Big Ten: Hayden Fry

The motion W on Paul Chryst's hat and sweatshirt next fall won't stand for wandering eye. For that, Wisconsin fans can breath a sigh of relief.

It's humbling for a fan base to see a coach voluntarily leave its program. It's especially humbling to see it happen twice in the past three years. It's especially, especially humbling when coaches leave a winning, established program that is coming off appearances in the Big Ten championship game.

Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen clearly didn't see Wisconsin as a destination job. Bielema wanted to chase a championship in the nation's toughest conference at a program flush with resources. Andersen became fed up with Wisconsin's admissions office and the difficulty of getting his targeted players into school. Their eyes wandered and they left town.

Chryst is coming home to Madison, where he spent most of his childhood, his college years and part of his adult life as a Badgers assistant in 2002 and again from 2005-11. He intends to stay for a while. Those close to him say Wisconsin is his dream college job and that he would only leave to lead an NFL team. Coincidentally, Chryst did the reverse Gary Andersen, leaving Oregon State's offensive coordinator post for Wisconsin's after the 2004 season.

[+] EnlargePaul Chryst
Jason Redmond/Associated PressGetting Paul Chryst in the fold should close the revolving door at Wisconsin for a while.
Hiring a capable coach is Wisconsin's first priority here, and despite inheriting a mess in Pittsburgh from Todd Graham and yielding middling results, Chryst can deliver with the Badgers. But it's also important for the Badgers -- and the Big Ten -- to bring in coaches who want to stick around.

Let's not be delusional about the Big Ten or modern-day coaches. The days of Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Barry Alvarez, Hayden Fry, Joe Paterno and others who saw Big Ten programs as career endpoints likely are over. Kirk Ferentz is completing his 16th season at Iowa, while Pat Fitzgerald just finished his ninth at Northwestern and Mark Dantonio wraps up his eighth at Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. None seems to be in a hurry to leave on their own accord, but they're more the exceptions in today's game.

Expecting any coach to spend 15-20 years in one place isn't realistic. But the Big Ten also can't have coaches voluntarily leaving every season. A Big Ten coach has chosen to depart in each of the past three seasons: Bielema (2012), Penn State's Bill O'Brien (2013) and now Andersen. Of the three, only O'Brien left for a definitive step up, the NFL's Houston Texans.

Look at Big Ten basketball, which boasts elite coaches -- Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, Ohio State's Thad Matta and Michigan's John Beilein -- who view their jobs as destinations. That's what Big Ten football needs.

Chryst puts a stop in the revolving door at Wisconsin, and several of the Big Ten's top programs could be entering a period of coaching stability:

Nebraska: Whether Cornhuskers fans like the Mike Riley hire or not, Riley isn't going anywhere. He sees Nebraska as a last stop, and despite his age (61), he still has great energy for the job. His predecessor, Bo Pelini, didn't voluntarily leave Nebraska, but there were incessant rumors during his tenure about him looking at other jobs. Some think if Nebraska had won the 2012 Big Ten title game instead of Wisconsin, Pelini would have landed at Arkansas instead of Bielema.

Ohio State: Urban Meyer quickly has rebuilt Ohio State into a national power and a playoff contender for years to come. There's always some concern about Meyer's longevity at a job, but he's not mentioned for NFL positions and seems completely settled in Columbus. He might not coach the Buckeyes for 10-15 years, but he's seemingly not on the verge of an exit, either.

Penn State: Amid the excitement of his arrival, James Franklin repeatedly noted that Penn State had work to do with its roster deficiencies, which showed up throughout the fall. Franklin likely will see this process through, and, like Meyer in Ohio, he has roots in Pennsylvania. He has plenty of job security, and unless he becomes frustrated with the post-sanctions effects, won't be looking to leave.

Michigan is the wild card here, but the Wolverines should be seeking some stability in its next coach. After having just three coaches between 1969 and 2007, Michigan will have its third in eight seasons next fall. Jim Harbaugh is the home run hire for the Wolverines, but not if he returns to the NFL in two or three years. Michigan needs an elite coach who wants to stick around, and it shouldn't compromise either criteria. Brady Hoke would have stayed in Ann Arbor forever, but he wasn't getting it done on the field.

Stability doesn't automatically equal success. After a very disappointing regular season, Iowa's Ferentz finds himself in a category of long-tenured, mostly successful coaches -- Georgia's Mark Richt, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy -- who some want to see move on. Stability can become stale, but cycling through coaches every few years almost guarantees struggle.

Amazingly, Wisconsin has avoided a downturn despite its coaching turnover. Now it has a coach who can keep things rolling without constantly looking for the next best thing.

Michigan's impending hire should calm the Big Ten coaching carousel for a while. And with relative stability at the top programs, the league could be on the verge of a step forward.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer turns 50 today, and, according to Twitter, he'll be celebrating in Florida before preparing for preseason camp, which kicks off next month. Few college coaches have accomplished more by age 50 than Meyer, who owns two national titles, two undefeated seasons, four conference championships, five division championships, four perfect seasons in regular-season league play, seven bowl wins, no losing seasons and a .837 career winning percentage.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesAt age 50, Urban Meyer has a sparkling 128-25 record as a head coach.
He has a 128-25 career record in 12 seasons at four schools -- Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State -- and has lost more than three games in a season just once (2010, when Florida went 8-5). Meyer is still relatively new to the Big Ten and remains without a Big Ten championship on his résumé, but he's already among the league's most decorated coaches.

Let's look at how Meyer stacks up with the Big Ten's winningest coaches at age 50:

Woody Hayes
50th birthday: Feb. 14, 1963
Record: 111-37-6 at Denison, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio State (72-26-6 at Ohio State)
National titles: 3 (1954, 1957, 1961)
League titles: 6 (four Big Ten)
Undefeated seasons: 4
Bowl record: 3-0
10-win seasons: 1
Losing seasons: 2

Amos Alonzo Stagg
50th birthday:
Aug. 16, 1912
Record: 161-57-21 at Springfield and Chicago (161-46-20 at Chicago)
National titles: 1 (1905)
League titles: 4
Undefeated seasons: 3
10-win seasons: 5
Losing seasons: 3

Bo Schembechler
50th birthday:
April 1, 1979
Record: 136-32-8 at Miami (Ohio) and Michigan (96-15-3 at Michigan)
National titles: 0
League titles: 10 (8 in Big Ten)
Undefeated seasons: 1
Bowl record: 0-6
Losing seasons: 0

Fielding Yost
50th birthday:
April 30, 1921
Record: 165-32-10 at Ohio Wesleyan, Nebraska, Stanford, State Normal and Michigan (132-26-8 at Michigan)
National titles: 5 (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918)
League titles: 6
Undefeated seasons: 7 (not counting 1-0 at State Normal in 1900)
Bowl record: 1-0
Losing seasons: 1

