Positively Promoting the Student Athlete Since 1992


In 1896, Presidents from Seven Preeminent Midwestern Universities Pioneered

the Regulation of Intercollegiate Competition for Student-Athletes


(ROSEMONT, IL, February 8, 2021) — One hundred and 25 years ago today, one faculty member each from seven Midwestern universities met at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago to officially establish the mechanics of what we know today as the Big Ten Conference, a preeminent collection of institutions in the United States of America, where the pursuit of academic excellence prevails as the definitive goal.


On February 8, 1896, then-Purdue University president James H. Smart and leaders from the University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Northwestern University and University of Wisconsin set out to organize and develop principles for the regulation of intercollegiate athletics.


The presidents’ first known legislation “restricted eligibility for athletics to bonafide, full-time students who were not delinquent in their studies.” That initial action and the others that followed during the infancy of the conference, such as the 1904 requirement that eligible athletes meet entrance requirements, complete a full year of work, along with one year of residence, served as the primary building blocks for intercollegiate athletics.


In 1905, the seven presidents officially incorporated as the “Intercollegiate Conference Athletic Association.” The conference was first referred to as the “Big Ten” by media members in 1917, and that name was eventually incorporated in 1987.


The Big Ten Conference (bigten.org) is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to more than 9,800 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013.