Big Ten: Jim Delany

Big Ten Friday mailblog

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
4:30
PM ET
Wishing you a great spring weekend (right, Mother Nature?). Join the Twitter train.

Sup?

Kevin from Pittsburgh writes: This might sound like a weird question but do you think Penn State's recruiting success this offseason will have any impact on the NCAA potentially lifting the bowl ban? There was some optimism it could be lifted for this season, if not next. But with James Franklin seemingly overcoming the other intended punishments, would the NCAA be worried about a perception of letting PSU off the hook? Stop me if I'm overthinking here but this certainly wouldn't be the first time the NCAA has made a decision based on it's own perception.

Adam Rittenberg: No, it certainly would not, Kevin. Trying to get inside the mind of the NCAA is a dangerous and often futile endeavor. My hope is any decision made about the sanctions would have nothing to do with how Franklin is recruiting. Penn State is being assessed for how it conducts itself as a program from a compliance and integrity standpoint, and the success in games or in recruiting really shouldn't matter with potentially reduced penalties. Also, the 2015 recruiting class won't impact the 2014 team, which has some depth problems stemming from the NCAA sanctions.


Jim from Albany, N.Y., writes: As a season-ticket holder who doesn't mind the 200+ mile trip for every home game, I'm wondering what Rutgers (and/or Maryland too) do to be accepted by the average B1G fan? Reading everything from "meh" to "I'm never going to attend a Rutgers/Maryland game in my team's stadium" is tough when the average Rutgers fan is thrilled about being able to take a step up. I've not read this in any of the other realignment moves in any of the conferences (except perhaps WVU in the Big 12 or Mizzou in the SEC), but not so vitriolic as the B1G boards. Comments?

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, there are a few factors involved here. Many Big Ten fans didn't want the league to expand again. Those who did wanted additions with stronger athletic traditions than Rutgers. Although Scarlet Knights football had a breakthrough under Greg Schiano, Rutgers doesn't match the historic accomplishments of Nebraska and Penn State, the Big Ten's most recent expansion additions. There's just not an obvious reason to get excited. Also, the demographic argument the Big Ten used with adding Rutgers and Maryland, while making sense on several levels, doesn't resonate with the average fan. There are also geographic and cultural differences between the traditional Big Ten footprint and the East Coast. Penn State deals with a similar divide.


B1G fan from the Midwest writes: I know I'm about to ask something blasphemous to some longtime B1G fans, but is there a name change in the conference's future? Myself included, most members of the B1G are proud of tradition and are reluctant to change. I can understand sweeping it under the rug at 11 teams or maybe even 12, but when it's at 14 shouldn't it be considered? Maybe something non number related like the SEC and ACC have.

Adam Rittenberg: It's not happening, B1G fan. Commissioner Jim Delany actually was open to a change when the Big Ten added Penn State in 1989, but the league presidents and other power players wanted the name to remain. Same thing happened when the league added Nebraska. There's too much meaning and history in that name, and while it's quite mathematically inaccurate, most Big Ten folks can live with it.

Delany and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon addressed the league name this week at an event in Detroit. Brandon said, "If you look at the Big Ten Conference, you've got brand equity that's been built over decades and decades. The Big Ten means something." So there you have it.


John from Kansas City, Mo., writes: The B1G has 6 members (Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue) located in what are considered "talent poor" states. That is half of the conference (MD and Rutgers excluded) that has to actively recruit outside of their backyard. Not to mention they all border states that have more than one FBS school. The SEC on the other hand, has 10 schools in the top 15 "talent rich" states, so it seems the recruiting soil is a bit more fertile in the South. Meyer and Franklin are obviously great recruiters but they are also located squarely in the middle of two very saturated regions and are pulling huge numbers from their immediate footprint(s). Location and population are just as big of factors in recruiting as to which coach is running the show. It seems unfair to assume the B1G coaches aren't working hard enough.

Adam Rittenberg: Some good points here, John. The population deck is undoubtedly stacked in the SEC's favor, no matter which set of recruiting rankings you trust. And you're right that Ohio State and Penn State can recruit locally and regionally more than programs like Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. I wonder if there's an extra gear that both Meyer and Franklin --as well as their assistants -- reach on the recruiting trail. I know a lot of Big Ten coaches that label their programs "developmental" and take pride in that distinction. I wonder if that approach limits how much they can push for the upper-tier recruits.


Bruce from Los Angeles writes: Simple question: If Michigan fails to win 8 games next year, Brady Hoke is fired? Yes or No?

Adam Rittenberg: A simple question, Bruce, but a not-so simple answer. If Michigan endures a wave of injuries, loses several close games in the final minute and beats one of its rivals on the road -- Michigan State, Ohio State or Notre Dame -- I think Hoke stays. Dave Brandon is firmly in Hoke's corner and doesn't want to make a change. But if Michigan remains relatively healthy, endures the same problems it did in 2013 and gets blown out in rivalry games, the pressure on Brandon could be too great and Hoke would need to go.
As soon as the Big Ten added two new members on the East Coast in Rutgers and Maryland, league officials talked about opening a second office. Now it's happening.

The Big Ten announced Thursday that it will open an office in New York that will be operational by June 1. The office will be located at 900 Third Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Three Big Ten staff members working in branding, championships, communications and compliance will work in the office, and league commissioner Jim Delany and other top officials will maintain a presence in the office as well as at league headquarters in Rosemont, Ill.

