Minnesota working to bring Big Ten football championship to U.S. Bank Stadium
Minnesota Sports and Events, which has helped secure events such as the 2018 Super Bowl and last spring’s women’s NCAA Final Four, plans to make a bid to bring the Big Ten football championship game to U.S. Bank Stadium as soon as 2025.
ST. PAUL -- Since the Big Ten’s football teams split into two divisions in 2011, no city other than Indianapolis has been host to the conference’s football championship game. Minnesota hopes to change that.
Minnesota Sports and Events, which has helped secure events such as the 2018 Super Bowl and last spring’s women’s NCAA Final Four, plans to make a bid to bring the Big Ten football championship game to U.S. Bank Stadium as soon as 2025. It would be the first year the game — so far — has not been awarded to Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Big Ten women’s basketball tournament will be at Target Center this spring and next, and the men’s tournament will be here in 2023, as well. With the pending addition of UCLA and USC in Fall 2024, the Big Ten will have the nation’s biggest media markets to choose from, from the New York Metropolitan Area to Los Angeles and stops in between that include Chicago and the Twin Cities.
Speaking at the first day of Big Ten media days at Target Center, Commissioner Kevin Warren sounded ready to continue to branch out.
“Now,” he said, “we have the flexibility to have (basketball tournaments), really, anywhere across the country.”
The Big Ten hasn’t officially opened bidding on the football championship, a conference spokesperson said. The request-for-proposal process will cover two years, and Minnesota Sports and Events hopes to throw its hat into the ring.
“We have communicated to the Big Ten that our community would love to host Big Ten football championships here at USBS, the best stadium in the country,” Minnesota Sports and Events president and CEO Wendy Williams Blackshaw said Wednesday.
U.S. Bank Stadium was host to Super Bowl LI in February 2018, and Target Center was host to the women’s Final Four last spring.
“Our region, our state continues to build on the great reputation we have developed in executing large-scale events,” Blackshaw said.
How the Big Ten will determine the participants for the 2025 football championship has yet to be determined. With UCLA and USC joining the fold, the conference is reassessing its alignment, currently two seven-team divisions roughly comprising teams from the Big Ten’s eastern and western regions.
The current set-up awards a championship bid to the winner in each division. Because the East Division includes Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State, it has often seemed the actual Big Ten championship game is a regular-season meeting between those East rivals.
A West Division team hasn’t won the title game since Wisconsin won the first two, in 2011 and 2012, and Ohio State has won five of the past nine. When asked Wednesday where the Big Ten is with its next alignment plan, Warren said, “I think your question is about divisions, if we’ll continue to have them in football. We’re having meetings on that right now.”
Monika Czinano didn’t take long to decide to return to Iowa for a fifth basketball season. “It would have felt weird if I wasn’t there,” the post player from Watertown, Minn., said Wednesday.
That’s because Iowa returns everyone from the team that won the Big Ten’s regular-season and conference tournament championships before being upset by Creighton in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I know what we’re capable of, and especially with the way our season ended last year, I was so grateful that I had another year, and that wasn’t going to be my last taste with Iowa women’s basketball,” said Czinano, whose younger sister Maggie is a guard with the Gophers’ team.
The Hawkeyes were not one of the Big Ten’s four Sweet 16 teams last season but the Big Ten’s 14 coaches and a select media panel picked Iowa as the favorite to win the conference this season ahead of Indiana, Ohio State and Nebraska.
“I think we deserve that ranking but it’s a long season; there’s highs, there’s lows,” said Iowa point guard Caitlin Clark, who led the nation in scoring (27 points per game) and assists (8.0) last season and was the preseason pick for player of the year.
“It’s the way you bounce back,” Clark said. “It’s the way you respond. Like Coach (Lisa) Bluder said, pressure is a privilege.”
Clark recently signed a Name Image Likeness (NIL) deal with Nike, and already had one with Topps trading cards. “Obviously, there aren’t many rules out there,” she said. “This is so new, and people are still learning — I’m still learning.”
NIL deals have been permitted since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2021 that schools couldn’t limit education-related payments to student-athletes. So, the landscape is pretty new. Clark said she leans mostly on her family when making those decisions.
“No one knows everything,” Clark said. “They might think they do, but they’re not experts in the industry. No one is.”
A new course
In July, 100 Big Ten student-athletes joined Warren and other conference leaders for an immersive civil rights experience in Selma and Montgomery, Ala., where the late Dr. Martin Luther King led a five-day march to the state capital to bring attention to voting rights.
It was the first of what the Big Ten is calling “Big Life Experience” trips, and Warren said the conference is working on making those trips credit-earning courses at member institutions.
“Regardless of what course a student-athlete has taken in civil rights, that trip right there, I can tell you right now, was life-changing,” he said.
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