Asmussen: Don't tarnish these trophies
Hard to argue against the Big Ten as the nation’s best conference. Great group of schools. Balance of power spread perfectly. Success at the national level in most sports. Unmatched leadership.
The perfect league? It would seem that way except for one inexplicable flaw: the inability to properly label its products.
Wanting to divide its football teams into two distinctive divisions, the best the Big Ten could do was Legends and Leaders. The rest of the nation laughed. Not in a good way.
Legends and Leaders have gone the way of New Coke, dial-up Internet and Yakov Smirnoff. Time to move on.
Doing what it should have done in the first place, the Big Ten has divided the teams into logical directional groups: East and West. Confusion be gone.
But the league has other issues. Two of the most prominent trophies in the Big Ten have lost their original names. Not because they were confusing, but because of the off-the-field activities of their namesakes. Embarrassing in one case and criminal in another.
The Big Ten’s top female athlete used to receive the Suzy Favor-Hamilton Award. But that name went away after revelations of the former Wisconsin track star’s participation in an escort service.
Nothing clean-cut conferences hate more than a brush with the vice squad. “Cops: Park Ridge.”
Of course, none of it comes close to the disgrace brought to the league by one of the names that used to be on its football Coach of the Year award: Joe Paterno.
Once a college football hero and an American sports icon, Paterno’s legacy was undone by longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky. Though the people in State College have fought for Paterno’s honor, there is no chance his image will be restored. Not when children were harmed.
While the Favor-Hamilton story draws interest, it is far from tragic. The Paterno case reaches another level, deserving of all the outrage we can muster, while we pray it never happens again.
The Big Ten has a plethora of trophies. Here are some of the biggies and the chance they will last. Jim Delany and pals are crossing their fingers and toes ... and keeping track of the headlines. They have learned that you never know where the next shoe will drop.
Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year
Will it last? Seems likely. Dave Rimington also has his name on the national award for college football centers after winning the Outland Trophy twice during his playing days at Nebraska. And Orlando Pace was one of the most dominant players in Big Ten history.
Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year
Will it last? Absolutely. There aren’t many better ambassadors in the history of sports than the late Dike Eddleman. A prince among men and classy to a fault.
Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year
Will it last? For sure. One is a Hall of Famer and the other is on the way. The Super Bowl rings help. They are also proof that Purdue can be great in football. Really.
Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year
Will it last? No question about it. Bubba Smith would be our pick for a national defensive award. He scared opponents, then found a second calling making us laugh at the movies and on commercials.
We love those easy-opening cans.
Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year
Will it last? Oh, yeah. Pat Richter rebuilt the Wisconsin athletic program and Desmond Howard made it cool to return kicks and punts. Thanks for that.
Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year
Will it last? If it doesn’t, you have to tell Dick Butkus. Decades later, running backs still have nightmares.
Pat Fitzgerald continues to add luster to the award with his work at Northwestern.
Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year
Will it last? Can’t see why not. Both Wisconsin Heisman winners made the Badgers proud after taking off the cleats.
Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year
Will it last? Yes, but did you know this award existed? Just asking.
Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year
Will it last? Into the 22nd century. They will tell tales of the interception magnet (Woodson) and the guy they called “Assassin” (Tatum).
Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year
Will it last? Are kickers football players? They sure were when these two ruled the Big Ten. Somewhere, Neil Rackers is nodding his head in agreement.