The office will host league meetings, and officials from the Big Ten and its members also will have access to a satellite office in Washington, D.C.

"With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, we have become a conference with a significant presence in two regions of the country," Delany said in a prepared statement. "While the space will be utilized full time by Big Ten staff, it will also be open to our member institutions conducting business in the city."

Opening a New York office is one of several steps the Big Ten is taking to increase its East Coast presence in advance of Rutgers and Maryland joining the league. Delany will spend much of his time in the area facilitating and promoting the additions before the two schools officially join the Big Ten on July 1.

Big Ten Monday mailbag

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
5:00
PM ET
It's Monday afternoon, which means it's time for more of your emails. Keep them coming.

S.H. Tan from Singapore writes: Now that UConn is in the championship game for both NCAA men's and women's basketball, should the B1G grab the Huskies before they fall into the clutches of the ACC? Not only will this solidify the B1G's standing as a premier basketball conference, it will give B1G an even greater presence and share of the New York/New England markets, and UConn is only a few seasons removed from the Fiesta Bowl.

Brian Bennett: Maybe Jim Delany can strike a deal before 9 p.m. ET on Monday so the Big Ten will have a chance to finally win another basketball national title. I kid, but man, the league has had some tough breaks on the hardwood. There's no doubt Connecticut is a powerhouse program in both men's and women's basketball, and the fact it will languish in the American Athletic Conference for a while is a shame. The Huskies desperately want to get in a power league, and the ACC and Big Ten are the only ones that really make sense for the school.

But Connecticut wasn't a main candidate for the Big Ten in the last round of expansion and is not really high on the league's radar now. While adding the school would open up some new TV markets in the Northeast, it doesn't really bring potentially fertile recruiting ground the way Rutgers and Maryland did. And though UConn has, unlike Rutgers, actually been to a BCS game, the football program still doesn't provide much juice to the Big Ten. Maybe most importantly, UConn is not a member of the Association of American Universities, which would be a big sticking point for conference leaders.

If expansion had anything to do with basketball, the Huskies would have found a new home by now. But as we know, it's all about football.




Alien Spartan from Somewhere In Open Space writes: While we Spartans bask in the aura of corporal appeasement -- think dominating Michigan -- I can't help feeling sorry for our in-state rival. There were so many times I hated them and now I want them to do well. As a kid, I only heard the U of M fight song on the radio. Then I graduated from MSU. I am so proud to be a Spartan! Especially now. Here's my question. Do you think Nussmeier will make a significant difference? For their sake, I hope he does. Not to the point that they beat us, though.

Brian Bennett: Up above, aliens hover, making home movies for the folks back home. (Sorry for the Radiohead nerd-out). I do think Doug Nussmeier is going to help Michigan's offense. The Wolverines talked a lot about becoming a physical, pro-style offense under Al Borges but never really came close to achieving that. Nussmeier is stressing the north-south running game and a simpler blocking scheme that I think will help give Michigan more of an identity. He also brings a lot of energy to the team that the program needed, in my opinion. The big question is whether the Wolverines have the skill on the offensive line to fully execute Nussmeier's vision, and that group still has a whole lot to prove.




Pat from Iowa writes: Could you call Iowa's 4-8 2012 season a fluke? They have never had that bad of record in more than 10 years. Many of the losses were by less than three points. And then they come back with an 8-4 record this year. Do you think they were much better than their record shows?

Brian Bennett: I wouldn't say the 2012 Hawkeyes were much better than their record showed. They earned that record, thanks to a crummy passing game and a defense that didn't intimidate anybody. Key injuries also played a big factor, as did the bumpy transition to a new offensive system under Greg Davis. And that season somehow included a win over a team that made a BCS game (Northern Illinois). So I wouldn't call 2012 a fluke, but I would say it's more of a blip on Kirk Ferentz's tenure than anything else.




Charley from New York writes: I know you two guys are constantly lobbying in your blogs for Big Ten coaches to be paid more and for Big Ten schools to spend money on sports facilities, so is it fair to assume you support a system where coaches can be paid millions while half their players don't get degrees? When you said, "but whether [Colter is] eventually viewed as a pioneer who helped improve athletes' causes or someone who brought down college sports as we know them can't possibly be known yet," it seems as if you don't understand that in order to improve the lives of college footballers, the system as we know it must be "brought down" and that you seem not to want that to happen.

Brian Bennett: It's a fair point to bring up that Adam and I often talk about coaches who deserve raises or schools that need to improve their facilities. But understand those opinions are in the context of teams trying to compete for championships in the Big Ten. The league is swimming in money from its TV deals, and so programs need to reinvest that cash into coaching salaries and infrastructure if they want to keep up. Schools are under no obligation to participate in the escalating college sports arms race, but if they want off that treadmill, then they have to stop taking the TV money and get out of big-time sports altogether.

I support college players in their quest to have a much larger voice in their sport and for them to receive a larger piece of the pie. I'm not so sure unionization is the best way to go about that. There's no question that major changes need to happen in college sports, and I think we're on the precipice of that. Do I want to see college sports "brought down?" Well, obviously, I write about college football for a living and, like most of you reading this, I am a big fan of college sports in general. There are few things better in life than a college football Saturday or the NCAA tournament. I remain hopeful that greed and arrogance don't prevent finding some middle ground that works for all sides.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is one of the smartest and most persuasive people in the sports world. If he wasn't leading the nation's richest athletic conference, Delany, who has a law degree from North Carolina, could be a fearsome figure in the courtroom.

