Almost immediately after it was announced that the University of Nebraska would be the 12th member of the Big Ten Conference, Midwest cities began lining up for the chance to host a Big Ten football championship game that yet doesn't exist.
This week, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis emerged as the fifth destination among host-site hopefuls, joining a list that includes Soldier Field in Chicago, Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ford Field in Detroit and Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Lucas Oil Stadium and Ford Field offer the most impressive résumés, with Lucas having hosted the 2010 NCAA Men's Final Four, while Ford Field welcomed the 2010 NCAA Men's Frozen Four, the 2009 NCAA Men's Final Four and Super Bowl XL in 2006. They are also the only two venues on the list to offer a roof, which could come in handy in December.
But as grand as each stage has been in the past, they rank third and fourth on the list in terms of seating capacity for football - at 70,000 and 65,000, respectively. In fact, the would-be title-game site with the most seats, Cleveland Browns Stadium at 73,200, is still smaller than half the home venues in the expanded Big Ten.
Though a rotation of sites is already being discussed, the game itself is not a done deal, and pros and cons have been voiced within conference circles. Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who lobbied for expansion, sees it as necessary to compete with title-game-playing leagues like the Southeastern Conference, while Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke fears it could hurt bowl game attendance.
As for suitable title-game destinations, David Gilbert, president of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, told readers of The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, that the possibility of inclement weather shouldn't be a deterrent - presumably for traveling fans and site-selection committee members, alike. "This is not SEC football," he told the paper. "This is Big Ten football. The weather is part of the game."