One of the most enjoyable absurdities of bowl season is "Non-Playoff Power 5 team pretending it's thrilled with where it ended up." That's not EVERY Power 5 program that doesn't make the Playoff, mind you; I genuinely think Washington State was happy to make (and win) the Sun Bowl after the way their season began, and Iowa fans might get one of their own a spot on the Pasadena City Council.
But then there's this.
Assuming the label of Tampa's Big Ten Team is not required by an unusual clause in a plea agreement, come on, Northwestern. When you started 5-0, your first thought was not "OH SHIT WE GOT THAT OUTBACK BOWL SPOT IN OUR SIGHTS!" Nor should it have been!
And who says you're Tampa's Big Ten Team? You? Northwestern, this is not your area of expertise. It's mine. I'll be the judge of who Tampa's true Big Ten team is, buddy.
MEASURE 1: VAGUE FORGETTABILITY
One of Tampa's essential elements is its inherent featurelessness. Orlando has the theme parks, Miami has South Beach, and Jacksonville has self-loathing Jaguars fans trying to goad you into fighting them in the school supplies section of Target. (Be careful; they know which brand of colored pencil is most likely to cause sepsis.)
But if you've never visited Tampa - and, quite possibly, even if you have - you probably do not associate any landmark, cultural or otherwise, with the city. The most history-laden neighborhood, Ybor City, is home to bars named Crowbar, Boneyard, and Club Skye. Tampa's mostly useful as a metonym for Florida; throw it into a joke scenario about a hundred guns getting stolen from unlocked cars and it fits perfectly.
So, to be Tampa's Big Ten Team, you can't be one of the more distinguishable members of the conference. That means Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, and Nebraska are all out. You may not like these teams, but you know who they are and have some general sense of what they're about, which is more than can be said of Tampa.
MEASURE 2: TIME SPENT IN TAMPA
You'd think this would be an absolute necessity, but thanks to the beauty of urban sprawl, you're wrong! One can spend entire months in the Tampa area without setting foot inside city limits, so long as your needs are not greater than "Publix," "auto parts store," and "a mall with a Lids and a fake-nice restaurant."
Still, to be Tampa's Big Ten Team, you have to occasionally go to Tampa for the Outback Bowl. Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, and Minnesota all fail that requirement (seriously, how have you never been go the Outback Bowl, Minnesota?), while Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue all have one appearance before this season. Were they not already eliminated pursuant to Measure 1, Michigan and Wisconsin would be tied in this category with five Outback Bowl trips each, and we would be reminding you that Ohio State has played in this game four times and never won it.
MEASURE 3: STUPID BUT NOTEWORTHY CRIMINALITY
As the former home of a woman who stole three million dollars in fraudulent refunds and then bragged about it on Facebook BY CALLING HERSELF THE QUEEN OF IRS TAX FRAUD, Tampa appreciates a criminal who is both bold and stupid. Since this will be the deciding category for our remaining Big Ten schools, let's consider the candidates.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS - Jesse Jackson, Jr.
In 2013, the former Congressman pled guilty to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. Some of these funds were used for mundane things, like clothing, movie tickets, and meals. But some of them were used for outlandishly stupid shit, like
You KNOW the Justice Department turned around and gave that guitar to Joe Biden for his birthday. Misusing campaign funds isn't super Tampa as felonies go, but bonus points for buying all this stupid shit.
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY - ROD BLAGOJEVICH
Blagojevich became the seventh Governor of Illinois to be indicted or arrested and the fourth to be sentenced to prison, so he doesn't get points for breaking new ground. He does, however, get credit for:
- trying to sell the Illinois Senate seat vacated by newly-elected President Obama
- three weeks after being arrested by the FBI, appointing someone to that seat anyways (and his appointee possibly committed perjury before a Senate committee)
- went on Tbe View instead of attending the first day of his state impeachment trial
- appeared on Celebrity Apprentice while his federal charges were pending
Focusing on your television career instead of staying out of prison is some VERY Tampa shit, Rod.
PURDUE UNIVERSITY - WILLIAM LEONARD PICKARD
At the age of 43, William Leonard Pickard was arrested and charged with LSD manufacturing, for which he served five years in prison. Many people would have decided to leave the drug game behind after that and find less risky employment. Instead, Pickard upped his pace, allegedly producing nearly ten million doses of LSD every five weeks before he and an associate got busted moving his laboratory across Texas in 2000.
The fun part is when you learn what Pickard was doing shortly before he got busted: working as Deputy Director of UCLA's Drug Policy Analysis Program. And, had he not been flipped on by a co-conspirator, he might have moved his operation to a decommissioned missile silo in Kansas.
According to the DEA at the time, only four LSD labs had ever been seized intact. Pickard was involved with three of them.
And that, Northwestern, is why Purdue is actually Tampa's Big Ten Team.