The Big Ten Network is in the home stretch of a televised countdown of the greatest “Big Ten Icons”. The BTN suits came up with their humble opinion of the 50 most “larger than life” student-athletes in conference history, and have been revealing them on a weekly basis. Icon #1 will be unveiled on March 10th, but as of now there are six “Icons” left to uncover.
Truthfully, in perusing the list, it’s hard to argue with most of the names, even if some of the rankings are a bit questionable. Gridiron greats, predictably, lead the way so far with 25 entrants, while hoop stars claim 11 spots thus far. All eleven schools are represented, with Purdue taking the top spot (so far) with 7 alums among the 44 athletes to be featured to this point.
I figured for a mental exercise I’d try to guess who the final six “Icons” will be. I’d bet the ranch on Michigan’s Tom Harmon, Illinois’ “Red” Grange and of course Archie Griffin to nab half the remaining slots. “Magic” Johnson seems to be a safe bet, especially considering that “Bubba” Smith is, to this point, the only other Michigan State representative. I’d also lean towards Ohio State’s Jesse Owens, seeing as how in addition to his legendary accomplishments, the conference’s Male Athlete of the Year award is named after him. (The namesake of the Female Athlete of the Year award, Suzy Favor-Hamilton from Wisconsin, is one of only two females to make the cut thus far).
But who slides into the sixth and final slot? There doesn’t really seem to be a choice that leaps out. A gentleman by the name of Troy took a stab at this same topic on Hawkeyenation.com. While we agreed on Harmon, Griffin, Owens and Johnson, his other two choices were UM gridder and future President Gerald Ford and….Tony Dungy? Uh, OK. I’m not trying to insult any of our readers’ intelligence, but how many of you know where Dungy attended school?
In that same post, Troy did a nice job listing some honorable mention candidates for each school. It’s obvious a lot of work went into it, but he doesn’t even have Grange listed in his Illinois runners-up. Keep in mind now that Grange was controversially selected as the greatest college football player in history three years ago in a season-long countdown on ESPN in conjunction with IBM. I say controversially only in the sense that “Red” was #1. To have left him off the list (that particular one was a Top 25) entirely would’ve been an even bigger crime.
I just about dismissed Gerald Ford as quickly as Dungy, but maybe I shouldn’t be so hasty. Ol’ Jerry makes about as much sense in the grand scheme of things as anyone else. We’re getting to the point with this countdown that you have to consider someone whose shadow still looms large not just at his/her individual school, but in the league’s annals as well. I’ll readily admit I had no idea who Penn State’s Megan Hodge or Minnesota’s Neal Broten were, but in reading up on them, they certainly deserve inclusion, although they were farther down the list. Even though my sixth “guess”, if you will, isn’t coming to me automatically, I can’t believe it won’t be someone I’ve never heard of before.
Anyway, thought I’d throw it out to our readers and see what you all think. I say five of the six final spots will go to Grange, Harmon, Griffin, Owens and Johnson. Who am I missing for that sixth opening? Or is one of my other five off base? I guess we’ll know for sure within the next several Sundays. In the meantime, I would encourage everyone who has the Big Ten Network to check out this coming weekend’s installment featuring Iowa legend Nile Kinnick. It’s a tragic, yet ultimately inspiring story.
Joe-S-U and let me know who you think the final names will be!