clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Comparing Big Ten Schools to Avengers

It is Marvel Week at SB Nation, so Holmes actually wrote something!

‘Iron Man’ Press Conference Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

If you’ve read most of my content for Hammer and Rails, you’ll know I don’t do a lot of news or information posts and I pretty much never do any major analysis. I prefer to come on every once in a loooooooong while and write about fun stuff that interests me and force it on the Purdue public using this major platform I am surely not deserving of. So, with no sports left to analyze and ever less news to report, what better time for me to write some stuff?

Apparently this week is also Marvel week here at SBNation. That works out perfectly for me because I love Marvel, I love Big Ten sports, and the idea for this article has been sitting in my drafts for too long already. Here’s the premise: I’m going to match Big Ten schools with Avengers.

Not just their football program or basketball program, but the whole school’s reputation athletically and academically as interpreted by yours truly. Additionally, this isn’t going to be the MCU Avengers, we’re going to go with the comic versions of the team because it gives me way more characters to work with and a much deeper and detailed timeline from which I can pull references.

Now, let’s just jump right in here.

Purdue-Iron Man

Without Purdue, the Big Ten may have never existed, not only are the Boilermakers a founding member of the conference, it was James Smart, the university president at the time who led the original meeting. Like the Big Ten, the Avengers formed as a group working together, and while it wasn’t just one person’s idea, Iron Man probably deserves a modicum of credit more than the rest as it was his mansion that would become the Avengers headquarters. Tony Stark is an engineer, and even non-engineering Purdue grads will tell you about their top-quality engineering programs. Stark has spent his fair share of time in space (although, most Avengers have at this point) and likely drones on about it at parties. Similarly, Purdue loves to talk about their alums’ trips to space. Both IM and Purdue love to wear gold accents on everything. Purdue isn’t the strongest sports program in the league, instead they are about average for a Power 5 school. In the same way Iron Man relies on his intelligence to boost his strength and power, which is just that of an average person.


If you can’t see the University of Wisconsin as a big blonde dude who drinks a lot and talks kind of funny, then you obviously don’t follow the Big Ten enough. Thor is a founding member of the Avengers and Wisconsin is a Big Ten founder. After playing Wisconsin in football, I’m sure most opposing defenders feel like they’ve been hit by Mjolnir. Yes, this means Marquette is Loki, damn tricksters.

Michigan-Ant-Man (Hank Pym)

Unlike Ant-Man, Michigan wasn’t a founding member, but these two share something else in common when it comes to membership. Both Pym and Michigan have been kicked out of their respective group. As Yellowjacket, Pym was court-martialed by his fellow Avengers after an unprovoked attack on the villian Elfqueen. Michigan was expelled from the Big Ten in 1907 for failing to follow the rules, but came back in 1916. Both Pym is one of the smartest Avengers ever, and Michigan is one of the highest regarded Public Ivies. On the flipside, both Michigan fans and Hank share a reputation for being conceited and brash. As Goliath and Giant-Man, Pym has been one of the strongest Avengers at times, similarly, Michigan’s sports teams have shown some serious dominance in their history. The combination of intelligence and strength is nearly unrivaled...except by a certain rival.

Ohio State-Hulk

Again, OSU wasn’t a founder, unlike the Hulk. However, Banner’s genius is worthy of being compared to Ohio State’s stellar reputation as a university and Hulk’s unbridled strength rises above his fellow Avengers like Ohio State’s football superiority has ruled the Big Ten off and on for years. Unlike other Avengers and other Big Ten schools, there seems to be a spiritual separation between the two. I expect you’re all familiar with Cardale Jones’ infamous tweet, and like Hulk and Banner, Ohio State academics and football can sometimes feel like separate entities all together.

Illinois-Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)

Illinois and Wasp are both founders. I feel like both Illinois and Wasp get a bit overlooked despite significant contributions to their group. Wasp has taken out an impressive list of villains through her history, including Magneto. Illinois has a solid history of wins and championships, but often isn’t as talked about as their compatriots. Finally, Janet’s character is a respected fashion designer and Illinois’ uniforms have been pretty great recently and in their history.

Northwestern-Black Widow

NU is a Big Ten found and Natasha is not a founding member in the comics, but let’s ignore that for this comparison. No one sees Northwestern on their schedule and gets nervous, similarly, I kind of doubt many super villains see a regular person matched up against them and worry about losing the fight. However, Black Widow is cunning as hell and always seems to have a plan or angle to work. Likewise, the Wildcats have pulled off some of the biggest upsets in Big Ten sports.


