Big Ten: George Perles
Colleague Ivan Maisel today writes about the Pac-12's pipeline of sending head coaches to the NFL and notes how the Big Ten has lost just one coach to the NFL (Indiana's Sam Wyche to the Indianapolis Colts) since 1948. Today's Take Two topic is this: Why hasn't the Big Ten sent more coaches straight to the next level, and when will the drought end?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten has featured coaches who had been NFL head coaches (remember Lou Holtz, who coached the New York Jets in 1976, coming to Minnesota in 1984?), a head coach who came to the Big Ten from a USFL top job (George Perles from the Philadelphia Stars to Michigan State) and coaches who left Big Ten teams for other jobs but eventually became NFL head coaches (former Northwestern boss Denny Green, former Illinois boss Mike White, former Michigan boss Gary Moeller). Most Big Ten teams have run pro-style offenses and defenses during the years, and while more squads are going to the spread offense, it wouldn't be a huge transition for most coaches to go to the NFL. I think the tendency for Big Ten coaches to stay at their jobs for longer terms has contributed to the lack of direct NFL departures. Many Big Ten coaches looked at those jobs as destinations rather than springboards to the NFL.
I expect the Big Ten's NFL coach drought to end fairly soon. Kirk Ferentz's name has come up for years as an NFL candidate, and while he has remained loyal to Iowa, you have to wonder whether he'll eventually make that leap, if the opportunity is still there. Although Ferentz's stock has dropped a bit in recent years, he's still held in high regard in NFL circles. The other obvious name is Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who talked with several NFL teams about jobs after his first season with the Lions. Although O'Brien seems relatively happy at Penn State despite the challenges there, few would be surprised if he eventually moves onto the NFL, given his love for that league and his experience with the Patriots. He might not move in the next year or two, but I could see him guiding Penn State through the sanctions and then making the jump. Will the NFL court other Big Ten coaches? I don't see Urban Meyer as an NFL coach, but his success can't be overlooked. I can't see Brady Hoke leaving Michigan, although he might be a good fit in the NFL. Bo Pelini has some NFL experience, but I see him more as a pro coordinator than a pro head coach. I'm still watching Ferentz and O'Brien, and I'd expect one to make the jump sometime in the next 3-5 years.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
Yes, it's surprising that the Big Ten hasn't sent more coaches straight to the NFL, although the track record of college head coaches making smooth transitions into the NFL is spotty at best. For every Jimmy Johnson and Jim Harbaugh, there is a Nick Saban (who, by the way, went from Michigan State to LSU to the Miami Dolphins), and a Steve Spurrier. Time will tell if guys like Chip Kelly and Greg Schiano are ultimately judged as success stories at the next level. Still, you would think more Big Ten coaches would have been more attractive to the NFL, given the league's history of pro-style schemes and, let's face it, conservative play calling that thankfully is starting to erode in the pros.
Adam hit on what I think is the key point: the destination job factor. Think about the top coach in the Big Ten in the past 15 years: Jim Tressel. Wouldn't the Vest have fit right alongside a coach like Tom Coughlin in the NFL? Yet Ohio State was Tressel's dream job, and a place where he built his own fiefdom before it all collapsed. Even though the NFL can pay more, calling the shots at a major college program offers much better job security. I also think back on the story of Joe Paterno and how he was reportedly offered more than triple his Penn State salary to take over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969. Of course, he said no and stayed in State College for the rest of his life.
The same can probably be said for Hoke and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, both of whom I think would make strong NFL head coaches. Yet neither seemingly has any desire to ever go anywhere else but their current job. Ferentz is no dummy. Why risk getting fired by taking over an NFL team -- one that probably wasn't very good, or else it wouldn't be in the market for a new coach -- when you have the cushiest contract in college sports? I wonder about Meyer. On the one hand, he has no pro experience. On the other hand, he's incredibly smart and competitive, and perhaps he'll one day view the NFL lifestyle as preferable to the nonstop recruiting demand of college, especially if he can add another national title or two. I feel like Pelini would jump to the NFL if a team wanted him, but I'm not sure how marketable he is as a pro head coach right now. I believe Mark Dantonio would succeed at the next level, but he seems like a college guy through and through.
