Hickey: Big 12's rumored overture to Minnesota is 10 steps past preposterous
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take — Wayne Gretzky”
We don’t yet know much about new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, but we may have learned something about the type of business leader he admires.
Clearly the man deeply respects the style of Michael Scott from “The Office.” Because there’s no other way this guy, with a straight face, could actually think it’s possible to poach Minnesota from the Big Ten. It’s the brand of stupid that is often lauded in the corporate world for being “visionary.”
That’s how guys like Scott — and apparently Yormark — end up getting promoted.
To recap, for those of you who tumbled directly into a rant without any background: this week Charley Waters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the Big 12 is “quietly seeking” to pull the Gophers out of the Big Ten.
It is no longer quiet.
It’s also not the type of thing that anyone should even think deserves the dignity of a response. This is like the Atlantic League asking the Yankees if they’d be interested in dropping out of the American League.
OK, given the Gophers’ track record over the past 5 decades, perhaps the Mets are a more appropriate analogy. But the point still remains.
To borrow from another workplace comedy, the mere idea that Minnesota would abandon the Big Ten makes as much sense as the Jump to Conclusions mat from “Office Space.”
Why Minnesota is never leaving the B1G for the Big 12
Yes, we are in a world where tradition is increasingly meaningless now that UCLA and USC are bound for the Big Ten. That said, the streets of Dinkytown might be set ablaze if the Gophers actually went to the Big 12.
Minnesota is 1 of 6 charter members who founded the Western Conference in 1896. That’s so long ago that Minnesota was legitimately considered part of American’s western frontier. It still had a larger population than California.
Of those original 6 members, only the University of Chicago ever left. In 1946. And that was purely for philosophical reasons. Chicago’s faculty felt big-time college athletics were becoming untethered from the academic mission.
Nobody leaves the Big Ten.
This ties in to the tradition angle — both in that it doesn’t mean what it used to, and that walking away from it would lead to widespread revolt among Gophers fans.
Rivalries matter. Perhaps more so for Minnesota fans than others. The Gophers haven’t won a Big Ten football championship since 1967 or a men’s basketball title since 1997. Special seasons are hard to come by. But opportunities to beat hated rivals Wisconsin and Iowa are annual rites of passage.
In football, we’re talking about 2 of the most iconic rivalry trophies in sports — Paul Bunyan’s Axe and Floyd of Rosedale. Making them anything less than an annual tradition would be sacrilege. And that’s to say nothing of the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy.
Yormark or whomever it is that reached out from the Big 12 apparently believes Minnesota would be willing to trade its rivalry with Iowa for one with Iowa Lite. Er, Iowa State.
Any overture from the Big 12 ignores what matters most to Minnesotans, outside of Prince and Snoopy: hockey.
The Big Ten has a standalone hockey conference. The Big 12 does not have a single school with a hockey program.
Sure, the CCHA would gladly embrace Minnesota as a member in the event the program left the Big Ten. But Minnesota alums wouldn’t take kindly to their program mucking around with the likes of Bemidji State and Minnesota State as conference rivals.
Football obviously drives conference realignment, but making an overture to Minnesota with zero consideration for where hockey fits in shows the Big 12’s representatives must have their heads up their 5-holes.
This, of course, is the most obvious reason of them all. The Big Ten is the Golden Gophers’ golden goose.
Once the Big Ten’s new media rights deal is announced, it’s expected that every program will be making $100 million annually by 2030. Just from the TV contracts. And that figure was being tossed around before UCLA and USC showed up to get a cut. So there’s no telling how much larger it will grow.
Somehow, someone from the Big 12 truly thought Minnesota might be willing to take half of that. While abandoning all of its rivalries and traditions. And giving short shrift to its most beloved sport.
For … reasons. None of which make a damn bit of sense, because they don’t actually exist.
In his first Big 12 Media Days, Yormark announced the Big 12 is “open for business.”
But if anybody in the Big 12 actually thought Minnesota was gettable, perhaps the league office is better served being open for mandatory drug testing.