Big Ten names two divisions the 'Legends' and 'Leaders'
Big Ten officials knew they could not name its new football divisions after players or coaches, because that would alienate people from schools not represented.
Commissioner Jim Delany said the idea of directional names “went out the window” because the conference’s new two-division format was not sorted by geography.
By the process of elimination then, Big Ten officials chose the rather generic names of “Leaders” and “Legends” for its new divisions, the league announced Monday.
Delany said the names were a nod to the conference’s history of 15 Heisman Trophy winners and 215 members of the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as its future.
Initial reaction to the names was underwhelming - and perhaps that’s putting it kindly.
In the first 600 votes on an informal AnnArbor.com poll, 68 percent of respondents said the new division names were “terrible,” while 27 percent voted for “shrug.”
Elsewhere, people skewered the names and the conference’s boxy new powder-blue logo on Twitter and Facebook.
Delany conceded it would take time for fans to adjust to the changes.
“Maybe if people don’t embrace it in the first our that it’s out there, they get a chance in the next 24 or 36 hours, or maybe over the mid-term in a couple of years,” he said. “Any time you have something new, whether it’s a mark or trophies, it takes some getting used to.”
Big Ten officials did not use focus groups, survey studies or test markets for the changes. The new logo was developed by the international design firm Pentagram.
Division names and the new logo were some of the last details of the conference’s expansion push to be finalized.
In addition, Delany announced the creation of annual conference trophies, which honor Big Ten players position-by-position and outstanding performers in the new championship game.
But the Leaders and Legends names made the biggest splash - and caused the greatest concern.
Early in the three-month process, fans suggested names that honored some of the legendary players and coaches from the conference, including the “Bo” and “Woody” Divisions, in honor of Michigan’s Bo Schembechler and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes. Others suggested the “Grange Division” and “Griffin” Division, nods to Illinois legend Red Grange and Ohio State’s Archie Griffin.
“Any time you looked at it, it just seemed to be too exclusive,” Delany said. “At that juncture, we started looking at a variety of concepts.”
Delany said conference officials look at the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and other college conferences for ideas.
Asked if the generic names and logo inadvertently diluted the history of the conference they were intended to represent, Delany said, “I think it’s sort of in the eye of the beholder.
“There’s nothing like it out there, because people use names or directional signals. Maybe people were looking for those, but we felt that through the trophy process, we’ll be able to get honor some of the real legends and leaders.”
The Michigan football team will play in the Legends Division, along with Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Nebraska, which joined the conference earlier this year.
The Leaders Division is made up of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.