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A meeting of seven Midwest university presidents on January 11, 1895 at the Palmer House in Chicago to discuss the regulation and control of intercollegiate athletics, was the first development of what would become one of organized sports' most successful undertakings. Those seven men, behind the leadership of James H. Smart, president of Purdue University, established the principles for which the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, more popularly known as the Big Ten Conference, would be founded.

James H. Smart

At that meeting, a blueprint for the control and administration of college athletics under the direction of appointed faculty representatives was outlined. The presidents' first-known action "restricted eligibility for athletics to bonafide, full-time students who were not delinquent in their studies."

This helped limit some problems of the times, especially the participation of professional athletes and "non-students" in the university's regular sporting events. That important legislation, along with others that would follow in the coming years, served as the primary building block for amateur intercollegiate athletics.

Eleven months after the presidents met, one faculty member from each of those seven universities met at the same Palmer House, and officially established the mechanics of the "Intercollegiate conference of Faculty Representatives", or "Big Ten Conference" of "Western Conference."

Those seven universities were: University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin. Indiana University and the State University of Iowa were admitted in 1899. Ohio State joined in 1912. Chicago withdrew in 1946 and Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) was added three years later in 1949.

After a 40-year period of constancy in membership, the Conference expanded to 11 members for the first time. On June 4, 1990, the Council of Presidents voted to confirm its earlier decision to integrate Pennsylvania State University into the Conference.

At the turn of the century, faculty representatives established rules for intercollegiate athletics that were novel for the time. As early as 1906, the faculty approved legislation that required eligible athletes to meet entrance requirements and to have completed a full year's work, along with having one year of residence. Freshmen and graduate students were not permitted to compete, training tables (or quarters) were forbidden, and coaches were to be appointed by university bodies "at modest salaries."

Football and baseball were the popular sports prior to 1900. Wisconsin won the first two football championships and Chicago claimed the first three baseball titles. The first "official" sponsored championship was in out-door track. It was held at the University of Chicago in 1906 with Michigan earning the title.

Today, the Big Ten sponsors 25 championships, 12 for men and 13 for women. There have been many different athletic events popularized on Big Ten campuses. Some became extremely popular - football and basketball, for example. Others, like boxing, fell by the wayside.

The office of the commissioner of athletics was created in 1922 "to study athletic problems of the various Western Conference universities and assist in enforcing the eligibility rules which govern Big Ten athletics." Major John L. Griffith was appointed as the first commissioner and served in that position until his death in 1944. Kenneth L. "Tug" Wilson, former director of athletics at Northwestern, served from 1944 until he retired in 1961. Bill Reed, an assistant commissioner since 1951, succeeded Wilson until his death in 1971. Wayne Duke became the fourth Big Ten commissioner in 1971 and retired June 30, 1989. Duke was succeeded by James E. Delany on July 1, 1989. Delany came to the Big Ten following 10 years as Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner.

Big Ten Traditions
January 13, 2007
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