The one thing that I have enjoyed throughout my life is American Football. For most of my life, I’d just say football. Yet, now that I live in England I realize “true” football isn’t what Americans call it. They use the s-word to describe what the rest of the world calls football. Anyway, starting to drift away from what I wanted to write about.
Growing up in the New York city area my love was with pro football – first the New York Giants, then in my late teen years my love changed to the Pittsburgh Steelers. My thoughts never ventured far from the world of pro football, mainly because I live in a major metropolitan area and college football seemed kind of like pro wrestling event with cheerleaders, bands, and the fans seemed fake with all the enthusiasm they shared.
My thoughts began to change when my brother played football for Iowa State University. With my parents, I got to see some of his games in person. This wasn’t like a high school game – this was big time. The stadium was bigger, more people, more traffic, more of everything. For a college game, it seemed quite professional.
Though my love was still with the Steelers, I began to see college football in a new light. Then when I went to college in South Dakota, my love for pro football left and I was hooked on the college game. Being a neighbouring state of Iowa’s it became easy to follow Iowa State and Big 8 football. Then when I moved to Nebraska, it was real easy to follow them because Nebraska and Iowa State were in the same conference.
Living in Nebraska and not being a fan of the Cornhuskers was a challenge. This was in the mid 90’s till 2010. During the end of the 90’s Nebraska was THE team. Three national championships, which some would argue could have been four. While they were on top of the mountain, my beloved Cyclones were one of, if not, THE worst program in college football. Yet, I still loved them and still followed them enjoying their occasional upset.
2010 is when college football began to change. Conference realignment destroyed regional conferences, as well as 100 year old rivalry games. The Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia – GONE. The Border War between Kansas and Missouri – GONE. What seemed to be the annual Big 8 Championship battle between Oklahoma and Nebraska – GONE. And not on that large of a scale The Telephone Trophy between Iowa State and Missouri – GONE.
When the realignment nightmare started, I admit I wasn’t concerned about these rivalry games, I was more concerned if my beloved Iowa State Cyclones would find a place at the big boy table. The reality was that the football team wasn’t good. The facilities and stadium, if possible, were even worse. Without being in a conference that was consider a “power conference” the thoughts of ever competing on a national scale would disappear forever. Luckily when the dust settled, Iowa State remained in a power conference, mainly because they were a founding member of the conference they were in – The Big 12.
This time though is different. Iowa State has a stadium and facilities as good as any of the power football teams. The Cyclones, will start the 2021 as a Top 10 team, with a head coach that everyone can’t stop talking about. They have become the Cinderella sweethearts of the upcoming season.
To me, the best outcome for Iowa State would to end up in the Big 10 Conference (BIG). There are some Cyclone fans who hate this idea. Mainly because they will be in the same conference as their main rival – The University of Iowa. Many Iowa fans feel the same way, in fact, many Iowa fans hope that Iowa State will lose their status as a member of a power conference.
This is where short-sightedness and stupidity have me shaking my head. The population for the State of Iowa is extremely small, yet to have two major universities is something which should be cherished. The annual football game, which right now, is simply for bragging rights because they play in different conferences would have a more intense feeling if they were in the same conference. For Iowa State, their annual paycheck from the Big 12 is roughly $38 million. In the BIG it would grow to over $54 million.
All of this is great, yet one thing is seldom mentioned when talking about ISU joining the BIG and it has nothing to do with sports. It has to do with academics. To be a member of BIG, you must be a member of the American Association of Universities (AAU). There are only 64 universities in the United States and 2 in Canada that are in the AAU. These schools are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship, and solutions that contribute to scientific progress, economic growth, and security.
The BIG grows on the academic side with the AAU status and a consortium between the conference institutions, as well as the University of Chicago. They receive billions of dollars in research funds from the federal government every year.
While I have loved watching Iowa State football go from a laughing stock to a respected football program and hope that it continues in the BIG conference. At the end of the day, the importance of Iowa State remaining a top flight university with their academic achievements while being part of the consortium is more valauble than any conference championship or new years day bowl game.