Big Ten: Glenn Winston

B1G Friday mailblog

April, 29, 2011
I'll have a full Big Ten NFL draft wrap-up Monday and might sneak it a post or two this weekend as the final rounds take place.

As always, you can contact me here. Now onto your questions.

JZ from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Adam, I really like what I am seeing and hearing from the IU football team this spring. There definitely seems to be change in tone to the overall program. However, I have one concern about Coach Wilson. He seems to have not embraced IU or the fans at all. I have talked to a few fellow fans that have met the coach or had interactions with him around town, and all are less than impressed. He is at best described as gruff, and worst a total... you can guess. His incident at the dorms this winter, compounded with him losing so many coaches so quickly, only adds to my concerns about his character. Wins will help him no matter what, and this town dealt with Bob Knight for a long time. Yet I have always felt this program needs someone personable to coach it. I am curious if you think Coach Wilson needs to be more personable to be an overall success at IU?

Adam Rittenberg: JZ, Bill Lynch was the nicest guy in the world and he went 3-21 in the Big Ten the past three seasons. Having known Kevin for quite some time, he can be a bit of an acquired taste, and he's certainly not a rah-rah guy. But here's what he is: a brutally honest coach who has won at the highest levels. Players will know exactly where they stand with him, and I believe he will win in Bloomington eventually. I understand that appealing to the fan base is important, especially one like Indiana's that needs something to smile about, but Wilson's top priority is the team and turning things around on the field. The assistant coaches leaving was unfortunate, but I'm not sure it's a red flag about Wilson's character. Indiana is a program that needs an edge, and Wilson seems to be providing one.

Lauren from Washington writes: "Can the Big Ten still make these claims after the Jim Tressel mess at Ohio State?" I'm highly dissapointed in this comment/article Adam. Ohio State is ONE school, there are 11 other schools in this confrence! Do not start to lump us all together as "shady" off of what Ohio St. has done. It makes it even worse now that B1G's very own ESPN blogger has started doubting his confrence's character legitimacy?

Adam Rittenberg: Ah, the "Big Ten's very own blogger" argument, my favorite. Or is it the "you're a nerd and never played football" claim? Both get high marks for originality. ... Anyway, here's the deal. Yes, Ohio State is only one school. But it's the Big Ten's most visible program because of its success, and Jim Tressel is the Big Ten's most visible coach other than the iconic Joe Paterno. The fact that Ohio State and Michigan are appearing before the Committee on Infractions in consecutive seasons is significant because these are big-time programs that have largely avoided major NCAA trouble. The moral high ground also applies to off-field incidents, and quite a few Big Ten programs -- Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State -- have endured some rough stretches off the field in recent years. As I stated in the post, the Big Ten still has to have a few more major scandals to catch up to the SEC, but the Ohio State situation certainly damages the Big Ten's reputation.

Adam from Baltimore writes: Hey Adam,You may accuse me of being petty an selfish on this, but I have to say it. You reported the death of Mandich and it is very sad that he passed away so early from a horrific disease. And in no way am I trying to trivialize death or what he accomplished both on and off the field at the collegiate and professional levels. But I had just had to ask how you decide which stories on former players to post on. Lynn Chandnois passed away last week and he was arguably one of the best players in MSU history and yet he got a lunch link. I also realize that the story about Chandnois got picked up by the ESPN general site and I'm not accusing you of bias or anything else, because I know you can't report on every single thing and keeping track of every player ever to have gone through a B1G football program is impossible. But I just had to ask how do you decide which ones to report on?

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, this is a fair question. It honestly comes down to time and timing. There are stretches during days or even weeks when I simply don't have time to do full posts on everything. While I wanted to do more on Lynn Chandnois, a terrific player, I had other assignments that took precedence that day. The news about Mandich broke at night, and I had time to do a full post for the next day. So it's definitely not a slight at Chandnois or Michigan State. I'll try to at least link to every significant story in the Big Ten, but during especially busy times like spring ball and the season, I can't get to everything.

Brian from Aliedo, Ill., writes: Adam, Please don't use the 'B1G' moniker. I think it looks stupid and from all the backlash of when it first came out I'm not alone. Hopefully if people don't use and and don't buy into it the Big 10 will change it sooner rather than later.

Adam Rittenberg: Sorry, Brian, as you see above and in the lunch links, the "B1G" will be incorporated into the Big Ten blog. In addition to saving headline space, I think this mark is resonating with a large portion of Big Ten fans. I see it included in many emails every week. It'll also be visible on my new background for videos. While we can and should continue to debate things like Leaders and Legends and the logos, this one seems to be passing muster.

Cory from Nebraska writes: Adam, What is going on with MSU players? I would have thought both players and the coaching staff would have learned something after the residence hall incident but apparently not. As an alum I'm willing to chalk a small lapse in judgement or two to youth but I don't feel like any improvement is being made particularly after this latest incident with Freeman. As an alum I love MSU and want to see the teams in all sports do well but I don't think winning requires the schools reputation and integrity to be compromised and the embarassment these incidents as a whole are beginning to bring. Do you have any insights that might help me feel better about all this?

Adam Rittenberg: Cory, I doubt I can make you or any fan feel better about off-field incidents. You can look at each case individually, and regarding Corey Freeman, while it's unfortunate, he didn't commit capital offenses. Same with Chris L. Rucker last year. You can also look at the program as a whole, and I think there are some valid concerns about off-field incidents and the response from the coaching staff. Whether it's true or not, the larger perception is that Michigan State goes soft on players who make mistakes off the field. This is mainly reinforced by how the Spartans handled Glenn Winston and also Rucker last year. So while the individual cases might not be too bad, they do add up over time.

Vince from San Diego writes: Adam, I heard your Podcast with Ivan and Beano. Great point about vacating all OSU wins sans the Sugar Bowl as the NCAA already knew the players were ineligible. That being said, with the NCAA's NOA letter pointing squarely at Tressel...not OSU, wouldnt it also be illogical to hit the OSU with scholarship reductions and a bowl ban (assuming the "repeat offender" tag isnt used) and make more sense to slap Tress individually with a "show cause" penalty? P.S. I hope the price to keep Tress isnt too high, I went to OSU during the Cooper years!

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up some great points, Vince, and the Committee on Infractions will have to consider whether to hammer Tressel, Ohio State, both or neither when it renders its verdict. I also wonder how the focus on Tressel affects Ohio State as it presents its case before the COI. Do the Buckeyes throw The Vest under the bus? As for the penalties, any truly severe sanction for Tressel directly affects the program, such as a show-cause and recruiting restrictions. The NCAA could come down so hard on Tressel that it forces Ohio State to part ways with him. But after reading the Notice of Allegations, it seems likelier Tressel gets hit harder than Ohio State (scholarship reductions, postseason ban, etc.).

