With the state of Indiana taking questionable steps toward discrimination, the Big Ten should think long and hard about the realistic possibility of leaving the state.
The state of Indiana recently passed Indiana Senate Bill 101, otherwise known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act is designed to mandate that religious liberty of individuals and corporations can only be limited by the “least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest.” The controversy from this stems from the belief the law is targeted against the LGBT community. Criticisms have come from recognizable brands and influencers including but not limited to Apple CEO Tim Cook, NASCAR, Angie’s List and more. The NCAA, which has its headquarters located in Indianapolis and is set t host its biggest event — the Final Four — in Indianapolis this weekend, has come out and stated it will closely examine the developments surrounding the law.
The NCAA is not alone. The Big Ten is keeping a close eye on this situation as well.
The Big Ten has held its football championship game in Indianapolis every season since it introduced the game in 2011. Indianapolis served as an ideal host city for the event due to its geography and ease of transportation. The city has also hosted many of the conference’s basketball championships over the years, including nine men’s tournaments since 2002 and all but three women’s basketball tournaments since 1995. The Big Ten, safe to say, has a lot invested in what happens in the state of Indiana, and more specifically the city of Indianapolis. It cannot afford to remain silent for too long on the big issue that has caused a firestorm of criticism aimed at the state.
The MAC has already made it clear the conference will refuse to hold any conference meetings or conference championships within the state unless something changes in Indiana. But the MAC has far less invested in the state with just one conference member in the state borders. The MAC also hosts its football championship game and football media day events in Detroit.
Indianapolis has served the Big Ten well over the years, but if the law is not changed then it may be time to reconsider options for championship events for the Big Ten. The conference has plenty fo options to work with, leaving Indiana with weak legs to stand on in a standoff with the conference.
Chicago is where the Big Ten is currently headquartered, and would be a very suitable home to future championship events moving forward. The Big Ten championship game in Soldier Field? Sign me up. Want to keep the game indoors? Hello Detroit!
And let us not forget the Big Ten has made an effort to move east. Recent additions of Rutgers and Maryland have been followed by a new bowl deal with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium and future men’s basketball conference tournament dates in Washington D.C. (2017) and Madison Square Garden (2018).
The Big Ten can pack up and leave Indiana at the blink of an eye. If the Big Ten wants to go elsewhere, it will have suitors waiting for the call.