Big Ten: Big Ten tour
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- For Carol Iwaoka, the system of governance in college sports isn't that different from the one in Washington. There are representatives at different levels -- campus, conference and NCAA -- and a drawn-out system for approving legislation.
Iwaoka, who has been with the Big Ten since 1990, oversees it all as the league's associate commissioner for governance. She monitors proposals, corresponds regularly with the NCAA and works with the Big Ten's athletic administrators and faculty representatives. Since proposals are always coming up around the country, Iwaoka collaborates frequently with other conferences, particularly the five BCS leagues.
Here's how the proposal process works:
- Coaches or schools submit proposals, which are discussed and voted on at meetings during the year.
- Approved proposals go to the Big Ten's joint group, which includes the athletic director, the senior woman administrator and the faculty representative from each member school.
- The joint group meets once a year and votes on whether or not to forward the proposals to the school presidents and/or the NCAA. Not every proposal approved by the joint committee must go to the presidents, but the presidents hold veto power. Iwaoka is responsible for preparing the joint group members for their annual meeting.
- The NCAA Division I Management Council then reviews the proposals.
Some recent Big Ten-initiated proposals that went into action include instant replay for football and the universal start date for baseball. The Big Ten football coaches have approved a proposal to add a two-week "dead" period to the summer recruiting calendar. The proposal could go to the NCAA.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- A pile of red folders sits on Jennifer Vining-Smith's desk. They're the violations you never hear about, the ones that flow into the Big Ten office on a regular basis.
"Violations happen," said Vining-Smith, the Big Ten's assistant director of compliance. "If schools are reporting violations, that's good. It's when schools are not reporting them when we get worried."
Vining-Smith and assistant commissioner for compliance Chad Hawley address compliance questions from member schools, help determine the severity of violations and work with the league's compliance and reinstatement subcommittee, which reviews all violations and determines the further action.
NCAA violations are broken up into two levels. Level 1 violations reported by the schools go straight to the NCAA, while Level 2 violations come to the Big Ten for review. The Big Ten submits Level 2 violations [secondary] to the NCAA on a quarterly basis, usually including about 80 violations in each report. The NCAA then determines whether or not further action is needed by either the school or the conference.
"We're always checking to see if a violation should be Level 1," Vining-Smith said.
Each school has its own penalty structure for violations, but in some cases, such as those of repeat offenders, the league could step in with a letter to the athletic director or penalty recommendations.
Big Ten compliance officials conduct audits of each school every few years, examining coaches' telephone calls, lists of unofficial recruiting visits, etc. Schools also can ask for audits to be conducted. But for the most part, the league leaves its members alone.
"It's not our job to be the police," Vining-Smith said. "We trust our people in place."
The Big Ten and the Big 12 are the only conferences that require drug testing of athletes, and the league compliance office runs the program. Eight hundred tests are conducted throughout the year, both on campus and at Big Ten championship events.
Testing is random and based on the numbers of participants in each sport.
"It's a program of deterrence," said Vining-Smith, who doesn't anticipate having league-run drug tests for every athlete in every sport. "The kids know it's out there."
Most schools also conduct their own testing programs, which vary in severity.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- It's a little odd to enter Rich Falk's spacious office and see all of the furniture pushed into the corners. Falk, a former Northwestern basketball coach, explains that he and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, a former basketball captain at North Carolina, use the space to conduct defense demonstrations. It's the coach and player in them.
Falk points to the TV across from his desk and the item sitting above it. "That's the bad-call brick," he said. "It's foam rubber. I've been known to throw it once in a while."
As the Big Ten's associate commissioner for officiating programs and the primary supervisor for men's basketball officials, Falk spends most of the winter looking out for bad calls. He oversees every element of men's basketball officiating, from hiring officials to scheduling to payroll to evaluations to rules interpretations to arena security/atmosphere. Here's what I learned about each area:
- Big Ten officials usually need 3-5 years of experience coaching in another league and must have worked a conference semifinal, a conference final or an NCAA tournament game before being hired. In some cases (usually nonconference games), less-experienced officials are used, mainly to reduce travel costs.
- The league's compliance department conducts background checks on each official. The checks are now done annually after allegations of sexual harassment and child abuse surfaced about a football referee last year.
