Big Ten mailblog

What's this I hear about Notre Dame?

Scott from San Francisco writes: Adam,Do you think Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick's recent comments about needing to join a conference are simply a PR move? What I mean is, do you think he really wants to join the Big Ten but can't say that publicly for fear of a fan-based uprising? So instead, he says joining SOME conference looks inevitable, so we need to entertain this. It seems to me he is softening the blow to the demise of Notre Dame's precious independence. We Are...

Adam Rittenberg: Scott, you bring up a very interesting point. I was talking with one of my media colleagues about Swarbrick the other day and whether he'd be afraid to be known as the Notre Dame AD who "gave in" and joined a conference, even though joining a conference was the fiscally responsible decision to make. There would be a backlash against Swarbrick no matter what if Notre Dame joined, as most fans don't understand the financial pressure these athletic departments are under. Seeing how a lot of Notre Dame fans still think it's the 1970s, I'm confident Swarbrick would take a lot of heat, so I'm not sure if his comments today don't just delay the inevitable.

Bob from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam,Very interesting comments by Jack Swarbrick today. Would you care to speculate as to what scenarios would force Notre Dame's hand and make them join a conference? It seems to me that any large scale changes to the college football landscape will depend directly on what the Big Ten does about expansion. If Notre Dame joins the Big Ten, the changes are minimal, since no conference loses a school. If, on the other hand, the Big Ten destabilizes another conference by poaching a team or teams, full scale realignment of the conferences becomes a real possibility. What do you believe would be a bigger motivator for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten, missing what might be its final chance to join the conference, or preventing the sweeping changes that could occur if the Big Ten takes teams from other conferences?

Adam Rittenberg: Bob, I don't think Notre Dame sees itself as needing to save college athletics from some kind of expansion apocalypse. Notre Dame will join a league because it doesn't want to get left out and face potential ramifications. As Swarbrick noted today, the media-rights agreements in college sports have changed the game, and Notre Dame could find itself in a really tough spot if it doesn't join a league like the Big Ten.

Josh from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Hey Adam,I absolutely love your blog, and it's usually the only thing I ever check on ESPN these days, since you're one of few sports writers that can remain unbiased. That aside, you mentioned the game day tradition series wraps up with Indiana, but you never did Michigan State! What gives?

Adam Rittenberg: Josh, not to worry. Michigan State's game-day traditions post came out Feb. 24 and can be found here.

Ben from San Francisco writes: Adam, I know it's wildly premature and I'm hoping it doesn't come to it, but if Michigan is looking for a new head coach in 2011 (or after) what do you think about Tony Dungy for the job? He's a local guy (from Jackson, MI 30 miles down the road), fits the "Michigan Man" mold perfectly, would be unbelievable as a recruiter and I have to believe everyone in the Big Ten would be terrified at the prospect of him running the show in Ann Arbor. I think he's significantly more qualified than Harbaugh, who many are speculating is the lead horse if a coaching search ensues. No idea if Dungy would be interested in coming back to coaching, but if so, it seems like a total slam dunk. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Dungy has been mentioned for several college jobs, including as a potential successor to Joe Paterno at Penn State. It's easy to see why, as his personality and interest in advising young men certainly would translate well to the college game. That said, I don't see him returning to the sideline in 2011. Now if he does decide to coach in college, the Big Ten would be an excellent fit. But if the Michigan job comes open after 2010, I think you're looking at Jim Harbaugh as your top candidate.

Alex from Kansas City, Kan., writes: Hey Adam, I love the blog. You probably have gotten this a lot, but as an Iowa fan, I would say [Ricky] Stanzi should be one of the top 30 players of the conference. But as we enter the top 4 with Clayborn, Bulaga, Odrick, and Graham still not on the board either, it seems doubtful Stanzi will be up there. I can point to a couple of people on the board right now that Stanzi has more potential then. Can you explain your reasoning on this one?

Adam Rittenberg: Stanzi wasn't far outside the top 30, Alex, but I couldn't look past his interceptions total. He deserves a lot of credit for stepping up in the fourth quarter, but let's face it: Iowa's defense bailed him out numerous times last fall. Most teams can't survive a pick-six from their quarterback and win a game, but Iowa did so multiple times thanks to Norm Parker's tremendous defense, and, to be fair, some clutch play from Stanzi. He's got to clean up his game a bit before I include him in the top 30, but he certainly has the mental and physical ability to be a star in 2010.