Sun Jun 05 05:11pm EDT
Traditionally, the beleaguered Midwesterner's first line of defense against taunts over the Big Ten's record in bowl games* is a challenge for their Sun Belt rivals to try making the trip north for a change. Then they'd get a taste for real Big Ten football, in the elements: Snow, wind, freezing rain, skin-shredding tundra, offenses groping for traction behind 235-pound tailbacks — you know, the way it was meant to be, and all of that stuff Brady Hoke is selling in Michigan.
But then, for its first foray into the December championship circut, the Big Ten leapt for the splendor of the great indoors last August, when it chose Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis over outdoor venues in Chicago and Cleveland as the site of the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game this December. Now, the league has opted to settle in Indy for the long haul, announcing today that it plans to extend its stay in Lucas Oil Stadium through 2015, encompassing the first five championship games of the post-expansion era.
OK, so a retractable roof will not necessarily crush anyone's soul in and of itself. Nor will a tastefully faux-nostalgic facade that manages to simultaneously elicit a public library, a factory and a Starbucks. Lucas Oil Stadium is centrally located, has already been home to a Final Four and plans to host the Super Bowl next February, if there is a Super Bowl. It will provide a level playing field for a game defined by the actual play, not by the weather.
But as for all that salt-of-the-earth, Manball business people have been evoking to define the conference for decades — even after more than half the league has embraced the spread in one form or another — here's one more reason to drop it. Given the choice, the Big Ten prefers to come in out of the cold just like everyone else.
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* Which, by the way, is not really as bad as all that: Prior to this year's Jan. 1 flop, the Big Ten was 10-10 against the SEC in their annual New Year's Day tie-in games — all played in Florida — between 2000 and 2009. The Rose Bowl, however, has been a different story.
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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