- Falk makes the game assignments, which hinge on each official's rating. He never assigns an official more than three games a week, but since college basketball officials don't work for leagues, they can take on as many games as possible. "I don't get many rejections," Falk said. Because the officials are independent contractors, no work restrictions can be placed on them, and Falk admits that fatigue will affect performance.
- Falk manages a $3.3 million budget that is used to compensate the officials. Though Big Ten member schools provide the funds, the league makes the payments directly. Falk said officials don't like getting paid by school officials, particularly in the locker room, as it hints of bias.
- Officials are evaluated after every game, receiving a rating between 1-5 (1 is the best). Falk and a staff of on-site officiating observers fill out evaluations, and the head referee must complete evaluations of himself and his two umpires. All evaluations are sent to the NCAA.
- Officials also receive mid-year and end-of-season ratings, compiled by averaging the ratings from on-site observers, Big Ten coaches and Falk.
- Officials consistently receiving ratings around 1 usually become referees, while those in the 2-3 range are first and second umpires. Falk investigates any ratings of 4 and 5, usually making a call to the official in question. "We can hire and drop people at will," he said. The officials receiving the highest ratings get the most assignments and, in turn, the best chance for exposure. Those with diminishing ratings over time receive fewer assignments. "Big Ten games are on TV, in front of [the NCAA] tournament committee," Falk said. "That serves the officials well for selection into the tournament."
- The coaches also evaluate officials and can lodge complaints to Falk, by phone or by sending video of disputed calls. Surprisingly, Falk estimates he received fewer than five calls from Big Ten coaches last season. Coaches fill out midseason evaluations of the officials that only Falk and Delany are allowed to see. "Coaches need to know they have input," Falk said. "They do not have control." The Big Ten and other leagues face severe penalties if they ever blacklist an official based on recommendations from coaches.
- Before the season, Falk visits every Big Ten school, meeting with players and coaches to discuss new rules and other officiating changes. He also meets with the game-operations staff -- scorer's table officials, the public-address announcer, even the band directors -- to ensure the environments are secure and appropriate for officials.
- He usually sticks around for an exhibition game to observe the game operations. "Officials need to know they're respected and can relax and do their job," Falk said.
During the season, Falk spends much of his time in the Big Ten's TV command center, located on the first floor of the league office. The room contains TVs tuned to every Big Ten game and phones so that Falk and other league officials can reach the networks broadcasting the games to interpret rules or make corrections. Dave Parry, the Big Ten's coordinator of football officials, spends every fall Saturday in the room.
Big Ten assistant commissioner for technology Mike McComiskey joins Parry in the control room during the fall. In addition to running the Big Ten's Web site and working with the league's television partners, McComiskey monitors instant replay. If there's a technical issue in the control room or a major instant replay malfunction around the league, McComiskey steps in. After being the "test conference" for instant replay, McComiskey said the system has functioned well since being turned over to a third party. Hi-Definition currently is too expensive to incorporate with instant replay, but McComiskey expects it to be added in the next 1-2 years. The Big Ten could be the first league to try Hi-Def with its instant replay.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- What do college football fans around the country think about the Big Ten? Daryl Seaton decided to find out.
Seaton is the Big Ten's assistant commissioner for branding, joining the conference six months ago after working for Coca-Cola. He was one of several league officials I met with on Wednesday in an attempt to learn more about the inner workings of the league.
In addition to creating new logos for the Big Ten championships and launching several major advertising campaigns, Seaton has conducted market research to get a sense of how people inside and outside the Big Ten region regard the league. Focus groups recently were conducted in the Midwest, West Coast and Southeast. Here are some of the findings:
Midwest: The group felt Big Ten football reflected tough players and strong fundamental play. "The Big Ten doesn't need trick plays to run an offense," Seaton quoted the group as saying.
Southeast: Not surprisingly, the group considered SEC players to be superior athletes who produce higher-quality games. They felt the offensive coaches in the SEC were more innovative than their Big Ten counterparts. Though the group respected Big Ten rivalries like Michigan-Ohio State, it felt SEC rivalries were more extreme. The group had a lot of respect for the Big Ten's history.
West: Seaton found that this group was the most aware of the Big Ten's academic reputation and regarded the Big Ten and the ACC as the most academic-focused athletic conferences.
