Big Ten championship team with division wins over Michigan, Penn State, and other conference wins against Wisconsin or Nebraska, and nonconference wins against future opponents Notre Dame, West Virginia, and/or another strong BCS qualifying institution will be received favorably by a playoff selection committee. Of course, this means that the Spartans need to clean house in the conference with maybe an occasional loss at Ohio State, at Wisconsin, or at Nebraska… But the nonconference games need to be victories for the most part, with the exception of maybe playing at Alabama or at Oregon -- these strong national title contending institutions will add to the value of the Spartans resume even with a loss. I think we all know, however, that the road to the Big Ten championship will go through Columbus and that's a tough task indeed.

Tim Stout and Big Ten baseball

The Dean of mid-Michigan sports, Tim Stout of WILX-TV, recently wrote in the Lansing State Journal that if the Big Ten is going to expand baseball stadiums, institutions should consider moving its baseball calendar a month or so later because of the poor weather in March/April in Big Ten country. He specifically noted how Wisconsin does not have a baseball team. Let's be honest, Wisconsin here is the only smart institution with respect to understanding what it can provide as reasonable opportunities for sport participation in the area. We can't looking at this through a competitive lens as opposed to understanding who it is that is participating. Big Ten baseball players are college students; most colleges are on semester systems, which would mean shifting the calendar would impact athletes across two semesters (or more, as some baseball manages to fit in exhibition in the fall) and into the dog days of summer. Already, college students are being asked enough with respect to time management and progress to graduation…. The ES just doesn't buy the fact that shifting the calendar would not have a detrimental impact more so than is already the case on these players. So his point of "lack of common sense" of the current calendar or plowing resources into baseball makes sense.  Moving the calendar would serve for entertainment purposes, improving attendance at games, and actually may make it a more enjoyable experience for the players. Really, who wants to catch a fly ball between snowflakes anyways? BUT, let's base any principle to make the decision on what's in the best interest to help these college students learn.. and NOT on entertainment and enjoyment of the game.  Athletics should be a co-curricular activity, and not the primary activity.

So, I think that Wisconsin actually has it right. I never understood why Michigan State would want to enhance its baseball stadium, when it is already under snow three-fourths of the year. That is a waste of 5 million VERY good dollars that could be used instead for other purposes. If anything, Big Ten schools should eliminate baseball so they can save other sports which are more reasonable to participate over the winter months. My God, it's nearly April and we still have snow on the ground and it's 32° outside… Is there not a sense of reason? Baseball in the North makes as much sense as ice hockey in the South… College athletic programs should not have to be all things to all people, but rather focus on quality instead of quantity. Follow Wisconsin's lead: eliminate baseball and invest in winter sports.

Delusional Delany?

Lots of interesting tidbits coming out of the Big Ten office in the last week. If you are not aware of the Eddie O’Bannon lawsuit, you better be aware now. The lawsuit contends that the NCAA unlawfully used the likeness and image of college athletes in its own marketing efforts, as well as selling those rights to companies without providing just compensation to the athletes. It is complicated when you think of: how Title IX requires institutions to provide equal opportunities to all athletes male and female; that funding and resources be equitable for male and female athletes;  how scholarships and other benefits are worth tens of thousands of dollars every year and are tax-free; that athletes would be taxed if they did receive compensation for selling their image for publicity; and, that athletic conferences, colleges, and the NCAA make billions of dollars each year from selling rights to broadcast football and men's basketball on television. Regardless, there are many who believe that O’Bannon has a good case and may likely be victorious (here, here, here, here, etc). When you think of the NCAA budget being about $800 million a year, this case may bankrupt the NCAA if the courts allow it to be certified as class action for athletes going back 50 years. Yes, college sports could change as we know it.

So Jim Delany's comments in Sports Illustrated certainly were interesting if not telling. Delany notes that if the Big Ten is required to pay players or subsidized payment for the lawsuits because players no longer are amateurs but rather need to receive compensation for their success on the field above and beyond his scholarship, that the Big Ten may instead give up Division I sports and become Division III institutions, or follow the idea  and not give scholarships. Some see this as Delany blowing steam under the robes of justices to let them know that their decision may be of significant consequence to the current model of college sports; in other words, if justices like watching how their alma mater competes in football or basketball on tv, Delaney muses they may want to think twice about how they will decide in this lawsuit. However others see Delany as being two-faced, in that now he's going to whine and take his ball and go home because he no longer can control how money is being distributed.

Bottom line is, Delaney is giving us lots to think about, and all of you college sports fans out there better start paying attention. Delany is paying attention, but he doesn't seem to have very good answers right now.

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