Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 21st, 2012
When the Big Ten recently added Nebraska and thus broke into two six-team football divisions, fans and pundits alike broke out in disdain over the “Legends” and “Leaders” distinctions. But while every conference has its legends, the Big Ten’s leaders are the men who rise to the top and would adorn its Mount Rushmore…
The man they called “The General,” as fierce and unique a competitor and coach the game has ever seen. One of the greatest student-athletes (Jerry Lucas) in the history of college sports, and another coach who lives for the month of March every single season (Tom Izzo). We only wish we could take credit for the Wizard of Westwood, as the legendary John Wooden — you could mold a Mount Rushmore consisting of Wooden’s students alone — spent his playing days at Purdue. Alas, we think we’ve got a pretty good group without him.
There are very few coaches in all of basketball at any level that demand the complete respect of the players and Bobby Knight is one of them. Basketball in the state of Indiana has been well-documented for decades but Knight took it to a different level during his tenure in Bloomington. Every father in Indiana hoped for his son to play for the IU coach because of what he meant for the state and the game. Three National Championships over his tenure are just the tip of his accomplishments. What meant more to the state and rest of the Big Ten was how he went about his business. He had an incredible graduation rate with his players and they played the tough-nosed basketball that has been a staple of the Big Ten brand for decades now. In addition to his championships, he is the last coach to lead a team to a perfect season (1975-76) and also added a couple more Final Fours to his name. His knowledge of the game is a treasure to all of college hoops and there was no better representative of the Big Ten’s message at the national stage than Knight. He dominated Big Ten conference play as his teams won 11 regular season championships during his tenure, and, did we mention that he graduated from Ohio State? He is a true Big Ten icon.
The Ohio State University is known for their football legends – Woody Hayes and Archie Griffin just to name two of them. But Jerry Lucas left Columbus as the second most influential Buckeye upon graduation in the early 1960s, right behind Jesse Owens. Lucas’ individual accomplishments include being named the Big Ten MVP three times and as a first team All-America for three years. He led his team to three NCAA final games including one championship. He was as good as Oscar Robertson during his college career and he topped it off with an Olympic gold medal in 1960. He dominated the game during his era and was a great ambassador for Big Ten basketball.
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