Building the best Big Ten program

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
1:00
PM ET
Inspired by the new social game ESPNU College Town, here's what I would select from around the Big Ten to build the best program in the conference.

Academics: Northwestern. The Big Ten boasts several of the nation's top public institutions, but Northwestern still holds the edge academically despite allowing a certain college football blogger to matriculate.

Athletic director: Michigan's Dave Brandon. Sure, he's a rookie AD, but Brandon has been very impressive, from handling the NCAA investigation to pushing for permanent lights at the Big House. As a true CEO, Brandon fits the modern model of what an AD should be, and he'll do some big things at Michigan.

City: Madison, Wis. It's the perfect combination of college town and urban area. There's diversity, culture, natural beauty and lots of booze, so everyone's happy.

Coach: Jim Tressel. Powerhouses like Ohio State have built-in advantages, but Tressel has completely dominated the Big Ten and archrival Michigan throughout his tenure. Winning is never automatic (see: Cooper, John) but Ohio State appears to be on autopilot.

Facilities: Ohio State. The Woody Hayes Athletic Center is part museum, part office center and part state-of-the-art training site. There's nothing the Buckeyes lack, for not only preparation, but recruiting purposes.

Fans: Penn State. I've never seen a more coordinated student section in the Big Ten or elsewhere, and Penn State fans make Beaver Stadium what it is on fall Saturdays.

Game day atmosphere: Penn State. From the acres of tailgates to Paternoville to the Big Ten's best in-game entertainment, game day in State College is special. Not an easy trip, but totally worth it.

Mascot: Sparty the Spartan. Described as "massive, but cartoon-cute," Sparty is one of the nation's most recognizable mascots. He looks tough, but he doesn't scare (all) the kids, making him an easy pick here.

Stadium: Ohio Stadium. Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium might be my personal favorite, but if I'm building a program, I want the most intimidating environment possible. Ohio Stadium provides it, especially when the sun goes down.

Strength program: Iowa. Chris Doyle consistently takes average recruits or walk-ons and transforms them into All-Big Ten performers. His list of NFL alumni speaks for itself.

The choices weren't easy, especially for athletic director, fans, facilities and stadium. With so many recent renovations around the league, the Big Ten boasts some top-notch buildings. But I like the way my program looks given these components. How would you do it differently?

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