Brandon from Columbus, Neb., writes: Adam, Just a question regarding Ohio State's issues. Is the suspensions for the players final or can the NCAA enact stricter penalties as more and more info comes out? 5 games doesn't seem like enough to drive the point home that players need to be smarter and know right from wrong themselves. The way to fix college football is to let players know there are severe repercussions and get them to help police themselves!

Adam Rittenberg: The players' cases with the NCAA have been resolved, unless new information surfaces. The five-game suspensions were upheld back in March. I'd disagree with you about five games not being enough to drive the point home. Five games is a lot for a college football player, especially seniors trying to impress NFL scouts in their final seasons. And while the players' violations were significant, selling memorabilia items isn't the same as academic fraud, point shaving, etc. Most would agree coach Jim Tressel's mistake -- not coming forward with information about the players despite multiple chances to do so -- is far worse than the players' violations.

Big Ten mailblog

March, 30, 2011
Couldn't get to this Tuesday but had plenty of questions and wanted to tackle them. Be sure and send in more questions and comments for Friday.

Ted from Atlanta writes: Adam, just wanted to respond to your comments regarding the reinstatement of Dion Sims at Michigan State. As a Spartan alum and avid follower of Michigan State football, I have no problem with the reinstatement given what I know about the situation. From what I've read, Sims had a very minor role in the particular offense and fully cooperated with authorities. I've also read that the judge presiding over the case in Detroit personally offered to travel to East Lansing to endorse Sims' reinstatement if Coach Dantonio had thought otherwise. Dantonio has displayed the willingness to dismiss players when warranted - Glenn Winston, Oren Wilson, etc. and retain others such as Chris L. Rucker. Although fans and the media have every right to quesiton Coach Dantonio on these decisions, I for one will give him the benefit of the doubt since he is much closer to the situation and knows the players on a more personal level than any of the rest of us will ever know.

Adam Rittenberg: Ted, thanks for your perspective. Several Michigan State fans I've heard from have cited the circumstances surrounding Sims' case, including Sims testifying against the leaders of the computer theft ring. It seems like Sims took a good approach with a bad situation, and most important, he remained academically eligible so he could return when reinstated. I had less of an issue with this than I did with the Winston and Rucker situations, as both players immediately returned to the team after serving jail time. Sims resolved his legal situation but didn't have his team penalty lifted until Monday.

Phil from Philly writes: Hey Adam, I haven't seen much mentioned about Penn State's end of season schedule this fall. They play Nebraska at home, then are at Ohio State and at Wisconsin in the following two weeks. These are three of the most physical teams in the nation, and two of the toughest road venues in the nation. You can't tell me there is a team in the nation with a harder end to their schedule then Penn State.

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State's closing stretch really jumps out, Phil. The Lions had better be a good team by November or it'll be a rough month. In terms of overall Big Ten schedule, Nebraska would argue with you about who has the toughest slate. The Huskers' crossovers are Penn State (road), Wisconsin (road) and Ohio State (home), so they skip Illinois, Indiana and Purdue. Few easy games for Big Red. But Penn State has the toughest closing stretch in the league.

Austin from Granview, Mo., writes: Adam i was wondering, will the hawkeyes still have a legit run at a big ten title this year? Coming into the season with the loss of Stanzi, Hampton, Clayborn, Ballard, Sash, ect. i know they lost quite a few of talented players but i believe with the work out program iowa has positions will be filled but the younger class coming in, will they be able to fill the huge shoes left by the athletes before them? James Vandenberg looks to be a potential hiesman canidate if he sticks around as a starter and so does marcus coker. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Austin, Iowa loses quite a bit, but you should never count out the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten race, especially in a year like this. Kirk Ferentz seems to be at his most dangerous when his teams are underestimated. I wouldn't expect to see Iowa in the preseason rankings, but this team can make a push if certain things fall its way. Keep in mind that returning players like Marcus Coker and Micah Hyde stepped up in the Insight Bowl win. The O-line is very strong, and if Iowa can shore up a few areas, look out.

Daniel from Washington writes: I am very surprised you didn't mention TCF Bank Stadium as an urban stadium. It is located a couple of miles from downtown on UMN's very urban campus. Indeed, the Minneapolis skyline serves as a backdrop to the scoreboard.

BrewsterEraSurvivor from Appleton, Wis., writes: How in the world do you talk about Urban facilities, and not bring up the U of M. TCF Bank Stadium is next to downtown Minneapolis. I know the Gopher program has been quite forgettable these past years, but come on.

Adam Rittenberg: Total oversight on my part, and I'm glad you and others pointed it out. TCF Bank Stadium is the most urban Big Ten football facility, and it's a terrific one. I guess when I walked into Memorial Stadium on Monday, it reminded me more of Camp Randall, based largely on its size. But TCF Bank Stadium certainly qualifies as an urban facility.

Asif from Los Angeles writes: Hey Adam, if the Ohio State hc position does open up, what do you think the chances are that they could lure Bo Pelini from Nebraska? Pelini denied all the Miami allegations and so forth a few months ago but I imagine an offer from your alma mater is much more tempting.

Adam Rittenberg: It is more tempting, Asif, and Ohio State is a program built to compete for national championships year in and year out. The thing is Pelini already coaches a program with a strong tradition of winning national titles. And after being in Lincoln earlier this week, I can say from a facilities/support standpoint, Nebraska can absolutely compete at the highest level. Recruiting could be a factor if Pelini were to consider a move (not saying he would, but it's hard not to at least listen). There's a ton of talent in Ohio, while Nebraska has to continue to recruit nationally, especially in Texas and California, to keep competing at the highest level. It's going to be very interesting to watch Nebraska's recruiting in the next few years.

Hoosier49 from Gary, Ind., writes: AdamWhich program, Indiana or Minnesota, do you see as being more successful in their first year with a new coach and why?

Adam Rittenberg: Both Kevin Wilson and Jerry Kill face some challenges in their first seasons. Kill talked last week about the program possibly taking a step back before it goes forward, and Wilson could be in the same boat. Although both coaches are known for offense, it really could come down to who can get their defense on track. Indiana needs to upgrade its talent level and reverse its history of struggles on the defensive side. Minnesota had almost an entirely new group of starters on defense in 2010. Pretty much everyone is back, which can be good or bad. I'd expect the Gophers to be bit better on defense, and they potentially have some weapons on the offensive side, so I'd give Minnesota a slight edge right now.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

October, 29, 2010
Thanks for all your responses this week. And those calling me a self-righteous nerd clearly have been in touch with my wife, because she agrees with you.

