Big Ten: Gene Keady

The Boilermaker theme is prevalent around Purdue's athletic complex, and one reminder greets football players every time they enter the weight room. Players see the sign "Train Hard," a nod to their school's nickname but also a reminder of what must be done in the iron jungle to reach their goals on the field in the fall.

Simple yet direct signs are common at Purdue -- former basketball coach Gene Keady placed the sign "Time to play hard" outside the entrance to the court at Mackey Arena. Purdue's best teams have been extremely hardworking, and the Boilers have produced some weight-room superstars in recent years such as former standout defensive linemen Mike Neal and Ryan Kerrigan.

The "Train Hard" sign helps reinforce one of the program's core values.

Big Ten lunch links

December, 21, 2009
The Big Ten had a better weekend than the NFC North. Ugh.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

While watching Ohio State and Northwestern combine to score a whopping 40 points in the first half of Sunday's basketball game, one of my friends gave me the idea to do a blog post examining the relationship between each Big Ten member's football team and men's basketball team.

It's an interesting topic, especially since the leaguewide football and basketball identities seem to be growing closer.

For starters, both sports are constantly fighting for national respect. Even the Big Ten's mini renaissance in hoops this season hasn't increased the league's profile as much as it could have.

Both sports generally play styles that aren't sexy and seem dull at times, but defense and discipline are emphasized. Most casual college football fans would rather watch a Big 12 game than a Big Ten battle. The same can be said for college hoops aficionados who prefer the ACC and the Big East to the Big Ten. But many die-hard Big Ten fans don't mind 17-14 football scores or even 17-14 halftime hoops scores (or 38-33 finals, ugh).

How does each school compare on the gridiron and the hardwood? Here's a closer look.  


Current flagship program: Basketball

Both programs have tasted success, but only basketball has been able to sustain it over time. Football seems to be the flashier program right now, largely because of Ron Zook's and Mike Locksley's recruiting efforts, but basketball has produced more than its share of superstars, most recently guards Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head in 2004-05. Both coaches (Zook and Bruce Weber) have backgrounds in defense, but the Illini hoops squad seems to reflect it more often, while the gridders can light up a scoreboard behind quarterback Juice Williams.


Current flagship program: Basketball

The Hoosiers probably have the league's largest gap between football and men's basketball. One program has been largely considered an afterthought, while the other retains the mystique of a national powerhouse despite some hard times in recent years. Bob Knight coached Indiana basketball from 1971-2000. In that same span, the football team had five head coaches (football has had four coaches since 2001). Defense was a hallmark of Knight's teams, but it has been a bugaboo on the gridiron, particularly during this decade.


Current flagship program: Football

Coaching continuity has been a theme for both programs, as men like Hayden Fry (football), Tom Davis (basketball) and Kirk Ferentz (football) have held their posts for more than a decade. Football has been the better and more likable program during the 2000s, reaching four New Year's Day bowls. Despite those incessant NFL rumors and a recent string of player transgressions, Ferentz remains popular among Hawkeyes fans, most of whom couldn't wait to see hoops coach Steve Alford leave town after several troublesome seasons. Though the basketball team hasn't broken through yet under Todd Lickliter, its style of play -- defense-oriented, focused on fundamentals -- falls in line with that of the football team.


Current flagship program: Football

It takes more than one lousy season to take football off the marquee at Michigan, but the basketball team seems to be gaining ground behind head coach John Beilein. Both programs have recruited extremely well and won national championships, but basketball has been a major underachiever this decade. Both Beilein and football coach Rich Rodriguez brought in proven systems from West Virginia, and Beilein's has caught on in Year 2. Who knows, maybe the same will hold true for Rodriguez. Football employed a more conservative style under Lloyd Carr and will appear more chic if Rodriguez's dynamic spread system clicks. Basketball seems a bit more blue collar behind Beilein.


