Big 10 makes good on threat: moves football to DIII

In 2013, Jim Delaney, commissioner of the Big 10 (which of course has fourteen teams, which says plenty about the tenuous link between academic integrity and athletics) said that if the O’Bannon lawsuit prevailed, the Big 10 would consider moving to Division III.

Several alternatives to a ‘pay for play’ model exist, such as the Division III model, which does not offer any athletics-based grants-in-aid, and, among others, a need-based financial model. These alternatives would, in my view, be more consistent with The Big Ten’s philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes.

On August 8, a judge ruled against the Big 10 in the O’Bannon case.

Now, one month later, it appears Delaney wasn’t kidding. The Big 10 may be technically FBS, but in terms of product on the field, it’s already FCS quality, at best. DIII isn’t out of the question. Consider the losses from this last weekend.

  • Michigan State lost to a very good Oregon team at Oregon, which was expected. However, the way they lost was ugly, blowing a lead late and surrendering 28 consecutive points. The betting line was Oregon by 12½. They beat MSU by 19, a full touchdown.
  • Ohio State lost to a not-supposed-to-be-very-good Virginia Tech team at home, by two touchdowns.
  • Michigan was crushed by Notre Dame, losing 31-0. It’s one thing not to have the speed to match up with the SEC or the Pac 12, but too slow to hang with Notre Dame, Our Sacred Lady of the Perpetually Overrated? Really?
  • Purdue and Northwestern both lost at home to MAC teams, the little brother conference of the midwest.

Even the wins weren’t so great, coming against poorhouse teams from weak conferences like the MEAC and C-USA. Of the seven Big 10 wins, six came at home and three were by a touchdown or less. Nebraska needed a last second score to avoid a tie with McNeese State at home, a team that is only the sixth best team in the FCS.

Indeed, the most impressive win of the weekend was Maryland over South Florida on the road. The Terps just joined the Big 10, ostensibly to share in the greater revenues of a football-oriented conference. Maybe it was just that they wanted to find a conference where they could win a few games.

Observers of college football have long become used to the hypocrisy endemic to the sport, particularly the shameful façade of “student-athlete” status being used to exploit an unpaid semi-professional workforce. It’s more than refreshing to see an administrator like Delaney take a stand and stick to it.

The only remaining question is will University of Wisconsin-Whitewater be invited to join the conference?

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