Mon Dec 13 03:58pm EST
Part of the Big Ten's new emphasis on honoring its most revered "leaders" and "legends" is the introduction of 18 new postseason trophies, bearing names of the conference greats: There's Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy (presented to the winner of the championship game), the Grange-Griffin MVP Award (presented to the MVP of the championship game), the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year Award, the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Award, the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year Award, the Griese-Brees Quarterback Award*, etc. That touch should go over much more smoothly than the universally reviled decision to name the new divisions the "Leaders" and "Legends" divisions.
The only problem with the new awards: They don't go nearly far enough to encompass the full range of the conference's richest traditions. A few suggestions to fill the gap:
• Spielman-Tiller Mustache Award: Presented annually to the player or coach who best upholds the conference's longstanding tradition of first-rate lip guards.
Named for: Former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman and former Purdue coach Joe Tiller.
Historical candidates: Hayden Fry; Danny Hope.
2010 Winner: Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, whose entry knocks women unconscious on sight and redefines the genre.
• Dwight-Sutherland Award: Presented annually to the "possession receiver," "short-yardage back" or "sure-handed" return man who displays the best "deceptive speed."
Historical candidates: Late nineties receivers/return men Tim Dwight of Iowa and Vinny Sutherland of Purdue.
Previous winners: Jim Leonhard; Eric Decker; Blair White; everyone who touched the ball prior to 1965.
2010 Winner: Ohio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, who led the Buckeyes with 889 yards and 19 touchdowns on 17 yards per catch.
• Gibson-Branch Award: Presented annually to the player most likely to be lying to keep his listed weight below 400 pounds.
Named for: Former Wisconsin offensive lineman Aaron Gibson and Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch.
Previous winners: Gabe Watson.
2010 winner: Michigan State offensive lineman Antonio Jeremiah, a converted defensive tackle listed at 6-foot-5, 360.
• Stubblefield-Bryant Trophy: Awarded annually to the player who attains the most improbable career record by virtue of sheer longevity.
Named for: Former Purdue receivers Taylor Stubblefield and Dorien Bryant, who rank No. 1 and No. 2 in Big Ten history in career receptions and receiving yards.
Historical candidates: Zack Mills, Robert Holcombe, Tim McGarigle, Darrell Bevell.
2010 winner: Penn State running back Evan Royster, a three-year starter who passed more celebrated Nittany Lion greats Lydell Mitchell, Larry Johnson, D.J. Dozier, Curtis Enis, Blair Thomas as Curt Warner to become the school's all-time leading rusher.
• Smith-Mason Trophy: Awarded annually to the coach who best embodies the ideals of sportsmanship and generosity toward opponents in the fourth quarter.
Named for: Former Michigan State coach John L. Smith, whose team lost eight games in which it led or was tied from 2004-06, and former Minnesota coach Glen Mason, fired immediately after falling victim to the greatest comeback in bowl history against Texas Tech.
Historical candidates: Lloyd Carr, Mark Dantonio.
2010 winner: Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, whose five losses this year all came on go-ahead touchdowns by opponents in the final five minutes.
• Fitzgerald-McGarigle Trophy. Awarded annually to the random, mediocre athlete with no NFL future who inexplicably makes every tackle on the field over multiple seasons.
Named for: Former Northwestern linebackers Pat Fitzgerald and Tim McGarigle, the NCAA's all-time leader in career tackles.
Historical candidates: Mike Klinkenborg, Pat Angerer, J Leman, Brit Miller.
2010 Winner: Michigan safety/linebacker Jordan Kovacs, a former walk-on who led the conference in stops as a sophomore.
• Clarett Prize: Awarded irregularly to promising players who exhibit the most thorough off-field collapse, possibly resulting in incarceration.
Named for: The infamous Ohio State All-American and national champion turned labor law pioneer, NFL bust, Israeli mobster and convicted felon.
Historical candidates: Art Schlichter.
2010 winner: Michigan cornerback Boubacar Cissoko, who was kicked off the team last year, arrested on multiple counts of theft and armed robbery this summer and charged with assaulting three jail employees while awaiting sentencing.
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* Encounters with the "Griese-Brees Award" should always be read aloud for maximum effect.
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.