Big Ten mailbag

Happy New Year! Let's get to those final pre-bowl questions.

Zach from Pittsburgh writes: Adam, got coaching carousel question, a.k.a by the time you get to this, it may be irrelevant, but here it goes. Every ESPN analyst is using the fact that Bill O'Brien was told by PSU officials that the Sandusky Scandal would not incur and NCAA punishment as a reason for leaving Penn State for the NFL next year. If this is the case, then why did O'Brien sign a contract extension keeping him in Happy Valley until 2020 after the sanctions came out in July?

Adam Rittenberg: Because he wanted as much job security as possible after the sanctions came down. O'Brien knew Penn State could be in for a long rebuilding phase because of the length and severity of the sanctions. As a first-year coach, he wanted to ensure he would have enough time to ride out the sanctions and eventually get the program on solid footing. O'Brien used the sanctions for leverage, which is smart in that situation. He didn't know he'd have so much success and be on the NFL coaching radar right now. As a coach, you have to think about the job you're in and how much time you have to get things right.

Chris from Chicago writes: I have a question on coaching stability. At Northwestern (where Jerry Brown has kept his job despite some fans incredulity over the years), the stability in the coaching staff is probably a good thing each year for recruiting, system, etc....but does it hurt come bowl time? I mean, Mississippi State has Tim Brewster (who knows Northwestern from his time at Minnesota) and a former NU grad assistant on staff....while Northwestern's guys have all been at NU for a long time. Is there some minimal amount of staff turnover that might be a GOOD thing?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Chris. Typically, coaching staffs that have greater continuity are better off than ones that don't. And given how much movement there is in the business, coaches are going to know one another well in almost every game, if they've worked together in the past. Brewster's knowledge of Northwestern could help a little, although his Minnesota teams never beat the Wildcats. It's up to Northwestern's staff to ensure calls have changed enough so they don't tip their hand in the game. But in general, I've seen staffs that lack continuity have way more problems than ones that don't. Coaches should be held accountable every year, and changes must be made when needed. But as a rule, continuity is good.

P.K.G. from Kuwait City, Kuwait, writes: Hey Adam, Love the blog! Had a question regarding expansion for ya. Two teams left to go. Why isn't anyone talking about T-A&M...... I know, I know, they are in the SEC. But just hear me out here: they are part of the AAU, bring a huge market in texas, have other amazing teams other than just football and good in academics as well (from the 'south' as well). Now, once the TV deals for the B1G are negotiated, which I'm guessing is going to be huge, cant Delany at least try/consider them for entry into the league? I know no one would want to leave the SEC because they get paid a lot too, but joining the B1G after the negotiations could spell HUGE amounts of money per school. Also, they will have a relatively easier path to the NC Game as opposed to in the SEC. So, all this along with the academic prestige that tags along with our conference, why shouldn't we consider T-A?

Adam Rittenberg: P.K.G., you kind of answer your own question here. Texas A&M wouldn't want to leave the SEC because the money there is pretty darn good, too. Other than maybe Missouri, which you could argue fits in with the Big Ten better than the SEC, I really couldn't see any SEC teams leaving a good situation there, even if it's for another good situation in the Big Ten. It's why the realistic expansion targets to me are all outside the two big-money leagues (SEC and Big Ten). You have to look at the ACC because of the financial differentials (current and future) with the Big Ten/SEC. We'll see if the Big 12 survives, and things certainly look better there under Bob Bowlsby's leadership. But there's the potential to have the Big Ten and SEC at one level money-wise and everyone else earning a lot less.

Hines from Fairfax, Va., writes: Hi Adam, don't care for your blog in the least but I want your opinion on something. Bill O'Brien is getting alot of credit for PSU's success this year, rightfully so given the obvious adversity he had to deal with in addition to being solely a football coach. My question deals with the attention he is getting from the NFL now. Sure, he guided PSU to an 8-4 record and made the offense go, but let's face it, the cupboard was far from bare. I would have to say that those of us who follow PSU closely are not majorly suprised about where we finished the season in the big10 ranks, given the remaining talent. Is this attention warranted at this point based only on his coaching skills, because I am pretty sure NFL owners don't give a huge crap about his PR abilities as much as wins and losses. I personally think in two more years we will have a much better gauge as to what kind of 'football coach' we have. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the love, Hines. Happy New Year, bud. I agree with you about Penn State's cupboard being far from bare this season. O'Brien inherited an excellent senior class that included several future NFL defenders and an offensive line anchor in center Matt Stankiewitch. But O'Brien deserves all the credit he gets for transforming Matt McGloin into one of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks and modernizing a Penn State offense that had grown extremely stale under the previous staff. I honestly didn't know how Penn State was going to score points this year after Silas Redd and Justin Brown both transferred in the summer. O'Brien took that offense to another level. But he still has been a head coach for only a year. The problem is it might be tough to gauge him next season as the sanctions really start to impact Penn State's roster. The guy can coach -- we saw that this year. But I agree that a few more years would let us know more about O'Brien's potential both at Penn State and in the NFL.

Gabriel from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: Will the Wolverines have a Lloyd Carr-esque offensive style next year so that Gardner and Shane Morris can operate in the way that Chad Henne did?

Adam Rittenberg: Gabriel, Michigan's 2013 offense under Al Borges will look a lot more like the ones the Wolverines ran during Carr's tenure. Borges had to adjust his system because of Denard Robinson's skill set and background in the spread, but he's undoubtedly a pro-style guy who wants to run a pure pro-style system as soon as possible. Gardner should allow Borges to do that, and if Gardner performs well enough, Michigan won't have to use Morris as a true freshman.

Beth from Lino Lakes, Minn., writes: Hi Adam!Happy bowl week!As I listen to my Gophers destroy the Boston College hockey team this evening, a thought occurs to me. Do you think there's any chance the B1G might try to add Boston College? They don't add much for football (but neither does Rutgers or Maryland). What they so add is a new TV market, good academics, and great hockey. The B1G launches their hockey conference next season...could this be a fit for our inevitable 15th/16th school?

Adam Rittenberg: Happy bowl week, Beth! The Big Ten can't make hockey a top priority in expansion, even with the new hockey league coming soon. Is Boston College as a whole a good addition? Meh. My concern is that college sports really don't matter in the Boston market, even less so than they do in New York/New Jersey or Washington D.C. I remember covering Boston College's undefeated basketball team against Notre Dame during the 2004-05 season, and then Eagles coach Al Skinner talking about how the team was basically an afterthought in the market. The other question is demographics. Is the population growing in Boston like it is in the southeast? No. Is Boston as strong of a recruiting area as potential ACC markets like Atlanta and Raleigh/Durham? No. So while it would be great to have Boston College hockey in the Big Ten, I'm lukewarm on the addition as a whole.