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Big Ten mailblog

It's that time again. Mail time.

RC from Elkhorn, Neb., writes: Hey Adam, with all the talk about changing the system in college football, wouldn't it be easier to have all the conference champs play for the title? It would save time deciding who would go. Plus it would give every conference a chance at winning it all. I could see a couple problems but you can't please everyone. To start, have the top two teams, based on the final rankings, have a bye while the other teams played each other. Keep the bowl games, have the conf. champs play for the title, I think it would help a lot.

Adam Rittenberg: RC, while your plan has some bright spots, it also has some drawbacks. Not every league is created equal, and sometimes the No. 2 or No. 3 team in a great league is much more deserving of a playoff berth than a champion from a weak one. Last year's Alabama squad has to have access to a playoff -- the team is simply too good to be left out. I also don't need to see some of the smaller-conference champions in a playoff. If the USC starting quarterback tears his ACL in a blowout win against the MAC champion, altering the rest of the playoffs, that's a loss for college football. Let's not delay the inevitable and put the best group of teams -- a mix of league champions and a wild card or two -- into a playoff model. I really like the model that the Big Ten ADs put forth at their spring meetings -- top three conference champions and one wild card. I think any team ranked in the top 2 of the final rankings should be in the playoff regardless of whether it wins its league or division. I'm much less concerned about a No. 4 team being left out than a No. 2 team.


Dave from Waukee, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam, you dweebs just need to keep spewing the BS dialogue about how all the conferences need to keep getting bigger. There's no proof that a 16-team conference is how to be successful. Stability is what makes success in the long run, always has, always will. And that's why I believe what the Big Ten is doing the right thing (and not doing the dumb thing as far as adding lesser institutions from some distant geography). Can't you respect your profession and write intelligently, versus speculatively. Of course, you make more money not by writing responsibly, but by putting BS in words, then having the uninformed reader believe that just because someone (e.g. you) wrote it, that it's true. Those of us who've gone to top univesities, (Wisconsin) graduated at the top of our class, e.g. understand what your motive is: Stir the pot with BS. But I'll give you this, you're good at it. If that's what makes you proud, drive on.

Adam Rittenberg: Dave, I don't know why you're getting so upset about the speculation. I've made the Big Ten's position pretty clear on this issue. The league doesn't want to expand beyond 12 and doesn't want to add just for the sake of adding. Cultural fit matters to the Big Ten, more so than it does to most leagues. I've stated this time and again and included quotes from Big Ten power brokers about the topic. But to pretend realignment isn't coming back and that the Big Ten can take an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude toward the process is shortsighted and, quite frankly, silly. Someone who graduated at the top of his class should know that. The Big Ten has to watch the landscape and potentially react to it. TV deals drive the sport. Sorry if that bothers you, but it's the truth. The Big Ten would like to keep things status quo, but the money being thrown around is significant, and the Big Ten wants to go to the negotiating table in a strong position. Maybe that's staying at 12, or maybe it's expanding to 13 or 14 or 16. We'll see.

And trust me, I'm not getting any more money by writing about realignment. Is it a popular topic? Yes. Most mail I receive these days includes realignment proposals. So will we continue to write about it? You bet.


Don from Tuscaloosa, Ala., writes: Adam, I am a Buckeye fan by default, growing up in northeastern Ohio and going to school just outside of Columbus. I am now pursuing a M.S. at Alabama and although I enjoy the atmosphere down here I am pretty torn about allegiances for the upcoming Alabama-Michigan game. I can't pull for my team's archrival against my current school, but the Big Ten desperately needs a signature OOC win -- and a return to prominence for Michigan to give The Game greater importance. Help!

Adam Rittenberg: That's a tough one, Don. Maybe if you look at it more like rooting for Alabama to lose more than for Michigan to win, you'll be OK watching the game on Sept. 1. I don't know how many Michigan fans would pull for Ohio State in the same situation, although Big Ten fans tend to rally more around their league against nonconference competition (although not as much as SEC fans do). You're right that the Big Ten needs a signature win like this one. But I think The Game will be a big deal this year and in the coming seasons, regardless of how Michigan performs against the Tide. The Brady Hoke-Urban Meyer story line will add to this year's contest, and the fact that Ohio State will be playing its "bowl game" against the Maize and Blue.


David from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, writes: Adam, I read your article on the scandals in college football ... again, no sense of discernment as to the relative severity of the actions, regardless of how the NCAA treated them (which is inconsistent at best). You, again, go after Tressel for taking the hit for tattoos and selling their own stuff and hit the program because of disputes over timesheets (if you would actually look into it and understand what happened with the players/jobs/booster it would help). You conflate that with the stuff at Penn State -- which is so far outside the pale it is a criminal matter beyond the NCAA (not to mention giving JoePa a pass for all the stuff his players did over the years and got "team punishment" for). Two-thirds of your article is about OSU for, by comparison, trivial activity -- especially compared to Miami! MIAMI GETS ONE PARAGRAPH! I know you guys love to bash Ohio State for the haters, but we just cry out for a little balance, a little sanity, and some realization of the differences in the severity of the violations we are talking about. Sheeeeeesh!