I won't spend the whole mailblog on the Chris L. Rucker reinstatement, but it's clearly the hot topic. To clear up a few things:
  • I never advocated for Rucker to be kicked off the team or suspended the rest of the season. I don't think Rucker is a bad guy. My issue is with the timing of his reinstatement by Mark Dantonio. Waiting just a week longer would have made a difference.
  • Those saying I'm coming down harder on Michigan State than other Big Ten teams simply haven't been reading the blog. Ask Iowa fans how I covered the James Ferentz situation, or the series of Hawkeyes players arrests. Ask Penn State fans or Michigan fans, too. But keep searching for my alleged biases if it makes you feel better.
  • I won't criticize Rucker one bit if he decides to play. And those expecting an apology if Rucker decides to stay home or not play at Iowa won't get one. It's Rucker's decision, given to him by Dantonio, who took himself out of the equation after Thursday. I don't have a strong opinion one way or another if Rucker plays or not. The door has been opened.

It's not my job to make your program or the Big Ten sound great. If you think college football is all rainbows and unicorns, you're in the wrong place.

Let's go ...

Bill from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam,I'm a big fan of the blog and I check it religiously every day. I'm really not trying to be like the horde of barbarians that sends you angry drivel and insults every day. As far as the Rucker situation goes, though, I'm confused as to what penalty you think would have been appropriate? Rucker has missed three games. As Dantonio said tonight, "zero tolerance" doesn't mean automatic dismissal. Rucker has been penalized. Unlike you, I am willing to give Dantonio the benefit of the doubt here. Whatever the perception of the situation will be from outsiders, I believe that Coach is doing what he believes is right, not what he thinks he needs to do to win. Dantonio's job responsibilities are to MSU, not to anyone else. Frankly, I don't understand why people become outraged over these issues. Rucker has dealt with the judicial system, who are media members to demand punishment on him outside of that? You make it sound like Rucker has not been punished at all. Again, he has already suspended three games, and considering he didn't have time to practice this week, I doubt he will play much at Iowa. Just wanted to put in my two cents.

Adam Rittenberg: And I thank you for doing so in a respectful manner. I agree that zero tolerance doesn't mean automatic dismissal. But does it mean reinstatement the same day someone is released from jail? I would think zero tolerance would carry a little more teeth than that. I just expected Dantonio to take a little different course after everything that happened with Glenn Winston and the Rather Hall incident. Again, Chris L. Rucker and Glenn Winston aren't the same guys and their transgressions were different, but typically you look to the past and avoid the risk -- not the guarantee, but the risk -- of making the same mistake twice. I don't see the harm in telling Rucker, 'You handled your legal issues like a man. You're out of jail. Let's see where things are in a few days. You will play again, but you're still out for this week's game.'

Brian from Denver writes: Adam - That was a cheap shot. I hope you enjoy the front page of ESPN. Why would you write something like that? Your opinion of agreeing or disagreeing is fine. The cheap shots are not. This is not Jim Rome is burning, or around the horn. This is college, and students are going to make mistakes at all schools. Are you really going to insult the alumni and fans who read your articles day in and day out every time something like this happens? Dantonio suspended half the team before the most important game of the year last year, and you called him a win at all cost coach. Well - you are a win at all cost writer. Jump suit to uniform? Is this US weekly, or a trusted source of information? Way to jump on a team experiencing rare success by pointing out a young man's mistake repeatedly, and then projecting it across the alumni and fans of a 150 year old institution. I have been a loyal fan since the blog has started, and I don't think I can get myself to read again. You treat other school's athlete's mistakes with class, why not MSU's?

Adam Rittenberg: Oh, Brian, where do I begin? My post was much more about Dantonio's response than the mistakes Rucker made. Of course Rucker deserves a second chance. But not at the moment. And I haven't jumped on a team enjoying historic success. I've given Michigan State tons of praise this season, and deservedly so. Kirk Cousins is one of my favorite people in college football, and I have good relationships with several players and coaches in the MSU program. But when the head coach does something I disagree with, it's my job to say so. That's what I've done. And spare me the argument about playing favorites. Other programs get ripped here when things like this happen. But what do I know? I'm a win-at-all-costs writer, whatever that means.

Austin from Detroit writes: Adam, I am so peeved about this rucker situation. As a die hard state fan, I feel completely betrayed in the identity I feel with this team. The identity that came from the school as a whole was that we were sort of a quiet, underdog type (even with basketball) that always won the right way, yet it wasn't the only thing that was important. I saw the college football commercials last night for the lineup of this weekend. They showed "#5 michigan state vs. #18 iowa," and I just couldn't get excited like I normally can. The magic that was surrounding this team feels missing now. I could very well see us droping 2 games now to iowa and penn state, because now we really are "same old spartans."

Adam Rittenberg: Austin, Michigan State is still a very good football team that is more than capable of beating Iowa on Saturday. But the Spartans' image undoubtedly absorbed a blow on Thursday, and no one in East Lansing should be surprised. If any other program did something similar, it would be criticized as well. That's just the way it goes. Timing matters when handling disciplinary issues like this. As my guy Joe Rexrode writes, "I agree that reinstating Rucker is the right call. But timing, as they say, is everything. Or is it image that's everything? Well, if image matters at all to MSU, this timing couldn't really be worse." Spot on.

Tyler from Alabama writes: Adam, I really enjoy your blog and think you do an excellent job. But your article about Dantonio's Trust Factor seems a little personal and biased, like you have a personal vendetta against Dantonio or something. Chris L. Rucker has missed two games and went to jail for eight days. That's the most time that any player, that I can recall, has spent away from his team for a DWI. Justin Blackmon is only getting suspended for one game for his incident. Again you are sounding really biased.

Adam Rittenberg: No personal vendetta at all, Tyler. I like Mark Dantonio and he's always been fair with me in our dealings. Let's get the facts right, though. Rucker went to jail for a probation violation and received a reduced term as part of a plea agreement after his probation officer recommended 21 days in jail. So it wasn't merely the OWI charge. Again, no bias here. You're conveniently forgetting all the positive coverage I've given to Michigan State this season. It goes both ways.

Adam from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Well, it has taken 5 days, but I think I'm healing up over the loss to Wisconsin. I am, however, not sure how to take Coach Ferentz's comments about "taking the blame for the loss." I have read that he said that it was his fault for not going into punt defense on Bucky's fake or spiked the ball at the end of the game. I have also watched him interviewed on the news saying that some of the players didn't respond like upper classmen, clearly deflecting some of the blame. My question (and I'd be run out of town if I asked anywhere but via internet) is do you believe Ferentz is worth $3+ million a year when he does have a history of being out-coached at least 1 or 2 games a year (e.g. WI 2010, OSU 2009, Pitt 2008, MSU 2008, W Mich. 2007, etc...? I know that much of the money is paid by donors but shouldn't Iowa lose based on Xs and Os and not coaching?

Adam Rittenberg: I still think Ferentz is worth every penny. It certainly stings when coaching errors lead to a close loss, especially because coaching should be an area where Iowa almost always has the edge. But I still look at factors like player development, given Iowa's position for recruiting, and see no better option for sustained success than Ferentz and his staff. Coaches will make mistakes from time to time, but the players also have to step up in big moments, and Iowa hasn't had nearly as many clutch performances as it did in 2009.

