SBD/December 5, 2011/Colleges

Big Ten, Pac-12 Pleased With Inaugural Football Championship Games

Vast majority of Lucas Oil Stadium's seats were filled for Big Ten championship
Wisconsin's 42-39 victory over Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten football championship game Saturday made for a “good night, a glorious night, even -- the kind of night this conference desperately needed,” according to Bob Kravitz of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. There was “a lot of talk, and coverage, on the general lack of buzz that's attended the first Big Ten title game” in Indianapolis. But in the end, the “vast majority of Lucas Oil Stadium's seats were filled -- there were some empties high in the north end zone -- which is not even mildly disappointing given the state of the economy.” If there was a “general lack of juice in the days leading up to the game, it was completely understandable,” as Michigan State and Wisconsin “are good teams … but not great teams.” Kravitz: “This is how an event builds a tradition. One game at a time. One classic at a time” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 12/4). In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt wrote, “On face value, the first Big Ten championship game didn't seem like such a good idea. There were empty seats inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as if the Indianapolis Colts were using the place.” Hunt: “Say what you will about the Miracle of East Lansing the first time these teams met this season, this one will be remembered in a similar shade of wow” (JSONLINE.com, 12/4). In Michigan, Joe Rexrode wrote there was “a wildly electric atmosphere for a ridiculously entertaining game.” MSU put white towels in its section “early in the day, prompting Wisconsin to hurriedly respond with red T-shirts just a couple hours before kickoff.” Indianapolis was the “perfect place for this kind of event,” and the game is “going to help the Big Ten be more relevant nationally.” Rexrode wrote it is “hard to imagine the Big Ten not getting an intriguing matchup in this game every year, simply because there are a lot of solid-or-better programs on both sides.” Big Ten football “may not always be the best football, but more people care about it.” Rexrode: “And as we saw vividly on a historic Saturday night, they care a lot” (LANSING STATE JOURNAL, 12/4).

GRACIOUS HOST CITY: In Milwaukee, Greg D’Amato noted earlier on Saturday, “thousands of people wearing Wisconsin and Michigan State colors -- and many wearing the colors of other Big Ten schools -- filled the Indiana Convention Center for Big Ten Fanfest.” Wisconsin AD Pat Richter said, "For the first time, I think it's exceptional. Indianapolis is a great town. Some people think it's not a glamorous city, but it's a great place" (JSONLINE.com, 12/4). In Omaha, Lee Barfknecht wrote Indianapolis “has a dazzling, ultra-modern airport to fly into,” and the drive to downtown “is an easy all-freeway straight shot or a $35 cab ride.” Lucas Oil Stadium is “in the heart of downtown, where several quality hotels, restaurants and tonsil-washing stations are within walking distance.” The stadium is “a quality experience,” and its “attractiveness in combination with the next-door amenities makes it better.” Barfknecht noted there were “a few thousand” empty seats at the game, but “you have to factor in the newness of the event and the weak economy” (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 12/4).

PAC-12 GAME: In Oregon, Adam Jude noted Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott “was thrilled with just about everything leading up [to] the Pac-12 Conference championship game Friday night at Autzen Stadium.” When it came “to the prospects for the on-field competition, however, the Pac-12 commissioner had about as much enthusiasm as the average fan this week -- that is, very little.” Oregon played UCLA because USC backed out of the title game as it completes a two-year NCAA bowl ban. Scott said, “Of course it’s disappointing when such a strong team, such as USC, is not allowed to participate because of the NCAA ban.” But he said that he was “otherwise pleased with how plans for the inaugural event took shape.” Scott: “I feel very, very good about the decision of the home-hosted model, as well as Friday night. We’ve gotten very good feedback, and I think it’s a good model for us.” Autzen Stadium “sold out for the 82nd straight game.” Meanwhile, Jude noted Scott is “turning his attention to international promotion.” Later this month, he is “traveling to China for a weeklong visit to promote the conference’s Olympic sports -- namely basketball.” Scott said that it is “conceivable that the Pac-12 could stage a basketball game in China in ‘five-plus years’” (Eugene REGISTER-GUARD, 12/3). The AP’s Anne Peterson noted some of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium “Duckiness was neutralized to make it more hospitable for UCLA.” Advertising “covered the sidelines, including Oregon’s trademark ‘WTD’ logos -- short for coach Chip Kelly’s rallying cry ‘Win the Day’ -- in the four corners.” For the “first time in memory, Autzen public address announcer Doug Essig was not on the microphone for the game.” His duties “went to Paul Olden, the public address announcer for the New York Yankees who has announced 12 Super Bowls.” Peterson noted fans “were critical of the decision to take” Essig out of the game (AP, 12/2).
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