Big Ten mailbag

They told me I could ease into the Big Ten blog since I'd be joining Adam in the slowest college football news cycle of the year. Um, yeah.

There's been so much news that it's hard for a newbie to keep things straight (Terrelle Pryor is transferring to Wisconsin, right?). Anyway, let's sort out all this stuff together. To the mailbag we go:

Al from Lincoln, Neb., writes: As an assistant coach, shouldn't Luke Fickell have had knowledge of the goings on at Ohio State? Shouldn't he, to some degree, have been aware of them, or could he have been complicit?

Brian Bennett: Fickell, of course, was asked about this at his news conference on Monday (in fact, it was the first question). He said he was not aware of any violations and that he was more focused on his work as an assistant. Absent of any email history or other evidence, I suppose we have to take Fickell at his word for now. I do believe that assistant coaches, more so than head coaches, have tunnel vision to some extent about their particular responsibilities. The bigger-picture problems and concern tend to hit the head coach's desk. At the same time, these assistants are often times closer to their players and their goings-on than the head man.

Again, there are no facts or allegations that Fickell knew of violations. He must make sure from now on that he knows everything that's going on in the program, and that he alerts the proper officials if there are compliance issues. And he'd better hope that there aren't any incriminating emails on his hard drive.

Stephanie from Dallas writes: If Ohio State is hit with major sanctions, such as 3-5 years of sanctions, would or would it not make sense for the program to go with the youngest, qualified candidate such as Luke Fickell, where he could stay with the program (if successful) for a longer period than an Jon Gruden, Urban Meyer or Bo Pelini? In other words, Fickell could stay through the bad times and set a strong foundation for when the program takes off again (whereas an older coach would retire).

Brian Bennett: In this case, I'm not sure youth has much to do with it. Ohio State is a destination job, even with the possibility of sanctions looming. I think the Buckeyes should hire the right coach and make sure he wants to stay in Columbus for a while to see the job through. There are different ways to go here. Kentucky brought Rich Brooks out of retirement, and his steady hand guided the Wildcats out of their probation years and into a multiple-year bowl team. USC went with a younger guy in Lane Kiffin. Butch Davis took Miami through rebuilding and brought the Hurricanes back to the top. Heavy NCAA penalties may scare away some coaches, but I believe plenty of qualified candidates will still be very interested in Ohio State.

Brian from Santiago, Chile, writes: With Luke Fickell taking the reins at OSU, the Big Ten has added another coach this year, changing the faces of the Big Ten head coaches quite dramatically since last season. Yet the head coaching position has still remained mono-colored. I am just wondering why the Big Ten, a league that prides itself on being a cut above the rest still has no black head coaches? Do you see the possibility an up-and-coming black head coach in the near future?

Brian Bennett: That's an issue that the league should find troubling. The Big Ten has had only three African-American head coaches, and Michigan State's Bobby Williams is the only one since 1991. (The other two were Dennis Green and Francis Peay at Northwestern). Meanwhile, every other BCS league currently has at least one black head football coach. I don't believe in promoting someone just because of race, but the Big Ten needs to take a serious look at its minority hiring practices.

Wilson from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Reflecting on the names of the divisions of the Big 10, I realize that the names really don't mean much outside of the Big 10. I look to the ACC and I couldn't tell you what division Clemson or Duke is in, but I do know that they are both in the ACC. I think that outsiders of the Big 10 will view it the same way. They won't care who is in what division besides the fact that the school is part of the Big 10. What are your thoughts?

Brian Bennett: I still cannot tell you who is in the Atlantic and who is in the Coastal divisions of the ACC. Clearly, I'm still trying to remember the Legends and Leaders divisions, as I mistakenly put Nebraska in the Leaders division in a post last week before correcting it (Repeat after me: Legends is Iowa plus the 'M' and 'N' schools). Let's face it: these are silly names for divisions, and unlike the old Big 12 North and South, it's impossible to figure out who's in which just by looking at the division name. Fans will get used to it after a while, though, and all that matters is that we get good football and compelling races.

David from Hawkeye Nation writes: Welcome to the Blog, Brian! Let's see if you can handle us vicious Hawk fans. Recently, your colleague Bruce Feldman wrote an article about coaches who elevated their respective programs to new heights, and while I understand that 25 is not enough to recognize every deserving individual, I was surprised to not see Hayden Fry on this list. I know I will sound very much the Hawkeye-homer on this one, but I truly do believe that Hayden's tenure at the U of I changed the course of our program, opening new possibilities for a perennial middle-of-the-pack college team. ... Fry, hired in 1978, led the Hawks to 14 Bowl games, 3 Rose Bowls, and 3 B10 Titles. Perhaps its a little too soon to tell, and Iowa is certainly no powerhouse. But Fry was the light at the end of a long tunnel for the Hawkeyes, and his spirit remains with the Hawks under Ferentz. At least I felt it was worth mentioning.

Brian Bennett: That's a good point about Fry, and he's very deserving of mentioning. I would just add that he left a lasting influence on the Big Ten and college football, as his disciples include Kirk Ferentz, Bob and Mike Stoops, Bret Bielema, Bo Pelini, among many others.