Kevin from Indianapolis writes: Adam,You've stated before that if Nebraska were to win the National Championship this year, the Big Ten would not get any credit for it nationally, and I agree. My question is, even if Nebraska would win it in the next year or two, would the Big Ten get credit for the win, or would it be spun nationally that the conference had to go out and get a team that could win it all?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Kevin. I'm sure the perception would be mixed, given how recently Nebraska would have joined the Big Ten. But getting through the Big Ten schedule and the new championship game should count for something, and I think the Big Ten would gain some degree of credit if the Huskers lift the crystal football.
A large part of Mark Dantonio's job is to get people to trust him.

To succeed as Michigan State's coach, he has to earn the trust of current players, recruits, parents, school administrators and fans, among others.

Dantonio asked for your trust when he reinstated senior cornerback Chris L. Rucker on Thursday, the same day Rucker was set to be released from jail after serving eight days for violating his probation. Michigan State issued a 434-word statement from Dantonio on Thursday night explaining the decision.

It reads in part:
"The poor decision [Rucker] made had need for serious consequences which he has now met and resolved from a team and legal perspective. It does not; however, rise to a lifetime banishment. Our decision to immediately reinstate Chris has been endorsed by the team's unity council and the program at-large. This was a difficult decision. After much soul searching and dialogue with those who are vested in the program, I am comfortable and confident in the decision I have made."

The coach could have been significantly more concise: I know my team better than you. I know my players better than you. I know the situation better than you. I'm not making this decision for you or anyone else outside the program. And I don't care if you don't like it or respect it.

I'm sure Rucker is happy. I'm sure the players are happy, especially since Dantonio amazingly put the decision largely in their hands. I'm sure a portion of Michigan State fans are happy.

The outside world will be outraged. That's just the way it goes.

You don't reinstate a player the same day he's released from jail once. You certainly don't do so again, after the first player totally burned you by getting busted for a second time. And you don't do it after talking about a zero-tolerance policy.

Let me make this clear: Chris L. Rucker is not Glenn Winston. Rucker's actions don't come close to what Winston did in his time at Michigan State. But no matter the circumstances surrounding Rucker's arrest, he was drinking, got cited and had to spend time in jail after reaching a plea agreement.

Rucker deserved to return to the team this season. But not this fast.

Dantonio comes off soft on discipline. He looks like a win-at-all-costs coach who puts standards aside before the nation's No. 5 team plays a huge game at Iowa. Michigan State looks like the Land of Second Chances, the program where you can wear a jumpsuit and a jersey in the same day.

From reading this statement, it's clear Dantonio doesn't care at all what the outside world thinks of him.
"I made this call, and I should be held accountable. I hold myself accountable. To some critics, it might be seen as a low-percentage call or the wrong decision. It is neither. To me, our coaches, and our entire team -- the men in the arena -- it was the right call for the right reasons."

Again, it's all about them. It's not about you.

What about the zero-tolerance policy Dantonio talked about regarding the players involved in the residence hall assault, including Rucker?
"We have no tolerance for Chris L. Rucker’s actions. I repeat, I have no tolerance for his actions. He was immediately suspended. He has served his civil punishment, and there are other internal disciplinary measures nobody will know about outside the program. Again, zero tolerance does not mean automatic dismissal. When I find something I cannot tolerate, my response is not found in some playbook. There is no call that fits all situations. Sometimes, the reason for calling a play -- either on or off the field -- is known only to those closest to the situation."

Again, Dantonio wants you to trust him.

Do you?
Michigan State nose tackle Oren Wilson will serve 21 days in jail for his involvement in the November residence hall assault.

Wilson's sentence Wednesday wasn't a major surprise, as he had pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery after admitting to kicking one person and punching another in the Nov. 22 incident. He also received 12 months probation and community service.

All 11 sentences have now been handed out to the Michigan State players who pleaded guilty to assault. Four have received jail time -- Glenn Winston (180 days), Roderick Jenrette (90 days), Wilson and Fred Smith (five days) -- while the others got probation and community service. Four players charged were reinstated last week for spring practice, while five are seeking transfers and both Winston and Jenrette were dismissed Nov. 24.

The really interesting news coming out of Wilson's sentencing hearing were the statements made by Wilson's lawyer, Andrew Abood, to reporters. Abood said that Wilson wants to return to the team and would soon reach out to Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio.

Last week, Dantonio said Wilson was in the process of seeking a transfer.
“Oren’s first choice would be to stay at Michigan State and be on the football team in fall,” Abood said. “He’s the type of guy who would be wanted in the trenches when MSU plays Michigan. He should be back on the football team.”

"My understanding -- and I haven’t heard this from inside Duffy Daugherty [football offices] -- is that everybody involved except [Glenn] Winston and [Roderick] Jenrette -- would have a chance to be reinstated to the team," Abood said. "This is Oren’s first mistake, and I believe he’s a person of character. Hopefully, he will get another chance."

Dantonio now faces an important decision. He has said he will continue to give players second chances, even after the embarrassing residence hall mess. On the other hand, he doesn't want to come off too soft on discipline, a criticism that some have already raised.

Wilson's case is unique because his involvement in the assault wasn't known until mid January, and unlike 13 other players present at the residence hall, Wilson participated in the Alamo Bowl. The other 13 players had been suspended before the bowl game.

Translation: Wilson hid his involvement from Dantonio and the coaching staff until authorities identified him. That's a pretty major betrayal of trust, as there's no way Dantonio would have allowed Wilson to play in the Alamo Bowl had he known of Wilson's role at Rather Hall.

Of all the players not returning to MSU, Wilson was arguably the most valuable. He has started 26 games at nose tackle and would anchor a young defensive line in 2010.

But if Dantonio reinstates the senior, he should expect to take a lot of heat from the outside. And if Wilson does get another chance, he likely would face a multiple-game suspension to begin the 2010 season. Anything less would really look soft of MSU's part.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

March, 26, 2010
Spending the weekend in the Big Easy, so don't bother me unless it's really, really important.

Adam from Cabot, Ark., writes: Adam,First off, nice name. Secondly I'd like to ask about Ohio States secondary. I'm a life long Buckeye fan, but I see holes throughout the secondary. Who begins to fill those holes and who gives Ohio State the biggest challenge for the BigTen Championship (minus the championship game)? Thanks!!

Adam Rittenberg: Likewise, Adam. If there's a big hole in Ohio State's two-deep, safety would have to be it. The Buckeyes lose two players with significant starting experience in Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell, and Coleman earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last fall. Jermale Hines certainly will take on a greater role, but Ohio State needs to identify that No. 2 and No. 3 safety. Keep an eye on Orhian Johnson, a guy I heard a lot of good things about last spring. If Johnson can't nail down a starting job, look for guys like C.J. Barnett, Aaron Gant and Nate Oliver to be in the mix. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa is another guy who, like Hines, needs to lift his game to All-Big Ten levels.

