March 4, 2010
CHICAGO - Throughout the Big Ten Conference's illustrious history, many student-athletes have defined excellence: National Champions, All-Americans, Olympians. Their jerseys hang from the rafters. They are the standard against which all others are measured, the players who made the conference big.
Beginning this fall, the Big Ten Network will celebrate these individuals with its most ambitious project in its three-year history: a multi-platform event whose centerpiece is a new 20-episode series, Big Ten Icons, hosted by legendary college sports broadcaster Keith Jackson. The show debuts Sept. 18 following a Big Ten Network football telecast in which Icon No. 20 will be revealed. The countdown continues every Tuesday night through the end of football season and into the spring. The No. 1 Big Ten Icon will be revealed around the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament.
Prior to the show's on-air launch, Icons 50 through 21 will be revealed online daily beginning in early September at www.BigTenIcons.com and www.facebook.com/BigTenIcons. The website will include a text and video feature on each Icon.
The event also includes video on demand, mobile applications and myriad marketing and social networking activities that kick off March 11 at the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis and extend until the top Icon is unveiled.
Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman said the network is creating a series that will engage and spark conversation among sports fans everywhere. "What will make Big Ten Icons stand out is the depth of the storytelling," he said, "focusing on collegiate rather than pro careers and highlighting previously unknown stories behind the success of these student-athletes. The rankings themselves are sure to generate quite a bit of discussion."
The top-50 list and the order are being determined by a panel of on-air talent, network executives, conference officials and long-time Big Ten observers.
Silverman said Jackson was the clear choice to host the show. "As the voice for so many of college sports' unforgettable games and moments, particularly involving the Big Ten, he is a perfect match for this series," he said.
Jackson said he's excited about hosting the show. "The Big Ten Conference is unsurpassed in the tradition of producing tremendous student-athletes and I have been honored to cover so many of the great ones through the years," Jackson said. "It will be a great thrill to look back at the very best on Big Ten Icons."
Jackson's long association with the Big Ten and college sports includes play-by-play duties for ABC on Big Ten basketball games, football games and bowl games during his 50-plus year Hall of Fame broadcasting career. Jackson was the play-by-play announcer for 15 Rose Bowl games and is credited with coining the nicknames, "the Grandaddy of them All," for the Rose Bowl and the "Big House" for Michigan Stadium.
Marketing efforts will engage fans
Big Ten Icons will be supported with extensive on-air and online marketing activities to engage fans, beginning this month at the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. Eight-foot tall bobbleheads representing each school will be stationed around Conseco Fieldhouse during the event. The bobbleheads will include Red Grange (Illinois), Steve Alford (Indiana), Chuck Long (Iowa), Charles Woodson (Michigan), Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State), Dave Winfield (Minnesota), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Jesse Owens (Ohio State), John Cappelletti (Penn State), Drew Brees (Purdue) and Ron Dayne (Wisconsin). Additionally, roaming Big Ten Icons mascots will appear during the tournament and all around Indianapolis during event week.
Fans will also have the opportunity to test their free-throw shooting and football passing ability against the statistics of Big Ten greats like Brees and Alford in "head-to-head" football and basketball tosses, while a halftime three-point and free-throw competition will give a lucky fan the chance to win 10 "big ones." ($10,000)
In addition, an online contest - the "Bobblethon" - will run from the tournament through the end of July. Beginning March 11 on www.BigTenIcons.com, Big Ten fans will be encouraged to go online and click on their favorite bobblehead. The university that receives the most clicks during the Bobblethon will win $10,000 for its alumni association's scholarship fund. Fans also will get a chance to win a trip for two to a Big Ten football game of their choice and other great prizes.