But Delany has a hard sell ahead of him, perhaps the hardest sell of his career. He will spend much of the next three months on the East Coast facilitating and promoting the additions of new Big Ten members Rutgers and Maryland, which officially join the league July 1. The public relations blitz started last month at ESPN headquarters, where Delany appeared alongside athletic directors Kevin Anderson of Maryland and Julie Hermann of Rutgers.
Delany must get people excited about two schools that have barely moved the needle and, from my dealings with Big Ten fans, elicit more sighs and groans than the cheers that accompanied Nebraska's move to the league in 2011.

Hermann isn't helping.

The Rutgers' AD, whose hiring brought more controversy to a school reeling from the Mike Rice scandal, and whose role in the Jevon Tyree bullying allegations was questioned, is in the news again for the wrong reasons. Hermann several weeks ago told a Rutgers journalism class that it would be "great" if the Star-Ledger newspaper folded. The Star-Ledger, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, last week laid off 167 employees.

Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi outlines the exchange Hermann had in the class in today's piece:
"If they're not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they're not selling ads -- and they die," Hermann told the Media Ethics and Law class. "And the Ledger almost died in June, right?"

"They might die again next month," a student said.

"That would be great," she replied. "I'm going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive."

Hermann's comments came before the layoffs, and Rutgers said in a statement that she "had no knowledge of the impending reorganization of the Star-Ledger and drastic changes that the newspaper would announce several weeks later, in April." The statement also reads that Hermann shared her experiences "in an informal way and out of the glare of the media spotlight."

It's a journalism class! In 2014! How Hermann could think no one would record her is absurd.

I've been doing this job long enough to know sympathy for journalists is in short supply. That's fine. The people we cover don't need to feel sorry for us. The folks that read us certainly don't, and that's OK, too.

But to make light of a newspaper's potential demise is not only inappropriate, especially in a journalism class, but mean-spirited. Has Hermann received a lot of scrutiny in her job? No doubt. Has she brought on some of it herself? Absolutely. As people in her position know, it comes with the territory.

Take Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, for example. During the Tat-5/Jim Tressel/Bobby DiGeronimo scandal fallout, I repeatedly criticized Smith for his refusal to acknowledge a systematic failure at Ohio State. Our dealings since then have been cordial and professional. Smith is a veteran AD at a big-time school. He understands the scrutiny. I'd be stunned if he ever made a comment like Hermann's in a public setting.

To be fair, Hermann is a first-time AD working in a major media market. She arrived during an incredibly turbulent time at Rutgers. The pressure on her hasn't eased much during the past 10 months.

But you have to be smarter than this, especially at a time when the Big Ten wants people, including East Coast media, to get excited about Rutgers coming to the league.

Politi writes:
Maybe ripping The Star-Ledger is part of a plan to win over the Rutgers community, because a misguided faction of its fan base that blames the media for every problem in Piscataway will no doubt cheer her on.

But I'm betting more will see her comments as what they are: Unbefitting a person in a high-profile position at a major university, at a time when Rutgers needs a leader for its transition into the Big Ten.

She has declared war on the largest news gathering organization that covers her athletic department. What could possibly be gained by that?

Delany is probably asking the same question.

Big Ten's lunch links

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
12:00
PM ET
Brackets are out. Who ya got? I'll be in Milwaukee for hoops duty later this week. Excited to check out Michigan, Wisconsin and others.

To the links ...
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett occasionally will give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

As the Big Ten positions itself for a new television contract that should shatter revenue records, the subject of playing more weekday games has surfaced. There's even been some buzz about the possibility of more Friday night games, although commissioner Jim Delany doesn't expect them for a while. Still, the only major conference that has resisted many regular-season weekday days could head in that direction in the not-so distant future. Today's Take Two topic is: Should the Big Ten schedule more weekday games?

[+] EnlargeRutgers
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsHaving schools such as Rutgers play Thursday or Friday night conference games wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for the Big Ten.
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

I've been consistent on this issue since the Big Ten blog launched. More weekday games? Yes, please. I appreciate college football Saturdays as much as the next person, but the Big Ten has been missing out on certain exposure opportunities by clumping all of its games on one day, particularly in the noon ET/11 a.m. CT window. We've seen some Thursday night and Friday night games in Week 1, and Nebraska and Iowa are playing the day after Thanksgiving, but the Big Ten has largely steered clear of weekday games. The rationale: We're the Big Ten. We don't need no stinking weekday games.

That's true to an extent. Programs such as Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State receive exposure no matter when they play. Programs such as Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin also aren't starved for a separate TV window that can get more eyeballs on their product. But there's another group of Big Ten programs that could benefit greatly from these games, perhaps not in attendance but certainly in exposure. Too many games are overlooked in that Saturday morass, especially when the bigger-name teams are playing. Wouldn't matchups such as Purdue-Illinois, Minnesota-Northwestern or Maryland-Indiana get more attention on Thursday night than Saturday afternoon? I have mixed feelings about Fridays because those are big high school game nights in the Midwest, but a Friday game every once in a while isn't a bad deal.

The Big Ten has made some encouraging scheduling moves in recent months. More Saturday prime-time games are on the way, most likely in the 2014 season. More weekday games would be another good move for certain programs. Big Ten teams don't need to go overboard, but they should be open to the pluses that can come from these events.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

Saturdays are sacred. Let's just get that out of the way at the beginning. The Big Ten is right to preserve the tradition of fall afternoon kickoffs as much as possible. That's what college football is all about.