Joe Paterno
50th birthday:
Dec. 21, 1976
Record: 101-22-1 at Penn State
National titles: 0
Undefeated seasons: 3
10-win seasons: 6
Bowl record: 5-2-1
Losing seasons: 0

Hayden Fry
50th birthday: Feb. 28, 1979
Record: 99-89-4 at SMU and North Texas (1979 was first season at Iowa)
National titles: 0
League titles: 2
Undefeated seasons: 0
10-win seasons: 1
Bowl record: 1-2
Losing seasons: 9

Henry Williams
50th birthday: July 26, 1919
Record: 128-22-11 at Army and Minnesota (123-21-10 at Minnesota
National titles: 1 (1904)
League titles: 8
Undefeated seasons: 5
10-win seasons: 3
Losing seasons: 0

Robert Zuppke
50th birthday: July 2, 1929
Record: 84-28-7
National titles: 4 (1914, 1919, 1923, 1927)
League titles: 7
Undefeated seasons: 4
Losing seasons: 2

Barry Alvarez
50th birthday: Dec. 30, 1996
League titles: 1
Undefeated seasons: 0
Bowl record: 3-0
10-win seasons: 1
Losing seasons: 4

It's interesting to see what coaches of different eras had accomplished by age 50. Also be sure and check out how Meyer stacks up with notable non-Big Ten coaches and other Ohio State coaches by age 50.
We're back with the results from Game 2 of our Big Ten all-time coaches tournament, which kicked off last Thursday.

I wondered how some of the figures from way back in history would fare against coaches most modern fans are much more familiar with. But Michigan's Fielding Yost won the first game of our tournament, and the second winner came from a school no longer even in the Big Ten.

No. 6 seed Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg took down No. 11 Iowa's Hayden Fry by your vote of 56 percent to 44 percent. Stagg advanced to face No. 3-seed Tom Osborne later this week in the second round.

Here are a few of your comments about the voting, which were interesting because I didn't hear from a lot of vocal Stagg supporters (anyone still alive who saw him coach?).
Erik S. from Pittsburgh: I picked Coach Stagg because if we're honest, he won in a time when football was a big business as well (before pro football started really competing) and he snagged a Michigan recruit here and there in very impressive ways.

Jarrod from Sioux City, Iowa: Hayden Fry advances. Three reasons: 3. Outstanding coaching tree. 2. Took an awful program and made them relevant again. 1. Pink visitor's locker room. Next up, please!

Mike S. from Parts Unknown: As a loyal Hawkeye, I voted for Fry. With due respect to Stagg, I don't think a college coach ever faced a worse situation than Fry. Iowa football had 19 straight losing years before Hayden came to Iowa City. And he had them in the Rose Bowl in three years and ranked No. 1 in the country in six years. Even more impressive is his coaching tree. Everyone says Miami (Ohio) is the standard, but I would stack up Hayden's tree -- Bill Snyder (who turned around Kansas State), Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin HC); Bret Bielema (Wisconsin and Arkansas HC); Dan McCarney (Iowa State and North Texas HC); Kirk Ferentz (Iowa HC), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma HC), Bobby Diaco (UConn HC) and Jay Norvell (Oklahoma OC), to name just a few. Go Hawks!

B1G coaches' tournament: Game 2

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
4:30
PM ET
On Wednesday, we introduced the all-time Big Ten coaches tournament, and earlier today we kicked things off with our first first-round game.

Now it's time to keep moving through the bracket. Remember, this is a 12-team tournament in which the top four seeds all received byes. Those top four seeds are:

1. Woody Hayes, Ohio State
2. Bo Schembechler, Michigan
3. Tom Osborne, Nebraska
4. Joe Paterno, Penn State

SportsNation

Which coach wins this first round matchup?

  •  
    54%
  •  
    46%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,165)

Our next contest features the No. 6 seed taking on the No. 11 seed, with the right to advance and face Osborne in the next round at stake. Your votes will determine the winner, and you have until late Monday morning to weigh in on this one.

Here's your 6-11 matchup:

No. 6 Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg vs. No. 11 Iowa's Hayden Fry


Tournament résumés:
  • Stagg: There's a tendency to forget about Stagg, both because his school -- the University of Chicago -- no longer competes in the Big Ten or in big-time sports, and because his career took place in the early 1900s. But did he ever accomplish a lot, including 199 wins overall, 116 Big Ten victories and two national championships (1905, 1913). He also helped innovate many of the plays and formations in modern football and also contributed so much to basketball that he's in that sport's Hall of Fame, too. The Big Ten names its football title game trophy after Stagg.
  • Fry: Iowa football was basically roaming the wilderness of irrelevance before Fry came along and rescued it. He went 143-89-6 and claimed three Big Ten titles for the Hawkeyes, and his 98 Big Ten wins are the fourth most ever. Fry was so influential that he created a very impressive coaching tree.

Which coach advances? Vote now, and drop us a note as to why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results posts.
We're a 24/7/365 football blog around here, but it's impossible to not get caught up in the excitement of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

But while football will have its own, smaller version of March Madness with the College Football Playoff this season, we don't want to wait that long. Why let the basketball guys have all the fun when we can hold our own tournament?

In past years, we did this with the top players and championship teams of the past 15 years. This time around, we're going to pit the best coaches in Big Ten history against one another in a winner-take-all bracket.

The Big Ten has an incredible roster of accomplished coaches in its lore. (And, yes, we're including all current Big Ten member schools, regardless of how long they've been in the league. We're inclusive here. Deal with it.). Narrowing the field to our customary eight was difficult, if not downright unthinkable. So we've expanded the bracket to 12 this time, with the top four seeds getting byes and the others trying to play their way in. Be on standby, Dayton.

We're looking for coaches who have won Big Ten titles and national championships, those who stuck around long enough to pile up Hall of Fame résumés and build unmistakable legacies. No current coaches are involved, as we'll let them finish their careers before we start stacking them up against the all-timers.

