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In Praise of the Big Ten

Every year, like clockwork, the suggestions start coming as soon as the last game ends. The Big Ten needs to give up the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Big Ten needs to go play the MEAC. The ACC needs to leave for greener pastures. That the whole thing is pointless. Why can't it be different conferences?

What everyone seems to forget is that there was another conference challenge - ESPN's original idea, the ACC-Big East Challenge, lasted from 1989 to 1991. It resulted in a 4-4 tie in the first year, followed by the Big East and ACC each triumphing once over the next two. And then the Big East quit.

Why did they pull out? The Big East coaches complained. It was too difficult a game that early in the season. The Big East had to focus on conference play.

It's not a coincidence that the Big East managed to send one team to the Final Four in the seven tournaments following their exodus. They'd run away from the challenge, chosen their egos over a test of their abilities, and it showed. No matter how many schools Mike Tranghese gobbles up like a fat kid going after Twinkies, it'll never fill the shame of turning away from the ACC.

But the Big 10 sticks around. They may never est the ACC - and as a Carolina fan I'm perfectly OK with that - but the early season challenge has to be better than what everyone elseis doing around this time. Unless as a fan, you'd prefer to see matchups against Florida Atlantic, Old Dominion or Texas Southern. Those are a treat.

So Big Ten, I thank you for showing up. And for you noble Midwesterners, I leave you with the inspiring words of John F. Kennedy:

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Keep reaching for the stars, Big Ten.