There are certain programs in the league that should never consider hosting a game on any day but Saturday, apart from opening week and Thanksgiving weekend. As part of our Flip Week series last season, I attended a Thursday night game at Clemson. Because that campus is in a small town and the stadium demands ample parking, Clemson canceled all classes on Thursday afternoon to get ready for the game. Can you imagine many Big Ten schools doing that? And there were a few thousand empty seats for that game against Georgia Tech, a rarity for the Tigers at home. Programs with large stadiums in college towns such as Penn State, Michigan and Iowa would struggle to get all the logistics in place for a weeknight, midseason game.

But it's also hard to argue against the point that college football is dictated by TV, and Thursday night games have provided great exposure. Louisville practically built itself into a power by playing any day of the week, and the ACC has benefited from Thursday games. With the Big Ten expanding to 14 teams, it's hard to squeeze all those games into a Saturday viewing period and not have some get lost in the shuffle. Programs such as Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue could really benefit from a Thursday or Friday night spotlight, even if it's just on the Big Ten Network. Rutgers is used to playing on weeknights, and Maryland is no stranger to it from its ACC days.

So why not the occasional Thursday or Friday night game? Friday games would hurt high school football, but as a once-a-year thing, they would hardly be a death knell. Keep the games on Saturdays as often as possible. But a limited dose of weeknight games can be very helpful in the right spots. More TV slots could mean more money when the league negotiates its new broadcast rights package. And these days, TV and money drive everything in college football.

Big Ten Monday mailbag

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
5:00
PM ET
Let's beat a case of the Mondays and another depressing winter storm with this edition of the mailbag. Remember to keep your questions coming, as Adam and I are both doing two mailbags per week now. Or you can always tweet us your questions.

Kyle from Madison, Wis., writes: With spring games on the horizon, we once again see the difference between the BIG and the SEC; where BIG spring games are a moderately attended sideshow that might be fun for a family, SEC games routinely sell out. Is there any way to increase interest among BIG fan bases for these games, and is there any benefit (besides, in the case of Wisconsin, raising extra money for a cause) to doing so?

Brian Bennett: I wouldn't classify Ohio State's spring game as "moderately attended;" the Buckeyes led the nation in spring-game attendance in 2012 with more than 81,000 and set a record with more than 95,000 at the 2009 event. (That figure dipped to 37,000 last year, but Ohio State moved its spring game to Cincinnati in 2013 because of renovations at the 'Shoe). Nebraska got more than 60,000 people to come out to its spring game last year, which became memorable because of Jack Hoffman's inspiring touchdown run. Penn State had more than 60,000 two years ago, and I would expect a big crowd at Beaver Stadium next month to see the beginning of the James Franklin era.

Still, Kyle is right that the average spring game attendance in the Big Ten is typically less than that of the SEC. Just check out this list from last spring. But one of the main factors on attendance at those events is weather, and of course, April weather in the Midwest can be a whole lot more unpredictable (and sometimes downright unfriendly) than it is in the South. Unlike with real games in the fall, most fans and alums don't plan for weeks on making it to a game; they look at the weather and see if it's worth it to sit outdoors and watch a practice. Spring games are a great way for fans to get a glimpse of their team during the long offseason, especially those with kids, but they're not usually all that exciting, either. And with every team's spring game available on the Big Ten Network or elsewhere, I can't blame anyone for finding something better to do on an April weekend.


Andy from Beavercreek, Ohio, writes: Does Bo Pelini's raise signal a commitment to the coach, or is it a "Hey, recruits, don't run screaming when we lose a few games" raise?

Brian Bennett: It's neither, Andy. The $100,000 pay raise Pelini got was worked into his contract in 2011 and was nothing more than a scheduled formality. The more interesting question is whether he'll get a one-year extension to keep his current deal at five years. It hasn't happened yet, but it still could. Ultimately, though, we all know that 2014 is what's most important for Pelini's future. If Nebraska has a mediocre or subpar year, athletic director Shawn Eichorst might be inclined to make a change. If Pelini can finally deliver a conference title or at least maintain the nine- and 10-win plateau without as much off-the-field drama as last year, he'll likely be safe.


Jared from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Can you think of another year where Ohio State's defense would have accounted for 30 percent of the best offensive performances of the season? I've heard the excuse that the talent was down from the norm, but you can't tell me the Buckeyes had less talented athletes than many teams that outpreformed them on D. Are you surprised there hasn't been more talk about accountability of the coaches, especially with a guy like Urban Meyer at the helm?

Brian Bennett: It was by no means a vintage year for the Silver Bullets, though most of the bad Ohio State defensive performances came in the final weeks of the season. Depth became a major issue, especially in the Orange Bowl, and I was a bit surprised some younger players such as Vonn Bell didn't see more reps earlier in the year. (Though, to be fair, the Buckeyes were 12-0 and ranked No. 2 going into the Big Ten title game). Meyer has said over and over again that Ohio State's defense has not been up to standards, especially at linebacker. He has not really criticized his coaches or defensive coordinator Luke Fickell much at all publicly, and I'm not sure what purpose that would serve. The offseason hiring of Chris Ash from Arkansas to be co-defensive coordinator spoke volumes, however, and I'd expect him to have a big role in the defense this year.


Luke B. via Twitter writes: Do you think Indiana's two-QB system can work, or would it be in IU's best interest to pick one and stand by him?