O'Brien remains the obvious pick to break the drought. There's no question he's the most pro-ready coach in the Big Ten. The NCAA sanctions and constant distractions at Penn State have to wear on him, but you'd also think he'd want to taste the fruits of his labor once the Nittany Lions are eligible for a bowl again. Yet if the 61-year-old Bill Belichick decides to hang it up in the near future, the New England Patriots would have to take a hard look at O'Brien as his successor. If guys like Kelly and Schiano start to win big, the NFL might start looking toward even more college head coaches, including those in the Big Ten.
Is the selection committee a perfect solution? No. Would there be challenges in assembling such a committee and concerns about biases? Without a doubt. Would the group need to earn the public's trust over time? Absolutely. But the committee seems like a better solution than the current methods, as long as it has some transparency.
My sense is the selection committee component ultimately will bring the leagues together on a model during the next few weeks. It shouldn't be that hard of a sell to most conferences.
The big question, then, is who serves on such a committee? Brian Bennett and I debated the topic this week. Brian is more open to former coaches being on the committee than I am, although neither of us have closed the door.
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden says he'll serve. Colleague Joe Schad reports that other former coaches, including former Ohio State boss John Cooper and former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, also are up for the job.
"I would love to do this," Cooper said. "I would love to be a part of it. My life revolves around college football and coaching. I would vote for the best team, regardless of conference. And I know we all would operate that way."
My top criteria is to find individuals who have connections to multiple conferences.
A committee clearly has to represent the sport nationally as best as possible, so who would be best to rep the Big Ten in the room? There are so many possibilities, but I tried to narrow them down a bit.
My top pick is actually a former coach who is still involved in the sport as an athletic director: Tom Osborne. The Nebraska AD is well respected throughout the sport. He's smart and fair. And he has been affiliated with multiple conferences (Big Ten, Big Eight/Big 12), which I think is key for selection committee candidates. The committee won't need to be in place until 2014. Osborne, 75, might be retired by then, which could be better than having him on a school's payroll.
Here are a few other potential candidates with Big Ten ties:
John Cooper, 74: Coached at Ohio State from 1988-2000. Also was a Pac-10 head coach (Arizona State) and an assistant in the SEC and Big Eight.
Lloyd Carr, 66: Coached at Michigan from 1995-2007. Also a Michigan assistant from 1980-94. Retired as an associate athletic director in 2010.
Hayden Fry, 83: Coached at Iowa from 1979-1998. Texas native played at Baylor, and made several coaching stops in former Southwest Conference.
Bill Mallory, 77: Coached at Indiana from 1984-96. Also coached in Big Eight at Colorado, and has roots in the Mid-American Conference.
George Perles, 77: Coached Michigan State from 1983-94. Served as Michigan State's athletic director from 1990-92.
Joe Tiller, 69: Coached at Purdue from 1997-2008. Also coached at Wyoming, and served as a Pac-10 assistant at Washington State.
Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin athletic director: Wisconsin football coach from 1990-2005. Played at Nebraska, and served as an assistant at Notre Dame and Iowa.
Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner: Has served in role since 1989. Worked for NCAA from 1975-79. Served on several NCAA committees. Played basketball at North Carolina.
Mark Hollis, Michigan State athletic director: Has served in role since 2008. Also worked at Pitt and for the Western Athletic Conference. Recently named 2012 athletic director of the year by SportsBusiness Journal.
Tom Osborne, Nebraska athletic director: Has served in role since 2007. Nebraska football coach from 1973-97. Nebraska assistant from 1964-72. Former member of U.S. House of Representatives.
Jim Phillips, Northwestern athletic director: Has served in role since 2008. Former administrator at Notre Dame, Tennessee and Northern Illinois, and also spent time as a basketball coach at Arizona State.
Gene Smith, Ohio State athletic director: Has served in role since 2005. Led athletic departments in Big Ten, Big 12 (Iowa State), Pac-12 (Arizona State) and MAC (Eastern Michigan). Former Notre Dame football player. Former chair of NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee.
