Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Big Ten spring meetings wrap-up
By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett
CHICAGO -- The 2011 Big Ten spring meetings are in the books at the antiquated Palmer House Hilton.
There wasn't a lot of major news coming out of the meetings, although league officials, athletic directors, coaches and faculty representatives discussed many topics during the three days. Nebraska officials were on hand, and while the school doesn't become an official voting member until it enters the league July 1, folks like AD Tom Osborne played an active role in the meetings.
Let's take a look back at some nuggets coming out of the Palmer House:
No resolution on nine-game conference schedule
Despite a lot of discussion, the league had no definitive answer on if and when it will implement a nine-game conference schedule. Athletic directors approved the nine-game schedule in February, but the vote was taken with the knowledge that further talks would take place.
Commissioner Jim Delany reiterated Tuesday that the biggest factor toward cementing a nine-game conference schedule is ensuring most league members will have at least seven home games per season. Coaches weighed in on the debate this week and while most if not all of them would rather have the schedule remain at eight league games, they know the decision ultimately rests with others.
"The onus is back on us," Delany said, referring to his staff. "We've got some scheduling information in the out years. We've got to be able to put that together in a way so all 12 athletic directors, they can get seven [home] games."
The general feeling coming out of the meetings is this: The nine-game schedule remains a strong possibility but not until the 2017 season at the earliest.
"I've gone from the eight-game philosophy to the nine-game philosophy because it benefits the entire conference," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "Selfishly, for Ohio State, the eight-game [schedule] is better financially for us. But for the overall health of the league, it's better to go nine as long as we have time to transition into that."
One of the issues Big Ten coaches discussed this week was the rise of traveling 7-on-7 high school all-star teams. Coaches are concerned about the increasing influence on recruits by people outside of their high school coaches and don't want their sport to end up like basketball, where AAU teams often take precedence.
"We signed a tight end from Dallas who played with another guy from Kentucky and this guy on those teams," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "I understand that because of the skill development and, I guess, the showcasing or whatever. But at the same time, you want them to be with their high school. It would be like if our guys were getting with a bunch of guys from somewhere and doing 7-on-7 without us being there."
For similar reasons, Hoke says he is against an early signing day in college football, even though he has racked up a lot of early commitments so far with the Wolverines.
"I want kids to enjoy their high schools and play for their high school teams," he said. "The whole process is getting pushed more. If you don't push the process, you may lose out on some guys. We're all doing it. I always worry about maybe a kid getting distracted and not being focused on what's important, which is his teammates and his high school where he's playing."
Wisconsin gears up for spotlight
Wisconsin will play make four ABC/ESPN primetime appearances this fall, more than any other Big Ten team. Coach Bret Bielema joked that while he had a good idea about Wisconsin's two primetime home games (UNLV and Nebraska), he didn't know his team would be playing back-to-back night games on the road (Oct. 22 at Michigan State, Oct. 29 at Ohio State).
Despite the late October challenges, Bielema appreciates the national exposure and so do his players.
"A couple kids texted me and commented on the exposure we're going to be able to have," Bielema said. "It makes everybody excited."
Coaches can't publicly discuss potential transfers, but there's some mutual interest between Wisconsin and NC State quarterback Russell Wilson. While the SEC still appears to be the likeliest destination for Wilson, don't count out the Badgers, who might be a quarterback away from another Big Ten title.
Michigan will host its first night game in team history Sept. 10 against Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium. Hoke called the Notre Dame game "a special one," and while he's used to plenty of night games from his time at both Ball State and San Diego State, he prefers noon kickoffs. "I hope not to play a bunch of 'em," he said, "but we're going to play them, so you just adjust." One game Hoke doesn't envision ever moving to prime time is Michigan-Ohio State. "No, not that one," he said, smiling.
Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner said the league has no plans to move games to Sundays this fall if the NFL lockout is still ongoing. He also said that while some Saturday kickoff times could be moved around, most Big Ten non-primetime game will begin at noon ET or 3:30 p.m. ET.
League officials said the decision of whether to put a rivalry trophy at stake in the Big Ten championship game rests with the respective schools. For example, rivals Iowa and Wisconsin don't play during the regular season but could decide to put the Heartland Trophy on the line if they clash Dec. 3 in the Big Ten title game.