Column: The demise of the big, bad Big Ten Conference

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 25, 2007

By Jon Laging, Talking Sports

You remember the Big Ten? That&8217;s the conference that used to dominate college football. Those days are gone. Now party schools like Florida rule the college scene.

Supposedly powerful Big Ten leader Michigan loses to Division I-AA Appalachian State It wasn&8217;t like being upset by a weak Big Ten team such as Indiana, Northwestern or Minnesota. It&8217;s losing to a team from a different level of play. Much like Rochester Mayo losing to Stewartville. Looking back on Rose Bowl history you could see it coming. Big Ten Michigan lost three out of the last four Rose Bowl games. The one they didn&8217;t lose, they weren&8217;t at.

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Penn State (The Beast of the East), joined the Big Ten about a decade ago sporting a perennial top five team and soon sunk to the Big Ten level.

Don&8217;t tell me Big Ten teams don&8217;t do well against non-conference foes because they beat up on each other. Minnesota couldn&8217;t beat up either Macalester or Hamline.

Division I-AA North Dakota State enabled Minnesota to outdo the Wolverines, when they defeated the Gophers. As Smith-Barney would say, &8220;They did it the old-fashioned way.&8221; They ran over Minnesota. Beat them with a ground game and throughly dominated our Big Ten team. Bronko Nagurski must be rolling over in his grave. If you get beat by a running game after losing six previous games through the air, what exactly does that leave?

I was listening to the game and had a lot of sympathy for our Gophers. They were trying, but were being out muscled by Minnesota boys that the U didn&8217;t think highly enough of to offer football scholarships.

Remember when you were a child and the going got tough in a game or any kind of sport, an accepted playgound rule was that you could call time to get a drink of water, go to the bathroom or more importantly, adjust sides. During the NDSU game the Gophers should have been able to call that kind of time.

Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune quoted the U of M president giving coach Brewster a vote of confidence. It seems a little early for Brewster to receive that kind of backing. Coach Brewster has stepped forward and assumed all the blame for the Gophers dismal showing. He may be right, but I&8217;m inclined to think that this is still Glen Mason&8217;s team. Hopefully next year we will begin to see the results of Brewster&8217;s recruiting, the coaching area in which he is supposed to excel.

One thing about losing almost all the previous games, Coach Brewster now has us where he wants us. If our football team defeats Michigan, Iowa or Wisconsin, everybody will be very pleased and some of the mud on him will wash off. He is also giving new coach Tubby Smith a low bar to climb over. If the Gopher basketball team wins two games, that&8217;s twice as good as the football team.

We probably will be spared the rest of the Gopher agony. My cable company, Mediacom, doesn&8217;t carry Gopher football and don&8217;t intend to carry the basketball games either. And neither does Charter nor Comcast. A guy pays close to $60 a month for extended cable that doesn&8217;t even include &8220;pay for view&8221; movie channels. That amounts to around $700 a year and our cable companies are not interested in spending money to provide Gopher fans with games. It&8217;s all bottom line, isn&8217;t it folks?

However, I do think Minnesota has a chance to beat Michigan. After all, the Big Ten Wolverines lost to Appalachian State.

Jon Laging writes a regional sports column from his home in Preston.