Kelly from Manassas, Va., writes: While what happens on the field this year will certainly play into Rodriguez's future, the decision has very likely already been made. Make no mistake, his conduct off the field and two very bad seasons have already sealed his fate as he needs an completely unrealistic number of wins for UM to even consider extending him beyond this year. In all likelihood, he needs ten wins to keep his job, so in essence, given that no rational person expects this team to sniff .500 much less a winning record, the decision to fire him with cause has already been made.

Adam Rittenberg: Kelly, gotta say I love getting your e-mails every week. Always a good time. When did you start working in Michigan's athletic department? I thought they didn't let Penn State fans in there. While Rich Rodriguez obviously needs to show significant improvement in Year 3, by no means is his fate sealed. I highly doubt he'd be fired if the team wins nine games this fall. Eight games probably keeps him safe, too. Michigan would have to weigh the desire to make a change versus the potential cost of staying irrelevant for even longer, or getting worse. Keep in mind that Rodriguez has now spent a few years recruiting a specific brand of player for his system, and these players might not translate well to a new scheme, especially a dramatically different one. I'm not saying Rodriguez can breathe easy, but we still have a long way to go.

Brian from Aledo, Ill., writes: I'm sure it's been talked about before but I guess I never heard it. With all this talk about expanding to more teams my biggest question is why not just play all the teams currently in the conference?

Adam Rittenberg: You can't play 10 conference games from a financial standpoint and expect to survive or grow your revenue pool. That's one more guaranteed road game for every Big Ten team, which means one fewer chance to fill up a massive stadium and generate $$$. Teams would be so afraid to leave home for the two nonconference games, and it would create some major headaches with nonleague rivalries, etc. Fans would love it, but it doesn't make any sense financially, given the need to make money.

Chad from Montpellier, France, writes: Hey Adam,Love the blog still haven't missed a day of reading in the 2 months that I've been over here. Firstly, I noticed that you seemed to allude to the ability to post blogs even when you weren't at a computer during your trip to Purdue I believe. Any chance we could get blogs posted throughout the night so us in Europe don't have to wait until the afternoon to get our B10 fill? Secondly, I was thinking that it might be interesting to take a look back at the decade's best and worst rivalries in the B10. Which rivalries had many exciting balanced games, and which rivalries were pretty much one-sided and didn't live up to their usual hype during the past decade (OSU/MICH comes to mind). Thanks and keep up the good work!

Adam Rittenberg: First off, I'm thrilled to hear the Big Ten blog is being read across the pond. I've even been to Montpellier myself, a long, long time ago. While I'd love to have 25 posts a day so that my global audience is satisfied, it just ain't happening. Unless you can double my salary, of course. And even then, my wife would kill me. As to your second point, I like the idea about rivalries. Things are getting a bit busier now with spring ball, but that sounds like a fun post for May or June.

Chase from Pittsburgh writes: Adam, Isn't it a little convenient that the only 4 MSU players reinstated in the group that were charged in the Rather Hall incident (Mark Dell, BJ Cunningham, Chris L. Rucker, and J'Michael Deane) were all starters or major contributors? And the other charged players (Ashton Leggett, Jamihr Williams, Myles White, and Oren Wilson) that were not major contributors are all transferring? They all received the same sentence. Dantonio seems to have history of selective justice. When he needed Winston in the Fall, he reinstated him immediately after he stepped out of jail. Now, with Baker and Caper filling the hole at RB, Winston is no longer essential to the team. In the middle of last season, RBs Caulton Ray and Andre Anderson were dismissed from the team after Caper and Baker had established themselves. Dell and Cunningham are the two leading receivers returning to the team with the loss of Blair White. Deane is a projected starter on the OL, and Rucker is the starting corner. Only Wilson was a contributor to last year's team. but highly rated prospect Blake Treadwell has taken his position. Why has no one taken Dantonio to task on this?

Adam Rittenberg: Chase, you make some pretty compelling points here. I wouldn't underrate the loss of Wilson, who almost certainly would have started on a very young defensive line. And to play devil's advocate, I don't know how much Michigan State really needed Glenn Winston last year. Yes, I know he ascended to a key role before his injury, but the Spartans entered preseason camp in 2009 with plenty of running backs who they liked. I remember thinking at the time, why not just arrange a transfer to cover your bases with a player who assaulted another student-athlete? And to be fair to the four players who were reinstated, none had any previous off-field problems. A lot of college players are convicted of misdemeanors, serve no jail time and return to the playing field. It has happened all around the Big Ten. I would have had a bigger gripe had Wilson be allowed back on the team, as his involvement in the resident hall assault wasn't known until after the Alamo Bowl, a game in which he played. But since Wilson is transferring, it's a moot point.
Spring practice is about to get under way at Michigan State, and four players convicted in last year's residence hall assault have been reinstated to the team.

Head coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday that cornerback Chris L. Rucker, offensive linemen J'Michael Deane and wide receivers Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, all of whom received probation and community service after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault, are back on the team. Wide receivers Donald Spencer and Chris D. Rucker, suspended for being present at the Nov. 22 incident but never charged, also are back for the spring.

Dantonio confirmed that wide receiver Myles White and nose tackle Oren Wilson will transfer. White was sentenced Monday to probation and community service, and Wilson faces sentencing March 31. The status of wide receiver Fred Smith, sentenced Friday to five days in jail plus probation and community service, will be determined when his legal issues are over. Eleven current or former players pleaded guilty in the incident, and six -- White, Wilson, Ashton Leggett, Jamiihr Williams, Glenn Winston and Roderick Jenrette -- are no longer with the program.

I fully expected reinstatement for Cunningham, Dell, Deane and Chris L. Rucker, who had no prior indiscretions. White and Wilson deserved heavier punishment, potentially dismissal from the team, because their involvement in the assault didn't come to light until January. Wilson even played in the Alamo Bowl, a privilege he didn't deserve. But it's all moot now as both players will be transferring.

