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Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Big Ten mailblog

By Adam Rittenberg

Nice, slow week in the Big Ten. Let's get to your questions. Expansion, anyone?

Matt from Wisconsin writes: Hey Adam: I hope the Big 10 and Jim Delany get the division model correct his time. Scrap the Mix of geography that makes absolutely no sense in the Leaders and Legends Divisions and just make it a Simple East West. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in the East (one of them is usually down every year anyway). and then The Powers of Wisconsin, Nebraska, and mixed in with Iowa or Illinois who usually come up and have a really good team one out of every four years to challenge for a title. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I liked the Big Ten's original division alignment because it created seemingly good competitive balance and divided the four major brands (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska). But with the recent expansion, some of the rising programs on the western side of the conference -- Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa until recently -- and the potential decline of a power program (Penn State), it might be wise to follow your model. Although Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema likes being in the Ohio State/Penn State division, the Badgers would have annual series with both Nebraska and Iowa on the other side. You would avoid the potential of a Michigan-Ohio State rematch in the title game the week after The Game, and the final Saturday of the regular season could feature more division games. It's something for the ADs to consider.




Dan from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam,Love the blog. If the BIG tries to go to 16 who do you see as the most logical fits for the conference? I know Virginia, UNC, G. Tech are on the radar as potential candidates. All are in the AAU but none of the potential targets really brings in much to the table for football sake. One that no one is talking about is Vanderbuilt. I think Vandy is a better fit than Maryland and Rutgers, still adds a TV market (Nashville/Tenn.) and none of the schools would have to travel as far = win win. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, this is clearly all about demographics, so I see the Big Ten looking to the southeast next. Vanderbilt certainly fits academically, and the Nashville market is decent. But I think the other schools you mention, particularly North Carolina, would be more attractive to the Big Ten. North Carolina is a strong academic school with great basketball tradition and some tradition in football, and the location in a growing area is a big plus. It doesn't hurt that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany played hoops for the Tar Heels. Virginia would strengthen the Big Ten in the Mid-Atlantic region and help build the "bridge" from Penn State, as Delany has discussed. And Virginia's academic reputation would make the Big Ten presidents drool.




Philip from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Huge Husker fan here, I need help. My good friend is a die hard Maize & Blue fan and I need an honest, professional opinion. Overall who is a better coach; Brady Hoke or Bo Pelini? I really need to silence this angry fan of Michigan!

Adam Rittenberg: Philip, it's probably not the answer you want, but they're both good coaches. Hoke has been a head coach longer, while Pelini has had more successful seasons. Both helped turn around traditional power programs that had fallen on hard times under their predecessors (Bill Callahan and Rich Rodriguez). I rate them similarly right now as neither has won a league title, both have led teams to division titles (Pelini at Nebraska, Hoke at Ball State), and both served as assistants on national title-winning teams. The two coaches have split their matchups in the Big Ten the past two seasons. Right now, I'd call it a push.




John from Cleveland writes: Adam, It's good timing that the coaching salaries came out the same time as the B1G money/demographics grab with Maryland and Rutgers. With all this new money, can the schools in the conference shell out a few bucks to upgrade the coaching staffs? My assumption is that a good coach will attract better athletes and produce a better football team. Right now, 8 schools (including the two additions) pay their coach less than $2 million. I'd love to see the B1G top that chart and bring in the country's best coaches and build the best conference.

Adam Rittenberg: John, you'll definitely see Big Ten coaching salaries -- and those around the nation -- continue to climb. We can certainly debate whether all these salaries are out of control, but that's the market and the Big Ten must stay competitive. One thing to remember, though, is that the Big Ten is full of broad-based athletic programs, and most schools sponsor far more sports than, say, their counterparts in the SEC. You have to spread the money out a bit, although football obviously takes the biggest piece of the pie. But if the projected revenues come in, I would expect Big Ten head coach salaries -- and, just as important, assistant coach salaries -- to escalate.




