Attention, elected officials and candidates for office from the states of Michigan and Ohio: Do you want a free, slam-dunk issue? Then hop aboard this one right now:
Since 1943, fans have always known where to find the annual showdown between Michigan and Ohio State: Right at the end of the schedule.
With the Big Ten expanding to 12 teams in 2011 and also going to divisional play and a conference championship game, that sacred spot is no longer a certainty.
"I can't sit here and say that it's going to be in place, or it's not going to be in place," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Tuesday of the traditional season-ending rivalry. "We did have meetings yesterday in Chicago and we'll have more meetings. We're still looking at a lot of different scenarios. We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out."
The Big Ten conference is proposing to split apart Michigan and Ohio State, and move their iconic game from its hallowed place at the end of the season. Fans of both schools are apoplectic. Ohio State fans -- those capable of operating computers -- are sending emails running 90% in opposition to this move. Buckeye fans are planning a protest chant at the start of the second quarter of their opening game. Michigan fans are equally apoplectic.
This is a no-brainer issue for politicians. Make a statement of protest. Threaten to hold hearings, to reduce funding for the universities, or to impose some legislative solution. Absolutely everybody who is not a college football administrator thinks this is a horrible idea.
Mark Warner made himself a hero to tens of thousands of Virginia tech fans when he forced the ACC to take the school, rather than leave it in the Big East, which was expected to become a backwater. It's one of the smarter things he ever did. A Michigan or Ohio official who can stop the tarnishing of the greatest tradition in sports could make the same kind of name for himself.