Big Ten: Chet Culver

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Football Writers Association of America selected Iowa as its National Team of the Week following the Hawkeyes' dramatic 24-23 upset of Penn State. Iowa is the second Big Ten team to win the award this season, joining Penn State, which won after it beat Ohio State on Oct. 25.

Texas Tech and Utah also were nominated for this week's award.

Iowa's win made waves throughout the state, prompting Gov. Chet Culver to issue a congratulatory statement on Sunday.

"I want to congratulate Kirk Ferentz and his outstanding coaching staff for their leadership in today's win," Culver said. "I want to also say how proud I am of the determination and athleticism that quarterback Ricky Stanzi, running back Shonn Greene, and the entire team showed today. And of course every fan will celebrate Daniel Murray and his sure foot, which helped carry the day against one of the nation's top football teams. Finally, I applaud the more than 70,000 fans who were on hand to show their support, and turn a cold Iowa day into one of the hottest things to happen in college football this weekend."

Ferentz also made a point to acknowledge how meaningful the win was "for our state after a tough year," referring to the flooding that hit the eastern portion of the state this summer.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Scott A. Miller/US Presswire
 Off-field problems at Iowa could hurt Kirk Ferentz more than on-field perforamnce.

The Big Ten coaching realm looks relatively stable entering the fall.

Rich Rodriguez is in place at Michigan, Danny Hope waits to take over at Purdue and several second-division coaches (Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, Minnesota's Tim Brewster, Indiana's Bill Lynch) are still early in their tenures. Joe Paterno enters his 43rd season at Penn State without a contract beyond this season, but the 81-year-old likely will map out his own exit strategy rather than be forced out.

When it comes to a coach on the hot seat, only one Big Ten boss qualifies, and his status isn't critical just yet.

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has a big buyout and a contract extension through 2012. Just three years ago, he was the toast of the conference after guiding Iowa to 31 victories between 2002-2004. Back then, many branded Ferentz as one of the league's top coaches, and he still might be.

The Hawkeyes have backslid the last three years, averaging just 6.3 wins and stumbling against marquee opponents. Some of the Ferentz hallmarks, particularly dominant line play, have disappeared at times. But this is hardly a collapse, as Iowa reached bowls in 2005 and 2006 before going 6-6 last fall.

Ferentz's real problems are taking place off the field. Eighteen Hawkeyes players have been arrested since April 2007, a string of transgressions that raises doubt about his control of the program. Undoubtedly the most serious alleged incident occurred in October, as two football players allegedly sexually assaulted a female student-athlete in a dorm room.

The case has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, after the mother of the alleged victim sent a letter to the Iowa City Press-Citizen accusing Ferentz and other Iowa officials of trying to keep the matter in-house. The university's failure to acknowledge the letter during an investigation by the state Board of Regents has prompted a second investigation and increased attention from Gov. Chet Culver.

What Ferentz knew or didn't know about the alleged incident and how he reacted to it could ultimately decide his fate in Iowa City. The coach has denied any wrongdoing, telling ESPN.com last month: "I'm totally confident that everything was done the way it was supposed to have been done. There's a strict protocol that has to be followed. It was followed, to my knowledge."

If Ferentz is right and the smoke around the program clears, he should be fine. But it's never good to have state officials involved and upset. If the second investigation produces damning evidence against Ferentz and the team's off-field problems continue, there might be too much pressure to keep him around.

Another subpar season would also hurt, of course, but if Ferentz goes, it will be because of the off-field troubles.  

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg 

A big week in college football kicks off around the country as media days begin or, in some cases, continue. The Big Ten anchors the gab fest Thursday and Friday at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, and I'll be there to give you the goods. Every Big Ten school but Purdue begins preseason practice two weeks from today, so you can officially begin the countdown.

OK, onto the links.

Hope you had a better weekend than Iowa. Things started Saturday with a story in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, which last week obtained a copy of a letter sent by the mother of the alleged victim in a sexual assault case involving two former Hawkeyes players (Cedric Everson and Abe Satterfield). The letter stated that university officials, including athletic director Gary Barta and football coach Kirk Ferentz, encouraged the victim to keep the matter in-house. The alleged victim's mother sent the letter to university officials last November and said she received no response.

In a phone interview with the newspaper, the alleged victim's mother said: "University of Iowa's character was non-existent. It is disappointing to say the very least."

Iowa responded with a statement saying the victim and her family were "repeatedly informed" of their options and that the university "fully supported" their decision to file a criminal report. Either way, Gov. Chet Culver wants an explanation and so do members of the state board of regents, the Press-Citizen reports.

Things only got worse early Saturday, as incoming freshman defensive end Riley Reiff became the latest Hawkeyes player arrested. Reiff pleaded guilty to public intoxication and interference with official acts, both misdemeanors, after allegedly leading at least eight Iowa City police officers on a 20-minute foot chase. In a statement, Barta called Reiff's actions "disturbing."

Expect more on both stories, but to restate this obvious, this isn't what Iowa, Barta and especially Ferentz needed heading into a pivotal season.

Here's what's going on around the rest of the league:

  • It's safe to say Illinois coach Ron Zook won't be getting a Christmas basket from the Mendenhall family, Terry Bannon writes in the Chicago Tribune.
  • Beanie Wells wants to make sure a fellow Ohio State running back (Archie Griffin) remains the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
  • Penn State isn't telling recruits about a succession plan, said coach Joe Paterno before his College Hall of Fame enshrinement. Paterno admitted he has put university president Graham Spanier in a bind, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Daryll Clark has taken the long road toward possibly becoming Penn State's starting quarterback, Eric Thomas writes in The (Carlisle, Pa.) Sentinel.
  • Wisconsin players are still stewing about a disappointing 2007 season, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Purdue coach Joe Tiller reflects on retirement, heightened expectations and his final season on the sidelines, Austin Ward writes in the Jackson Hole Star-Tribune.
  • Desmond Tardy and the rest of Purdue's wide receivers are playing the no-respect card, Tom Kubat writes in The Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier.
  • Does Indiana's next athletic director need direct ties to the school? The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens takes a look, and has a list of potential candidates. Bet they'd love to land Louisville's Tom Jurich.

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