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Posted on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8:30 a.m.

Here's a solution for the Big Ten's logo and division naming fiasco

By Pete Bigelow

A logo cherished as one of the most iconic in the industry had been replaced by something chintzy and generic.

A long-respected brand became the butt of national jokes.

In October, Gap Inc., the clothing and apparel giant, replaced its trademark blue box with a boring Helvetica simplification that drew the wrath and derision of its customers.

Within a week, the company retreated to its original logo.

Perhaps the Big Ten - in the early stages of its own brand redesign at that time - should have paid attention.

When the college athletic conference unveiled its new logo this week, along with division names and trophy names, the results weren’t any better than the Gap fiasco.

In fact, they were worse.

The rollout has been an unmitigated disaster. On every level. Much like Gap, they’ve been mocked all week.

The Honolulu-blue logo's "B1G" looks like a heavy-handed attempt to be overly clever. Division names of “Leaders” and “Legends” - what, were “Bland” and “Boring” already taken?

Thirty-six names on a truckload of trophies just smacks of a clumsy effort to please too many people.

When Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany unveiled the changes, he said “we’re hoping they resonate, we’re hoping people understand conferences have a great legacy of players and legends.”

Instead of honoring that tradition, it’s been butchered.

Thumbnail image for BTC-Stacked.jpg

The Big Ten logo.

Delany read through a list of reasons the divisions couldn’t be named by geographical boundaries, reasons they couldn’t be named for players or coaches, reasons they couldn’t do much of anything, because officials were seemingly boxed in by a set of imaginary restrictions.

The result is a set of changes that strip the conference of any sense of its people, place or its history.

To be fair, Delany was well-intentioned in trying to be inclusive of all the member schools.

But so innocuous and inoffensive are the division names, it’s as if the decision-makers ran through a checklist. No colors of any conference members. Check. No mention of coaches or icons. Check. No mention of historic roots or Midwestern location. Check.

The “Leaders” and “Legends” are so bad that a Spartans fan left me a voicemail this week saying he would have preferred “Bo” and “Woody,” because at least they would have been names that signified something.

An undercurrent to the Big Ten’s entire expansion process, of which these changes are part of, has been the notion something inherently was wrong with the conference.

That it had to make changes to compete with the SEC or else the Big Ten would fade into the organizational equivalent of a doddering old fool fondly and faintly recalling his glory years. But it was a false insecurity.

Tradition was the Big Ten’s brand.

That doesn’t need to change to compete with the SEC.

Big Ten officials apparently disagree. There’s no other way to read the cookie-cutter new logo and division names. They are decidedly anti-tradition.

Hopefully, Delany and his cohorts aren’t reassuring themselves right now that they merely need to hunker down and survive the frenzy. Hopefully, they can own up to these colossal mistakes with a little bit of honest reflection.

Big Ten officials never ran the changes past a focus group, never conducted survey studies, never really did any due diligence. In their attempts to be inclusive of all their members, they completely forgot one significant constituency.

The fans.

Sports fans are a cantankerous bunch - Delany probably received e-mails from a few of them this week. They’re also a forgiving group - ask baseball umpire Jim Joyce.

So here’s what Delany should do: Follow Joyce’s lead and admit a mistake was made.

The Big Ten can backtrack with a press release that says something to the effect of “we are sure honored to have such passionate fans, and we’ve heard their voices.”

Then hold a contest. Fans submit their best ideas for new division names and new logo - there are plenty of good ones floating around the Internet in recent days, ideas that exceed the cartoonish one delivered by the conference.

Winners win lifetime tickets to the new Big Ten championship games.

There’s no shame in admitting a mistake. Had Delany paid attention to the Gap logo controversy, there would be another lesson to be learned.

There’s plenty of time to do the right thing.

Pete Bigelow covers the Michigan football team for He can be reached at (734) 623-2551, via e-mail at and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.



Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

There has been an unofficial Big Ten logo redesign contest on - over 1000 entries submitted! Help pick a winner - Vote Now! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Jan 6, 2011 : 11:30 a.m.