Another study will be conducted in six different regions, including fans of both BCS and non-BCS conferences. But Seaton said the general criticisms of the Big Ten are that the league is arrogant, struggles to get recruits from the top football areas (Texas, Florida, California), doesn't consistently produce prototype football athletes, suffers from a Midwest-centric attitude and boasts little outside of Michigan and Ohio State. He's trying to change those perceptions in several ways, including the "I Will" initiative, which connects current Big Ten football players with past gridiron greats from the same school (i.e. Beanie Wells-Archie Griffin). Another campaign, called "Faces of the Big Ten," will profile athletes in various sports from each school, asking them about their experiences. "These are athletes with personality, who can resonate with people," Seaton said.Both initiatives will air on the Big Ten Network, which dominates much of Seaton's time. Though the league and the network are separate entities, the network affects many aspects of the league's marketing. Seaton said the toughest areas to market within the Big Ten region have been Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio, the three states most affected by the unavailability of the network on cable providers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Here's the second half of my interview with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
Are you pretty satisfied with the Big Ten's current bowl agreements or would you like to see some changes?
Jim Delany: Yeah, pretty satisfied. We're just into it two years. The Insight Bowl in Arizona is new for us, we've got the new Champs (Sports) Bowl in Florida. Certainly we think we've got a great bowl partners in Arizona with the Fiesta group, great bowl partners in Orlando with the Bank One group, that seem to be able to manage multiple events. Florida, Arizona, Texas and California are where our people are, and then we've got the regional bowl (Motor City) in Detroit. So I think so, but there are a lot of bowls and a lot of good teams and a lot of great bowl teams, but not everybody's created equal. So when we sit down, hopefully there'll be some competition and we'll continue to be able to grow those relationships.
Will there ever be enough bowls?
JD: Well, there could be as many as there are teams. It's not unheard of. Everybody says there's too many, but I've seen teams under .500 in the NCAA (basketball) tournament and teams at .500 in the NIT. College football is pretty unique. To say that every single bowl is a healthy bowl is probably not true, but to say every single first-round men's basketball tournament game has got a significant followership is probably not true.
As far as scheduling, you look at the Pac-10 and their nonconference schedules are very, very competitive. Are you satisfied with the scheduling in the Big Ten?
JD: If you look at where we were forty years ago -- I was looking at the schedules from 1966 -- we had far fewer games and far fewer mismatches, really sturdy kinds of opponents. Even if you maybe take a look at that twenty years ago, in the late eighties, they're stronger schedules than they are today. Again, fewer games, stronger matchups, more games with the Pac-10, more games out East. Historically, we really haven't played the SEC, in the regular season or in the postseason. So it's something we tried to do in the postseason, but they've got big stadiums, we have big stadiums. Big stadiums typically don't play big stadiums just because of the value of the gate. Everyone talks about TV, but the turnstiles are what drives the revenue, which is what drives the athletic department. Michigan is already playing an away game every other year (at Notre Dame), Ohio State is as well. Penn State historically has, but not recently. In my heart of hearts, I'm the guy that's largely behind the (ACC/Big Ten) Challenge, I'm the guy that's largely behind the Big Ten-SEC bowl games. They weren't here before. I'm the guy who wants to play the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-10. So if anything, I could be accused of overscheduling, not underscheduling, but our schools are going to be the ones who determine what's best for building their programs. (Some) programs are a stage where they're trying to get respect, others are trying to get a bowl game, others are trying to pay for all of the programs. The one thing that hasn't changed in the 20 years since I've come here is that football and basketball still provide 98 percent of the revenues. We've grown women's opportunities, we've gotten better at other sports, we've won championships in other sports. But the fact of it is, they're going to have to pay their way, and that means healthy football and healthy football means winning football. So that time means you have to manage you've got to manage your schedule in a way that makes sense.
Is there a model for scheduling in the Big Ten?