The tournament will kick off Thursday with the first couple of matchups. But first, here is a look at the entire field, in alphabetical order:
  • Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: Alvarez revived the Badgers program during his 16 years at the helm in Madison, compiling 118 wins. He also earned three Rose Bowl victories and is the only league coach to ever win back-to-back Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
  • Bernie Bierman, Minnesota: The Gophers claimed five national titles under Bierman (1934, 1935, 1936, 1940 and 1941) and won seven Big Ten championships from 1932-41. He went 93-35-6 at Minnesota and also won a national title as a player with the Gophers.
  • Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State: Daugherty coached the Spartans from 1954 to 1972 and led them to back-to-back national titles in 1965 and 1966. The rest of his tenure didn't go as well, but Daugherty is tied for the sixth-most Big Ten wins ever.
  • Hayden Fry, Iowa: The Hawkeyes hadn't had a winning season in 17 years before Fry arrived before the 1979 season. He proceeded to go 143-89-6 in Iowa City, claiming three Big Ten titles. His 98 Big Ten wins are fourth-most ever.
  • Woody Hayes, Ohio State: Few coaches are as synonymous with a school as Hayes is with Ohio State. He won 205 games, the most of any coach while a member of the Big Ten, and a record 152 league games. Hayes also won 13 Big Ten championships, tying him for the most all time, and five national titles (1954, 1957, 1961, 1968 and 1970).
  • Tom Osborne, Nebraska: There aren't many coaches more beloved and universally respected than Osborne, who went 255-49-3 while leading the Huskers to three national titles in a four-year span (1994, 1995 and 1997). How about this: His teams never won fewer than nine games in a season, and this was before 12-, 13- and even 14-game seasons became the norm.
  • Joe Paterno, Penn State: JoePa won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986) and four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national coach of the year five times. His career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA.
  • Bo Schembechler, Michigan: Bo and Woody. Woody and Bo. Two coaches really defined the Big Ten for decades, and Schembechler was one of them. He is tied with Hayes for the most Big Ten titles ever (13) and his 143 Big Ten victories are the second-most all time. Schembechler has the highest conference winning percentage (.850) of any coach who competed in the Big Ten for at least 10 years. But he never won a national title.
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg, Chicago: Listen up, youngsters. The University of Chicago was a charter member of the Big Ten, and Stagg was its sports titan. He won 199 games, including 116 Big Ten victories, as well as two national championships (1905, 1913). Stagg is credited with innovating many plays and formations used in modern football, and he was also named to the Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to that sport.
  • Jim Tressel, Ohio State: Tressel coached exactly 10 years in the Big Ten before he was forced to resign, but what a decade it was. He has the second-highest winning percentage both overall and in league play for coaches who spent at least 10 years inside the conference, and he won or shared seven league titles (though the 2010 co-championship was later vacated). Tressel is the last Big Ten coach to win a national title, in 2002.
  • Fielding Yost, Michigan: The Wolverines won six national titles under Yost (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918 and 1923) and his 10 Big Ten titles trails only Hayes and Schembechler. His career winning percentage of .888 while a Big Ten head coach is the best all time among those who coached at least a decade in the league.
  • Bob Zuppke, Illinois: He was the Illini head coach from 1913 to 1941 and won four national titles (1914, 1919, 1923, and 1927). Zuppke is credited for inventing the huddle, which is kind of a big deal, and he also coached the legendary Red Grange. He is tied with Daugherty for the sixth-most Big Ten wins of all time, and he captured seven Big Ten titles.

As you can see, this is an impressive field. We couldn't even include all the amazing coaches from history, including Michigan's Fritz Crisler, Nebraska's Bob Devaney or Minnesota's Henry Williams, to name just a few. (Sorry, Huskers fans, but while Osborne has a tenuous connection to the Big Ten as the athletic director who ushered the school into the league, Devaney's great career had no Big Ten ties. Don't worry. You can simply throw all your considerable voting power behind Osborne if you desire.)

Stay tuned for the opening matchups. "The ball is tipped ..."

Big Ten lunch links

May, 13, 2013
5/13/13
12:00
PM ET
Red Wings-Blackhawks one last time in the Western Conference playoffs? Yes, please.
The name, game sites and logo for the upcoming College Football Playoff are set. Now comes the most important piece of the puzzle: the selection committee.

Everyone wants to know who will have the important and unenviable task of choosing the field of four for the Playoff each year. BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said the committee will consist of 14-20 members representing every conference in the sport. Hancock issued a statement following the recent meetings in California, saying that discussions about the selection committee's structure are ongoing, and that there's "no rush" to decide given the committee's importance to the process.

[+] EnlargeTom Osborne
Bruce Thorson/US PresswireTom Osborne believes retired coaches would be unbiased if chosen to evaluate teams for the upcoming College Football Playoff.
Who will serve on the group? Former coaches? Current administrators? Former media members? All have been mentioned as potential candidates. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com and several other outlets last week that the committee must first and foremost be "a core group who are football smart, football savvy, great integrity" and that a member "can’t be a congressman. You can't come from this part of the country to take care of that."

Tom Osborne once was a U.S. Congressman, but he also had a Hall of Fame coaching career at Nebraska and served as the school's athletic director from 2007-12. In my view, Osborne would be an excellent candidate for the Playoff selection committee. His football knowledge and experience in pressure situations -- as a coach, an athletic director and in Congress -- make him a great fit.

Osborne isn't one to promote himself for the committee, but he has thoughts on how it should be compiled, and shared them with the Lincoln Journal Star. Osborne told Hancock to consider members of college football's Legends Poll, a group of 17 former college coaches, 15 of whom are in the College Football Hall of Fame, who select a top 25 poll each week during the season. According to the Legends Poll Web site, the former coaches "review all of the relevant game film using a state of the art service called Hudl, discuss each team's performance during a weekly conference call and establish a ranking of the Top 25 teams."

Sounds a lot like what the Playoff selection committee will be doing.

Here's the current Legends Poll voting panel (along with the school with which they're most closely identified): Bobby Bowden (Florida State), Frank Broyles (Arkansas), John Cooper (Ohio State), Fisher DeBerry (Air Force), Vince Dooley (Georgia), Terry Donahue (UCLA), Pat Dye (Auburn), LaVell Edwards (BYU), Don James (Washington), Dick MacPherson (Syracuse), Bill Mallory (Indiana), Don Nehlen (West Virginia), John Robinson (USC), Bobby Ross (Georgia Tech), R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M), Gene Stallings (Alabama) and George Welsh (Virginia).

Osborne served three years on the Legends Poll panel, and former Iowa coach Hayden Fry also has been on it. Former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was an active voter at the time of his death late in the 2006 season.

From the Journal Star:
"Each week, they would send us DVDs of the top games," he said. "So you'd get 8-10 DVDs. They sent you a video player. You could sit there and really study the games."

The coaches on Mondays would gather for a teleconference, which lasted up to two hours, Osborne said.

"Each coach would talk about the game he had gone to the previous Saturday, and also what he'd seen on video," Osborne said. "I was impressed by the fact they seemed to be objective. It wasn't like R.C. [Slocum] was pushing Texas A&M, or Gene Stallings was pushing Alabama. They were just talking about strengths and weaknesses of teams in their area, and teams they'd seen. It was a very informative discussion."

Weren't coaches biased toward former employers?

"I thought the discussions were pretty objective and pretty dispassionate," Osborne said. "I heard coaches say things about their former school that weren't highly complimentary. They might say, 'We just can't play defense this year.' Or, 'We're pretty good overall, but we don't have a quarterback.' I didn't hear anybody trying to pump up their school to the other coaches. They were pretty blank, pretty blunt."