Looking outside the coach/administrator model, Tony Dungy might be an interesting candidate. He's a Michigan native and a former quarterback at Minnesota who is well respected throughout the sports world. Former longtime Big Ten ADs like Ron Guenther (Illinois) and Pat Richter (Wisconsin) also might be potential options.
Who would you want to see on a selection committee?
- First big news item of the day, as Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland will miss the remainder of the season because of recurring left shoulder problems.
- Here's where the Big Ten stacks up in the latest ESPN Stats & Info rankings.
- Michigan State should expect a smooth transition as Don Treadwell takes over the head-coaching duties, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press. Three Spartans questions with the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode.
- Former Big Ten coaches Lloyd Carr and George Perles weigh in on the stress that coaching can cause, Steve Kaminski writes in The Grand Rapids Press.
- Ohio U's now-banned mascot had been plotting to attack Brutus Buckeye all along. I'm sorry, but mascot fights are hilarious. Ohio State's offense is feeling more confident than Brutus right now, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Iowa needs to get its special-teams woes ironed out ASAP, Andrew Logue writes in the Des Moines Register.
- Michigan's Rich Rodriguez doesn't sleep much but tries to stay in shape for a rigorous job, John Niyo writes in The Detroit News. Quarterback Tate Forcier is "probably in the mix still to play," annarbor.com's Pete Bigelow writes.
- Al Golden is well aware of Temple's struggles against Penn State, but the Owls can close the gap Saturday, Matt Fortuna writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Nittany Lions quarterback Rob Bolden remains a work in progress, Josh Langenbacher writes in The Altoona Mirror.
- Wisconsin freshman running back James White should get more carries in the coming weeks, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Northwestern expects the toughest test of the young season Saturday against Central Michigan, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- An interesting look at Indiana's equipment costs from The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens. The Hoosiers know they need the run game to get into gear, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- Minnesota will retire the No. 78 of former Outland Trophy winner Bobby Bell on Oct. 2.
- A beat-up Purdue team tries to claw its way to 3-1 before the bye week, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott disses the Big Ten Network, Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson write in The New York Times.
- Ohio State's compliance staff is making sure players understand the consequences of interacting with agents, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel's talent search keeps taking him to Toledo, Matt Markey writes in The Blade.
- Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez includes his school and Iowa among the Big Ten's big brands, annarbor.com's Dave Birkett writes. Alvarez also thinks the Big Ten could expand again -- to the East, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr is excited about his impending retirement, Josh Katzenstein writes in The Detroit News. The Wolverines add a 2011 recruit in linebacker Kellen Jones.
- After summer workouts, Wisconsin players are geared up for preseason camp, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. Badgers star John Clay is recovering well from two offseason ankle surgeries, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Penn State's first-round draft pick Jared Odrick has signed with the Miami Dolphins, Pat Huggins writes in the Lebanon Daily News.
- Former Michigan State coach George Perles thinks both the Spartans and Michigan will improve in 2010, Snyder writes in the Freep.
- Some good nuggets on Minnesota's scheduling situation from the Star Tribune's Phil Miller.
- Northwestern's 2011 recruiting class is shaping up well, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- The Ohio State game once again will be Iowa's most important test in 2010, Jordan Garretson writes in The Daily Iowan.
- Indiana has the nation's easiest nonconference schedule, while Northwestern also lives in cupcake city, according to Sporting News' Matt Hayes.
- Penn State athletic director Tim Curley shares his thoughts on Big Ten divisions and other topics. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will be on hand to watch Joe Paterno and Penn State face Alabama on Sept. 11, colleague Ivan Maisel writes. These Penn State tidbits from statecollege.com's Mike Poorman are en fuego.
- Kim Royston must be Superman's cousin, as the Minnesota safety expects to start the season opener and go through camp following a broken leg in spring ball, Phil Miller writes in the Star Tribune.
- The Big Ten championship should be played at a permanent, indoor stadium, Jared Shanker writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
- New Big Ten member Nebraska is picked to win the Big 12 North this season, colleague David Ubben writes.
