Bloodshed Ends. Northwestern to Remain in Midwestern Conference
It's all over. Northwestern stays. Miami Stays. The Midwestern Conference Armistice was officially signed yesterday aboard the Battleship Alabama. The debate that killed hundreds (of hours of productivity) officially came to a close. All were merry.
Well, all except for Illinois fans.
In case you missed it, the crux of the debate over Kyle's radical reorganization of college football centered around the restructuring of the Big Ten. In his first proposal, Kyle proposed adding the Miami Red Hawks to the new Big Ten and excluding Northwestern. Being a good Chicago boy I rose up against this southern aggression and defended my homeland. In defense of the 'Cats I offered several rationales for why Northwestern should stay and why Miami should not.
Kyle quickly counter attacked. He hammered on Northwestern's lackluster historical and out of conference records. Stunned by this deadly accurate push by Kyle's forces, I retreated into the record books. Rearmed, I went back on the offensive. I sited Miami's in and out of conference records, and their successes and failures against the Big Ten. I thought this counter offensive would end the war, all it did was drive us both into defensive positions. A No Mans Land laid between our forces.
With both of us entrenched, and that wuss Truman preventing MacAurthur from using the bomb, we agreed to a compromise. With MacAurthur out of the way, the Midwestern Conference Armistice was signed on the decks of the Alabama squarely on the 38th parallel. For good measure, King John signed it as well.
The resulting compromise instituted a Midwestern Conference which is as follows: 1) The Big Ten expands to 12 teams; 2) A conference championship game was added; 3) Miami of Ohio, Missouri, Iowa State, and Notre Dame were added to the conference; and 4) Penn State (geography), Indiana (competitiveness) and Illinois (competitiveness) received the boot. So for one shining moment in history, Peace reigns.
Still there will be those who question. Why is Illinois out? What about their basketball team? They're good! Please keep in mind this only has to do with football. As Kyle points out at length, Illinois is not good at football. In fact, they're horrible.
In the last 10 years, the Illini have gone 1-7 in Big Ten play twice (1996 and 2004) and 0-8 against the league three times (1997, 2003, and 2005). Illinois has gone 1-23 in its last 24 Big Ten contests.
That's bad. Illinois has been horrendous on the gridiron for years. Kyle's research shows that in the last 40 years Illinois has 13 winning seasons. As shown above, their last 10 years has pushed them over the edge from middle of the pack, to Indiana status. Their inability to field a competitive team over the last decade, coupled with their historical ineptitude earned them their demotion.
However, I don't throw Illinois out of the Midwestern Conference lightly. One of Kyle's Anonymous Heroes pointed out that Illinois is indeed the flagship school of this proud heartland state. This is true. And given time, money, and a magic wand, Illinois could again rise to prominence. Unfortunately, that's a long way off. In viewing the football team over the last ten to fifteen years, it is apparent football is not a priority. The best Illinois prospects go to Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, not Illinois. Further, flagship status is not enough to stave off the axe. We were more than happy to dump Indiana from the picture even though they, like Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, et al., are their state's flagship school.
What it comes down to is this: 1) whether the school has been historically competitive, and 2) whether it will be competitive in the next generation. Northwestern answered affirmatively over the last ten years. Illinois did not. Historically Illinois does have a better won/loss record. However, it is not as though Illinois was a dominant team up until this decade. Miami, as Kyle showed at length, has fielded more than competitive teams over the past decade and historically has been a more than competitive program.
Our positions put simply are:
Kyle - Miami's earned a shot at the Big Time;
Me - Northwestern has earned the right to stay;
Both of Us - Illinois has been worse than both of these teams for the past decade and historically has not proven to be any better either.
I want to keep Illinois in the Big Ten as much as anyone. However, their performance on the football field negates my personal feelings. Northwestern has shown resilience and commitment to their program. While it will never be spoken of in the same breath as national powers like Michigan, Notre Dame or USC, it will continue to be a solid contributor to the conference like stalwarts Wisconsin and Minnesota.
It is with this understanding that I was willing to throw Illinois under the bus on this subject. Take a look at the won/loss records of the new schools and tell me if I'm wrong.
Until then. Let peace, glorious peace, reign.