This article hits the nail on the head - they left the passionate, loyal who help make the Big Ten what it is out of the picture. Check out this Unofficial Big Ten logo redesign contestcontest already running - hopefully the Big Ten will see what the fans want. Anyone can enter and the prize is $500 and a little publicity.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

Mr. Delany, East v West or North v South would have sufficed. Since you are trying to be creative without upsetting the political applecart then I would prefer LAKES v PLAINS or UPPER v LOWER.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

How about Solstice and Equinox? that is something everyone in the rgion is familiar with.


Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

I can live with the logo...although, I've seen about 3 or 4 that are much better. But for crying out loud do something about the division names! That are embarrassingly stupid. Legends &amp; Leaders, really? One sounds like they are the relevant division, while the other sounds like old dust. I guess the way Michigan has been playing the last 3 years, Legends (has a definite historic tone) is rather fitting, but come on folks - come out of your shells and filter better suggestions so you can yield a better product name.

Jay Allen

Fri, Dec 17, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

[shaking my head] Pete: "Tradition was the Big Tens brand. " Really? I will not go into a rant. Seriously, think about the effects that statement alone has.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8:11 p.m.

Mick and other posters, Good postings. "All in the name of $$$" - sung by Jim Delany and the rest of the colleges I enjoyed the 70's and 80's when college football was at it's best, conferencewise, unlike now. Petey: good article.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8:08 p.m.

Obviously, the biggest problem is that there is 12 schools in the Big Ten. Kinda strange.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 8:03 p.m.

...Sigh!... We need someone else to replace Jim Delany asap after we find (Harbaugh) to replace RR.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 6:43 p.m.

I stopped caring a lot time ago. I like the tradition of the Big Ten, but letting Penn State in long ago was odd to me. Big Eleven? Nope. Seems like a slight to PSU. Maybe the conference should have been renamed "The Big Ten Plus Penn State." Also it always aggravated me that all teams did not play all other teams, which creates more mess like this year with OSU and MSU not playing each other. And the result is a shared championship even though one team would show it is more deserving than the other if they played. We're gonna need an asterisk in the record books for this year. So lets mess it up more and add Nebraska and more teams you will not have to play. Two divisions champs to play a "championship" game, even though the first and second best teams may be in the same division. So couldn't the second best team in the Big Ten plus Penn State plus Nebraska end up in a tie for third place? I really don't see the need for divisions or a conference championship game. So go ahead screw it all up some more. Name it what you want and color the logo purple and pink. The tradition started its end a long time ago. Just my humble opinion friends.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 6:07 p.m.

Nice article Pete. I wonder, though, if Delany has any brains in his head to listen to reason. I think the names of the divisions smack of arrogance, and the process smacks of arrogance. I personally think Delany ought to be relieved of his job over this whole thing. His "legends" and "leaders" is a joke. How about "chokers" and "whiners"? Or "winners" and "losers"? At least that would get some laughs. Maybe rotate it each year based on who wins the B10 championship. Or finally "10 division" and "12 division"?

3 And Out

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 5:40 p.m.

Good Column and analysis Pete. This should be picked up in the national media. Nicely done.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 4:20 p.m.

This is a textbook case of trying to not upset anyone and, as a direct result, upsetting everyone. When you're motivated by what you don't want, that's exactly what you most often get. The logo blows and the names are inane. The conference names sound like something a three year old would propose and the trophies sound like Acts of Congress. FAIL.

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 3:58 p.m.

Maybe it's just me, but the league is showing how out of touch they are with thier own fans! I would change the colors of the logo to 'RED WHITE &amp; BLUE.' I doubt anyone will take offense to that. Hey, we ARE patriotic fits! As for the wording...its' still the Big Ten. So, leave it at that! Turning to division names, go back to the Univ of Chicago, yes boys and girls, they WERE part of the league, and call one the Stagg Div. and the other the Yost Division. If that's to 'retro' for you, then go back to the Hayes Div, and Schembechler Div. These two guys only won 26 titles between them! Finally, the 18 personal awards, should have only one name, not two, associated with them. This political correctness is driving us all nuts!

Eva Johnson

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.

You had me when you mentioned Honolulu blue. Since that is the Detroit Lion's color, I really think all sports organizations should avoid this type of subtle reference...Great article!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 3:05 p.m.

