Get used to it: Legends and Leaders

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2010 - 12:32 PM

The Big Ten revealed the names of its football divisions, and they were met with skepticism.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany

Photo: Andy Manis, Associated Press file

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Legends and Leaders strike lots of folks as Losers.

But that's to be expected in the first response to something as subjective as names, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Monday in announcing the conference's football teams will be divided into six-team divisions called Legends and Leaders next season.

"Any time you have something new," Delany said, "it takes some time to get used to."

Minnesota will play in the Legends Division, along with Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State and new member Nebraska, while Gophers archrival Wisconsin will compete for the Leaders Division title along with Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State and Penn State.

"I'm a legend, thanks to the Big Ten," Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray posted on his Twitter account.

But his response was far more upbeat than the chorus of critics who panned the selection over the Internet.

"About as corporately lame as you could get," said college football columnist Pat Forde.

"Sounds like a bar at the mall," FSN Timberwolves analyst Mike McCollow posted.

"Or it could be a Narnia movie," cracked ESPN television host Tony Kornheiser on "Pardon the Interruption."

But the league ruled out "East" and "West," Delany said, because most of the universities 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.

They considered such alternatives as Liberty and Freedom, Stars and Stripes, Lakes and Plains, Steel and Corn, but found nothing they considered an appropriate fit.

So the conference chose generic labels that honor, Delany 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," Delany said.

The commissioner expressed confidence that the names will grow into acceptance.

"Any divisional name is a vessel, and it will be filled over time with experiences and memories," Delany told ESPN. "It'll take on status, structure and meaning over time."

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.

And as a way to honor its legends, the Big Ten announced it will hand out 18 postseason trophies beginning next season, each named for two former -- and in a couple of cases, current -- Big Ten greats.

The league championship trophy will be called the Stagg-Paterno Trophy, named for Amos Alonzo Stagg, the football forefather who coached the University of Chicago during the conference's formative years, and Joe Paterno, who just finished his 45th season at Penn State.

Minnesota's history was honored by naming the humanitarian award the Dungy-Thompson Trophy, for former Gophers quarterback Tony Dungy and former Indiana running back Anthony Thompson.

The Nagurski-Woodson Trophy goes to the league's Defensive Player of the Year, in honor of Gophers legend Bronko Nagurski and former Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson.

And the Thompson-Randle El Trophy, honoring the Gophers' breakout mid-1980s running back Darrell Thompson and former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El, goes to the Freshman of the Year.

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