- George Perles' fingerprints remain on the Michigan State football program, Lynn Henning writes in the Detroit Free Press. The Spartans are poised to add to their 2011 recruiting class, Matt Dorsey writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Illinois picks up a 2011 commitment from center Tony Durkin, while Northwestern also adds an offensive lineman to its class, ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers writes.
- Michigan could finally bring in a true middle linebacker if it lands recruit Kellen Jones, Josh Helmholdt writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Iowa's success at Kinnick Stadium is a big reason why the Hawkeyes have been hyped entering the fall, Andrew Logue writes in the Des Moines Register. A look at Iowa's contingency plan at offensive line this fall, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- Wisconsin kicker Philip Welch sets his sights on the Lou Groza Award, Hap Fry writes in The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan.
Sources close to the negotiations tell me the two sides have exchanged information, and a formal agreement likely will be announced in the next two weeks. If something isn't finalized by Feb. 1, there will be more discussions pushing toward an agreement. Bottom line: It's going to happen. The only question is when.
The Little Caesars Bowl, played at Detroit's Ford Field, would receive the No. 8 selection in the Big Ten's new bowl lineup, just after the new Dallas Football Classic makes its pick. The Detroit bowl previously had selected seventh but has landed just two Big Ten teams -- Purdue in 2007 and Northwestern in 2003 -- since forming an agreement with the league in 2002.
The Big Ten faces an opponent from the Mid-American Conference in the game. Former Michigan State coach George Perless is the CEO of the Little Caesars Bowl, and former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr recently was named the bowl's president.
Here's how the new bowl selection order will go:
1: Rose/BCS vs. BCS team
2: Capital One vs. SEC
3: Outback vs. SEC
4/5: Gator vs. SEC
4/5: Insight vs. Big 12
6: Texas vs. Big 12
7: Dallas Football Classic vs. Big 12 or Conference USA
8. Little Caesars vs. MAC
Make it a November to remember.
- Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman will be patient with football coach Rich Rodriguez, Darren Everson writes in The Wall Street Journal. Another Wolverines player could be in trouble for in-game conduct, annarbor.com's Dave Birkett writes.
- Officials robbed Indiana against Iowa, as there wasn't indisputable evidence to overturn Terrance Turner's touchdown, Bob Kravitz writes in The Indianapolis Star. Indiana hasn't converted picks into points, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star.
- Former Michigan State coach George Perles is serious about running for governor, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
- The Rose Bowl remains the goal for Ohio State, but a trip to Orlando wouldn't be that bad, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Wisconsin has gotten younger but better this season, Michael Hunt writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Former Penn State star Jack Ham sticks up for Terrelle Pryor, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pryor expects a rough crowd in Happy Valley, Jon Spencer writes in the Zanesville Times Recorder.
- Big wins took the pressure off of Minnesota's Tim Brewster and Illinois' Ron Zook.
- Mike Kafka's dad thinks the Northwestern starting quarterback will be OK after a leg injury against Penn State, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten today announced its bowl lineup for the 2010-13 seasons, which includes multiple games against both the SEC and the Big 12 in addition to the Rose Bowl/BCS tie-in.
The league didn't announce an agreement with the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit, though sources have told me that one remains likely and would be announced at a later date. The Big Ten has multiple ties to the Detroit bowl, including CEO George Perles, the former Michigan State head coach, and new president Lloyd Carr, the former Michigan head coach.
The new lineup features a late December game, another on Dec. 31 and five contests on Jan. 1, including the new Dallas Football Classic to be played at the Cotton Bowl. According to the Big Ten's news release, a Big Ten team will face a Conference USA opponent in the Dallas game, though sources indicated that the bowl will also consider Big 12 opponents.
The five Jan. 1 games could give the Big Ten the largest postseason presence on New Year's Day of any conference.
“We are excited to announce our bowl lineup for the 2010-13 seasons, with seven outstanding destinations in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, which will allow us to showcase our programs in six different New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day games,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in a statement. “With the number of Big Ten alumni in these states, this bowl lineup is a natural fit and should provide some compelling matchups on the field."
