Creating the Big Ten

Courage, Corruption, and Commercialization
Author: Winton U. Solberg
How an athletic conference turned college football into big business
Cloth – $125
Paper – $29.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 04/09/2018
Cloth: 04/09/2018
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About the Book

Big Ten football fans pack gridiron cathedrals that hold up to 100,000 spectators. The conference's fourteen member schools share a broadcast network and a 2016 media deal worth $2.64 billion. This cultural and financial colossus grew out of a modest 1895 meeting that focused on football's brutality and encroaching professionalism in the game.

Winton U. Solberg explores the relationship between higher education and collegiate football in the Big Ten's first fifty years. This formative era saw debates over eligibility and amateurism roil the sport. In particular, faculty concerned with academics clashed with coaches, university presidents, and others who played to win. Solberg follows the conference's successful early efforts to put the best interests of institutions and athletes first. Yet, as he shows, commercial concerns undid such work after World War I as sports increasingly eclipsed academics. By the 1940s, the Big Ten's impact on American sports was undeniable. It had shaped the development of intercollegiate athletics and college football nationwide while serving as a model for other athletic conferences.

About the Author

Winton U. Solberg (d. 2019) was professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His many books include The University of Illinois, 1894-1904: The Shaping of the University and Redeem the Time: The Puritan Sabbath in Early America.

Also by this author

The Constitutional Convention and the Formation of the Union coverThe University of Illinois, 1894-1904 coverReforming Medical Education coverEdmund J. James and the Making of the Modern University of Illinois, 1904-1920 cover


"Anyone interested in college football, the history of intercollegiate athletics, and the attempts at governance, will find this book an important addition to their library and their knowledge." --Aethlon

"A great resource for scholars and fans wanting an in-depth look at how the conference came together, and almost came apart, and the many different paths it might have taken along the way." --Journal of Sport History

"Winton U. Solberg's Creating the Big Ten is a superb work on a significant topic in American social and institutional history." --Journal of American History

"Solberg has written a very useful and timely history. The commercialism of modern big-time intercollegiate sports was clearly a long time coming, as the author of Creating the Big Ten ruefully makes clear." --Middle West Review