The Big Ten has some big-ticket items to tackle later this summer: division alignment, conference scheduling and a potential conference championship game, to name a few.
To me, these topics carry far more weight than deciding the name of the conference. But there's significant interest among fans and others about whether the Big Ten will still be the Big Ten when Nebraska joins in 2011. You've heard the jokes about the Big 11 for two decades, and as lame and unoriginal as they are, they're not going anywhere if the league keeps its name.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has gone on record as saying he was willing to change the league's name when Penn State joined in 1990. He's still open to a change, but the decision rests solely with the Big Ten presidents and chancellors.
And it sounds like those folks have no plans to scrap the Big Ten brand.
Here's Minnesota president Robert Bruininks in a recent Q&A with The Minnesota Daily:
Any talks of a name change?
Bruininks: No, I think it’s quite certain that we will keep the brand of the Big Ten, and that’s a historic reference to a conference that has been remarkably stable.
Longtime Michigan sports broadcaster Tim Staudt recently talked with Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, the chair of the Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors, who had this to say:
She does believe the name Big Ten will stand no matter how many schools are in the field eventually. She doesn't say it's 100 percent certain but she thinks the branding of the name will keep it "Big Ten."
The marketing community seems to agree with the Big Ten keeping its name, despite the mathematical inaccuracy in number of members.
Chuck Piper, who was a longtime vice president in charge of strategic services for Bailey Lauerman marketing agency, said the Big Ten brand has established too much equity to change names now.
“I think it really has nothing to do with how many teams are literally part of it,” Piper said. “You can’t be changing the brand every time you add or subtract. The Big Ten brings to mind a certain kind of entity, and that entity remains intact even though the players might change from time to time.”
I tend to agree. There's so much history in the Big Ten brand name, and you would lose something if it changed. Not to mention that the league's greatest new asset, a television network, has the Big Ten brand attached to it.
The logo has to change, but the brand shouldn't.
"The 'Ten' signifies an ideal, a way of conference life, more than it suggests the number of schools in the league. A name change is unnecessary."
Let the tired and annoying jokes continue, and keep the name in place.