To recap the lineup, according to selection order:
1. Rose/BCS vs. Pac-10/BCS, Jan. 1
2. Capital One vs. SEC, Jan. 1
3. Outback vs. SEC, Jan. 1
4/5. Gator vs. SEC, Jan. 1
4/5. Insight vs. Big 12, Dec. 31
6. Texas vs. Big 12, late December
7. Dallas Football Classic vs. Conference USA,* Jan. 1
*Big 12 remains a possible opponent
So seven tie-ins are finalized and an eighth remains likely. The overall lineup should help even the playing field for the Big Ten, which "plays up" in bowls more than any other conference and faces inherent disadvantages because of where the games are played.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
As expected, the Motor City Bowl is now the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl, with Little Caesar's taking over as the title sponsor of the Detroit game.
My biggest question: Where's the second 'pizza' in the game's new title?
The agreement, announced Wednesday morning at Detroit's Ford Field, includes the title sponsorship, a new logo and several events around the game, including a pizza party and a Christmas night dinner with former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and former Michigan State coach George Perles. Carr also was named president of the bowl on Wednesday.
The game will continue to pair the No. 7 team from the Big Ten against the Mid-American Conference champion. Ford Motor Company will continue to be a sponsor for the bowl, which lost sponsorships from General Motors and Chrysler.
Mike Ilitch, who owns both Little Caesar's and the Detroit Tigers, said, "This bowl is a great opportunity to provide a fun experience for families and college football fans, while supporting college athletics. And what food goes better with football than Little Caesar's pizza?"
No arguments here.
The Big Ten will shuffle its bowl lineup in 2010, as the Alamo Bowl slides off and most likely the Gator Bowl and the Texas Bowl enter the mix. Sources have told ESPN.com the Big Ten will renew its contract for the annual Detroit bowl, though only two Big Ten teams have appeared in the game since the tie-in agreement began in 2002.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's not easy to find corporate sponsors these days, especially in Detroit. The Motor City Bowl knows this, and the game's organizers are looking beyond the usual suspects for a title sponsor.
Bowl officials are talking with both Little Ceasars about bowl sponsorship, and a decision could come in the next few weeks. Former sponsors Chrysler and General Motors have dropped out because of bankruptcy issues, while Ford remains a sponsor.
Motor City Bowl CEO George Perles, the former Michigan State coach, told WWJ radio that the bowl's name would change to the Little Caesars Pizza Pizza Bowl. I'm sorry, but I can't type that without smiling and thinking of those Little Ceasars commercials from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Needless to say, this would be awesome.
The Motor City Bowl pits a middling Big Ten team against the MAC champion, though only two Big Ten squads have appeared in the game since the tie-in agreement began in 2002. The Big Ten's agreement with the Motor City Bowl expires after the 2009 season.
This year's game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Dec. 26. Motor City Bowl executive director Ken Hoffman tells the Free Press that the game could be played without a title sponsor, though it's likely one will be found.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Who says June is a dead zone? A ton of links for you today.
- Some interesting comments from Illinois head coach Ron Zook, who blames himself for easing off in preseason practice last year and doesn't expect defensive lineman Jerry Brown to be back, Loren Tate writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette. Also, safety Donsay Hardeman (neck surgery) has been cleared medically.
"It doesn't look good for Jerry Brown," Zook said. "There's a pretty good chance he won't be here. He is the only one with serious academic problems. As for Josh Brent, I'll comment later. I hope he can come back, but I have to sit down with [athletic director Ron] Guenther when his situation is more clarified."
- Penn State picked up a big commitment from defensive end Kyle Baublitz (great name) during the weekend, while defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is racking up recruits in the western part of the state, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Wisconsin thankfully adjusted its bonus structure for coaches, reducing the rewards given for reaching minor bowl games, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Mark Stewart writes in his blog.