It sounds like a good place for Hancock to start. Cooper, who coached Ohio State from 1988-2000, has said he'll serve on the committee if asked. Mallory, who coached Indiana from 1984-96, also would be a good choice.

I lean toward a mix of former coaches and current administrators, as a guy like Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez makes a lot of sense for the job. But the time commitment could be an issue for those still working in the sport -- Alvarez talks about it here -- and the retired coaches certainly have more flexibility in their schedules.

It would be a surprise if several members of the Legends Poll don't end up on the Playoff selection committee. Here's hoping they reserve a spot for Osborne, too.

Big Ten mailblog

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
3:30
PM ET
Your questions, my answers. Send questions, comments and news tips to me here.

Nick C. from Peoria, Ill., writes: Agree with you about Michigan St. seeming the better fit for the west in terms of competitive balance. My question is why wouldn't the B1G go with this format? It seems like purdue vs. Indiana is kind of a waste of the only protected cross-over game if that was the route they had planned to take when setting the division alignment by geography. The Michigan st./ Wisconsin rivalry had produced some of the best games (football and basketball) the past 4 years and it looks like a nice rivalry is forming between Nebraska and mich state too. With a protected cross-over with Michigan. Would Michigan State really lose out of any rivalry by joining the west? It seems like their "rivalry" with Penn State has never really caught on and Ohio state will always be paired with Michigan. The competitive balance would definitely be less of a question with mich state in the west. Seriously, how could they not go with this idea?

Adam Rittenberg: Nick, when the Big Ten announces the divisions, which we expect to be the same as the proposed ones, I'll try to get you an answer to this question. My suspicion is that the Big Ten didn't want Michigan (and, to a lesser extent, Michigan State), having a weaker crossover rotation in the new model. From the league's perspective, if given a choice between Michigan/Michigan State or Purdue/Indiana playing a limited crossover rotation because of the annual protected rivalry, you'd choose Purdue/Indiana because those schools move the needle less and aren't as appealing to TV as Michigan/MSU. Again, that's my suspicion, but I'll try to find out more for you.




Lance S. from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Am I nuts to see parallels between 2012 Ohio State and the 1993 Auburn Tigers? Both teams went unbeaten while on probation, then, while still good, lost a few games once they came off. Teams on probation obviously have less pressure, plus the regular season is all they have so motivation is strong. OSU deserves tons of credit for going 12-0 last year, but they hardly were a dominant team, with narrow wins over Cal, UAB, Purdue, MSU, and WI. Teams that win all their close games one year often drop a few the next. Obviously a good team, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them drop a couple this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Auburn actually was on postseason probation both in 1993 and 1994, when it went 9-1-1. The Tigers then dropped off to 8-4 in 1995, the first year they could return to a bowl game. I'm not sure the parallel exists between Ohio State and Auburn, but certainly there's a little less traditional pressure when a team isn't playing for a national championship. Also, it's extremely tough for any college team to go undefeated in back-to-back seasons. You're right that Ohio State wasn't a dominant team for much of 2012, and some of those narrow wins against average competition -- along with the Big Ten being down as a league -- likely factored into the Buckeyes being ranked No. 3 rather than No. 2 after the regular season. Ohio State could be a better team this season than last, and the Buckeyes' schedule remains favorable. But it wouldn't shock me to see Ohio State drop a game just because it's so hard to keep winning year after year.




Greg from Philadelphia writes: Hey Adam. After the ACC's recent move, I only have 1 suggestion left regarding expansion: Missouri and Kansas. Missouri is the no brainer because they've already shown interest in joining and fit much better culturally with the B1G than they do with the SEC. However, I'm not sure how Kansas would get out of the Big 12's grant of rights. Still, they would bring an AAU member with great basketball tradition to arguably the best basketball conference in the country right now (Missouri isn't bad either). Now I know basketball isn't what's driving this, but it's still a possibility. This would also allow Purdue to go back to the East and we could simply split the divisions down the time zone line. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Greg, I think it ultimately comes down to how much the Big Ten actually wants to expand again. Remember, the last expansion was all about bringing in new markets and becoming a true bi-regional conference (Midwest and East Coast). Although Missouri and Kansas also bring in new markets -- most notably Kansas City -- they're not located in a new region like Maryland and Rutgers are. If the ACC is indeed out of poaching play, there aren't many if any attractive expansion options on the East Coast, so the Big Ten once again has to ask itself, is getting bigger any better? I've always thought Missouri would be a good fit in the Big Ten and seems to be out of place in the SEC. Kansas doesn't do much for me because the football program has been erratic, to put it nicely. This isn't about basketball, as much as fans wish it were. Missouri is one to watch in my view, but I'd be surprised if another Big Ten expansion doesn't include a team closer to the East Coast.




Jason from Richmond, Va., writes: Adam, any date for release of Big Ten prime time schedule?? It was a year ago(4/24) that the 2012 came out, always looking to plan those trips, especially now that November night games are being considered

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, I know it's in the process of being finalized between the Big Ten, ABC/ESPN and the Big Ten Network. It could be any day now, and if you check the blog often, you'll be the first to know. Although November night games will be a reality in the Big Ten in the future, they might not be part of this year's schedule because of the selections made by the television partners. There are a of appealing games in September and October. Stay tuned.




Oliver from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Is it me or has the conference bent over backwards for Wisconsin with regards to scheduling? They drop MSU and Nebraska in 2013, haven't played Michigan in years, played only 2 road night games during the BB era (yet hosted many) and don't get me started on the new divisions. My theory; the BIG needed to prop somebody up over the past few years as the conference suffered on and off the field. If there isn't conspiracy a foot, can you tell me why the special treatment?

Adam Rittenberg: Oliver, that's an interesting theory because many saw Wisconsin as the team getting the short end of the stick during the Big Ten's initial division alignment. The Badgers lost their annual series against Iowa, one of the most competitive long-term rivalries in all of college football. Their crossover schedule the past two seasons included Nebraska and Michigan State, two of the league's stronger teams. Sure, there's been a gap in the Wisconsin-Michigan series, but there are similar gaps with other pairings (Iowa-Ohio State) around the league. And the night games thing is more about TV than anything else. Night games at Camp Randall Stadium are awesome, better than almost anywhere in the country. TV loves them, so Wisconsin gets them. That's not a conspiracy if you ask me.




Vanilla Go-Rilla from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Hi Adam. Love the blog, keep up the good work...just add more Hawkeye coverage. My question is about Penn State. When discussing division alignment it seems like Penn State is always discussed as a major conference power. I'm too lazy to check the numbers, but it just doesn't seem that they challenge for conference titles more than any other mid tier team since they joined. Would you please tell us how many conference titles that they have either outright or shared since they joined the league? Would you please compare those numbers with the other conference teams so that we can see where they truly stack up against everyone else? Maybe this will curb some of the talk of how unbalanced the divisions are.

