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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."

Recruiting issues

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."

Final nuggets