Last week, the Chicago Tribune ran a story on some advice that former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer gave to Jim Delany and the Big Ten. Regarding the Big Ten's new championship game, the founder of the SEC championship game had two things to say:
1. That the Big Ten should pick one location and stick with it.
2. That this location should be indoors.
Now, I read this short article with mild interest until the second point. Then I cracked up. A Big Ten championship game played INDOORS? Though I'm sure Mr. Kramer is a football guru in many respects, it appears he has no understanding of how we play football in the Midwest. While I agree that the Big Ten needs to have a single site for its championship game if they want to avoid the logistical nightmare of moving it around to different cities every year (or few years), I completely and utterly disagree with the idea that we need to play our championship game indoors.
The SEC holds its championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game usually occurs around early December, when the average temperature is in the mid 50s there. Of course having the game indoors allows them to not worry about things like precipitation or those absolutely frigid temperatures. Some, following this line of reasoning, have suggested that the Big Ten's game be held at Ford Field in Detroit or at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Ugh. Boring. What kind of real Big Ten fan would be excited about a conference championship game played in a warm and cozy environment? Unlike our weak-willed SEC brethren, Big Ten players and fans do not shy from inclement weather. No, we thrive in it.
Just think about it. What states do the schools of the Big Ten come from? Illinois. Wisconsin. Michigan. Ohio. Pennsylvania. Minnesota. Iowa. Indiana. And now, Nebraska. When you think about winter in those places - the time of year when both the college and pro football seasons are coming to an end - what comes to mind first? SNOW! Cold! Ice!
As further evidence of this, simply turn to the NFL's list of best games played in terrible weather. Six of the games (six!) occurred in states that are home to Big Ten schools:
#10 - Red Right 88. Cleveland. Frozen turf and wind chills in the -30s
#4 - 1981 AFC Championship game. Cincy. Coldest day in NFL history with wind chills around -50.
#3 - Fog Bowl. Soldier field. Thirty-five degrees ("shirt sleeves weather"). NFC playoff game between the Bears and the Eagles. Known mostly for a ridiculous fog cloud that rolled in for the last 3 quarters of the game.
#1 - The Ice Bowl. 1967 NFL championship between the Packers and the Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Perhaps the most famous inclement weather game in NFL history. It was the coldest day up to that point in Green Bay, and Coach Lombardi wanted his players to forego any sort of gloves so that they wouldn't lose their toughness on the field.
That's how we do it in the Midwest.
Even the Big Ten schools themselves have memorable weather games. Search for the "snow bowl" online and you'll likely find yourself staring at a bunch of pages describing a 1950 game between Michigan and Ohio State for the Big Ten title.
And of course, it's not just the spectacular games that revolve around weather in the Midwest. Two years ago, the New York Times ran a whole slideshow on a Packers fan describing exactly how one prepares for the weather on the coldest days at Lambeau. We in the Midwest may bitch and moan about the weather when it arrives, but, make no mistake, at a fundamental level we're proud of it. We love that we can wear T-shirts when it's 40 degrees outside, that we save shoveled out parking spaces in the winter with lawn chairs. It's part of the fabric of being in these states and any Big Ten championship game ought to reflect that.
The sites in the Big Ten region that would work the best are therefore Soldier Field in Chicago, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, or even, I suppose, Lincoln Financial Field in Philly.
Soldier Field is the obvious selection on that list. Chicago is already the home of the conference HQ. It's at the center of the Big Ten region. It's got the facilities to support the influx of travelers to any Big Ten championship game, and it has a built in concentration of Big Ten alumni that would be absolutely riveted to their TVs if they couldn't get tickets.
So, as the head honchos of the conference meet in the coming weeks to discuss the division realignment and the championship game, I implore Jim Delany, please, don't listen to the wimps in the SEC. Give the Big Ten a real football game for its championship.