B1G fan stuck in Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan: Thanks for taking a question from a stranded Airman 10000 miles away from home. Am I in the minority for siding with Coach Kill about the Barker situation? In my opinion, who cares if your coach called you out in front of your peers. His job is not to be your friend. His job is to be your mentor, and if that means calling you out for something you did, then so be it. Today's mentality of if your supervisor is being a meanie, that means it's wrong is bull. If my supervisor was nice to me no matter how much I messed up, nothing would get done here.

Adam Rittenberg: First off, thanks for writing in, and thanks for everything you do. Coaches aren't saints, and they will challenge their players, Jerry Kill being no exception. Barker contends he wasn't given all the information about his injury up front, and had his work ethic questioned by Kill and the training staff. That's a pretty powerful accusation, and we'll never fully know the truth. He also makes strong accusations about Kill threatening to not award a scholarship. Kill defended himself Monday by saying Barker confronted the training staff, disrupting a practice, and needed to be disciplined. If that's the truth, I don't blame Kill. But it comes down to who you believe. For the most part, players should respect their coaches and understand the nature of the relationship. Most of Kill's players at Minnesota love him. He's extremely well respected in the profession. But coaches can cross the line at times, and questioning a player's toughness following an injury would be doing it, if that's what actually happened. The bottom line is it's a very unfortunate situation all around.




Grant from Detroit writes: I might be the only one who thinks the Maryland/Rutgers move is absolute genius. It is the first step in the next B1G acquisition: Notre Dame. Am I off-base in the following thinking? As conferences begin to expand, they will all opt for the 9-game conference schedule. This will eliminate one of the preseasons, and teams will want to win all of those to remain bowl eligible with potentially harder conference schedules. This will make Notre Dame fall off of many ranked teams' out-of-conference schedules, and ND will have a difficult time finding quality opponents willing to use one of their preseason games on a tough matchup. Without a conference, or strength of schedule, it will become extremely difficult for ND to make the playoffs in the new NC format. They will be forced to join a conference if they want to regularly be in the NC hunt. With the added profitability of TV demos that MD and Rutgers bring, the B1G would offer Notre Dame the most profitable (and winnable) conference option, and it would also maintain several of its current rivalries. ND will end up being forced to join the B1G in ALL sports because the SEC is too tough for them to compete, the Big12 is not a good cultural fit, the Big East and ACC are dissolving, and the Pac12 is too far away. This addition of Maryland and Rutgers will spark another round of conference expansion and will put many teams in panic mode. Though I think that ND will be the last major team to join a conference, I think they will be a member of the B1G within 6 years, along with Pitt. What are your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Grant, unless the ACC completely falls apart, I don't see this happening. One thing that's clear is Notre Dame would have to fully commit to the Big Ten -- all sports including football -- to be admitted. The Big Ten will never cut the deal the ACC did for Notre Dame, Texas or any other school that thinks it's above the fray. Here's what Delany told ESPN.com and the Chicago Tribune on Monday: "It was pretty clear to me that Notre Dame for a long time wanted to maintain its independence, and as that's a matter of fact, I knew there wasn't a possibility for us to add Notre Dame. I've always respect Notre Dame's history and their vision." The ACC is a good cultural fit for Notre Dame. So unless the ACC falls apart, I think Notre Dame stays put.




Ian from Philly writes: Dear Mr. Rittenberg,Your and Mr. Bennett's lack of coverage (in terms of both quality and quantity) of the Big Ten's expansion beginning this Saturday morning through today is highly disappointing. Outside of Mr. Bennett's lone piece about the lack of short term gain that Maryland and Rutgers provides the conference your blog seemed to serve no greater role than an aggregation of links and tweets.Your readers have come to expect more, much more.

Adam Rittenberg: Ian, we were under direction from Bristol not to address the expansions until they became official Monday. No speculation, no commentary. Since then, we've provided a ton of coverage you can find here. Think it's more than sufficient, especially during a pretty big game week, but you may disagree.