Gerez & Pillote: Likening Big Ten’s Struggles

Julian Gerez and Bobby Pillote

Just like Big Ten football, Italian soccer league Serie A hasn’t been viewed favorably in recent years when compared to its peers. Many pundits believe the Big Ten will be the odd-one-out of the five power conferences in the new four-team college playoff. Serie A, meanwhile, has drifted behind European counterparts La Liga, the Bundesliga and the Barclays Premier League in popularity and international competitiveness. To put the struggles of the two in perspective, we compared a few teams from each:

Northwestern – Fiorentina

NU shares much more than just awesome purple uniforms with Fiorentina. Every year it seems that it will finally be “the year” for each team, yet they end up being underwhelming. With the exception of the Wildcats’ bowl win after the 2012 season, NU hasn’t had much recent success, and neither has Fiorentina – not since the 1990s, at least, when Fiorentina was carried to some achievements but never a national title by an exceptional player in Gabriel Batistuta. Sound familiar?

Ohio State – Juventus

It seems only natural to pair the perennial powerhouse of the Big Ten with Juventus. The black-and-white striped team from Turin has won 30 Serie A titles, while Ohio State has celebrated 34 Big Ten Championships. Both teams are hated by pretty much everyone except their own fans, and have been slightly less successful on a broader scale (nationally for OSU, in the Champions League for Juventus) than one of their biggest rivals, Michigan and AC Milan respectively.

But the comparison gets scary when you consider the two teams’ off-the-field issues. In May 2006, Juventus was linked to the Calciopoli scandal, a match-fixing controversy which saw them stripped of two of their national titles and relegated to the Serie B. Similarly, the Buckeyes were hit with a one year postseason ban and scholarship reductions in 2011 after it was discovered the school covered up several players receiving improper benefits.

Purdue – Sassuolo

The average fan knows as much about Purdue as they do Sassuolo – nothing, except both teams are very, very bad. The Boilermakers finished a dismal 1-11 last year with no conference wins, and while they’ve already hit the two-victory benchmark this year, they’ll likely be shut out once again in conference play. But at least they have some distant historical success. Sassuolo is in the second season of its first-ever major league appearance, but currently sitting at 20th in the table and in line to be relegated back to the lesser Serie B.

Michigan – AC Milan

A storied powerhouse fallen on hard times, plagued with bandwagon fans and owned by the dishonored former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Milan’s story is very similar to Michigan’s. For the Wolverines, the disliked member of management is coach Brady Hoke for his lack of success and, more recently, Saturday’s mishandling of a head injury to quarterback Shane Morris. Despite their current tough period, it’s impossible to deny just how good these two teams have been historically. Michigan has the most all time wins in college football history, while Milan boasts an impressive seven Champions League medals.

Both the Big Ten and Serie A have fallen on hard times, but if history is any indicator, they’re capable of bouncing back.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @JulianEGerez

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @BobbyPillote