The percentage payout for the Motor City Bowl drops from 5% of a coach's salary to 2%. The Insight Bowl drops from 5% to 3%. The Champs Bowl drops from 10% to 5%. Here are the bonus percentages for Wisconsin's other bowl possibilities: Capital One and Outback, 10%; Rose, Orange, Sugar or Fiesta Bowl, 15%; national championship game appearance, 25%; national championship, 30%.
- Ohio State's recent slide in big games has happened before, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Former Michigan State coach George Perles plans to run for governor next year, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez conducted a women's football clinic this weekend and confirmed that offensive lineman Dann O'Neill is no longer with the team, Mark Snyder writes in the Free Press.
- Minnesota recruit Bryant Allen wants to hoop it up as well, Marcus Fuller writes in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press. Bud Grant mourns the loss of his close friend Billy Bye, Sid Hartman writes in the Star Tribune.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Can you feel the Big Ten love? But things aren't always rosy in this conference, especially on Jan. 1 in Pasadena (OK, bad joke).
Here are five things I don't like about the league.
Unbalanced schedule: I doubt I'll get much opposition on this one. It's hard to get a true gauge of a league when teams have two conference byes every season. With 11 teams and only one division, the Big Ten has the screwiest schedule in all of college football. There's really no way around it without adding a 12th team and splitting into two divisions. The latest genius proposal calls for 10 teams to play nine conference games and one team only eight. Huh?
The bowl-weather argument: I get that cold-weather football provides unique challenges in terms of scheme, strategy and even recruiting. But they're not going to move a BCS bowl game to Chicago, Detroit or Milwaukee. No one wants to visit those places in January. So when Big Ten teams don't perform in major bowl games, please stop whining about the weather. It's a futile argument used by those who struggle to accept reality. The Big Ten signed on to play in big-boy bowls and has done so more than any other conference. The players and coaches need to step up. End of story.
Playoff opposition: It's foolish to believe the Big Ten represents the sole resistance to a playoff system, but the league certainly plays a significant role. And the reality is the Big Ten doesn't need to budge on this. Despite increasing fan demand for a playoff and its own struggles on the national stage in recent years, the Big Ten remains an extremely powerful brand with an extremely powerful commissioner and an extremely loyal fan base that fills up extremely large stadiums. But sometimes it's important to look past the dollars and recognize what make sense for the good of the game.
Sissy scheduling: This doesn't apply to every Big Ten team, and it's certainly a problem in other BCS leagues (Big 12, SEC). And yes, I get the whole thing about the economy and the reluctance to give up revenue-generating home games, especially those played in mega stadiums. But it wouldn't take much to improve the league's nonconference scheduling. Why not play more teams from the Big East or ACC? Would it kill a Big Ten team to schedule a home-and-home against the SEC? Penn State steps up with Alabama in 2010-11, but don't get me started on the Lions' non-league slate for 2009.
The Land Grant Trophy: The funny thing is Penn State-Michigan State might soon replace Ohio State-Michigan as the premier game on the final Big Ten weekend. But the trophy the teams play for is downright lame. With all due respect to George Perles, I think some bowling league wants their trophy back. You could probably get something similar at a yard sale.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The sudden death of former Michigan State and New York Giants star Brad Van Pelt on Tuesday brought tributes from around the sports world. Here are several statements from current and former Michigan State dignitaries about Van Pelt, a two-time All-American safety for the Spartans.
Head football coach Mark Dantonio: "A three-sport athlete at Michigan State, Brad Van Pelt didn't simply compete at the collegiate level; he excelled. Brad is truly one of the all-time greats in Spartan football history. I had an opportunity to visit with Brad during his tour of the new Skandalaris Football Center last year, and I could sense his Spartan pride. He impacted a lot of lives during his college and pro careers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Van Pelt family in this time of grief."
Athletic director Mark Hollis: "Brad Van Pelt ranks among the greatest multi-sport athletes in Michigan State history. He truly was a bigger than life sports figure. Brad was a loyal Spartan, who cared deeply about everyone associated with this university."
Former Michigan State basketball player Gary Ganakas, a teammate of Van Pelt's: "Brad Van Pelt was a wonderful person. He seemed to be everybody's friend because he acted like a big kid in sports and in life. He will be missed by everyone he touched during his life. Brad had a good heart. He never forgot that he came from Owosso [Mich.]. Despite all of his success in college and during his 14-year NFL career, he never big-timed people.
