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November 20, 2012

Tuesdays with Torbee

Last Saturday was the first time in more than a decade I felt certain an Iowa football team had no chance whatsoever against a Big 10 foe.

Normally, I like it when my notions prove true. It's a nice little boost to the ego. But there is really nothing to be joyful about in the 2012 Hawkeye season, particularly after a 42-17 pasting at the hands of Michigan. It needs to end, and the sooner the better.

I ultimately did decide to keep my tickets to the Nebraska game, but more for a last opportunity to see old friends and haunts in Iowa City this season than with any hope in my heart that the invading Cornhusker fans will leave unhappy. I am trying to be stoic, soaking in the misery because it will make the ultimate good times feel even better. And I remain faithful good times will come again, one way or the other.

But something other than Iowa's futility is gnawing at my football fandom. I can't really articulate how incredibly "meh" I feel about the Big 10 expansion news that came out this week.

At least Nebraska's joining the conference spurred an interesting mix of emotions: anxiety about adding another heavyweight football program, disdain for the cult-like following of Big Red's fans, amusement at Jim Delaney trying to tout Nebraska academics. But Maryland and Rutgers fail to register at all. Heck, they barely register in their own alleged television markets. You know, New York City and Washington, D.C., those hotbeds of collegiate tradition and passion.

It's not as if my traditionalist views are a function of my advanced age, either. I was a senior at Iowa when Penn State joined the conference, and my question then was - as it is today - why? I grew up in a Big 10 college town, and I value the culture of the Big 10. Big state universities in the Midwest. The Rose Bowl being the ultimate ambition. Cities taken over by tailgating on fall Saturdays.

It's impossible not to feel as though the product of Big 10 athletics is being watered down. It already stinks to lose the every-other-year road trips to Madison. I live in Iowa less than five miles from Illinois and I can barely remember what the school in Champaign's mascot is, we haven't played them in so long.

I'm not naive enough to hold on to notions of purity in collegiate athletics. I get that money moves that billion dollar industry. However, college football became a billion dollar industry in large part due to the strong allegiances alumni and non-alumni fans have for the schools they follow.

Is anyone else completely turned off by the notion of 14, 16, 18 or - God forbid - 20 team "super conferences"? Does anyone else feel that complete disregard to any geographic affiliation between conference mates tears at the very fabric of what makes college football a great game?

Maybe it's just negativity from sitting through a sub-par season. But between the Hawkeye's flailing failures on the field and the dawning new "era" of the Big 10 as a super-conference, I'm having trouble building enthusiasm for future football season.

On the other hand, I hear the seafood is outstanding in College Park. So we've got that going for us, I guess.

Follow me on Twitter @ToryBrecht and follow the 12 Saturdays podcast on Twitter @12Saturdays



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