The plunge into football purgatory isn’t something that happens instantly. It takes years for a team, let alone a conference, to make that plunge. The biggest problem is that the plunge is never noticed until impact is near. The Big Ten has learned this the hard way.
Acceptance that there is a problem is the first step in solving a problem. The Big Ten has a major problem in college football: they are no longer a force as a conference. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s now an undeniable fact. The Big Ten is no longer a feared conference in college football and they are no longer the big winners they had been for decades prior to the fall.
For the last five weeks or so, I have written a series of articles documenting the Big Ten’s fall into football purgatory. The main message behind this series of articles is that it wasn’t a single game or season or event or team that started the Big Ten’s fall. To judge a conference as a whole, you have to judge it collectively; in other words, every team is responsible for how the conference they play in is perceived. The biggest powers in a conference get the most attention (good or bad), but it really is an “all for one” kind of thing.
The same way the fall took years to happen, the climb out of purgatory will take years for the Big Ten to accomplish. One fantastic season won’t be enough, nor will any singular achievement for the conference, even if that ends up being a national championship this season for the Ohio St. Buckeyes. Something like that would provide a jump start to the climb out, but all of that could be erased if it’s followed up with a poor season for the conference, or another major scandal or two involving teams in the conference.
So can the Big Ten climb out of football purgatory? Yes, but it won’t be easy. If it were easy, they would’ve already done it. For this conference to even have a chance to climb out, everything is going to need to be kicked up a notch. That means the coaching, the play of the teams, the recruiting, the ways the conference adapts to the times, and so on. To be blunt, this conference needs to modernize in order to climb out of football’s version of purgatory. As someone who has lived in Wisconsin for his whole life up to this point and has been raised on Big Ten football, I’m hoping that the climb out will be successful.