Adam Rittenberg: Vanilla, Penn State certainly hasn't been the force many thought it would be when it joined the Big Ten in 1993. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten outright in 1994 and shared titles in 2005 and 2008. The 2005 and 2008 titles since have been vacated. Here are the total league titles for other teams during the past 20 years (1993-2012):

Ohio State -- 9 (three outright, six shared)
Wisconsin -- 6 (three outright, three shared)
Michigan -- 5 (two outright, three shared)
Northwestern -- 3 (one outright, two shared)
Iowa -- 2 (both shared)
Illinois -- 1 (outright)
Michigan State -- 1 (shared)
Purdue -- 1 (shared)

So Penn State hasn't been a world beater in the Big Ten. A solid program, yes, but not a powerhouse. Neither has Michigan in the past decade. You bring up a good point with your comment, that things are cyclical and change over time. A lot of people are putting Michigan State in the Big Ten's upper echelon, a place where Iowa found itself not long ago. Other than Ohio State, no Big Ten program has been truly dominant for a long stretch in recent years. Although the East division certainly will be stronger in some seasons, it should even out over time.




Kirk from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, Your article on Brock Vereen was wonderful all the way around. I'm a lonely Gopher fan in Iowa but am really, really excited about Jerry Kill, his staff and his players at Minnesota. I watched Hayden Fry turn Iowa around when he was about fifty and with the staff he brought with him from North Texas. Many of Fry's assistants will join him in the college football hall of fame (e.g., Barry Alvarez--already there--Bill Snyder, Bobby Stoops and so forth). Kill's staff can never be that good but he and his people are solid. Is there any way you can see Minnesota winning eight or nine games in 2013?

Adam Rittenberg: Kirk, thanks for the kind words. Brock is a great guy, and he should be an excellent leader for Minnesota's secondary this season. You make an interesting link between Fry at Iowa and possibly Kill at Minnesota. Staff continuity has been a big part of Kill's success at other stops, and he's continuing the trend at Minnesota, one of two FBS schools (along with Northwestern) to feature no coaching changes in the past three offseasons. Minnesota could see its wins total rise from last fall (6), but it will need to identify more playmakers throughout the offense and solidify the back seven on defense. I think the defensive line will be a strength, and the offensive line, if healthy, could be, too. Right now, there are a few too many question marks -- combined with a really tough division -- for me to predict Minnesota will win eight or nine games. The Gophers must once again run the table in non-league play -- San Jose State won't be easy -- and get at least a split at home in league play (Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin) to have a chance at eight or nine wins. I still think Minnesota is a year away, but we'll see.

Big Ten lunch links

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
12:00
PM ET
We're previewing spring football in the Big Ten today and Friday. Be sure to check it out.

Link time ...

Big Ten lunchtime links

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
12:00
PM ET
How's the bratwurst down in Fayetteville?

Big Ten Friday mailblog

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
4:30
PM ET
Some questions and answers before the weekend. Not surprisingly, a lot of you are weighing in on this story.

CK from Seattle writes: I'm going to call it right now Adam. B1G has a good bowl season (or at least better than recent years -- not saying much I know). Reason being the B1G teams seem to often play higher ranked teams and teams playing close to home. With our poor rankings this year, I imagine we'll have some more even matchups. That said -- Wisconsin has looked terrible, Michigan isn't impressive, MSU struggled against mediocre ND and Nebraska had a laugher in Cali. Verdict is still out on OSU. Well -- after saying that, I feel less confident, but still think we'll get better matchups this year.

Adam Rittenberg: CK, you very well could be correct. It's hard to envision the Big Ten keeping its streak of multiple BCS berths alive. Then again, I've thought the streak would end in the past, and it hasn't, as Big Ten teams and their massive fan bases remain so attractive to the big bowls. The matchups undoubtedly would be better and potentially more appropriate if the Big Ten only sends a team to the Rose Bowl. And if the Big Ten does well, I think the league will get credit because difficulty of bowl lineup doesn't seem to matter much with how leagues are perceived. That said, the Big Ten has to start winning Rose Bowls again. One victory in the past nine is pretty bad.




Dan from Austin, Texas, writes: As a proud PSU alum, it's tough to see the conference in this state. I agree with the premise you are attributing this to, however to understand why the talent pool is low, you have to understand what QBs in other markets are doing all year round. Look at how many Texas QBs are leading D1 programs around the country and starting in the NFL. The reason 7-on-7 leagues that were started about 10 years ago. You now have a generation of Texas QBs who have been able to have 2x to 3x more reps than QBs in the North.

Adam Rittenberg: I think 7-on-7 leagues are a factor, Dan, but spring football in the south might be a bigger one. Former Purdue coach Joe Tiller told me that from a talent standpoint, the recruits he landed from Texas and other states weren't way above those from the Midwest. But the fact that the Midwest kids didn't have spring football in high school made them less prepared to play college ball right away. "The southern states are really getting the edge," Tiller told me. "Florida with their spring practices and Georgia with their spring practices and Texas with their spring practices, those kids, I know when we recruited them to Purdue, they were just advanced players over the guys we were getting out of the Midwest. They weren’t necessarily more gifted naturally, but they were just advanced in the sense that they played so much more football." Tiller also noted that some southern states (Texas) have longer regular seasons than those in the Midwest, so players are playing more games before they arrive at college.




Steve from San Francisco writes: I can't agree with Earle Bruce, and not just because I went to Michigan. I think the quarterbacks in the league are not the problem. Look at Alabama. Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron have led them to National Championships and they are not NFL caliber quarterbacks. Maybe they will be backups for a while, but they aren't carrying those teams, it is the top-down talent around them -- strong defenses, speedy, large, wide open receivers, and huge, yardage-churning running backs. Go back to UM-Bama to start the season, McCarron's and [Denard] Robinson's numbers were eerily similar, and how close was the final score? McCarron missed a bunch of receivers too, he just happened to also have 3 running backs tearing up the field. The question is: will the Big Ten ever be able to pull enough talent in all schools so that every class has the depth to match the SEC and I think the answer is no. I wanted to go to Michigan, but I grew up in the north. Most of the talent these days is in the south. Why would they ever go to a place that is frozen in the winter when they could be in the sun with girls in bikinis? Yes, you get your one-offs, but it is all positions talent and depth where the Big Ten has lost its prestige.

Adam Rittenberg: Some good points here, Steve. Bruce also told me the running back position is down in the Big Ten, and while I don't necessarily agree with him there, the number of elite QB-RB combinations might not be as high as it should be. The wide receiver spot certainly has been down in the league, and I would also look at cornerback as a weakness in recent years. Everyone points to defensive line play and says that's where the SEC has the advantage, but I look at the linemen the Big Ten has produced in recent years -- J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Heyward, Jared Odrick etc. -- and don't see a massive shortage. Maybe there's not as much depth in the Big Ten as there is in the SEC, but I don't think there's a dearth at defensive line. Your last point is spot on. The issues go beyond just one position, and it's hard for the Big Ten to recruit overall rosters that can match the best teams from the SEC.