JD: I don't think there is a model. The Pac-10 has got a good situation, but they've got the 5-4, they can play a full round robin. I like that. I would tend to be more in that direction, but I also understand that Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue, have historically been in the second division. They don't have the legacy of the bowls in the way that Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan will have. What we've seen overall, with the growth of television and the growth of bowls and perhaps, maybe, weaker nonconference scheduling, is the growth of the middle class in terms of their own brand, in terms of their own strength, in terms of the perception. So you have to be careful when you say, 'You should be playing Oregon.' The fact of it is, Indiana did beat Oregon a couple years ago in the preseason (2004). But they're much more likely to beat Ball State than they are to beat Oregon. From a TV perspective, are those games better? But it's a combination of what the fan base demands, what the athletic director believes is appropriate. How much is stepping out? If you have them into a bowl game just twice in the last decade, you're going to put that pretty high on your priority list and not necessarily just (schedule) the best game. People do point out the Pac-10 and the Pac-10 maybe plays (a tough schedule) year in and year out, but they have far fewer choices because there are only four conferences that are east of the Mississippi. The other thing is I don't see everybody's feet being held to the fire with regard to nonconference scheduling. Some people don't even leave their own state. Our top teams have always played Notre Dame and historically, those have been good challenges. We've played lots of Pac-10 teams and we used to play more teams in the East, more Boston Colleges, more Syracuses, and I've encouraged our teams. We've got some that are playing N.C. State, have played North Carolina, Virginia. But also, you have to have two people who want to play.
How important is that first month of the season for the league, just with the negative perception nationally?
JD: It cuts two ways. To be honest with you, we've run up some pretty impressive records, but if you're not playing people, you're not going to get the credit, and I don't think necessarily that you should. I was always a strength-of-schedule, computer guy inside the BCS, but you looked at Kansas and they made a lot of progress without playing a lot of people. And whenever the computers trump the people, the fans don't like it. That's one of the things we've found. So we've really lowered the power of the computer and let the so-called experts, whether they're coaches or the Harris (Poll) people, try to figure out what those games mean. I don't have the magic formula on scheduling. I, like every other fan, like to see great teams play. The one thing that could help us, and we just can't get there with the coaches -- I guess we could get there with the interactive -- is just to delay (the rankings). But everybody wants to print their poll and they're all influenced by polls. So if you're Southern Mississippi or Fresno State and you take on the world and you beat (No.) 4, (No.) 11 and (No.) 28, you should be ranked No. 1 in the country, in my opinion. But none of the bloggers, none of the experts, none of the television people, do that. They go to Southern Cal and Florida and Michigan and Ohio State, and maybe that's right. But they don't necessarily go clean slate, start fresh, reward people who beat people and then delay their evaluation. Because that's what happens in the basketball tournament. The evaluations are made subsequent to the games. College football, quite to the opposite. Evaluations are made based on tradition. And I think we've improved that. The bowl system is so much better than it was 15 or 18 years ago. We've got a 1-2 game, we've got elite challenges. Coaches aren't setting up the games anymore. Bear Bryant used to set up the games. We went 50 years with I think nine 1-2 games. Of course, no one cared about 1-2. In '64, when Wisconsin played USC, it was a 1-2 game and if you listen to a replay of the game, they didn't even mention it. So things have changed.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|AP photo/Janet Hostetter|
|Jim Delany says the Big Ten Network project isn't done until there's "full distribution."|
Only the fifth commissioner in Big Ten history, Delany enters his 20th year in the job. He has seen the league add an 11th member, negotiated several new TV contracts and helped establish the Big Ten Network, a massive project that generated both excitement and criticism. A long-anticipated agreement between the Big Ten Network and Comcast was reached this summer, but some Big Ten fans still don't have access to the programming. After a nasty bout with an illness last week, Delany sat down with me Wednesday at the Big Ten offices. You can only get to so many topics in a 15-minute interview, but Delany discussed the Big Ten Network, the BCS/playoff debate, nonconference scheduling and his own future.
You mentioned last week [at Big Ten media days] that two of your peers, [Pac-10 commissioner] Tom Hansen and [Big East commissioner] Mike Tranghese are retiring. Have you thought about how much longer you'll do this job?
Jim Delany: Yeah. I'm still enjoying what I'm doing. I expect that I'll be here for an indefinite period of time. I don't think I'm going to work as long as [former SEC commissioner Roy] Kramer did or maybe [current SEC commissioner Michael] Slive or even Hansen, but I think I'll be here for the next five years or so. That's my horizon.
