To Fans of the Big Ten and College Football




Feb. 9, 2007

Greetings from the Big Ten Conference,

With the conclusion of another tremendous college football season and the recent national signing day, there has been a lot written and said about the Big Ten's recruiting efforts across the country, including a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times entitled "Big Ten needs to find new talent pool - fast" (see full article here). In response to these commentaries, it seems premature for us to lower our admission standards or give up on the tremendous talent pool in the Midwest. No doubt national programs must recruit nationally wherever the talented students and athletes live. Hats off to Florida and the SEC -- they had a great year. We believe that both the Big Ten and the SEC have been and remain two of the greatest college football conferences in the country. But you may want to keep in mind the following as you review the various recruiting services, listen to talking heads and reflect the blogosphere out there as they compare these two fine conferences. I think most people would agree that head-to-head competition is an effective method to compare relative strengths between competitive entities:

  • The Big Ten was 2-1 vs. the SEC in this past season's bowl games.
  • The Big Ten is 8-6 vs. the SEC in bowl games over the last five years
  • The Big Ten is 13-13 vs. the SEC in bowl games over the last decade.
  • Over the last nine years of Bowl Championship Series games, the Big Ten leads all conferences with 15 berths while ranking second with eight victories. The SEC tops all leagues with nine wins and ranks second to the Big Ten with 13 appearances.
  • In the last 10 years the Big Ten has produced two national champions compared to three for the SEC.
  • In the last 15 years the Big Ten has produced five Heisman Trophy winners, more than any other conference. Over that same time span, the SEC has claimed one Heisman.
  • While the SEC ranked first among various recruiting rankings, the Big Ten ranked second or third nationally with four to five programs rated among the top 25 recruiting classes.
  • The Big Ten has a history of developing players - the most recent Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith, was one of the last players to receive a scholarship from Ohio State.
  • The Big Ten has slightly less than 300 players in the NFL while the SEC has slightly more than 300; Sixteen former Big Ten players earned Super Bowl rings with the Indianapolis Colts earlier this month.

I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics. Each school, as well as each conference, simply must do what fits their mission regardless of what a recruiting service recommends. I wish we had six teams among the top 10 recruiting classes every year, but winning our way requires some discipline and restraint with the recruitment process. Not every athlete fits athletically, academically or socially at every university. Fortunately, we have been able to balance our athletic and academic mission so that we can compete successfully and keep faith with our academic standards.

Let's see if the five- and 10-year trend lines hold or whether the recruiting services and talking heads are seeing a new day. We are quite proud of our history and tradition and remain optimistic about the future of Big Ten football.

Thanks.

Jim Delany