Big Ten and College Sports and Sports Business

Big Ten considering name change

June 16, 2010

Big Ten officials will give serious consideration to changing the conference’s name now that the University of Nebraska has been added as a 12th member.

Sources within the Big Ten said a decision could come as early as this fall, but added that a verdict may not come until a year from now, when the Big Ten finalizes its “expansion study.”

There are two options Big Ten officials are studying, a source with knowledge of the discussions said. One is a name that reflects the number of members and the other is a name with no numerical reference that could remain stable even if the Big Ten decides to expand beyond 12 teams—which the source said is a distinct possibility.

“It’s something we’re going to have to figure out over the next few months,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said of the Big Ten’s moniker.

But Delany said a name change isn’t a certainty.

“When Penn State was added [in 1993], I presumed we’d have a different name,” he said. “I found out pretty quickly that Big Ten was a name that carried a lot of meaning to a lot of people.”

The conference, founded in 1895 as the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, also has been called the Big Nine at various times in its history depending on member fluctuations. It was first called the Big Ten in 1917 and has held that name steadily since 1949.

One thing prompting a name change is confusion with the Big 12 Conference, which will have 10 teams when Nebraska departs for the Big Ten and the University of Colorado leaves for the Pac 10 in 2011.

“The Big Ten will have 12 members and the Big 12 will have 10 members,” said Jimmie Tramel, who covers the Big 12 for the Tulsa World. “It’s time for both leagues to pick a name that isn’t false advertising.”

There’s little doubt the Big Ten will have to change its logo, which has an 11 incorporated into the design.

But local sports marketer David Morton thinks there’s a big risk in the conference's changing its name.

“Once you re-brand, you have to re-position and establish that new identity in the marketplace. That’s a re-education and can be very time-consuming and expensive, said Morton, president of locally based Sunrise Sports Group.

“You have so much brand equity in that name, I’m not convinced changing the name is a good thing,” Morton added. “It’s a tribute to this conference’s roots and what it has stood for historically.”
 

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