Have you thought at all about what your legacy might be?
JD: Not really. To be honest, I feel like I go from cycle to cycle, cycles of bowl games and cycles of television agreements. At different times you have different challenges. One might be incorporating Penn State, another might be trying to incorporate the Big Ten Network, another one might be, 'Hey, we've got an initiative on sportsmanship. We're trying to raise academic standards.' I sort of get involved in a lot of projects. But I'm obviously conscious of, did we start a men's [basketball] tournament? How's it going? Are we able to re-establish the Rose Bowl within the BCS? So I'm very much aware of trying to have an incline, a gradual improvement in bowls, bowl access, making the championship game a better game, continuing to grow our postseason tournament.
I've always been pleased to see the level of commitment our schools have to [gender] equity. At one time we were 71 percent male, and today we're near 50-50. And also the exposure. For many decades, we were considered the big two and the little eight. Now with bowl opportunities and television opportunities and the resources that we have, there's just a lot more parity. We've had seven different teams go to the Final Four in the last 15 or 20 years. We've had eight or nine different teams win or share Big Ten [football] championships. So the notion of having great traditional programs, whether it's Michigan or Ohio State or whoever, but also having the ability of everybody to have a chance and keep hope in the programs, that's what makes it special.
The Big Ten Network was obviously a major project. What's the next big thing on your schedule?
JD: I don't consider the Big Ten Network to be completed until we have full distribution. Until we've got distribution in Iowa and Wisconsin and Ohio, to the same level we have in the other five states, it's a work in progress. We didn't expect it to be easy. Obviously, you're judged on the progress you make. We've made some, but obviously you're not all the way there. Once you get there with distribution, the pictures were great, the HD pictures were great and the games were good, the talent was good.
Then you start really trying to build the brand of the schools, the brand of the teams and the brand of the conference by working on programming that supports the schools and the teams and the athletes. One of the things we were surprised by is we had so much promotional time because it wasn't fully distributed. As a result, we didn't have all the advertisers. So we had a lot of time to promote, to blow our own horn, but we didn't really have the inventory and the creative behind it. So we're much better positioned going into Year 2 to do that. In Year 3, we'll be in an even better position.
In terms of the negotiations with Mediacom and other companies, where are those right now? What's holding it up?
JD: They're just discussions. I'm not at the table. I'm going to let them play out. I think we have to be patient, to some extent. At the same time, we've got to be able to communicate with fans and right now, everybody's just working hard to see whether or not there's a resolution.
So for the Iowa fans who want to see that Iowa State game [Sept. 13], is it still up in the air?
JD: Yeah, there's not much I can say to them other than we're in discussions and I'm not at the table. There's not much to add to that.
I asked you last week about the BCS and the playoff argument. As commissioners, you obviously have to do your jobs but also pay attention to what the fans want. You mentioned they're voting by going to the games.
JD: What I meant by that was not that they're voting for the BCS with their feet. They're voting for the meaningfulness of the games that are occurring during the regular season, which, in my view, is related to the power and the contribution of the BCS and the system. You could agree or disagree about the BCS, but anybody who says the regular season isn't more alive in its Technicolors, 3-D, compared to what it was a decade ago -- and I attribute a lot of that to the BCS. I don't mean they're voting for the BCS. I mean they're voting for a healthy regular season.
If the movement for a playoff increases, will we see a playoff in the next 10, 15 years?
JD: When I was 30, I saw the next 10 years pretty clearly, and at 60, I don't see the next five years as clearly. Maybe that's why there's a visionary out there who can tell you what's going to be there in 15 years. Fundamentally, college football is different than a lot of other sports. It's been a one-semester sport. The regular season [games are] not a commodity, there aren't 30 of them, there are 12 or 13 of them. We've done a pretty good job historically, because the Auburn-Alabama game has meaning and the Army-Navy game, UCLA-USC, all those games, through television, have become national games. At one time, they were regional. And now, as a result of the BCS and the rivalries, other games that have been sort of lower down the food chain -- important, but not as important -- have got new meaning. I'd even go so far as to say we've created new value at Boise and Hawaii, and it does drive some people crazy when they don't get to go to the BCS, but it also makes their fans even more interested the following y
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State