Brutus from the Ninth Circle writes: Hey Adam, have a question about Penn State. With the departure of Paul Jones, I'm beginning to think that there are 2 key things going on. First, [coach Bill] O'Brien knows that he has to get the scholarships down to a certain level and he has to "trim the fat," if that's the right phrase. Second, every team has under-performers, so they would be the first to go. It seems to me that BOB is cleaning house to get to the levels that he needs to be at, protecting the core players, and lightening the load with players that are less critical. Jones was the 3rd string quarterback and way down the list on TE. Seems like a good call to let Jones go. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Brutus, I don't think O'Brien is running players off from Penn State. I think he's being honest with them about their futures, and he didn't see a future for Jones at quarterback for the Lions. I believe O'Brien when he said he saw Jones as a contributor at tight end, but ultimately Jones wanted to play quarterback, as he tweeted Wednesday night, and he couldn't do that at Penn State. It's probably too soon to how Jones would have fared as a tight end for PSU, and there are quite a few players ahead of him at that spot. While I don't think O'Brien will lie awake at night thinking about how he could have kept Jones in State College, I don't think he's thrilled to see Jones leave. As O'Brien said Thursday night, Jones just needed a fresh start.




Dylan from Nebraska writes: Adam, Is there a Big 10 team that could, with some help, still contend for a national title? Would a 1-loss Nebraska, or Michigan St team make it? Would an undefeated Minny or Northwestern make it?

Adam Rittenberg: It's very hard to envision any Big Ten team taking the field in Miami on Jan. 7. The problem is the Big Ten didn't do much of anything in the first four weeks to justify having a 1-loss team make the title game ahead of comparable squads from other conferences. Between Minnesota and Northwestern, I'd say Northwestern would have the better chance because it has a slightly stronger strength of schedule than the Gophers do. And while I've been impressed at what both teams have done, there's little to believe either squad will run the table, especially in the tougher division (Legends). UCLA, which beat Nebraska, already has a home loss to Oregon State, pretty much eliminating the Huskers. Maybe if Notre Dame runs the table and so does Michigan State, there would be a slight, slight chance. But it's hard to see a national title game without featuring a team from the SEC, which has won the past six championships.




Jesse from Lansing writes: Adam -- Coach Kill seems to be a great fit for Minnesota right now. He doesn't reek of that used car salesman attitude (all talk-no walk) that [Tim] Brewster brought to the U. I am really enjoying his matter-of-fact, tough-love gotcha style and the fact that he's more focused on developing his players than the previous regime. Points also for the consistency brought on by his loyal coaching staff. Say Kill is able to build back this program in the next 3-4 years, what are the chances another BCS program lures away him away? I would like to think he's happy here and would stick around for a while. The U administration has been more than generous in providing him the resources he needs to get the job done as well as the time (7-year contract, I believe). Still, Bill Snyder can't stay at Kansas State forever, and being a native Kansan, that would be another opportunity for him to say retire close to home.

Adam Rittenberg: Jerry Kill might not have been Minnesota's first or second choice, but the guy looks like the right choice for a long-suffering Gophers program. He has definitely paid his dues in coaching at the lower rankings, and he doesn't take this opportunity for granted. That said, he obviously has ties to the Kansas area. Ideally, Kill would build up Minnesota's program enough so a move to Kansas State would be more lateral than an obvious step up. I don't get the sense he's a guy who wants to keep moving around every few years, but I doubt you're the only Gophers fan who made the connection to the K-State situation. Kill won't make any move until he feels like he has built up the program sufficiently, which likely is still a few more years away.




Nick from Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Hi Adam. I am a die-hard, but very realistic Iowa Fan. Its probably taboo to make comparisons between the last 4 years of Hayden Fry's dismal career and where Kirk's career currently is. The reality is Hayden Fry recruiting significantly diminished after the Tavian Banks/Tim Dwight era which led to more losses. Ferentz had to completely rebuild Iowa. Over the last few years the talent, development has reduced with the losses increasing. Ferentz use to personally coach special teams and it showed. Since he stopped coaching them they have gone down hill ... quickly. I see him now more as a figure-head like Hayden Fry's last years. Do you see these comparisons as well? The angst is growing in Florida among the Iowa fans.

Adam Rittenberg: Nick, I can understand your frustration, and I doubt you're the only one making that comparison. While Iowa's program undoubtedly has lost momentum since 2009, I don't know if there has been a huge drop in talent. Iowa never was talented enough to overcome mistakes like running away from an onside kick or committing a dumb personal foul penalty in the closing seconds of a 2-point game. Most of Ferentz's teams have played smart, fundamentally sound football and often played above their collective talent level to win a lot of games. I don't think the 2012 Hawkeyes fit this description. It's fair to wonder if players are being developed as well as they used to in Iowa's program, but aside from a handful of recruiting classes (i.e. 2005), I haven't seen major differences in the types of players Iowa signs. I'm sure the facilities upgrades will help in recruiting, and I also think Ferentz has a lot left as a coach. But it's definitely a rough situation right now in Hawkeye Country.




Charlie from Ames, Iowa, writes: Adam, Just listened to your "Game of the Week" talk and noticed you said that Le'Veon Bell is the Big Ten's best running back. I think that's a little presumptuous to proclaim this early in the season. Based on a larger time scale (last year) and his performance in limited time this year, I'd still take Rex Burkhead. Now, I know what you're going to say. You're going to pull out the Brian Bennett card and base everything you think, do, and say on "body of work." But, this isn't directly about body of work, it's who you think is best based on all past performances and projected future performances. Although Bell will unquestionably, unless he gets hurt, finish the year with more yards than Burkhead, don't you think Burkhead deserves just as much mention for the Big Ten's best running back?

Adam Rittenberg: Charlie, my comment pertained strictly to this season. No one would argue -- aside from a few Northwestern fans -- that Bell has been the Big Ten's best running back this season. We've barely seen Burkhead, and he could turn out to be the league's top back, but he hasn't been to date this season because of the knee injury. Burkhead's overall career has been more impressive than Bell's, but I think Bell has closed the gap -- more because of what he has done lately, not because of any shortcomings with Rex's game. I will say this: Le'Veon Bell projects better to the NFL than any back in the Big Ten, including Burkhead and Montee Ball. If he keeps this up, he could be a potential first-round pick in next year's draft if he chooses to forgo his senior season.




Dave from Denver writes: Does Schlabach get paid by the SEC too?

Adam Rittenberg: Only in joy.

Gophers gunning for three little pigs

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
11:10
AM ET
In case Minnesota players weren't sure what they're playing for this week, they had a reminder every time they entered their locker room.

