The Big 18? 3 Things You May Not Know About the ‘New’ Big Ten

Credit: SB Nation

By Christina Lorey

August 16, 2023

Starting Aug. 2, 2024, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington will join Wisconsin and the 13 current Big Ten schools to unofficially become the Big 18. But–don’t worry–the conference still plans to keep its historic name.

Here are three things you (probably) don’t know about the Big Ten conference:

The University of Chicago is the only full member to ever have left the Big Ten.

The private college was an original co-founder of the conference in 1896, and even remained in it after dropping football in 1940, but ultimately left for good at the end of the 1945-46 school year.

Fun Fact: Lake Forest College, a private liberal arts school also in Illinois, originally attended the 1895 meeting that led to the formation of the conference, but never officially participated in athletics and was replaced by the University of Michigan.

The Big Ten was first called the “Western Conference,” and later, the “Big Nine.”

From its creation in 1896, the organization—which consisted of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Chicago, Purdue, and Northwestern—was more commonly called the “Western Conference.” The first reference to the conference as the “Big Nine” was in 1899, when Iowa and Indiana joined.

Fun Fact: In 1907, Michigan was voted out of the conference for refusing to follow league rules limiting football teams to no more than five games and players to three years of eligibility. The Wolverines rejoined in 1916.

It took Nebraska more than 100 years to officially get accepted into the Big Ten.

The school first petitioned to join the conference in 1900 and again in 1911, but was turned away both times. After Chicago left in 1946, it was rumored Nebraska would finally get in, but instead, Michigan State was added. The Big Ten’s membership remained unchanged for the next 40 years, until Penn State joined in 1990. Nebraska finally earned its membership in 2011.

Fun Fact: After the Cornhuskers joined, the Big Ten briefly split the conference into two: the “Legends Division” and the “Leaders Division,” which included Wisconsin. The split was highly unpopular among both fans and players upset with the end of long-standing rivalries, like Ohio State and Michigan, and was scrapped after the 2013 season.

MORE: What If the Big Ten Had Kept the Legends and Leaders? Making a Case for the Balanced Split

Author

  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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