Current flagship program: Basketball

The identities of these two programs seemed miles apart years ago, but Mark Dantonio is gradually restoring respectability to the football team. Tom Izzo's hoops squad has been a consistent winner with cream-of-the-crop recruits, while football was known as a perennial underachiever, prone to midseason collapses and off-field problems, until Dantonio arrived. Both coaches stress defense and physical play, and Dantonio has upgraded recruiting for football, though it's not quite to Izzo's level in hoops.


Current flagship program: Push

Minnesota is one of few Big Ten schools without a clear flagship program, as both football and basketball have fluctuated in recent years. Formerly a football powerhouse, Minnesota hasn't won a Big Ten title since 1967. The hoops squad reached the Final Four in 1997 but then endured a crippling academic fraud scandal. Basketball got a major boost by hiring coach Tubby Smith and hopes to reach the NCAA tournament on Sunday. Football rebounded from a 1-11 season in 2007 to win seven games last fall behind energetic coach Tim Brewster. Both progams have upgraded their in-state recruiting, which should signal better days ahead.


Current flagship program: Football

For decades, no Big Ten program had more parallels in football and basketball than Northwestern, which wasn't a good thing. The Wildcats took losing to new lows, dropping 34 consecutive games in football and continuing to carry the label as the only major-conference team never to reach the NCAA tournament. But football broke through in 1995 and has been competitive ever since, and basketball could be getting there as well this season. Recruiting is a challenge for both programs, and Northwestern has used innovative schemes (the spread offense in football, the Princeton offense in basketball) to combat the gaps in talent. Resiliency has been a hallmark for Northwestern in football and, this season, basketball, but the oft-overlooked Wildcats generally struggle when the national spotlight is on them.    


Current flagship program: Football

Football will always drive the bus in C-Bus, though the basketball team has raised its profile significantly under Thad Matta after violations by the previous coaching staff. The Buckeyes have been the dominant football team in the Big Ten this decade, much like Michigan State in hoops, and employ a style rooted in defense, special teams, rushing the ball and limiting turnovers. Matta's teams
seem a little more dynamic on offense while placing a premium on defense as well. The biggest similarity in recent years has been the ability to land top-level recruits, whether it's Terrelle Pryor in football or Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. in basketball.


Current flagship program: Football

Here's all you need to know: Penn State's hoops team has reached three NCAA tournaments since 1965, the year before Joe Paterno took over as head football coach. Paterno is the face of not only the athletic department, but the university, and his football teams have overshadowed their mates on the hardcourt. While Paterno is an icon, most casual hoops fans couldn't point Lions coach Ed DeChellis out of a lineup. But DeChellis has his best team this year, and perhaps Penn State can turn the corner in basketball (a reasonable expectation). Paterno has won 23 bowl games and two national titles and coached Penn State to five undefeated seasons, so hoops has a lot of catching up to do.


Current flagship program: Basketball

Football and basketball have traded off top billing at Purdue, as Gene Keady's hoops teams held the distinction before Joe Tiller got things rolling with basketball on grass. Matt Painter has Boilers hoops back among the Big Ten elite, and his coaching and recruiting ability signals good things ahead. Purdue sells itself as a blue-collar, unflashy program in both football and basketball, which made Tiller's high-powered spread offense all the more eye-catching. New football coach Danny Hope wants to keep a similar offensive system in place, so it's hard to say whether football will move closer to basketball or further away.


Current flagship program: Push

It's a close call between Badgers football and basketball, as football dominated the 1990s and part of this decade, while basketball made the Final Four in 2000 and has surged behind coach Bo Ryan. Arguably no Big Ten school has more similarities between its two programs than Wisconsin, which overcomes a smallish recruiting pool to produce competitive teams that emphasize defense, fundamentals and physical play. Few basketball coaches consistently get as much out of their talent as Ryan does every year, and Alvarez built Wisconsin from a loser into a powerhouse.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

 Paul Jasienski/Getty Images
 Joe Tiller leaves Purdue as the school's all-time winningest coach.

Joe Tiller wanted to keep the focus on Purdue's rivalry matchup against Indiana. He found out very quickly that it would be nearly impossible to do so.