The Gophers have brought home the bacon -- the Floyd of Rosedale trophy -- each of the past two seasons, thanks to upset wins against Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium. For a program that had an empty trophy case for years despite four Big Ten rivalry games, winning Floyd and keeping him has been a rallying cry.

Minnesota aims to claim its third straight little bronze pig Saturday when it visits Iowa.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Kirksey
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMinnesota's Brandon Kirksey, center, carries the Floyd of Rosedale trophy last season after the Gophers beat Iowa for the second straight year.
"It'd be huge," said Minnesota senior tight end John Rabe, the only Iowa native (Iowa Falls) on the Gophers roster. "I don't know the stats on when the last time Minnesota had it for three straight years, but me being a senior, that could be something I could definitely put my legacy on, and our seniors' legacy on, just making sure we have three Floyd of Rosedale wins.

"That'd be huge for our university."

Minnesota's last three-game win streak against Iowa took place from 1998-2000, as the Hawkeyes transitioned between coaches Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. The Gophers, eying their first 5-0 start since 2004, haven't won in Kinnick Stadium since 1999.

Another Minnesota victory would signal a potential shift for the two programs. Iowa has been the much more successful team in the past decade, while Minnesota has had three coaches since 2006 and plenty of on-field flux. Despite the past two seasons, most Iowa fans thumb their noses at Minnesota and look at the past two losses as fluky. But the Gophers come in at 4-0 behind second-year coach Jerry Kill, a program repair expert, while Iowa is sputtering at 2-2 following a horrible home loss against Central Michigan.

This much is clear: the Floyd series isn't what it used to be, which is good for Minnesota.

"I remember the first time I experienced it, even though I didn't play in the game because I was redshirting," said Gophers defensive end D.L. Wilhite, referring to the 2008 game at the Metrodome. "We got beat 55-0. It was one of the low moments in school history, to be honest with you. But ever since then, it's been really competitive."

The win streak doesn't matter much to Wilhite. He just wants to keep the pig.

"It doesn’t matter if it’s the third straight, 10th straight, or we've lost five straight," he said, "you want to beat Iowa any time you get a chance to, because we hate 'em. And they hate us, too. A game like that is always important."

Rabe grew up an Iowa fan and attended a Hawkeyes-Gophers game at Kinnick Stadium as a middle schooler. He has since cut ties with the Hawkeyes ("I'm over that stage in my life now," he joked), a team that didn't give him much attention during the high school recruiting process or at Ellsworth Community College. Rabe, who ranks second on the Gophers squad in both receptions (8) and touchdown catches (3), committed to play for Kill at Northern Illinois before following him to Minnesota.

The 6-foot-4, 258-pound senior will have at least 20 family members and friends in the stands Saturday, and they won't be wearing black and gold.

"If they are, I won't be talking to them afterward," Rabe said. "I've got them all converted. I've been looking forward to this game since last year. Just really excited to go back to the home state and play at Kinnick, and hopefully keep the pig."

Despite the 4-0 start, the Gophers have their skeptics, including the Vegas oddsmakers, who listed Minnesota as a touchdown underdog at Iowa. The Gophers didn't receive a single vote in this week's AP Poll.

Perhaps minds will change if Minnesota wins in Iowa City.

Kill and his staff spent portions of two-a-days in August educating their players about the history Minnesota's rivalry games and emphasizing their importance.

"It's been important for a long time," Kill said this week. "It's important for our state as well as it is for Iowa. And so I think that it helps us understand who we are and where we need to go."

Sign language: Iowa Hawkeyes

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
1:30
PM ET


The atrium in Iowa's football complex contains trophies, banners and other items recognizing Hawkeyes history.

One of the more prominent displays honors former Hawkeyes coach Hayden Fry, who led the program from 1979-98. Fry guided the team to three Big Ten championships and 14 bowl appearances.

The display includes a bust of Fry and several pictures showing his career at the school. Next to the Fry display is a picture of "The Swarm," a tradition Fry started that calls for players to take the field together, holding hands, and led by their captains in a show of solidarity.

The Fry display is located near the entrance to the atrium, and players see it on their way to the weight room.
The Big Ten used to be the league of longevity. Good coaches almost always stuck around, often for more than a decade. No wonder the league's most famous bosses went by first names only: Woody, Bo, Joe, Hayden.

The longevity label didn't only apply in 1970 or 1980. Simply go back to December 2006.

At that point, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz was finishing up his eighth season in the job, making him the Big Ten's fifth-longest-tenured coach. Penn State's Joe Paterno, Michigan's Lloyd Carr, Purdue's Joe Tiller and Minnesota's Glen Mason all had been in their jobs longer than Ferentz.

As the 2012 season beckons, Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in the league. By far. The second-longest tenured? Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. Bielema, a 42-year-old newlywed, and Fitzgerald, who turned 37 in December, both landed their first head-coaching positions before the 2006 season.

Since January 2007, the Big Ten has said goodbye to 11 head coaches, including three -- Paterno, Carr and Ohio State's Jim Tressel -- who won national championships. Michigan, which has had six head coaches serve for 10 or more years, has made two changes during the span. So has Ohio State.

Several factors play into the league’s historic turnover at the top. Carr and Tiller retired, in part because of their teams' performances. Minnesota got fed up with Mason's middling results and then took a bigger step backward with Tim Brewster before firing him midway through the 2010 season. Indiana and Illinois made understandable changes after subpar results on the field.

The most shocking changes stemmed from scandal and involved two men with solid reputations: Tressel and Paterno. Tressel had led Ohio State to six consecutive Big Ten titles, seven consecutive wins against Michigan and back-to-back BCS bowl wins before being pink-slipped for knowingly playing ineligible players and not coming forward about NCAA violations. Paterno guided Penn State to a 9-1 mark before being fired by the school's trustees days after the child sex abuse scandal broke.

After relative quiet in 2008 and 2009, the Big Ten has had three head-coaching changes in each of the past two offseasons.

Will longevity ever become a Big Ten hallmark again? There won't be another like Paterno, but several coaches could stay in their positions for a while. Ferentz has turned down multiple opportunities in the NFL to remain with Iowa, which pays him handsomely. He could easily finish his career in Iowa City. The Iowa job is somewhat of a novelty in today’s college football, as only two men (Ferentz and Hayden Fry) have led the Hawkeyes since 1979.

Brady Hoke openly admits Michigan is his dream job. He'll be in Ann Arbor as long as they'll have him.

Mark Dantonio also finds himself in a stable situation at Michigan State, which has upgraded its program in recent years. It's not a stretch to see Dantonio finish his career in East Lansing.

Bielema and Fitzgerald also find themselves in good situations. Although Fitzgerald's name often surfaces for other jobs, he has deep roots at Northwestern in the Chicago area and intends to stay with the Wildcats for many years. Bielema played for Iowa but finds himself in a great situation at Wisconsin, and his recent success suggests he'll be in Madison for the long haul.

