- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thanks for all your responses this week. And those calling me a self-righteous nerd clearly have been in touch with my wife, because she agrees with you.
I won't spend the whole mailblog on the Chris L. Rucker reinstatement, but it's clearly the hot topic. To clear up a few things:
I never advocated for Rucker to be kicked off the team or suspended the rest of the season. I don't think Rucker is a bad guy. My issue is with the timing of his reinstatement by Mark Dantonio. Waiting just a week longer would have made a difference.
Those saying I'm coming down harder on Michigan State than other Big Ten teams simply haven't been reading the blog. Ask Iowa fans how I covered the James Ferentz situation, or the series of Hawkeyes players arrests. Ask Penn State fans or Michigan fans, too. But keep searching for my alleged biases if it makes you feel better.
I won't criticize Rucker one bit if he decides to play. And those expecting an apology if Rucker decides to stay home or not play at Iowa won't get one. It's Rucker's decision, given to him by Dantonio, who took himself out of the equation after Thursday. I don't have a strong opinion one way or another if Rucker plays or not. The door has been opened.
It's not my job to make your program or the Big Ten sound great. If you think college football is all rainbows and unicorns, you're in the wrong place.
Let's go ...
Bill from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam,I'm a big fan of the blog and I check it religiously every day. I'm really not trying to be like the horde of barbarians that sends you angry drivel and insults every day. As far as the Rucker situation goes, though, I'm confused as to what penalty you think would have been appropriate? Rucker has missed three games. As Dantonio said tonight, "zero tolerance" doesn't mean automatic dismissal. Rucker has been penalized. Unlike you, I am willing to give Dantonio the benefit of the doubt here. Whatever the perception of the situation will be from outsiders, I believe that Coach is doing what he believes is right, not what he thinks he needs to do to win. Dantonio's job responsibilities are to MSU, not to anyone else. Frankly, I don't understand why people become outraged over these issues. Rucker has dealt with the judicial system, who are media members to demand punishment on him outside of that? You make it sound like Rucker has not been punished at all. Again, he has already suspended three games, and considering he didn't have time to practice this week, I doubt he will play much at Iowa. Just wanted to put in my two cents.
Adam Rittenberg: And I thank you for doing so in a respectful manner. I agree that zero tolerance doesn't mean automatic dismissal. But does it mean reinstatement the same day someone is released from jail? I would think zero tolerance would carry a little more teeth than that. I just expected Dantonio to take a little different course after everything that happened with Glenn Winston and the Rather Hall incident. Again, Chris L. Rucker and Glenn Winston aren't the same guys and their transgressions were different, but typically you look to the past and avoid the risk -- not the guarantee, but the risk -- of making the same mistake twice. I don't see the harm in telling Rucker, 'You handled your legal issues like a man. You're out of jail. Let's see where things are in a few days. You will play again, but you're still out for this week's game.'
Brian from Denver writes: Adam - That was a cheap shot. I hope you enjoy the front page of ESPN. Why would you write something like that? Your opinion of agreeing or disagreeing is fine. The cheap shots are not. This is not Jim Rome is burning, or around the horn. This is college, and students are going to make mistakes at all schools. Are you really going to insult the alumni and fans who read your articles day in and day out every time something like this happens? Dantonio suspended half the team before the most important game of the year last year, and you called him a win at all cost coach. Well - you are a win at all cost writer. Jump suit to uniform? Is this US weekly, or a trusted source of information? Way to jump on a team experiencing rare success by pointing out a young man's mistake repeatedly, and then projecting it across the alumni and fans of a 150 year old institution. I have been a loyal fan since the blog has started, and I don't think I can get myself to read again. You treat other school's athlete's mistakes with class, why not MSU's?
Adam Rittenberg: Oh, Brian, where do I begin? My post was much more about Dantonio's response than the mistakes Rucker made. Of course Rucker deserves a second chance. But not at the moment. And I haven't jumped on a team enjoying historic success. I've given Michigan State tons of praise this season, and deservedly so. Kirk Cousins is one of my favorite people in college football, and I have good relationships with several players and coaches in the MSU program. But when the head coach does something I disagree with, it's my job to say so. That's what I've done. And spare me the argument about playing favorites. Other programs get ripped here when things like this happen. But what do I know? I'm a win-at-all-costs writer, whatever that means.