Brian Bennett: I would argue that it can work and that it did work, for the most part, last season, as the Hoosiers fielded the Big Ten's top passing offense despite juggling Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson at quarterback. Sudfeld started off the season hot but faded a little down the stretch as Roberson took on a bigger role. Sudfeld throws it a little better than Roberson, but Roberson has better wheels. Conventional wisdom suggests that you need to pick just one guy, but Northwestern had success with a two-quarterback system in 2012 and used the same plan last season. Would coach Kevin Wilson like to see one guy totally separate and command the offense this spring as the clear No. 1? Probably. But part him probably also likes the idea of having two guys push each other constantly and knowing he has an option should one struggle on gameday.


LP from NYC writes: Brian: Nobody really talks about this but it feels to me that one the reasons the B1G made the decision to expand East was to protect one of their power brands, who at the time was just given the worst penalty in the history of college sports. Now that my Nittany Lions have shocked the world, including Jim Delany, do you think the B1G brass regrets this decision even a little bit? I mean, can you imagine if they went after Carolina and Duke instead of Rutgers and Maryland?

Brian Bennett: While there were rumors of the ACC courting Penn State and it's no secret the Nittany Lions felt isolated, I don't think the NCAA penalties had any impact whatsoever on the league's decision to expand East. This was all about opening up new markets, both for TV eyeballs, new fans and recruiting purposes. That's why the Big Ten chose schools located in the highly populated New York/New Jersey and Washington D.C./Baltimore/Virginia, even if the specific programs offered nothing extra special in terms of football. North Carolina and Duke would have given the league better "brands" (though not all that much in football), but they wouldn't have created as much potential areas for growth. It's also odd to me to suggest that league officials would regret the expansion decision when Rutgers and Maryland haven't even officially joined the conference yet.

Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
5:00
PM ET
Time for my second mailbag of the week already. Just can't get enough of your emails. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter. Maybe you'll get lucky and win a fabulous prize* by becoming our 100,000th follower.

(*-offer not valid)

Grant from San Francisco writes: Jeremy Gallon's performance against Indiana is really going to be your top individual performance of the season? In your own explanation you say, "The list takes into account the difficulty of opponent and stakes of the game..." How then does Jeremy Gallon's performance against a NON-DIVISIONAL OPPONENT with the WORST defense in the league even come close to the top of the list? Were his stats impressive in the game? Yes. But the top individual performance this year, based on the criteria listed above? Not even close. The only thing that could top Connor Cook's B1GCG performance (No. 2 on your list) is his Rose Bowl performance. How does an impressive receiving performance against Indiana even compare to propelling MSU to a Rose Bowl victory against perennial national championship contender Stanford?

Brian Bennett: Yes, I took into account the stakes of the game and the opponent. But, as I went on to say in the opening of all those posts, I tried to identify "record-breaking, honor-winning, jaw-dropping games" by Big Ten players. Hey, I love what Connor Cook did in both the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl (though, as I wrote, players were limited to one appearance only on the list). And Indiana's defense was awful. But ... come on. Gallon had the second-most receiving yards in an FBS game ever. He shattered the Big Ten receiving yards record. I don't care if you're playing against air -- 369 receiving yards is an insane performance, and it was entirely deserving of the No. 1 spot.


Cody from Omaha writes: Explain to me how a team like the Huskers, who had not only the league's leading rusher, but the league leader in sacks as well as many other good skill position players, doesn't crack the individual performance top 10? You would think somewhere along the way of leading the league in those categories they would of put up a top-10 individual for a game. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: When I first sat down to make the list of top individual performances, I came up with about 20 of them. It was an incredibly difficult process to pare it down to 10, even with the caveat that players were limited to only one entry.

I really figured I would include Ameer Abdullah in there somewhere, but as I begin to narrow things down, it became clear to me that Abdullah's best trait in 2013 was his incredible consistency. He had one game of more than 165 yards rushing, and that was against Illinois' terrible defense. His 225-yard, two-touchdown performance there was impressive, but not as great as Carlos Hyde's destruction of the Illini. Abdullah's second-best rushing day came in a double-digit loss at Minnesota, and his third-best came against Penn State in a game in which he didn't score a touchdown. While I love Abdullah's game as much as anyone and remember many incredible moments, such as his fourth-down catch vs. Northwestern, I just didn't see a top-10 overall performance there.

I also considered Randy Gregory for his showing against Michigan, but ultimately it fell just outside the top 10. No offense to the Huskers; it was just an exclusive list that also didn't include many other standout performances throughout the league.


Pat from Iowa writes: How is Kevonte Martin-Manley NOT on your top 10 individual performances for returning two punts for touchdowns against Western Michigan? That is an incredible stat, even if it is against a poor opponent! Shame on you!

Brian Bennett: Let's save the shame when we're talking about accomplishments vs. Western Michigan, which finished 1-11. Those two punt returns by Martin-Manley were great, but they came against one of the weakest opponents in the FBS, and he also had just one catch for six yards in that game. Moving on.


William from Hastings, Neb., writes: I was reading your article celebrating the diversity of the B1G, and I caught myself thinking "hmm... old news." Even before Nebraska's entry into the B1G, I always respected the ability of all member institutions to not only embrace diversity, but in many cases, also be the pioneers in that respect. Granted, not always so much in football, but certainly in a lot of other sports, and the B1G really went unquestioned when it came to academic opportunities. Was I just completely off base on that perception, or does the B1G, like any other corporate entity, just need to ensure that even the work of the trailblazers be shared?

