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Criticizing the Big Ten around here is like complaining about spam calls or potholes. Stop beating a dead horse, right?
But how can we not call out the Big Ten's double standard for two of America’s biggest sports?
The league has chosen to hold a conference basketball tournament next month. That’s despite the fact the league’s best nine or 10 teams are NCAA tournament locks, meaning there’s about a 1% chance the tournament winner actually needs a title to qualify for the Big Dance. Despite the fact basketball is a contact sport, played indoors, during the winter, before vaccine distribution really takes off.
Despite the fact that the event brings no atmosphere for athletes, nor does it add much for TV ratings. If the Big Ten Network needs the inventory, just use that week to reschedule games it’s already lost. You know, so Nebraska doesn’t have to play an NBA schedule the rest of the way.
Nope, they insist on going to Indianapolis. And if a good team loses on Thursday, they’ll presumably hang out an entire week until the NCAAs begin, quarantined in Indy hotel rooms. Sound good, student-athletes?
A controlled environment might help avoid positive tests, but that doesn't mean it's good strategy. Here’s where it all gets laughable, though.
Nebraska will play a 44-game baseball season this year against only Big Ten opponents. The Huskers open play March 5 and have their first home game on March 26.
Two months later, the Big Ten has canceled its conference tournament in baseball, a mostly non-contact sport, outdoors, after vaccinations have likely made a huge dent in COVID-19. Why? Presumably because it costs more money than it generates.
Yet baseball is a sport where the Big Ten could actually use a boost. It won’t have 10 NCAA tournament locks. It might not have two or three. A league tournament could strengthen some bubble teams’ resumes. And that automatic bid would be a bigger deal.
Sorry. Not this year. There will be Big Ten hoops in Indianapolis. There will not be Big Ten baseball in Omaha.
I have no personal grievance here. I don't desire to spend a Friday morning at TD Ameritrade watching a four-hour, losers-bracket game between Indiana and Ohio State. But you don't have to be a baseball nut to see that COVID-19 continues to expose troubling double standards in college sports, most notably in Nebraska’s home conference.
Come 2022, hopefully all is back to normal and we can start pretending again that the Big Ten cares about ALL of its teams.
Eight games in 14 days? That's what Nebraska basketball faces as the Big Ten crams games into its schedule to make up for those lost during the COVID pause. That doesn't sit right with Tom Shatel.