The Book

Arrogance and Scheming in the Big Ten, by David J. Young, M.D., exposes a fascinating, yet convoluted, chapter in the history of the Western Conference.

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Since the original announcement of the University of Chicago’s decision to disband its football program in late December of 1939, rumors were rampant in the press and among sports fans about potential suitors to replace the Maroons. As the amateur historian would discover, a number of programs confidentially expressed an interest in joining the organization. But only two schools, Michigan State College and the University of Pittsburgh, made any effort at actively applying for membership.

The Spartans and Panthers had strategic reasons, unique to each institution, for seeking the seat ultimately vacated by Chicago. Arrogance and Scheming in the Big Ten is about the roles university administrators, academicians and athletic leaders at various Midwest institutions-Notre Dame, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois-played in either aiding or hindering those suitors.

Through his painstaking research, the author has successfully dispelled a widely held myth about how a mid-sized, agriculturally based land-grant college achieved its coveted prize: membership in the exclusive club. Young also discovered in letters and documents, hidden inside folders boxed on shelves within 13 archives, that many of those highly respected university leaders, as well as the first two conference commissioners, were not opposed to using suspect tactics-rumors, twisted truth, espionage and insider scoops-to impact the intriguing course of events leading to the selection of an unpopular new member in May of 1949.

 

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