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11 Stadiums in 11 Weeks: Four Big Ten Fans Plan Trip Of A Lifetime

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Tim Cary

Diehard Big Ten fans should forgive sports nut Drew Cieszynski for never having visited even one of the conference's eleven football stadiums.  After all, he's been rather busy.

In the past three years, Cieszynski has managed to see every major league baseball team...

...and every NBA basketball team...

...and perhaps most remarkably, he still has a job.
Now, Cieszynski is embarking on another great sports tour, this time with three friends, and it's a project every Big Ten fan will envy.

That's because Drew Cieszynski, Wes Givens, Jeff Harris, and Blake Suhar are planning to attend games at all eleven Big Ten stadiums in eleven straight weekends this fall.

And yes, they're hoping their day jobs survive the expedition.

With the first game (Akron/Penn State) less than a month away, the guys took some time to chat with First and Big Ten about a 10,000+ mile, 9-state journey they're calling "THE Big Ten Tour".

The way Cieszynski explains it, the tour is all about having "a good story to share with the world".  

"Quite frankly," he told FBT, "I got fed up with hearing news about steroids in baseball, a bad economy, Michael Jackson, and Brett Favre.  I've lived in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, love tailgating, enjoy interacting with people, and am trying to become a more educated college football fan.  It's a perfect fit."

Givens agrees, calling The Big Ten Tour "the perfect trip".  "[When Drew was on the MLB & NBA tours], I went on a few of those road trips and had a great time.  I love the experience of going to football games (the tailgates, the fans, the actual game being played, etc.) and most of the stadiums are within driving distance."

While Cieszynski hasn't yet been to a Big Ten game, the other three men will be making return visits.  Suhar was born in Columbus and fondly remembers seeing Eddie George, Cris Carter, and Joey Galloway in the Horseshoe.  Eventually, his family moved to Wisconsin, so he's also checked out many a game at Camp Randall.

Iowa native Harris has been to Kinnick Stadium (we're not sure if he told anyone then that he's a Cyclone alum) and Camp Randall Stadium, and looks forward to seeing the other nine stadiums for the first time.
 
Givens has been to the Wisconsin stadium as well, and he listed Madison as the site he's most looking forward to visiting this fall.  The tour is scheduled to see the Badgers and Boilermakers tangle on October 31st.  "I've only heard great stories about Halloween in Madison, and as a fan of getting dressed up and having a good time, I can't wait, " Givens said.

Cieszynski had a hard time even picking a game he was most excited about seeing.  "I'm equally looking forward to all of them.  If I've learned anything over the past few years, it's that it's not important where you are at, but who you are with. 

"If you absolutely made me pick one, it would be Minnesota.  A brand new stadium and what I've perceived to be the friendliest people on earth."  Cieszynski said that the Gophers' athletic director has already responded to his inquiry and offered to show the group around TCF Bank Stadium during their visit.

And that brings us to logistics.  Cieszynski, Givens, Harris, and Suhar are all planning to hold down their Monday-Friday jobs during the tour, and expect to make the entire journey without any financial sponsorship.  "You only live once," Suhar explained.  "Live to smile about the things you did, not regret the things you didn't."

The four men are actively looking for reasonably-priced game tickets, as well as recommendations of what to see and do near each Midwestern campus.  Fans can find out more about the trip and pass along their suggestions at www.TheBig10Tour.com.

The tour is set up like a dream Big Ten football season, starting with non-conference games, finishing with eight straight conference matchups, and (hopefully) culminating with a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2010.  While the details for a possible jaunt to California aren't confirmed yet, the four friends know who they'd like to see the Big Ten champion play.  

"USC!"  "Oregon!"  "A Big 12 team!" "Florida!"

Okay, maybe they don't.   

Suhar's convinced the Trojans don't have a shot to play for the roses:  "I would say USC, but Ohio State is already going to beat them September 12th." 

He's not buying any stories of the Big Ten's demise either. "I know the league has gotten a bad rap over the past few years because of their performance in BCS games, but if any of the Big 12 or SEC teams consistently played 'grind it out' grueling games in the weather all the Big Ten schools do, I guarantee the 11 teams from the Midwest would dominate."

Sounds like these guys understand Big Ten football just fine.

For more information on The Big Ten Tour (not to be confused with the Big Ten Network's preseason bus tour of football practices), visit www.TheBig10Tour.com or follow @Big10Drew on Twitter.


More with Drew, Wes, Jeff, and Blake:

  • Suhar and Givens have Ohio State winning the league in 2009, while Cieszynski's going with the Nittany Lions: "We see them play three times on the tour, so they obviously have an advantage."  Harris is predicting a title and Rose Bowl trip for the Hawkeyes: "This WILL happen."
  • Suhar's excited to go home to Ohio for the Hawkeyes/Buckeyes game on November 14. His brother plays for Division 3 powerhouse Mount Union, and he's hoping to see the Purple Raiders' final home game and the Ohio State contest in the same day.
  • At FBT's request, the quartet each selected a team they thought might surprise the experts in 2009.  Jeff and Drew tapped Northwestern ("Mostly because I like listening to Mike Greenberg on Mike and Mike In The Morning", Cieszynski admits), while Wisconsin and Michigan also got some love.  Givens (a big fan of the Rich Rodriguez spread option offense) defended his choice of the Wolverines, going so far as to say they'll double their win total from 2008.
  • A fifth friend, Dan Lawrence, will be a part-time participant in the group's expedition this fall, but can't make all 11 games due to his upcoming wedding.  Lawrence is pictured below with (from left) Suhar, Cieszynski, and Givens at a former Big Ten stadium, the Metrodome.  (Photo courtesy of Drew Cieszynski.)

bigtenfansdome.jpg




OTHER STORIES AROUND THE BIG TEN:

Woodson headed for Hall.  Boilermaker alum Rod Woodson will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend in Canton, Ohio.  Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal and Courier caught up with the former defensive back and current television analyst.  (In addition to his current duties with NFL Network, Woodson is slated to call two Purdue games in September for Big Ten Network.) 

Quarterback battles set to heat up.  If you need a refresher course on the quarterbacks competing for the Michigan State and Wisconsin starting roles, look no further.  BadgerBeat.com has an in-depth comparison of Dustin Sherer and Curt Phillips, while MLive.com has spring video highlights of the Spartans' Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol.

Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list released.  Looks like Penn State put Evan Royster's name in on time for this one.  The senior is joined by teammate Daryll Clark and Illini receiver Arrelious Benn in the list of 30 names.  While it's unlikely that this award finds its way to a Big Ten player in 2009, Clark would seem to be the most likely choice of the three if Penn State puts together a special season.

And last but not least... you never know what you'll find in a junkyard, as evidenced by this photo at UMGoBlog.com.

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