Adam Rittenberg: David, the assignment I received was to write about the past year in college football, built around the fact that Tressel resigned last Memorial Day. That was the hook to the story and why it ran on Memorial Day, but other schools were mentioned. Also, Tressel didn't "take the hit" for his players doing stupid things. He lied to the NCAA and to his superiors at Ohio State. That's why he lost his job, and that's a very big deal. Is it bigger than the Penn State scandal? No. Is the Miami situation potentially more damaging to the program? Absolutely. Don't fret, Ohio State fans, the balance of negative stories will eventually even out as the Penn State and Miami situations are far from over. I know how incredibly important it is for everyone to have the same amount of negative coverage for scandals.


Keith from Kunming, China, writes: Dear Adam, while we're all fantasizing about adding 4 more teams to the B1G, why not challenge conventional thinking? These super conferences are all based on football, SO FAR, but what if the B1G decided to be the premier basketball conference? Let's suggest adding 4 teams specifically for that reason: UNC, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas. Football gains only easy wins this way, but that's not all bad. The B1G becomes the basketball power league, and fans enjoy even more reasons to celebrate great athletics all year!

Adam Rittenberg: Keith, the problem with challenging conventional thinking, as you put it, is that you're making a terrible business decision by not making it all about football. I love college basketball just as much as the next guy, but the revenue in college sports comes mostly from football. That's why all these realignment decisions are being made with football at front of mind, because football brings in the TV dollars. North Carolina isn't a bad football addition, and Syracuse might not be a bad one in the long run, but Duke brings absolutely nothing in football. Duke basketball is a wonderful national brand, but the school's drawbacks in football are too big, in my view, to bring the Blue Devils to the Big Ten. Kansas basketball also is a great national brand, but the Jayhawks football program does very little for the Big Ten at the negotiating table. The Big Ten would be the nation's premier basketball league if these additions were made, but the potential drawbacks in football would be too severe in my view.


Chris from Traverse City, Mich., writes: Adam, with the landscape changing soon in regards to a "4" team playoff and bowl games, what is your prediction, I know it is early, for the Big Ten's New Bowl lineup be it games in New York City, San Diego, Las Vegas, Miami, Tampa, Dalls or other locations?

Adam Rittenberg: I can't see the Big Ten getting out of the Capital One Bowl, although the game will be a bit weakened by the new SEC-Big 12 Champions Bowl. Still, I see the Big Ten staying in Orlando, and most likely Tampa as well (Outback). The Gator Bowl doesn't really make much sense to me. I'd drop that game in favor for a California bowl -- Holiday would be ideal. The bowl formerly known as the Insight is worth keeping, in my view. Big Ten fans love going to Arizona in late December. I'd also keep one of the Texas games, most likely the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston. I'd swap Dallas for the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. So many Big Ten fans/alumni in the New York area. That bowl would do well. I'd also like to see the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco be added to the Big Ten's rundown. The Big Ten absolutely has to have more tie-ins with the Pac-12, given the scheduling partnership between the two leagues. Whether it's Holiday and/or Kraft Fight Hunger, the Big Ten has to make a California bowl against the Pac-12 -- other than the Rose, of course -- a top priority in the next lineup.


Evan from Chicago writes: Adam, I think the poster today made an interesting point about having true geographic divisions in the B1G (not to mention giving the conference an excuse to get rid of the stupid Leaders and Legends names.) The only thing is instead of switching Iowa and Wisconsin, why not switch Northwestern and Wisconsin?) The result would be as follows: B1G North -- Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska. B1G South -- Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Penn StateThis works better geographically (these are the respective furthest north and south teams), competitively (each division has 2 of the 4 major historical power teams), givesPenn State a good natural intra division rival and peer (Ohio State). Nebraska gets a rivalry with Iowa, Michigan-Ohio State can be protected for cross over games, and no other important historical rivalries are affected. If there is non notre dame expansion of 2 teams to the East in the future then these alignments can be maintained for the most part. Just add Illinois and Northwestern to the North and the new East teams to the South and per perhaps rename the divisions East and West. If its 4 non Notre Dame teams added to the East then just add Indiana teams as well to the North Division and put the 4 new teams in the South. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Evan, some interesting ideas here. My issue would be that while each division has two of the historical powers, the Legends also would have three teams that have emerged in recent years in Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State. Right now, those two divisions look pretty unbalanced in terms of competitiveness at the top. Things certainly could change to balance things out -- like if Purdue gets back to playing the way it did in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Maybe Northwestern elevates its program beyond the 7- or 8-win plateau. Maybe Illinois finally starts challenging the Big Ten's elite more than once every 6-7 years. But looking at those two divisions, I don't know how excited I'd be to watch the Leaders. What if Penn State takes a few years to start challenging for division titles? Ohio State might have a cakewalk.