I spoke with Dantonio moments ago, and while I'll have a two-part Q&A with the coach this afternoon and Wednesday, a few notes and quotes for now.
  • Dantonio, on the off-field problems Michigan State has faced: "You’re going to fall down at times. We have the same problems that society has in a lot of ways, and because we live in a fishbowl a little bit, there's going to be higher consequences, more public scrutiny and things of that nature. But you do always have to believe in your young people. That helps them grow, and that’s what we’ll do."
  • During the winter, Dantonio put a greater emphasis on the team's Unity Council and held 90-minute weekly seminars for players that featured guest speakers, including former players and a criminal justice professor. "We talked about the law, talked about our players’ rights, talked about consequences," Dantonio said. "When you make a decision, it’s not a quick fix judiciously. Our players need to understand that. It’s not over and done with when you do make a mistake. We're just trying to educate and be proactive, and I think it draws our team together."
  • The big personnel news of the day is Keith Nichol's move from quarterback to wide receiver. Nichol remains an option at quarterback, but with greater depth behind Kirk Cousins this spring, he has a better chance to make big contributions at receiver. Nichol played some wideout during the Alamo Bowl but will spend much more time there this spring. Dantonio said Cousins has earned the starter's tag entering the spring after a solid sophomore season. Nichol is listed as both a first-team wide receiver and a second-string quarterback on the team's spring depth chart. "Keith is an outstanding athlete," Dantonio said. "He's played quarterback for us and he should continue to be thought of in that light somewhat. He would always be able to move back in there. ... But I also think that he can be an outstanding wide receiver, as proven in bowl practice. ... He needs to get on the football field for us."
  • Dantonio identified offensive line and kicker as the two most critical areas to develop in spring ball. The Spartans lose three starters on the offensive line, including standout center Joel Nitchman, as well as first-team All-Big Ten kicker Brett Swenson.
  • Some wonderful news about Spartans offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr., who has kept his dream of playing football alive after battling bone cancer. Ray is finally off crutches and able to run and do individual drills. "His bone is healing," Dantonio said. "He hopes to play in the near future, within maybe a year. We'll have to petition for that. We would have room for [Ray on the roster]. That's something the doctors have to decide on. Me, personally, and our entire football staff, are thrilled to have Arthur out there every single day. ... I can look at him now and say there is a possibility [of him playing]." There are plenty of folks rooting for Ray, myself included.
  • Defensive end David Rolf is transferring to be closer to his family. Defensive tackle Cameron Jude's status is unclear as he works through academic and personal issues.
  • Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy doesn't appear on the spring depth chart because he underwent offseason shoulder surgery and will be limited in practice
Here's the saddest thing about Glenn Winston's tumultuous tenure at Michigan State.

If you Google his name and "sentenced" and "six months in jail," you come up with two separate sets of entries.

For the second time in his young life, Winston was sentenced to six months in jail Monday for his role in the November residence hall fight. Winston pleaded guilty last month to two misdemeanors -- conspiracy to commit assault and battery, and assault and battery -- and to violating his parole from a previous assault conviction.

He served four months in jail last summer for his role in an off-campus assault that left Spartans hockey player A.J. Sturges seriously injured. Michigan State reinstated Winston to the team on the same day he was released from jail after serving a reduced sentence.

Eleven current or former Michigan State players have pleaded guilty in the Nov. 22 incident at Rather Hall, which took place following a fraternity (Iota Phi Theta) potluck function. Three players -- Winston, former safety Roderick Jenrette and current wide receiver Fred Smith -- have received jail time and probation. Winston and Jenrette, the two reportedly at the center of the incident, were dismissed from the team Nov. 24. Smith has been indefinitely suspended.

Seven players have received probation and community service, including wide receiver Myles White, who was sentenced Monday. White, by the way, tells The State News that he intends to transfer from Michigan State.

Nose tackle Oren Wilson is the last player waiting for a sentence, which will be handed down March 31. Head coach Mark Dantonio is expected to rule on the players' status after all the legal proceedings have concluded.

I keep thinking back to Dantonio's surprising decision to reinstate Winston in August. I'm not against second chances, and Winston, who comes from a very rough background, absolutely deserved one. But Michigan State took an enormous risk in bringing him back to campus, especially since his actions directly impacted another student-athlete (Sturges). As we now know, the decision totally backfired on Dantonio.

Helping Winston get a fresh start at another school might have been the more prudent choice.

Three days after Winston's reinstatement, Sturges issued a statement to that read in part: "While I hope what happened to me will never happen again, I am afraid the precedent set by this decision will only enable similar incidents in the future. With no formal athletic standards or means to deal with student athletes convicted of a violent crime, this cycle will continue."

Less than four months later, Winston was at the center of a similar incident, another assault involving Michigan State students that left an even larger stain on the football program.

Michigan State has some work to do to remove that stain. Spring practice begins Tuesday.
Five current or former Michigan State players involved in the November residence hall fight learned their fates Friday, and two received jail time.

Former Spartans safety Roderick Jenrette was sentenced to 90 days in jail, while current MSU wide receiver Fred Smith was sentenced to five days behind bars. Smith also received 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.

Two other current players, cornerback Chris L. Rucker and offensive linemen J'Michael Deane, received 12 months probation and 150 hours of community service. Former Spartans defensive end Jamiihr Williams received 18 months probation and 15o hours of community service. Rucker, Deane and Williams all had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery.

Eight of the eleven players who pleaded guilty in the Nov. 22 assault at Rather Hall now have been sentenced, with Jenrette and Smith the first to receive jail time. Former running back Glenn Winston, dismissed from the team with Jenrette on Nov. 24 and reportedly at the center of the incident, will be sentenced Monday and faces up to a year in jail.

Current MSU receiver Myles White also will be sentenced Monday, and current nose tackle Oren Wilson will be sentenced March 31. Seven players involved in the fight remain with the team but indefinitely suspended.

Michigan State starts spring practice Tuesday, and it will be interesting to see how head coach Mark Dantonio handles the suspended players. Team spokesman John Lewandowski released a statement last week saying Dantonio wouldn't make a final ruling until all the court cases are concluded. Wilson's is the last one to wrap up.

I still expect the majority of the seven suspended players to be back with the team. Wilson and White could face the toughest penalties from the team because of the delay in the coaching staff learning of their involvement.

Here's a rundown of the 11 current or former players involved in the Rather Hall fight:
  • WRs B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell: Still on the team but suspended; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service last week.
  • RB Ashton Leggett: Transferred to Illinois State; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service last week.
  • S Roderick Jenrette: Dismissed from the team Nov. 24; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault and misdemeanor assault; sentenced Friday to 90 days in jail; will begin serving sentence in April.
  • WR Fred Smith: Remains with the team but indefinitely suspended; pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault; had misdemeanor assault charge dropped; sentenced Friday to five days in jail, 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.
  • CB Chris L. Rucker and OL J'Michael Deane: Both remain with the team but indefinitely suspended; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced Friday to 12 months probation and 150 hours of community service.
  • DE Jamiihr Williams: Left the team; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault; had conspiracy charge dropped; sentenced Friday to 18 months probation and 150 hours of community service.
  • RB Glenn Winston: Dismissed from team Nov. 24; pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault and violating his probation; will be sentenced Monday.
  • WR Myles White: Remains with the team; pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault but had conspiracy charge dropped; will be sentenced Monday.
  • NT Oren Wilson: Remains with the team; pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault; had conspiracy charge dropped; will be sentenced March 31.
Mark Dantonio attributes much of his success at both Cincinnati and Michigan State to staff continuity, as he has been able to keep his assistants together. But for the first time in his Michigan State tenure, Dantonio had to replace an assistant after running backs coach Dan Enos left in January for the top job at Central Michigan. Dantonio settled on Brad Salem, a former MSU graduate assistant who spent the last five years as head coach at Division II Augustana College in South Dakota. Salem will oversee a running back group led by talented sophomores Larry Caper and Edwin Baker, but a group that loses several players from 2009.

