Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Big Ten mailblog
By Adam Rittenberg
To the mail ...
Jason from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: Adam, do you think the UW head coach search will be helped or hindered with Coach Alvarez's timeline. Are you surprised by the amount of movement from the current and former UW coaches as they align with former colleagues and do you think it paints a picture that perhaps it is known who will now coach UW but that announcement is pending the bowl season (e.g. Bielema's replacement is known, as is the makeup of his future staff)?
Adam Rittenberg: Jason, if you're asking whether I think Wisconsin's hiring policies that prevent an official offer/hire until Wednesday night at the earliest hurt the timeline a bit, I'd say yes. Other schools have been able to act much faster in replacing coaches. But it's not the end of the world, either, as Wisconsin hasn't lost a bunch of committed recruits to other programs and still will sign a relatively small class in February. I'm not surprised by the number of Wisconsin assistants taking jobs elsewhere because they're good coaches who are sought after and had to make decisions quickly. I also don't think the departures suggest Wisconsin has its future coach in place and he wouldn't want to retain any of these assistants. Barry Alvarez clearly thinks highly of them and wanted to retain them and even considered coaching the team himself so he could retain them. If Alvarez ends up hiring defensive coordinator Chris Ash as coach, you could see several of these guys coming back (or is it staying?) at Wisconsin. We'll see. But I do think the timing of it all -- Bret Bielema's quick exit, Wisconsin's delay in making an official hire, the tight deadlines to decide on other offers -- hasn't helped Wisconsin one bit.
Jordan from Atlanta writes: Simple question, if Bielema was so concerned with pay for assistants, why does he keep hiring the same coaches he could afford at UW?
Adam Rittenberg: Jordan, that's a fair question, but Bielema also had concerns about losing those same assistants at Wisconsin if he couldn't increase their salaries there. He has fewer concerns at Arkansas because of the increased compensation for assistants. Bielema hired all of these people and thinks highly of them, so it makes sense he'd want them at Arkansas. The key is not losing them to more lucrative offers elsewhere, and Bielema feels he won't have the same issue with the Hogs.
Brian from Fort Myers, Fla., writes: I have a problem with the Big 10 being the league everyone loves to hate article (I know I wont be the only one). You wont find 2 more followed programs in all of college sports like Ohio State and Michigan. The SEC is at the top of 40 states HATE list. Anyone outside of the SEC hates it. Mainly because it is the best and most powerful conference in college football. But with great power comes great responsibility. If the SEC fails in the bowls, then it will have the most egg on its face. If Notre Dame can beat Alabama soundly then the SEC will be at its lowest, however, if Alabama wins, then who is the only team left in NCAA without a loss...Ohio State. Big Ten. Ironic.
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, while the SEC would take a hit if Alabama loses to Notre Dame, the league would need a miserable bowl performance, including multiple losses against the Big Ten, to suffer any type of reputation damage. The SEC has won six consecutive national titles. The streak will end at some point, but what the SEC has done until this point -- and could continue to do -- can't be overlooked. The story was about which league -- Big Ten or ACC -- most needs a strong bowl performance. Both leagues have underachieved to varying degrees this season. Both leagues need really need some good news in late December and early January to change the narrative. In my view, it will take more than one SEC loss in the title game to prevent all the love bestowed upon that league.
Robert from Gurnee, Ill., writes: Adam,This is in response to your blog article regarding realignment of the B1G with Rutgers and MD. Regarding the East/West scenario you listed there is a core alignment that makes sense and then the rest is flexible. OSU, PSU, MD and Rut in an East and NE, IA, MN and WI in a West. MSU, M, IL, IN, P and NU can all flex as NU and IL would be the eastern most schools in a West and IN and P would be the western most schools in an East. That makes them flexible to fit in either division if geographic distance is an issue. The same is true of the Michigan schools as their distance to Rut or MD are approx. the same as to NE and MN. This would allow a little more flexibility to accommodate traditional rivalries. Regarding adding more schools. I would prefer to see Missouri and Iowa State. Mizzou just fits in my view and adding ISU would give Iowa that traditional rival in the conference. I believe each fits academically. Your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Robert, your geographic breakdown makes sense. There's no way the Big Ten will separate the two new additions -- Rutgers and Maryland -- from Penn State. If you read anything commissioner Jim Delany said last month during the expansion process, you'll see those schools will be grouped together. The same goes for the schools on the western edge of the league (Nebraska, Minnesota, etc.) So it does come down to dividing the schools in the middle. I think you have to look at competitive balance, existing rivalries and other factors in doing so. As far as your expansion suggestions, Iowa State isn't happening. It adds nothing in the way of a new market. You fans need to start thinking differently. If a potential expansion candidate already exists in a market where the Big Ten dominates, eliminate it. It does nothing to a league looking to improve its demographics. Missouri makes a little more sense, but schools in the East and Southeast (read: ACC) make a lot more sense when you look at population growth. And besides, Missouri is in a good situation in the SEC. Why would it want to leave?
Jim from Albuquerque, N.M., writes: Hello Adam,I am one of the more opinionated Husker fans. It has been emphasized that Nebraska is sloppy in league play. Taking into consideration that NU has had to recruit different personnel in the BIG, and the fact that it takes a few years to go "full cycle" with recruiting the personnel for a program, would you agree the most impressive win of the season for NU was the win of Michigan? Or has this year's Michigan had smaller players than the Michigan of old? And does that play into making it a more evenly matched game with the Huskers?
Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I agree that Michigan was Nebraska's most impressive win, but I don't know if I'm following your rationale here. A big part of Nebraska's sloppiness had to do with fumbles, which has nothing to do with recruiting different personnel to the Big Ten. We could argue Nebraska's defense still lacks the right type of personnel in the front seven to match up with the Big Ten's bigger offensive lines, but I don't know if that's the entire answer, either. Wisconsin seemed to beat Nebraska with its speed primarily as well as with its power, but the Badgers' speed definitely was a factor in the Big Ten title game. Braxton Miller's speed also gave the Huskers' problems in the Ohio State loss. Michigan is in the process of developing the type of depth Brady Hoke wants, but I don't think the Wolverines had a major size problem in the Nebraska loss. They lost starting quarterback Denard Robinson to injury and clearly didn't have a good plan to replace him. Nebraska also limited its sloppiness in that game and did what was needed against an opponent that had become one-dimensional following the Robinson injury.
AJ from Omaha writes: Maybe you've touched on this before, but will the new scheduling do away with the protected cross-division games? Seems a little unfair that certain teams will always have to play other teams who are always going to be competitive ... i.e. Penn State and Nebraska. Not to take away from other programs, but some teams are much more consistent across decades. Shouldn't the conf. scheduling be more rotational and random?
Adam Rittenberg: AJ, a lot depends on how the Big Ten aligns the divisions when Maryland and Rutgers -- and potentially two more teams -- enter the league. There may be fewer rivalry games to protect with cross-division games (i.e. Michigan-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Minnesota). The other variable here is whether the Big Ten goes to nine conference games, which was on the table before the Pac-12 scheduling alliance surfaced. If the Big Ten ends up with two 8-team divisions and only eight league games, each team would play only one cross-division opponent. There's no way you could have protected games because teams would never play one another. Would the Big Ten consider four 4-team pods rather than two 8-team divisions? We'll see. It would create a better schedule rotation. I agree with you that not all cross-division games are equal, but Nebraska and Penn State were paired for a reason -- because both are brand-name programs that create buzz for the league. I've heard from a lot of fans not thrilled with their cross division games (Iowa-Purdue) because they're not sexy enough, so it goes both ways.