In college sports and academics, the Big Ten refers to a football conference in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The conference was formed in 1896 to further intercollegiate sports without compromising the students’ academic achievement. It is the mission of the Big Ten to help their student-athletes achieve success on the field, in the classroom and the world. Striking the right balance between athletics and academic standards is the primary focus of the Big Ten Conference.
Originally, the Big Ten was named for the ten schools that participated in the conference. Two universities joined the conference in later years, including Penn State University in 1990 and the University of Nebraska in 2011. The additional schools brought the member total of the Big Ten to 12, and all are located in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic areas of the United States. According to information on the Big Ten Conference website, all Big Ten universities have been awarded Tier One Status, an honor bestowed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This distinction has only been awarded to just over 100 of the top universities in the country.
The Big Ten hosts 298 teams of athletes competing in 12 sports represented by men and 13 by women. Recently, the conference elected to include a men’s ice hockey conference sport beginning in the 2012-14 academic year, which will bring the number of sports to 26. Over 9,500 student athletes compete in Big Ten championships, and more than 166,000 students participate in Division1 intercollegiate sports. Information on the Big Ten Organization website states that conference athletes receive over $120 million dollars per year in financial aid. Over 8.9 million fans attended conference home games during the 2010-2011 season to watch football, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball games.
The addition of Nebraska to the conference extends the Heisman Trophy winning athletes list to 18 by including Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier and Eric Crouch. Nebraska also adds College Football Hall of Fame members, bringing the Big Ten total to 215. The conference leads all others in ranked graduate school programs, with 23 of the top 25 programs, including law, medical (research and primary care), business and engineering. Conference members share resources, expertise and collaboration to further the interests of students and faculty.
According to information provided by the University of Minnesota, the Big Ten undergraduate enrollment of 300,000 is higher than that of other conferences. Big Ten schools graduate a higher number of student athletes than other Division-1 schools. In 2008, 84 athletes with Big Ten backgrounds competed in the Olympics held in Beijing. The athletes returned with 30 metals, including 16 gold. Thirty-three athletes competed in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and returned with 31 metals, a higher number than any of the other conferences won. Attendance at Big Ten women’s basketball games has doubled since 1992, and was 650,000 for the 2010-11 season.