Bo Pelini several times has shot down rumors of his departure from Nebraska. Although Pelini faces pressure to take the Huskers to the next level, Nebraska had a great track record of stability with Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne -- and paid the price for diverting from it.

It’s too soon to tell if coaches like Danny Hope, Tim Beckman, Jerry Kill, Kevin Wilson and Bill O’Brien are keepers.

The Big Ten's most intriguing debate about longevity concerns its highest-paid and most successful coach -- Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. Although Meyer owns two national championships and has roots in Ohio, he also has hopped around and had a health scare in 2009. While Buckeyes fans celebrated Meyer's arrival, many also did so with the understanding he might not be in the job that long.

Perhaps in 2020 the Big Ten will be the league of Captain Kirk, BB, Fitz, Coach D, Brady, Bo and Urban.

More than likely, we'll be playing the name game all over again.
Joe Paterno has become a polarizing figure in recent months, but all parties would agree that he defines Penn State football.

Paterno was affiliated with the Nittany Lions program for 62 years of its 125-year existence. He served as Nittany Lions coach for nearly 46 seasons before being fired in November. And his impact is particularly significant in the program's victories total.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Michael Hickey/US PresswireAccounting for nearly 50 percent of the program's wins, Joe Paterno was the face of Penn State.
Of Penn State's 827 all-time victories in football, Paterno coached the team for 409, the most of any coach in Division I history. Other than former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who accounts for an astounding 64 percent of the Seminoles' all-time wins (304 of 475), Paterno's percentage of Penn State's wins (49.4) places him in select company. Only Air Force's Fisher DeBerry (49.1 percent) and BYU's LaVell Edwards (49.2 percent) have accounted for a similar chunk of program wins -- among FBS programs that have been around for more than 30 years -- as Paterno has at Penn State.

ESPN.com is taking a closer look at coaches this week, and today's topic examines which programs are defined by one coach. Penn State fits the description because of Paterno's long and successful career. Penn State also is unique because its program has been around so long, and while there was success before JoePa -- eight undefeated seasons between 1894-1947, a Rose Bowl appearance in 1923 -- almost all of the program's significant achievements (two national titles, 24 bowl wins) occurred on Paterno's watch.

What about the other Big Ten teams?

In terms of winningest coaches, here's how they look:

Illinois: Robert Zuppke, 131 of program's 580 wins (22.6 percent)
Indiana: Bill Mallory, 69 of 449 (15.3 percent)
Iowa: Hayden Fry, 143 of 593 (24.1 percent)
Michigan: Bo Schembechler, 194 of 895 (21.7 percent)
Michigan State: Duffy Daugherty, 109 of 638 (17.1 percent)
Minnesota: Henry Williams, 136 of 646 (21.1 percent)
Nebraska: Tom Osborne, 255 of 846 (30.1 percent)
Northwestern: Lynn Waldorf, 49 of 488 (10.04 percent)
Ohio State: Woody Hayes, 205 of 837 (24.5 percent)
Purdue: Joe Tiller, 87 of 586 (14.8 percent)
Wisconsin: Barry Alvarez, 118 of 635 (18.6 percent)

As you can see, no coach comes close to Paterno in terms of percentage of his program's wins. But this ratio is just one gauge of a program-defining coach.

Another important factor is a team's history both before and after a coach took the job. Look at Wisconsin before Alvarez arrived in 1990. The program had endured five consecutive losing seasons and had just six winning seasons since 1963. Wisconsin's previous two coaches, Don Morton and Jim Hilles, had gone a combined 9-36 at the helm.

Alvarez transformed Wisconsin into an upper-tier Big Ten program, leading the Badgers to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowl championships. His hand-picked successor, Bret Bielema, has carried on Wisconsin's momentum, but Alvarez fostered the change. He is Wisconsin football, period.

Two iconic coaches regarded by many the faces of their respective programs are Ohio State's Hayes and Michigan's Schembechler. They tied for the most Big Ten championships with 13. Hayes won the most Big Ten games (152 to Schembechler's 143), while Schembechler owns the record for best winning percentage in conference games (.850).

But both men led programs that had success under other coaches. Michigan was a national superpower under the likes of Fielding Yost (.888 career win percentage), Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler and Bennie Oosterbaan, while Schembechler never won a consensus national title. The Wolverines boast six coaches who have served 10 or more years, most recently Lloyd Carr (1995-2007).

Ohio State carved a place among the nation's elite under shorter-tenured coaches like Francis Schmidt and Paul Brown, while Jim Tressel won a national title and more than 81 percent of his games during his 10 years in Columbus.

Are Michigan and Ohio State defined by Schembechler and Hayes, respectively? Depends on your perspective. My take: both are iconic, but Hayes is more defining.

Iowa's Fry fills a similar role to Alvarez. He took over a program on the downturn for several decades and put it in the Big Ten's top half. Fry is the coach people think of when Iowa comes to mind, although his successor, Kirk Ferentz, has put his own stamp with a solid run since 1999.

Other Big Ten programs seem to fit into different categories.

Programs with two great coaches:

  • Nebraska -- Osborne (255-49-3) and Bob Devaney (101-20-2)
  • Purdue -- Tiller (87-62) and Jack Mollenkopf (84-39-9)
Programs that had its most successful coaches many years ago

  • Illinois -- Zuppke (131-81-13 from 1913-41); Arthur Hall (27-10-3 from 1907-12)
  • Minnesota -- Williams (136-33-11 from 1900-21; Bernie Bierman (93-35-6 from 1932-41 and 1945-50)
  • Michigan State -- Daugherty (109-69-5 from 1954-72); Biggie Munn (54-9-2 from 1947-53); Charles Bachman (70-34-10 from 1933-46); Chester Brewer (58-23-7 from 1903-10, 1917, 1919)
Historically weak programs with a lot of coaching turnover

  • Indiana -- No coach with career winning record since Bo McMillin (1934-47), no coach with 70 or more wins at school
  • Northwestern -- No coach with 50 or more wins at school, only one coach with tenure longer than 10 years

You could argue Zuppke remains Illinois' defining coach, even though he hasn't coached in more than 70 years. Osborne is undoubtedly the face of Nebraska's program, but is he the Huskers' defining coach? Tough to say that after looking at what Devaney did (two national titles, eight Big Eight titles).

Could any current Big Ten coach end up being a program-defining figure? None will occupy his job as long as Paterno did at Penn State. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald is just nine wins shy of Waldorf's victories mark, and he turned 37 in December. Fitzgerald's strong ties to the program, plus Northwestern's poor history and absence of coaching greats, create an opportunity should Fitzgerald have success for a long period.

What are your thoughts? Which Big Ten programs are defined by a coach, and which are not? Share them here.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

BIG TEN SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/27
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12