@ OSUbeBetter Delaney clearly overpaid. Is it me, or are the colors of the new Big Ten logo inspired by the 1980s "Smurfs" cartoon? I imagine it won't be long before they're calling us the Smurfs Conference. Regarding the trophies, I suggest the Stagg-Paterno championship trophy be a construction paper-made Thanksgiving turkey that kids make in elementary school. Each player on the winning team should also get a gold star or a smiley face sticker. Ah, heck, give them to the losers, too. We don't want to hurt anybody's feelings in the Big Ten.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

Never in my 3 1/2 years of posting on this site have I ever seen so many people in agreement. Even OSU is bringing something to the table. Jimminy Christmas! Am I allowed to say Christmas? Maybe I should say Jimminy Holiday!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 1:59 p.m.

Many people think the Gap logo fiasco was a PR stunt - since they so smoothly went back to the old one1 Jim Delany was on the BTNetwork - and was so proud of the logo and division names... so much I know for a fact they wont go back! I think people are indifferent when it comes to logos but the division names will be blasted for years. They come off as so pompous and what happens when (inevitibly) one of the divisions is has a bad year? Imagine the jokes! they should have stuck with traditional directional divisions and then we would not even be discussing it now


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 1:29 p.m.

Ben, you're right, I'm surprised by how much this is irritating and disappointing to me. I grew up in central Michigan but have lived overseas, 4 years in SEC Georgia, 1 year in BIG 8 Kansas, and now a long time in ACC Virginia, and have always maintained my roots and pride in the uniqueness of the Big Ten. Instead of capitalizing on those distinct geographic and cultural attributes the Big Ten went out of their way to bury them in an unlikeable and uninspiring blandness. It's so easy to envision the natural rivalry of an east west alignment, neighbors Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin versus an old school power OSU, UM, or PSU in a championship game. Year after year this natural geographic rivalry would just get better and more intense. Instead what did they give us? "Oh yeah?! Our Legends Division will kick the snot out of your Leaders Division!" Who cares? Totally UNinspiring and cowardly.

The Ben

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

RW, you are right. We could force directional names onto the current divisions, but it would have been far better to use geography in the first place. College Football fans are very geography-focused. It starts with conferences, which are largely based on geography. The regional rivalries that we love have a strong geographic element. Every successful pro sport has divisions that are based on geography. Even if it isn't perfect (Dallas in the NFC East), people are very accepting of geographic divisions. The SEC has Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee in one division. How successful has that league been? Why did Delaney feel the need to reinvent the wheel? Having Michigan, PSU and OSU in one division would have worked about the same. In fact, it would have allowed Wisconsin and Iowa to rise to even higher levels, most likely. But, since we have no chance of getting new division alignments, I say we just force directional names onto the current setup. They're close enough.

The Ben

Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

I agree with SalineBob. Just make it East and West. Most people aren't even good enough at geography to know that a few of the schools in the middle states wouldn't be in the "correct" division. The extremes (Penn State and Ohio State in the East; Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota in the West) would be correct. Honestly, though, one could also justify North and South when looking at a map. I really don't care which one they use. Just use directions, please!! I honestly am still amazed at how much this fiasco BOTHERS me. I the biggest problem is that I'm embarrassed. The Big Ten is already an underdog on the field, and now I have to be embarrassed by our stupid division names and logo? Good grief. The MAC has a far better logo and more logical divisions. Now THAT is embarrassing.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 1:11 p.m.

Right from the start they screwed the pooch on this by not sticking to a geographic based alignment. Sharing a similar climate and culture, there ARE unique differences between the more urban and industrial states of the eastern Great Lakes (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan) and the more open plains nature of the western Great Lakes states of Wisconsin and Minnesota along with Ioway and now Nebraska. Splitting Wisconsin and Nebraska was a horrible idea. This could have developed into one of the great rivalries in the country, but now won't even play each other every year. Stupid! Once they minimized the inherit identities out of these great universities that forced the creation of these artificial divisions.... thus the total lack of enthusiasm and support among fans for this sham. These total Hosers failed because they were afraid they might make one division stronger than the other in football if they did it by the natural flow of geography, and that isn't even true. FAIL!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 12:59 p.m.