Austin from Detroit writes: Adam, I am so peeved about this rucker situation. As a die hard state fan, I feel completely betrayed in the identity I feel with this team. The identity that came from the school as a whole was that we were sort of a quiet, underdog type (even with basketball) that always won the right way, yet it wasn't the only thing that was important. I saw the college football commercials last night for the lineup of this weekend. They showed "#5 michigan state vs. #18 iowa," and I just couldn't get excited like I normally can. The magic that was surrounding this team feels missing now. I could very well see us droping 2 games now to iowa and penn state, because now we really are "same old spartans."
Adam Rittenberg: Austin, Michigan State is still a very good football team that is more than capable of beating Iowa on Saturday. But the Spartans' image undoubtedly absorbed a blow on Thursday, and no one in East Lansing should be surprised. If any other program did something similar, it would be criticized as well. That's just the way it goes. Timing matters when handling disciplinary issues like this. As my guy Joe Rexrode writes, "I agree that reinstating Rucker is the right call. But timing, as they say, is everything. Or is it image that's everything? Well, if image matters at all to MSU, this timing couldn't really be worse." Spot on.
Tyler from Alabama writes: Adam, I really enjoy your blog and think you do an excellent job. But your article about Dantonio's Trust Factor seems a little personal and biased, like you have a personal vendetta against Dantonio or something. Chris L. Rucker has missed two games and went to jail for eight days. That's the most time that any player, that I can recall, has spent away from his team for a DWI. Justin Blackmon is only getting suspended for one game for his incident. Again you are sounding really biased.
Adam Rittenberg: No personal vendetta at all, Tyler. I like Mark Dantonio and he's always been fair with me in our dealings. Let's get the facts right, though. Rucker went to jail for a probation violation and received a reduced term as part of a plea agreement after his probation officer recommended 21 days in jail. So it wasn't merely the OWI charge. Again, no bias here. You're conveniently forgetting all the positive coverage I've given to Michigan State this season. It goes both ways.
Adam from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Well, it has taken 5 days, but I think I'm healing up over the loss to Wisconsin. I am, however, not sure how to take Coach Ferentz's comments about "taking the blame for the loss." I have read that he said that it was his fault for not going into punt defense on Bucky's fake or spiked the ball at the end of the game. I have also watched him interviewed on the news saying that some of the players didn't respond like upper classmen, clearly deflecting some of the blame. My question (and I'd be run out of town if I asked anywhere but via internet) is do you believe Ferentz is worth $3+ million a year when he does have a history of being out-coached at least 1 or 2 games a year (e.g. WI 2010, OSU 2009, Pitt 2008, MSU 2008, W Mich. 2007, etc...? I know that much of the money is paid by donors but shouldn't Iowa lose based on Xs and Os and not coaching?
Adam Rittenberg: I still think Ferentz is worth every penny. It certainly stings when coaching errors lead to a close loss, especially because coaching should be an area where Iowa almost always has the edge. But I still look at factors like player development, given Iowa's position for recruiting, and see no better option for sustained success than Ferentz and his staff. Coaches will make mistakes from time to time, but the players also have to step up in big moments, and Iowa hasn't had nearly as many clutch performances as it did in 2009.
Kevin from Indianapolis writes: Adam,You've stated before that if Nebraska were to win the National Championship this year, the Big Ten would not get any credit for it nationally, and I agree. My question is, even if Nebraska would win it in the next year or two, would the Big Ten get credit for the win, or would it be spun nationally that the conference had to go out and get a team that could win it all?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Kevin. I'm sure the perception would be mixed, given how recently Nebraska would have joined the Big Ten. But getting through the Big Ten schedule and the new championship game should count for something, and I think the Big Ten would gain some degree of credit if the Huskers lift the crystal football.
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