Tiller's Monday began with a luncheon at the quarterback club, where those in attendance held up "Thank you, coach" placards. As usual, Tiller had a witty response. 

"Are those left over from coach [Gene] Keady's retirement?" he joked, referring to Purdue's longtime basketball coach. 

When Tiller did his television show later that day, the final segment was devoted to his career at Purdue. 

"I didn't particularly care for that much but I appreciate [it] immensely," he said. "So it's starting to sink in a little bit."

Tiller will coach his final game at Purdue on Saturday (ESPN2, noon ET) before retiring to Wyoming, where he'll trade playbook and whistle for rod and reel. He leaves as Purdue's all-time winningest coach (86-62 record) after spending 12 seasons at the school and guiding the Boilermakers to 10 bowl games. 

The 65-year-old admits things could get emotional on Saturday, but until then he's trying to concentrate on the game. 

"You get a little nostalgic," said former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who coached his final game at Camp Randall Stadium in 2005. "You start thinking of your career. You start to reminisce about all the players and the good times. You start thinking a little bit about the future and what you're going to do and what it's going to be like without football because that's what you've done all your life.

"That's all he's done. That's all I ever did."

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Happy hump day to all. Once you finish reading these links, the weekend will be a few minutes closer. 

  • Chris "Beanie" Wells isn't a senior, but the Ohio State star running back could be playing his final game at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Wells would be a considered a top-5 pick in the NFL draft if he bolts a year early. 
"He's the best player I've scouted and it looks like he's coming out," said an NFL scout who works the Midwest. "The fact that he's played through [his foot injury] is a good sign. He's a big guy, he'll carry the load, and that's part of playing in the NFL -- it's a long year and he's going to have to play banged up. I think that's going to help him."
  • Joe Paterno should feel better almost immediately after hip-replacement surgery, and the 81-year-old likely will have no trouble attending Penn State's upcoming January bowl game, Jeff McLane writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  
  • Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton remains upbeat despite a wrist injury, and the senior star holds out hope to return for a bowl game, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune. 
  • Mark Dantonio isn't looking to leave Michigan State any time soon, Drew Sharp writes in the Detroit Free Press.
  • It has been a mixed bag this season for Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, but he still remembers the advice he received from fellow Chicagoan and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.  
  • Joe Tiller's farewell tour is in full swing around West Lafayette, as the Purdue coach prepares for his final game, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. 
It all started when Tiller showed up for his weekly Monday talk at the quarterback club's luncheon and everyone held up placards that read, 'Thank you, Coach.'
"'I didn't have any idea they had anything like that planned. It was much appreciated,' Tiller said. 'I did ask the question, 'Are those left over from coach [Gene] Keady's retirement?'"

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Check these out after we chat

  • With Purdue at 2-6 and coach Joe Tiller weeks away from retirement, the question begs to be asked: Have the players tuned out Tiller? Several Boilermakers say no, but former Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady says Tiller has a tough task, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier.

"Any time you hire another coach, the coach that is being replaced is a lame duck toward motivating [the players]," Keady said. "They know they don't have to listen to you the next year. It's tough. I can sympathize with Joe. It's not any fun. After you've coached 50 years, you would like to go out a winner, and that's not going to happen. ... You feel like you've let everybody down when that happens."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

After ranking some of the obvious Big Ten rivalries earlier today, I started thinking about matchups that should be rivalries but aren't for one reason or another. This quickly brought me to the Big Ten's list of protected opponents.

Each Big Ten team has two conference opponents it is guaranteed to face every season. For teams like Michigan, the two protected rivals are obvious (Ohio State, Michigan State). For other schools, it becomes a bit tricky. I've always thought the list of protected rivals could be tweaked, though each adjustment would create a new set of problems.

Here is the current list of teams and their protected rivalries:

Illinois: Indiana, Northwestern
Indiana: Illinois, Purdue
Minnesota, Wisconsin
Michigan State, Ohio State
Michigan State:
Michigan, Penn State
Iowa, Wisconsin
Illinois, Purdue
Ohio State:
Michigan, Penn State
Penn State:
Michigan State, Ohio State
Indiana, Northwestern
Iowa, Minnesota

Now let's look at each team and see if the rivalries could be adjusted.