Brian Bennett: William, I think you're right that the Big Ten, for the most part, has a rich history of embracing diversity, at least in comparison to some other leagues throughout the country. Several schools were pioneers in integration, Ohio State's Gene Smith is one of the most influential African-American athletic directors and, as Jim Delany suggested, hiring minorities in basketball hasn't been an issue. Still, football is the Big Ten's premier sport, and the fact that the league did not have a single African-American football head coach for a decade was notable. Other factors such as coaching stability at several schools played a factor. The league has made progress on that front with its most recent hires, although the number of minority head coaches across the nation is still too low.


Lance S. from Greensboro, N.C., writes: While I'm happy to see more diversity among B1G football coaches, why does no one give Wisconsin credit for having a Hispanic as head football coach and/or athletic director for the past 34 years? Because Coach [Barry] Alvarez's family comes from Spain rather than Latin America, no one seems to recognize that he's a highly successful Hispanic-American. Probably good to be color-blind, but he does seem to fall through the cracks in these discussions.

Brian Bennett: A good point, Lance, and one I should have mentioned in the story. Hispanic and Latino Americans traditionally have been underrepresented in college sports.


Husker from Minneapolis writes: You wrote: "Sophomore Tommy Armstrong Jr. entered the offseason as the clear No. 1 quarterback for the first time after taking over for the injured Taylor Martinez (and splitting some snaps with Ron Kellogg III) last season." Huh? Clear No. 1? He was a Band-Aid last year and if he's going to be the "clear No. 1" he's going to have to improve exponentially from last year. In reality, it's an open competition where Tim Beck will have to pick from his 2012, 2013, and 2014 top dual-threat QB recruits. Armstrong has some game experience, but should by no means have much else above the competition.

Brian Bennett: Husker, I'll answer your "Huh?" with a "Huh?" of my own. How can you dispute that Armstrong entered the offseason as the No. 1 quarterback for Nebraska? He played in eight games last year and was 6-1 as a starter, including the bowl win over Georgia. Was he great last year? No, not even close. But as a redshirt freshman thrown into a difficult situation, he showed excellent poise. I know there's nothing fans love more than the promising backup quarterback, and maybe Johnny Stanton or Zack Darlington or A.J. Bush are future superstars. But the fact is that none of them has ever stepped foot on the field in a college game, so we have no idea. One of them conceivably could beat out Armstrong this spring or summer. Given Armstrong's huge experience edge, however, he's clearly the No. 1 guy for now.


Kamil Z. from Greenwich, Conn., writes: What's up, Brian? I just started coming here after the addition of Rutgers, and I love seeing RU mentioned on this awesome blog. My question to you is whether you plan on showing up to Rutgers for a game in the upcoming season? I believe you were there in 2009 for the opening vs. the Cincinnati Bearcats (you liked it, too, I think). Thanks.

Brian Bennett: I was there for that Labor Day opener in 2009, one of several enjoyable visits I've made to Rutgers. It's way too soon for us to know our game assignments for 2014, but I would be surprised if one of us is not at the Sept. 13 game vs. Penn State. That will be the Scarlet Knights' first-ever Big Ten game, there are not a lot of other big games that weekend and the atmosphere should be great. Save me a stool at Harvest Moon just in case.

Big Ten makes progress in diversity

February, 24, 2014
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The Big Ten likes to consider itself a leader on many fronts in college sports. Several Big Ten schools were among the first to integrate their football programs, and the first two African-American head football coaches in a major conference called the league home.

But for much of this century, when it came to football coaching diversity, the Big Ten lagged behind the rest of the nation.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/Eric Christian SmithPenn State's decision to hire James Franklin as its first African-American head football coach can't be underestimated.
After the third African-American head coach in league history -- Michigan State's Bobby Williams -- was fired late in the 2002 season, the conference went a decade without another black head football coach. The Big Ten was the only one of the six BCS AQ conferences that did not have at least one African-American head coach during that span; the SEC, by contrast, had four in the same time frame.

Thankfully, things have begun to improve. Two of the last three head coaches hired in the Big Ten -- Purdue's Darrell Hazell and Penn State's James Franklin -- are African-American.

"That's great news, to have that diversity," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "Now we just need to give them time and let them be successful where they are and develop their programs. I'm glad there is progress, and we need to continue to do more across the country."

There weren't a lot of opportunities, period, for head coaching jobs in the Big Ten during the recent diversity drought, as schools like Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State and Ohio State remained mostly stable at the top. But coaching turnover has increased in the league in the past few years; Penn State, for instance, just hired its second coach in three years after going nearly a half-century without a transition.

Was improving diversity a league-wide priority? Conference officials say no.

"What our schools try to do is hire the best coaches in their pool," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "We've had plenty of African-American basketball coaches.

"It's more about a commitment to opportunity and a fair process, and as long as our people are hiring the best people in processes that are open, you would hope and think that it would be sort of a broad representation of people. Whether you hire James Franklin or a new coach at any place, I'm not sure race should be the factor. Certainly people wouldn't want it to be a factor. It's really an outcome."

Still, it's hard not to note the importance of Penn State hiring its first African-American head football coach. More so than Dennis Green or Francis Peay at Northwestern or even Williams at Michigan State, Franklin is leading a flagship, blue-blood program. The timing was fortuitous, as the Pennsylvania native was ready for a new challenge after proving himself at Vanderbilt and the Nittany Lions needed a dynamic new leader.

