Today we celebrate America's rich history and the men that made this country possible. So for fun, and since July is a slow month in college basketball, I decided to assign each Big Ten program a corresponding founding father based on their history with our conference.
University of Chicago: George Washington
Washington retired from politics after his Presidency and focused on his home and business life. Chicago was very successful in basketball at one point, being named National Champions three years in a row from 1906-1908. However, the Maroons left the conference after WWII to focus on academics instead of athletics.
Purdue: Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson was instrumental in the founding of our country and was the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Purdue President James Henry Smart initiated the meetings that led to the founding of the Big Ten. Jefferson found great success as a politician, but later in life he was not nearly as active on the political stage. The Boilers have a great history of basketball and still lead the way in regular season conference championships, but they haven't seen major success on the national stage recently.
Wisconsin: John Adams
Adams was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, our first Veep and our second President. His son John Quincy was our sixth President. Wisconsin won three pre-tournament championships in basketball and the third NCAA Tournament in 1941 (the tourney's leading scorer: John Adams of Arkansas), and recently the Badgers have returned to national prominence like the Adams family did with John Quincy.
Minnesota: Samuel Adams
A cousin of John Adams, Samuel was never President, but was known for using aggressive tactics and pressing the issue politically.
Northwestern: Benjamin Franklin
Extremely intelligent, considered an essential member of the founding fathers, but was never really a full-on politician. The Big Ten loves Northwestern, but we all know they aren't ever going to put their focus on being a powerhouse in sports.
Illinois: James Madison
Madison isn't talked about quite as much as some founding fathers, but he really was a quality politician and a key part of the founding of the United States. Illinois can get overlooked in a conference full of basketball history, but they do have an impressive program with an extensive list of accomplishment all the way back to a championship in 1915.
Michigan: Aaron Burr
Famously feuded with Alexander Hamilton, leading to an eventual duel and the death of Hamilton. The scandal would cause Burr to end what had been a successful political career. Michigan tried to block Michigan State's inclusion in the conference; the story is now a slight embarrassment for the university. Luckily, Michigan never shot Sparty and the conference has two good teams with a great rivalry.
Indiana: Benjamin Harrison V
Not often mentioned in history classes, Harrison was a minor politician and served a single term as Governor of Virginia. His his son and great-grandson, William Henry and Benjamin, would both be President. IU never won any pre-tournament NCs and weren't even the Big Ten winners when they took the tournament in 1940, but later generations saw the Hoosiers become multi-time champs.
Iowa: Thomas Paine
Famous for his political writings, including "Common Sense", Paine never actually held a major political office. Iowa is famous for their Writers Workshop program, but has never quite achieved the status of powerhouse in college basketball.
Ohio State: John Hancock
Despite his other accomplishments, Hancock is best known for a single act of bravado. His famous signature overshadows his political accomplishments. The Ohio State University is a quality basketball school, but many casual fans are more likely to think of them as the university with the rabid football fans that insists on the use of the word "The" in their name.
Michigan State: Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton did his most important work after the Revolutionary War was over. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury and established the US Mint. Similarly, Michigan State didn't achieve much success in the early days of college basketball, but has had great success more recently.
Penn State: John Jay
Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States. Penn State now has two separate law schools. Jay isn't really known for his work as a politician, even though he was one. Penn State really isn't really known for basketball team, even though they have one.
Nebraska: Tadeusz Kościuszko
A Polish military engineer, Kościuszko was not really an American, nor a politician, but we accept him as one of us anyway.
A hero in both French and American history, Lafayette was a great general and a pretty good politician in his own right. Maryland is an important part of ACC history, but we now claim them as one of our own as they join the Big Ten in the war for conference supremacy.
Rutgers: Henry Rutgers
The namesake of the university wasn't really a founding father, but he fought in the revolutionary war. He was a small-time politician and was mostly known for his philanthropy. Also, he was a New Yorker and we all know how important that market was for the founding fathers, or something like that.