BY Art Thiel 06:08PM 12/16/2010

Leaders, Legends? A Big (10) clank

Pac-12 took easy way; Big 10 opted for open manhole

After this week’s announcement that the Big 10-plus-2 equals-10 Conference inexplicably named its new six-team divisions Leaders and Legends, our intrepid investigative team here at Sportspress Northwest uncovered the list of final pairs of names that were not chosen, and the reason each missed the cut.

*Pebbles and Bam-Bam (too dated)

*Hooters and Jiggles (too artificial)

*Assault and Battery (too good)

A person familiar with the discussion among the conference’s presidents and athletic directors, who asked not to be identified because the rib injury he sustained from laughing made him traceable through emergency-room records, said a popular entry was a late scratch because one college president received word from his geography department that the names were taken: Trinidad and Tobago.

Before the list of alternative names was disclosed, Big 10 Conference commissioner Jim Delany explained to reporters the decision to choose labels so, well, twerpy.

“Any time you have something new, whether it’s a mark or trophies, it takes some time to get used to,” he told The Associated Press. “We thought it made perfect sense to recognize the iconic and the legendary through the naming of the division in that regard. … We’ve had plenty of leaders in the conference, that’s for sure, but the emphasis here is to recognize the mission of using intercollegiate athletics and higher education to build future leaders.”

The breaking news in that statement was the disclosure of the mission of intercollegiate athletics. Previously, the mission had been to get a first down from third-and-two, then get a TV network to pay millions to broadcast the epochal event.

It’s the best thing college football does. The worst thing it does is the BCS.  Next worst: Humility.

The idea of the Big 10 trumpeting leaders and legends is a bit like saying, “We have shoes!” Well, good for you, but . . . don’t most schools? Besides, another school, the University of Oregon Footwear Salespersons, already has the trademark.

The attempt to go out of the box often is admirable. But don’t go off the table.

The Big 10 had some handy, well-understood options:  Bo and Woody, Black and Blue, Blizzard and Humidity. But going with Legends and Leaders elevates the conference’s unwarranted self-importance to North Korean levels.

Why not Dear Leaders?

Faced with a similar situation of expanding membership, the Pac-10 recently went off the rez by boldly deciding to be numerically correct: The Pac-12. Then the conference pulled back from the frontier of human achievement and settled on simpler names for its two divisions: North and South.

Ordinary. But no waste of energy or mockery, when so many things are more worthy of both.

The Pac-12 avoided a nasty, provincial fight, which was inevitable due to the fact that each member school believes itself to be the center of the universe (except for Washington State, which believes it’s time for a shot of Jager). The self-interests would have been impossible to sort without help from the security crew on the Jerry Springer show.

It’s possible to see the four Northwest schools getting together to opt for, say, Lewis and Clark.

But Stanford and Cal would insist on something more Bay Area: Hewlitt and Packard.

The Los Angeles schools: Dolce and Gabbana.

The Arizona schools: Smith and Wesson.

And the new members, Utah and Colorado?  Well, there is no there there, yet. Smoke and Mirrors?

If it were up to a vote of the fans of the original Pac-10, they are perhaps more connected than the schools because they share the legacy of bad officiating so enduring and aggravating it deserves to be part of conference tradition:

Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.

But no vote was taken, no box was leapt out of. North and South it is. Perfunctory, but parody-free.

Then there was the Big 10’s new logo, the word B1G stacked above TEN, with all the graphic flair of the back end of a Studebaker sedan. Somehow, the conference of big shoulders comes out of this marketing opportunity with a low brow.

They whiffed on another opportunity: The conference could have been broken into three divisions. Since its most prestigious jock factory is in Columbus, Ohio, the new labels fairly scream:  Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.

Talk about legends and leaders.

Instead, the sports world will be forced to land upon the inevitable:

Dumb and Dumber.