First off, I swear I am not doing this just to piss off Iowa and Minnesota fans. Minnesota is our last founding Big Ten member except for the University of Chicago. While Hawkeye isn’t an original Avenger in the comics, he is one of the earliest new recruits. Hawkeye and Minnesota are solid contributors to the group. One point I thought was interesting is that Minnesota is the only D1 school in their state, so they kind of lead their own group, much like Hawkeye has led multiple smaller Avengers teams like the Occupy Avengers and the current West Coast Avengers. Also, he rebranded himself as Ronin at one point and began using a larger variety of weapons. Minnesota has done some rebranding in football and now presumably uses oars as footballs, or something like that.


Like Quicksilver, Indiana isn’t a founding member, but joined early enough in the group’s history that many people might not realize it. Quicksilver has superspeed, and throughout this article I’ve somewhat equated football prowess to strength, so maybe basketball prowess should be tied to speed? Quicksilver’s brute strength isn’t much more than a normal persons, and IU’s football team is the worst in Power 5 history, so that tracks. As a basketball school, IU and their fans present themselves a bit differently than a lot of Power 5s. Quicksilver’s personality has stood out at times among the Avengers in a similar way.

Iowa-Scarlet Witch

Iowa joined the Big Ten at the same time as IU, just like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Does that make Iowa IU’s sister? Maybe. The only thing I know is the Hawkeyes make weird improbable things happen and can absolutely ruin your season. Just ask Ohio State in football, and the Boilers on Rick Mount night.

Michigan State-The Vision

The Vision joined the Avengers in issue #58, Michigan State didn’t join the conference until 1949. Vision has been portrayed as mostly green or all-white at certain times. Vision is technically considered Hank Pym’s grandson since he created Ultron and Ultron created Vision, Michigan treats Michigan State like a grandson at times even though it doesn’t quite make sense. As an android who has sentience and free will we’re meant to not quite be sure if he is robot or human, much like Tom Izzo.

Penn State-Beast

Beast was an original X-Man, but later joined the Avengers as well. This happened before it seemed like everyone was becoming an Avenger in the comics. Just like Penn State’s move to the Big Ten predated the major conference realignment. Again, Beast is a good combination of strength and intelligence like Penn State has been great on the field and in academics. Also, both are blue and at times Beast has turned more cat-like depending on the story and the writer.

Nebraska-Luke Cage

Cage was a member of Heroes for Hire along with Iron Fist and later a bunch of other heroes. Not really an equal to the Avengers by any means, but respectable in their own way, just a lot less tradition and history. Much like the weird cobbling together of older conferences that was and is the Big 12. Cage is a powerful hero, Nebraska football was once a true powerhouse. Cage doesn’t have the genius-level intellect or the strategic mind of some previous Avengers and Nebraska doesn’t have quite the academic ranking of some Big Ten schools, but it is still a very respectable school nonetheless.


Fierce, wears black and yellow, rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I think that makes UNC Cyclops and that’d make either Duke or NC State Havok...but I digress. Maryland came from another popular and established conference where they were one of the big players. Just like Wolverine coming from the X-Men to the Avengers. To some these moves felt a bit forced, but in the end it worked out and proved to be a fairly popular move. I also think this makes UMBC’s upset of Virginia, a case of X-23 beating Magneto.

Rutgers-Captain America

Rutgers is one of the oldest universities in America. Cap has been around since before Marvel comics was even called Marvel. Despite not being in the first three Avengers comics, Steve Rogers is often referred to as “The First Avenger,” much like Rutgers is “The Birthplace of College Football.” Rutgers has been a part of other past and now defunct conferences like Cap was a part of The Invaders back during the 1940s. Rutgers beat Princeton in that fabled first football game, and since Captain America punches Hitler on the cover of his first comic I’m pretty sure that makes the Tigers Hitler in this analogy.

University of Chicago-Swordsman

Swordsman was an early Avenger, originally a villain, and was kicked out for a bit and eventually came back and was then killed not much later. UChicago was an original member of the Big Ten as many know, but chose to stop putting money into sports and faded away into D3 obscurity.

This has been a fun exercise and I’ve truly enjoyed combining two of my favorite hobbies for you. Now please, keep all criticism and thoughts to yourself...just kidding, let me know what you think.