“It’s a lot of significance," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. "We hired James because of the kind of person and coach he is. The fact he’s African American is great. It’s a great testimony to opportunity. A hundred years ago, that wouldn’t have happened in this country."

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Ting Shen/Triple Play New MediaBig Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the hiring process should be fair and a commitment to opportunity for all coaches.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports hasn't yet released its annual hiring report card for college football. But Richard Lapchick, the center's director, said the Big Ten's recent moves are "definitely a sign of progress." While there are only 11 FBS black head coaches heading into the 2014 season, it's noteworthy that minorities have gotten opportunities to lead storied programs like Penn State and Texas (Charlie Strong), Lapchick said.

"That's critically important," he said. "Historically, the opportunities in general that have gone to African-American coaches have been at programs that have been really down, and the opportunities to turn them around have been very problematic. Let's hope [Hazell and Franklin] are successful, because they will help create more opportunities for other African-American and Latino coaches in FBS conferences."

The next step for the Big Ten is to continue to develop and identify the next wave of minority head coaching candidates. Both Franklin and Hazell, who led Kent State for two seasons before Purdue hired him, had already established themselves as winning head coaches elsewhere, though Hazell was also a well-regarded assistant at Ohio State. The Big Ten sent several African-American assistant coaches to the annual minority coaches' forum between 2006 and 2010, and some athletic directors see it as their job to mentor young black coaches.

Smith saw Everett Withers leave the Buckeyes staff this winter to land the James Madison head coaching job and said he is spending time this offseason with running backs coach Stan Drayton to get Drayton accustomed to non-football issues like university budgets and policies.

"We want to have guys who are trained to hopefully win in the interview process," Smith said. "Sometimes, those are beauty contests. You've got to be able to answer the questions the right way and demonstrate an ability to lead."

That's the ultimate goal, to have more minority candidates who are ready when those opportunities do arise. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said that wasn't the case a few years ago, but the pool of potential coaches is increasing.

"We’re starting to see more and more diversity among the coaching staffs and up-and-coming diverse candidates in all various positions in the sport," Brandon said. "Now, we're seeing more representation at the head coaching level. That was bound to happen and important to have happen, and I'm glad to see that trend evolve."
Four years ago, the Big Ten clarified its November night games policy, saying that while a contractual provision exists between the league and its TV partners about prime-time games after Nov. 1, the games can take place if all parties are on board and planning begins early.

The message back then: We can do this, but we probably won't any time soon.

Last year, Big Ten coaches and administrators expressed greater support for night games, including those in November. League commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com he wouldn't stand in the way of such games.

[+] EnlargeGene Smith
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsIf the matchups are right, Ohio State AD Gene Smith is open to November night games in the Big Ten.
But when the Big Ten prime-time schedule came out for the 2013 season, it included no night games after Nov. 1.

Will 2014 be the year we see Big Ten football kick off under the lights after Nov. 1?

We won't know for sure until ESPN/ABC and BTN announce their prime-time schedules this spring, but there's momentum for more night games and later night games, and talks are underway.

"We're more amendable to that first November Saturday," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith recently told ESPN.com, "and I think some of us will be willing to look at that second Saturday in November if the contest is right."

Weather is still a potential deterrent for Big Ten schools to schedule night games later in the season, as it creates possible logistical problems for all involved (fans, game operations staff, police/security). But the temperature difference between late October and the first portion of November often is negligible.

The 2014 season includes Saturdays on Nov. 1 and Nov. 8.

Here are the schedules:

Nov. 1

Indiana at Michigan
Maryland at Penn State
Illinois at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Rutgers
Northwestern at Iowa
Purdue at Nebraska

Byes: Minnesota, Michigan State

Nov. 8

Penn State at Indiana
Michigan at Northwestern
Ohio State at Michigan State
Iowa at Minnesota
Wisconsin at Purdue

Byes: Maryland, Rutgers, Illinois, Nebraska

The bad news: The Nov. 1 schedule doesn't feature too many big-time games, which could decrease the likelihood of a prime-time contest, especially on ESPN/ABC.

[+] EnlargeMichigan Stadium
AP Photo/The Ann Arbor NewsMichigan likes for its night games to be major events, which could rule the Wolverines out for an early-November game under the lights in 2014.
The good news: Several of the schools hosting games that day are among the most open in the league to hosting night games. Penn State and Nebraska welcome such contests -- in part because of their pre-Big Ten history -- and Ohio State, which is installing permanent lights at Ohio Stadium for the 2014 season, has become increasingly interested. Rutgers comes from a league where you played whenever TV asked you to, and a night game against a good opponent like Wisconsin would bring some nice exposure for one of the new Big Ten additions.

Michigan wants its night games to be major events, and facing Indiana doesn't exactly qualify. Iowa hosting Northwestern is a possibility, especially since the Hawkeyes play only one other home game (Oct. 11 against Indiana) between Sept. 15 and Nov. 1.

The Nov. 8 schedule includes arguably the Big Ten's marquee game of the year in Ohio State visiting Michigan State, a rematch of the 2013 league championship. I'd absolutely love to see this at night, and what a way to kick off November prime time in the league. It's definitely a possibility, but the game also could fill the 3:30 p.m. ET window, which many Big Ten athletic directors prefer (Purdue's Morgan Burke recently called it "the sweet spot").