Illinois -- Indiana is much more of a rival in basketball than football, so there definitely could be a change here. The Northwestern games are usually entertaining, but it's hardly a must-have rivalry. Given the direction the Illini are heading, I'd love to see them play Ohio State every season. The problem is Ohio State would have to give up Penn State, a growing rivalry that easily could have cracked my top 5 list. Adding Iowa is another possibility.

Indiana -- The Purdue game has got to stay. It always was a bigger rivalry in basketball with Bob Knight and Gene Keady on the sidelines. But the football game is becoming a bigger deal, especially after last season's dramatic finish. As stated earlier, Illinois could go, but who gets added to the list?

Iowa -- Two pretty solid rivalries here with Wisconsin and Minnesota. I love the Wisconsin series simply because unlike so many "rivalries," it's so close (Wiscy leads 41-40-2). The Minnesota game could probably go, though there have been some memorable games, including the 1960 game pairing No. 1 vs. No. 3. Illinois or Northwestern could be a possibility here.

Michigan -- No changes needed. The Ohio State game is widely regarded as college football's top rivalry. Though Michigan has had memorable matchups with Wisconsin and holds an impressive winning streak against Penn State, the Michigan State game is turning into an excellent rivalry. Mark Dantonio hasn't downplayed the Michigan game at all, which only underscores the need to keep things as they are.

Michigan State -- The Michigan rivalry has to stay. It means as much or more to Michigan State players than the Notre Dame game, especially since they always have to hear about Michigan. The Penn State game could certainly go. It was cooked up so Big Ten newcomer Penn State could have a rival. The problem is, who would replace the Nittany Lions? Purdue actually might not be a bad choice. Michigan State has a 29-28-3 edge in the all-time series.

Minnesota -- The Wisconsin game has been played forever and probably should continue, though the rivalry's longevity probably trumps its bitterness. As stated above, I'm not totally attached to the Iowa series -- my apologies to the Floyd of Rosedale. Minnesota has played some memorable games against Michigan, though the Wolverines dominate the series (69-24-3).

Northwestern -- Northwestern could easily trade in both of its protected rivalries. The Purdue series hasn't sparked much excitement, and though the Illinois games have been fun, the Wildcats direct their hatred elsewhere. Players freely admit that Iowa has become their top rival, and recent games against Wisconsin have added spice to that series. Northwestern and Wisconsin will meet in the regular-season finale next season, potentially a sign of things to come.

Ohio State -- The Michigan game ain't going nowhere. Penn State has become a better rivalry -- Ohio State leads the series, 12-7 -- but I'm fascinated to see how big the Illinois game becomes. Ron Zook's recruiting has put the Illini closer to Ohio State in terms of talent, and those matchups could be an annual showcase game for the conference.

Penn State -- I like the Ohio State rivalry and feel lukewarm about the Michigan State series. The problem here is geography and history. Penn State really has no natural rival and joined the Big Ten in 1993. Michigan would be a nice replacement for Michigan State, given the two teams' history of success, but that would mean removing Michigan State as a protected game for the Wolverines.

Purdue -- The Indiana game should stay. Purdue's other major rival is Notre Dame, which, by the way, would present some interesting scheduling questions if it ever joined the Big Ten (don't hold your breath). As stated above, Purdue's series with Michigan State is remarkably tight, which always helps for a rivalry. The Spartans could replace Northwestern.

Wisconsin -- Iowa must remain a rival as long as Bret Bielema coaches the Badgers. How many other coaches step on the sideline with the opposing team's logo tattooed on his ankle? It'd be tough to see Minnesota go, especially with Wisconsin catching up in the all-time series (Minny leads 59-50-8). I doubt Badgers fans would get too jazzed about Northwestern, but the teams have played some close games in recent years.

My head hurts. How would you guys rearrange the Big Ten rivalries?