I had the chance to catch up with Salem on Wednesday as he settled into his new job.

I know you had some ties to coach Dantonio. Are there a lot of familiar faces at Michigan State from your first stint there?

Brad Salem: Yeah, absolutely. That's the neat part. A lot of the support staff were here when I was here before, so there's obviously comfort in that, the people that take care of you.

What's the biggest adjustment from being a head coach in D-II to a position coach at this level?

Salem: It's the dynamics of being in charge of 100 guys [at Augustana] to a position coach, where there's anywhere from eight to 12, depending on what you recruit. I'm excited about the change, from the aspect of you get to focus on those guys. You almost get back a little bit more into the coaching role, the technique and the fundamentals of coaching a position.

Was it your goal to get back to the FBS level?

Salem: As an opportunity, it's something you can't pass up. I was very fortunate to be a head coach at a young age and follow in the footsteps of my dad. My father was a coach for 22 years. One of the things in coaching is you can't control the dynamics of where you go and when. That's what you understand. That process is out of your hands, so when opportunities like this present themselves, you get very excited to come back to a place you were 15 years ago. Knowing coach Dantonio and what he stands for, it's great to be a part of that, to be a part of something special.

How much did you work with the running game and specifically the running backs at Augustana?

Salem: As a head coach, I jumped around to different positions. I was on the offensive side, calling plays, so wherever there was a need, whether it was running backs, QBs or receivers, I was piecing it all together and coaching young coaches and teaching them those positions. You're familiar with [running back], absolutely, as one of the skill positions on offense.

How familiar are you with the running backs at Michigan State? Have you had a chance to look at tape or talk to them?

Salem: Yeah, I had the chance to meet them and watch them in workouts, doing the offseason stuff, and just seeing the cutups and seeing what their ability is. You've got two real special kids [Caper and Baker], and to get experience in the Big Ten as a freshman, there's a lot of value in it. They're going to just continue to grow as you go through spring ball and jump into the fall.

What are your early impressions of those two, Caper and Baker?

Salem: They can definitely be special backs. They both have unique styles, a little bit different from one another. But the great thing is, just getting to know them a little bit, is there's really a unique relationship. Very competitive, but they're even going to room [together] next year, and they're guys who understand being part of a team and part of a family. By size, Larry is a bigger guy, powerful, very good hands coming out of the backfield. There's maybe a little more quickness with Edwin, but you've got to watch a little bit more and study them. I'll find out more about that as we go through the spring.

Are numbers at all a concern for you because you'll be down a few guys from 2009 [Caulton Ray, Andre Anderson, Ashton Leggett, Glenn Winston]?

Salem: For spring, we're sitting pretty good. We've got some real solid guys at the fullback position, and then we've got the two early entry kids, Nick Hill and Leveon Bell. So those two incoming freshmen are here right now, so it gives us at least four tailbacks. Numbers are not the issue at my position, which is nice.

From a recruiting standpoint, you're replacing Dan, who was a great recruiter and really helped Michigan State. How has it been with recruiting and reconnecting in that area?

Salem: As a head coach, you're closing the deal and overseeing the whole process, recruiting the Midwest in that respect. Recruiting is the No. 1 issue with any program, and you've got to be able to do that and be successful because it's the kids that you get in your program. The approach here is it's very much a team-oriented recruiting process with the regional coach and then the position coach and then obviously the head coach to close the deal. So you fit in as we divide up areas. But I'm really excited to get going in the recruiting aspect of this job.

Have you talked about which regions you'll recruit?

Salem: We're just dividing up now. Each of us will get a piece of Michigan and then a secondary area. We're still trying to figure out where that'll be in the Midwest. You've just got to capture these kids in the region first. That's the priority. And you go from there. I'm touching base, e-mailing, calling the local guys right now, just so they see who I am.
The final three Michigan State players charged in the Nov. 22 residence hall incident have pled guilty to assault.

Nose tackle Oren Wilson, cornerback Chris L. Rucker and wide receiver Myles White each entered the pleas Thursday as part of agreements with the prosecutor's office. Wilson pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery, telling a judge he kicked one person and punched another at Rather Hall. Both Rucker and White pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor assault and battery.

The more serious charge of conspiracy was dropped against all three men. They await sentencing next month.

Wilson wasn't charged in the incident until Jan. 26 and was allowed to play in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2.

All 11 current or former Michigan State players charged in the incident have now pled guilty. Head coach Mark Dantonio has indefinitely suspended the seven players still with the team, and they're not participating in the team's winter conditioning program.

Dantonio is expected to make a final ruling on the players' status after the legal process concludes.

The two players reportedly at the center of the incident, running back Glenn Winston and safety Roderick Jenrette, have been dismissed from the team.

The sentences are scheduled to come down in mid to late March. Michigan State begins spring practice March 23.

Spartans name Salem as RBs coach

February, 19, 2010
My apologies for posting this a bit late, but Michigan State on Friday filled its lone staff vacancy by naming Brad Salem as running backs coach.

Salem, a former graduate assistant for the Spartans, spent the past five seasons as head coach of Division II Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. He replaces Dan Enos, who left in January to become Central Michigan's new head coach.

"The fact that Brad has a Spartan background is extremely important to us," head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "He spent two years on the Michigan State campus as a graduate assistant under outstanding head coaches George Perles and Nick Saban and had the opportunity to work directly with some excellent offensive minds in Morris Watts and Gary Tranquill. ... He's an innovative offensive coach, outstanding teacher and communicator."

Salem, who went 31-26 at Augustana, served as a grad assistant at Michigan State from 1994-96, working alongside Dantonio his last two years. He has been at multiple high schools and also did a stint in the European Professional League. Most of his experience has been in South Dakota, both at Augustana and the University of South Dakota.

“I’m thrilled to be headed back to Michigan State, especially to work with Mark Dantonio, who has been a positive influence in my life," Salem said in a statement. "I’m also excited about the opportunity to work with a great coaching staff along with a talented football team. Coach Dantonio and his staff have put together outstanding recruiting classes back-to-back.

"After spending three years as a graduate assistant at Michigan State, I have great passion for the school, and this institution will sell itself to prospects throughout the Midwest. Michigan State has it all: a great coaching staff, remarkable football facilities, a beautiful campus and outstanding academic programs. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get to work."

