Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
The Gophers can now call themselves legends. But as Badger fans are sure to point out, they will never be leaders.
That's the upshot of the Big Ten's new divisional alignment, announced Monday to what is sure to be, at first, an unpopular labeling of next year's football races:
"There's nothing really like it out there," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said of the names. "Any time you have something new, it takes some getting used to."
The conference discounted East and West because, Delany said, most of the league's teams consider themselves centrally located. And naming them for famous individuals -- Bo and Woody, Bronko and Butkus -- raised objections from schools passed over by the designations.
"It seemed too exclusive," Delany said.
So the conference chose generic labels that honor, he said, "our traditions and heritage. We recognize our history by virtue of the many legends who have populated this conference for 115 years." And Leaders? "If we're not building leaders for the future, we're not being true to what we aspire to -- to use competition to build and sustain future leaders."
The Big Ten also bestowed names on its 18 postseason football trophies, attaching the names of former players and coaches, two to a trophy. The Stagg-Paterno Trophy, for instance, named for longago great Amos Alonzo Stagg of the University of Chicago and Joe Paterno, longtime coach of Penn State, will be claimed by the winner of the Big Ten championship game each year.
The MVP of that game receives the Grange-Griffin Trophy, named for Red Grange and Archie Griffin.
Minnesota's history was honored by naming the humanitarian award the Dungy-Thompson Trophy, for former Gophers quarterback Tony Dungy and Indiana's Anthony Thompson.
The Nagurski-Woodson Trophy goes to the league's Defensive Player of the Year, in honor of Minnesota legend Bronko Nagurski and Michigan's Charles Woodson.
And the Thompson-Randle El Trophy, honoring the Gophers' breakout mid-80s running back Darrell Thompson, goes to the freshman of the year.
The Big Ten unveiled its new logo, too, scrapping the "Hidden 11" version adopted when Penn State joined the conference. The new mark -- which includes no hidden "12" -- is an homage to the days when the league went by Big 10, rather than Big Ten; the I and G are meant to double as a 10, so the BIG portion can be a brand by itself.
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