Sad but true, the best idea so far is to scrap it and start over. Their ridiculous cowardice in trying to be so politically correct with the alignment of teams resulted in the complete lack of any identity for the divisions of the conference. Once they got to that point it must have become easy to continue the castration of tradition with those two division titles. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Not as bad to me is the logo, but I just don't get it. Why is there a "1"? Is there a "2" somewhere that I'm not seeing? If not, why a single "1"? What does it mean? For crying out loud, white collegiate font BIG TEN on a black square background would have been better, and that's not very good!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 12:38 p.m.

Rude, The big ten has divulged that it paid 14 Dollars for the new logo, 5 dollars apiece for the division names, and the coaches and player trophy names were thrown in to close the deal. Children across big ten land are in a heavy competition to create the divisional trophies and award medal designs. they will all look similar to the ash trays and coffee mugs we used to make in elementary school.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

Creatively, the new Big 10 logo looks like the product of a lazy afternoon brainstorm session in an undergrad Art School commercial design class. As such, it continues to impress me that, out in the world, highly-paid marketing execs and presumably elite graphic designers earn the big bucks to crank out unimaginative lemons like this, all while maintaining a professional air of sophistication. A credibility Gap, maybe, but still nice work if you can get it.... Sometimes, contrived satire simply cannot rise up to the level of the what happens in real life. Here, the teams of the Big 10 have achieved full parody. As for the announced division names, they're arguably even more lame than my preferred suggestion of Google and Facebook (or, in second place, Faux News Weekend Edition and Daily Show Saturday Update). My humble choices derive quite conservatively from the heralded modern tradition of naming sports stadiums and arenas after their very generous sponsors; a fervent hope is that someday the NFL will designate its Super Bowl to be played at a spanking-new facility called Betty Crocker Park.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

Pete, Did the Big Ten reveal the amount Pentagram Design charged for its services?


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

I have to say that I like the trophy names. Having the multiple names on all the trophies makes it clear that our conference has a great history with a large number of incredible athletes, both on and off the field. The logos are just horrible. A third grader could have done better. The current logo with the hidden 11 in it is great. This new one is just someone playing with fonts on their PC.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

These names and logos are really bad. I'm in shock that they spent all this time and energy...coming up with this? Wow...A talented middle school kid could have done this in an afternoon. I 100% agree with Pete's suggestion. Let's have a contest, narrow the choices, then let the fans have half the vote, Delany and his cronies the other half. I have already seen three or four logo's on the internet this week that blow the doors off the current one!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

Amazing idea. One that should have been implemented from the beginning. It would have saved the thousands of dollars wasted on this travesty.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:23 a.m.

"Big Ten officials never ran the changes past a focus group, never conducted survey studies, never really did any due diligence. In their attempts to be inclusive of all their members, they completely forgot one significant constituency. The fans." I love it, Pete. The Big Ten sought to avoid offending anyone or seem partial to any particular school or region. They assumed naming a division after a coach or region would offend without asking the opinions of the people or schools who'd potentially be offended, creating names sterile, politically correct and unrelatable to the fans that, in the end, offended everyone. I hope Delaney and other Big Ten officials have the humility to take your advice, Pete.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:19 a.m.

The Big Ten definitaly needs to rethink the division names so they acutally mean something. I am not convinced the names cannot be as simple as North and South. If you look at the schools location on a map you will see that each division has 5 teams basically along an east west line with one team north of the line. The only argument is that Wisconsin would be in the south division but be north or the north divisions east west line. However it would be still be south of Minnesota which is the northern most team of the north division. This is not that big a deal to me and I think would be way more accepted then the current names. Other easy ideas: 1 and 2 (combined make a twelve), X and O (short symbols that relate to football), and I think that Pridelands suggestion of B and G is also very good.


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

Sounds like a great way to fix this mistake


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

I believe that the conference was trying too hard to be original. Come on Commissioner, it's not too late to change it...NOW!


Thu, Dec 16, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.

I think that the logo should keep the number 1 (as in the best conference. But I also think that the word ten should be replaced by the number 10. That leaves 2 letters lefter B and G. The B would stand for the Bread Basket (aka Hartland) division and the G would stand for the Great Lakes divsion.