This is an interesting choice for Michigan State and Dantonio, who hasn't had to replace an assistant in a while. Enos was one of the Big Ten's top recruiters and helped Michigan State improve its presence in the Detroit area. Salem will have huge shoes to fill from a recruiting standpoint, and he hasn't been in the area for a while. But his background as a former high school coach could be beneficial as he tries to build relationships in the state.

Salem takes over a running back group led by promising sophomores Larry Caper and Edwin Baker. The Spartans lost two running backs -- Glenn Winston and Ashton Leggett -- after the residence hall mess, so Caper and Baker seemingly will be carrying the load for the foreseeable future.
Two more Michigan State players have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery in connection with the Nov. 22 residence hall incident that has cast a dark cloud over the program.

Wide receivers B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell, both of whom started games this season, entered the guilty pleas as part of an agreement where the more serious charges of conspiracy to commit assault were dropped against them. Both players are scheduled to be sentenced March 8 and face up to 90 days in jail, though it's unlikely they'll receive jail time.

Former Spartans running back Ashton Leggett reached a similar plea agreement Jan. 14, and his lawyer told the Lansing State Journal that the prosecutor is not seeking jail time.

Dell admitted to punching Michigan State student Brent Mitchell after a potluck function held by the Iota Phi Theta fraternity at the residence hall. Mitchell was briefly hospitalized after the incident. Cunningham admitted to kicking someone during the assault.

Both Dell and Cunningham were suspended in December and missed the Alamo Bowl, though they were allowed to attend a team meeting earlier this month. Cunningham ranked second on the team in both receptions (48) and receiving yards (641) in 2009, while Dell ranked third in both categories (26 receptions, 449 yards).

Iota Phi Theta national president Karl Price told me that the potluck event was over by the time the football players arrived. The fraternity's internal investigation identified three victims -- one Iota Phi Theta member and two other MSU students -- as well as five or six eyewitnesses at the residence hall.

"Apparently, this group came in with the specific purpose of looking for Iotas," Price said. "The only reason they knew Mitchell was an Iota was because he was wearing a [fraternity] shirt. From what I understand, at least four of them jumped on him."

Price said there have been previous incidents between the Michigan State football team and Iota Phi Theta members in the past, but nothing in recent months or involving these players in particular.

According to a Michigan State team official, there has been no status change for both Dell and Cunningham. Five other current players and one player planning to transfer from MSU have pretrial hearings in February. If more guilty pleas are coming, it'll be interesting to see how head coach Mark Dantonio handles things.

Several of the players involved in the assault aren't coming back to the Spartans, and Dantonio has dismissed Glenn Winston and Roderick Jennrette, the two players reportedly at the center of the incident. But Dantonio likely will face some heat if he reinstates everyone.

Two more Spartans players charged

January, 26, 2010
The problems at Michigan State continue as two more football players have been charged with misdemeanor assault and conspiracy in connection with a Nov. 22 incident at an on-campus residence hall.

Junior defensive tackle Oren Wilson and redshirt freshman wide receiver Myles White both face assault and conspiracy charges. Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio on Tuesday indefinitely suspended both players from all football-related activities. Both Wilson and White must turn themselves in for arraignment.

"As with the previously suspended players, their status with the team will be re-evaluated on a case-by-case basis as their legal issues are resolved," Dantonio said in a statement issued through the school's sports information department.

Eleven players now have been charged in the incident, which took place during a fraternity potluck function held the same night of Michigan State's team banquet. Four other players were suspended from the team for being present at the residence hall, though none faces charges.

Wilson started for Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2, while White was suspended for the game for an unrelated incident. Dantonio, through a spokesman, said he didn't know Wilson and White were present at the residence hall until being notified of the forthcoming charges late last week. Though the suspensions were announced Tuesday, the punishments went into effect last week.

Dantonio handed down suspensions or dismissals for all the other players identified as being at the residence hall before the Alamo Bowl. Players were given opportunities to come forward about their involvement in the incident, but both Wilson and White declined to do so. MSU police in early December identified 10 suspects in the assault and were hoping to identify five more. Now we know that all 15 suspects were football players.

Still, it's troubling that more than two months have passed before Spartans coaches knew Wilson and White were involved.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings told the Lansing State Journal: "MSU Police has wonderful investigators and to me, it was never a question of if these two individuals were going to be identified, just a question of when."

Here's the breakdown of what's happening with the 15 players:
  • Running back Glenn Winston and safety Roderick Jenrette, who face charges and had previous legal issues, have been dismissed from the team.
  • Running back Ashton Leggett pleaded guilty Jan. 14 to two counts of misdemeanor assault as part of a plea agreement in which a more serious conspiracy charge against him was dropped. Leggett since has transferred to Illinois State. Defensive end Jamiihr Williams, who also faces charges, will transfer as well.
  • Brynden Trawick and Ishmyl Johnson, who were suspended for being at the residence hall but not charged, are transferring.
  • Five players who face charges -- cornerback Chris L. Rucker, offensive lineman J'Michael Deane and wide receivers, Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham and Fred Smith -- had their pretrial hearings postponed earlier this month. Dantonio allowed them to attend a team meeting several weeks ago, but their ultimate status will be determined after the legal process concludes. Wilson and White both are now in the same boat as these players.
  • Donald Spencer and Chris D. Rucker were suspended but not charged and attended a team meeting earlier this month.

Obviously, this remains a messy situation for Dantonio and Michigan State, which could be without a sizable chunk of the roster when spring practice begins.
Former Michigan State running back Ashton Leggett pleaded guilty earlier today to two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery, while a more serious charge of conspiracy to commit assault was dropped against him as part of a plea agreement.

The pretrial hearings for the eight other current or former Michigan State players facing assault and conspiracy charges were postponed today. Leggett, who appeared in six games for the Spartans in 2009, since has transferred to Illinois State.

He apologized for punching two students during a Nov. 22 altercation at a campus residence hall and told a judge that the players "didn't fully know we'd jeopardize our future like this."

An attorney for Spartans cornerback Chris L. Rucker told reporters that his client will plead not guilty to the charges. The attorney for former Michigan State safety Roderick Jenrette, one of two players dismissed from the team after the incident, told reporters that prosecutors have offered his client a plea deal.

Don't be surprised if several players agree to the same terms as Leggett, who could face up to 93 days in jail and $1,000 in fines but also might avoid jail time.

It will be interesting to see how Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio reacts after the legal process has concluded. The suspended players still on the MSU roster attended a recent team meeting, and the coaches "will make decisions based on what happens at a later date."

As the Detroit Free Press' Drew Sharp writes today, Dantonio can't afford more mistakes from these players. The coach got totally burned by reinstating Glenn Winston last summer -- a very questionable decision at the time -- and needs these players to stay out of trouble.