If there’s one thing that has made Big Ten football seem inferior, if only from a cosmetic point of view, it was the naming of the conference’s divisions when the Nebraska Cornhuskers entered the conference. The Cornhuskers gave the Big Ten its twelfth team and created the need for two divisions with six teams in each. In the end, the Legends and Leaders divisions were created and people are still trying to figure out the motivation behind those names.
There’s nothing wrong with creating divisions in a football conference that needs it. When a conference gets to 12 teams, there is a need to create divisions and set up a conference championship game. The Big Ten did this just fine, but the naming of the divisions ended up sullying the whole thing because that became more of the story than the conference inserting divisions.
Divisions are designed to be a separation of teams in a conference based on the conference’s geography. Hence why the Big Ten having two division names that tell nothing about the geography of the division was greeted with puzzlement. East, West, North, and South are the most common division names in all of sports, and for good reason. These are to the point and explanatory division names that instantly tell whoever is looking where the division’s teams are located. Even more specific division names such as Atlantic, Southeast, and Northwest are okay because they are also explanatory, and are needed when they have been used.
The other thing that doesn’t make sense about these division names is the difference between a legend and a leader. I’ve still yet to figure out what the difference between the two is when it comes to Big Ten football. Practically every school in the Big Ten conference could be considered a legend for one reason or another over the conference’s long history. And the Leaders division could right now be seen as a joke title considering the Ohio St. Buckeyes and Penn St. Nittany Lions, two teams that have had big troubles with the NCAA in recent years, were the top teams in the division last season.
East and West would be perfectly acceptable division names for the Big Ten.
The conference can be divided easily into east and west divisions. The current divisions wouldn’t even have to be changed to create these new division names. The way the Big Ten is currently divided up would be geographically acceptable for east and west divisions. This would help the conference not be a joke to the rest of the college football world in this way at least.