"He was simply a nice guy. He was an avid golfer and some of my fondest memories come from the golf course. Brad was certainly fun to watch on the tee box because he swung so hard. He swung as hard as any amateur or pro that I've ever seen. Everybody near the tee box took a step back because his ball could fly anywhere. When Brad swung his golf club, he took people's breath away. It truly was a pleasure to play a round of golf with him."
Former Michigan State football player Joe DeLamielleure: "Brad Van Pelt was the modern day Jim Thorpe and that's no exaggeration. He played three sports at Michigan State and excelled in all three. Anything he picked up he could do well and if he concentrated, he would do it great. Obviously, Brad was a tremendous college football player because he's in the Hall of Fame, and if he had played on better teams with the New York Giants, he'd be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, too.
"Honestly, Brad played the wrong position in college. He could have been our starting quarterback because he could throw the ball a mile. Brad also had an offensive player's personality. We spent my entire college career searching for a quarterback. If Brad had played quarterback, we would have won a lot more games. He was a natural athlete and looked smooth in everything that he did. Unfortunately, George Perles and Hank Bullough pulled him away [from quarterback] to become the big playmaker for our defense.
"Brad and I played against each other in the NFL and we had several head-to-head battles. He loved to play the game. In so many ways, he was just a big kid. Brad was a humble man -- the guy next door."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's hard to envision an athlete accomplishing more at a school than Brad Van Pelt did at Michigan State.
He earned seven varsity letters for the Spartans in three different sports. He earned first-team All-America honors as a safety in his final two seasons and became the first defensive back to receive the Maxwell Award as the game's top player in 1972. He also pitched for Michigan State's 1971 Big Ten championship baseball squad and played three seasons on the hoops squad.
Few collegiate athletes today would be allowed to take on such a heavy sporting load. Fewer could excel like Van Pelt, whose talent on the diamond nearly led to a pro baseball career before the New York Giants drafted him and he became a star.
Van Pelt died suddenly Tuesday of an apparent heart attack in Harrison, Mich. He was 57.
Former Michigan State football coach George Perles was an assistant during Van Pelt's playing days and remembered the Spartans star.
"Brad Van Pelt was Duffy Daugherty's favorite player," Perles said in a prepared statement. "Duffy loved him like a son. Brad was a talented high school quarterback, who got moved to strong safety in college. During his college career, he might have been the biggest safety in the Big Ten, if not the country. ... He really was like a movie star: talented and good looking. Brad had a big heart and was a real giver. He carried a lot of people [on his back] when he was on top."
I haven't posted my Mount Rushmore for Michigan State football, but there's a pretty good chance Van Pelt will be on there.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Coaching changes are cropping up around the country, but the Big Ten figures to be a nonfactor in what we around here like to call the silly season.
No Big Ten coach is in imminent danger of being fired. There's definitely some heat on Indiana's Bill Lynch, but with a lame-duck athletic director (Rick Greenspan), new AD Fred Glass not taking over until Jan. 2 (after hiring season) and beaucoup bucks owed to two basketball coaches (Kelvin Sampson and Tom Crean), a change isn't likely. Obviously, Purdue will have a change with Danny Hope taking over for Joe Tiller, but we've known that for months.
The big news in the Big Ten likely will involve contracts for existing coaches, some of whom have been mentioned as candidates for vacancies in other conferences. Here are some of the men who figure to get rewarded after strong seasons.
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio
Dantonio has been mentioned as a fringe candidate at places like Tennessee, but there's no panic in East Lansing that he'll jump ship like Nick Saban or George Perles did. Still, the school would be crazy not to sweeten Dantonio's deal. And athletic director Mark Hollis seems like a smart guy.
Expect a raise and a contract extension for Dantonio, whose salary ($1.1 million) ranks near the bottom of the league. This guy has Michigan State bound for its first New Year's Day bowl since 2000. The program's once-troubled culture has changed, and in-state recruiting is booming.