It's the age old debate in these here parts – the Big Ten vs. the SEC – and its likely that it won't be going away anytime soon. Especially when you get AD's going on record and helping to fan the flames of the debate. That's just what Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke did during the fourth and final part in a series of interviews with the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
Of course, by fanning the flames, we mean speaking truth – something a lot of SEC folks seem to really hate. In the interview Burke spoke of a differing philosophy in how the Big Ten and SEC treat their athletic departments. In a nutshell it boils down to this: Big Ten athletic departments don't exist to service just one sport, in the SEC the rest of their programs exist so that football can be played.
Don't take my word for it though, here is exactly what Burke had to say:
"You have two very different models. You have an SEC model and a Big Ten model. The SEC model, almost across the board, is sponsoring the minimum number of sports (16). I'm not being negative toward the SEC, but their strategy has been to take seven men's sports and nine women's sports. That puts them in a gender equity balance. If you are getting 80,000 to 90,000 in your stadium, what that means is you're spending an awful lot on football. You have to call it what it is. I'm not saying it's wrong.
The Big Ten model is, let's get more kids, more opportunities. We have a larger athlete base. Our grant in aid (scholarship) base is bigger. It's not that we don't spend, but football in the south is a religion. It just is. When you look at the dollars and models, they're very different."
Things like a lack of speed, demographic shifts to the south, a relentless year-round obsession over football have all been given as to why the Big Ten hasn't "competed" well with the SEC lately, especially when you talk about national championships, with the SEC holding serve the last seven years and all.
Those are all good points and very well may be true, but I've never heard a better defense against the S-E-C crowd than what Burke put forth today.
Sure, you folks in SEC land may have us in football and all of that (right now), but we here in Big Ten country actually give a crap about other things – you know sports like football and hockey – oh and this little thing called providing a quality education to as many student-athletes as possible.
Purdue sponsors 18 sports (20 if you count indoor and outdoor track separately) and while that may be just two more than the SEC average, they are on the bottom of the heap in the Big Ten. Ohio State sponsors 37 sports, Penn State 29, Michigan 27….. I think you get the point.
Some may see what Burke had to say as just making excuses, however it's not an excuse if it's the truth. If you have more sports to sponsor it means less money to go to a big guy like football, that's just a fact you can't get around.
It's also not an excuse as much as a difference in philosophy between the two regions and two conferences. If you want to argue that the Big Ten, in order to start winning crazy amounts of national championships, need to go the SEC route and start spending every available dollar on football then that's your prerogative and another argument for a different day and a different article all together.
If becoming like S-E-C guy is what it takes to win national championships then consider me out. I don't want any part of what goes on down south at all. When you start moving from harmless funny stunts, signs, and chants into caring so much about a freaking football game that you are willing to go to prison I'm out and that's exactly the kind of culture that exists on a far too great a scale south of the Mason-Dixon line. Hell, most rational SEC fans readily admit to it being out of control.
For me though, I happen to enjoy what the Big Ten philosophy is on the whole, but I'm one of the crazy people that actually enjoys watching baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and lacrosse. What say you though?