The Penn State-Indiana game is another potential prime-time kickoff, mainly because Indiana has been so open to night games (six in the past two seasons, nine since the 2010 season).

"We've probably had more night games than most of our colleagues in the conference," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said. "We think it's a good thing for us, it helps our attendance. We're certainly open to that, and my guess is that will be more of a trend."

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas echoes the support for night games, noting that several Big Ten ADs and coaches previously spent time in the Mid-American Conference, where playing at night and on weekdays, especially late in the season, is common.

"We experienced all of that in our past lives," said Thomas, who served as Akron's athletic director from 2000-05. "We talk about the opportunities for the prime-time windows and where we are as individual schools and as a conference in having that kind of exposure.

"I would certainly support it."

Many of Thomas' colleagues seem to be on board. Smith said the athletic directors last week spoke about moving up the timetable for prime-time selections so they can begin promoting games. Prime-time schedules typically have been announced between April 20 and May 15.

"We're putting in lights because we've realized that we can handle night games," Smith said. "In 2006, we were a little bit skittish about it. We know our fans love it, so we've shared with the conference that we're amenable to having more. There's a novelty to it. That helps us with our atmosphere.

"It makes things really exciting."
After the Big Ten approved Maryland and Rutgers as future members in November 2012, league commissioner Jim Delany described the additions as "an Eastern initiative with a Penn State bridge."

The Big Ten is about to cross that bridge, put down roots in another region and brand itself as a truly national league. And despite lingering concerns and criticism from some corners of the conference about the new look, there's no turning back now.

"We’re probably as close to a national conference as there is in terms of demographics and alumni and national reach," Delany told ESPN.com. "It was a great Midwestern conference, and now it's a conference that's much broader."

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Ting ShenCommissioner Jim Delany sees the Big Ten as a national conference.
There was a "theme of national" this week as Big Ten athletic directors and football coaches met at the league's new headquarters in Rosemont, Ill. The meetings focused in part on the integration of Maryland and Rutgers, who had ADs and coaches in attendance even though neither program can vote on league matters until officially joining the Big Ten on July 1.

The Big Ten likely will open a second office in New York next month, as well as a satellite office in Washington D.C., Delany said. The New York office will have some full-time staff. Delany will spend much of the 100 days leading up to July 1 on the East Coast to facilitate and promote the transition.

"There's going to be great synergies here," he said. "They both are great universities with missions that mirror ours. They're in powerful geographic footprints. ... When I think about Penn State as a bridge and think about New Jersey and New York and Maryland and DC and the commonality, as you talk to athletic directors and coaches, there's an awful lot of, 'We're in the same club.'"

Delany's national theme resonated as Big Ten ADs and coaches reviewed a new bowl lineup that includes games in Florida, California, Tennessee, Texas, New York and Michigan. They also discussed the upcoming College Football Playoff and the selection committee with Michael Kelly, chief operating officer of the playoff.

The Big Ten is trying to reach a larger audience, Delany said, and after some missteps with the integration of Penn State in the early 1990s, the league wants to ensure its next bridge to the East Coast has a stronger foundation.

"We're so much more sensitive to working at this," Delany said. "We want to get people to adopt the Big Ten. That means come to New York, play games in DC, play games at [Madison Square] Garden -- play, live and build on a broader scale. It's where you recruit students, where you play bowl games, where your television games go.

"We have 30 percent of the population, 15 percent of the territory, but we're not constrained to that. We have a national look."
The Big Ten is opening a new Eastern frontier with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers as its 13th and 14th members. When it comes to expansion, however, this is getting to be old hat for the league.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
Elsa/Getty ImagesAdding new conference teams has become old hat for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
The conference just went through the expansion process three years ago with Nebraska, and commissioner Jim Delany and many of his senior staff were in place when Penn State gave the Big Ten its first Eastern toehold in 1990. So league officials expect smooth sailing when the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins come aboard on July 1.

"I think we’re in a pretty good place," Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner told ESPN.com. "We've sort of approached Rutgers and Maryland as we approached Nebraska three years ago: we acclimate them, help them, welcome them and integrate them. And then, we really go forward and don’t look back."

Rudner said constant communication is a big key in making for a pain-free transition. Since the two schools received their official invitations in November 2012, their coaches and administrators have attended every major conference meeting and have had a voice in such things as football scheduling and division alignment, though neither school has a vote yet. Maryland and Rutgers sent their coaches and athletic directors to Big Ten meetings that were held this week in Chicago.

"It’s been a pretty intensive period of trying to acclimate them to a new culture, a new system," Rudner said. "There have been lots of questions, lots of answers and lots of collaboration."

The biggest difference in this round of expansion vs. the addition of Nebraska, Rudner said, is just that the schools are in the East this time. The Big Ten learned a lesson when it added Penn State but left the Nittany Lions on a metaphorical island. That's part of the reason the league is opening an East Coast office, which is still in the works.

Another key difference lies in the football pedigree of the two schools. Nebraska and Penn State entered the league as established powers. Rutgers and Maryland still have a lot to prove in that regard. Many doubt whether the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights will do much, if anything, to boost the Big Ten football reputation, but this move is about more than just what they bring on the field.

"In the last 10 years, both teams have certainly had measures of success in football," Rudner said. "It's hard to evaluate what kind of impact they’ll have in the short term. But I think in the long term, absolutely, it will have an impact on our football. We’re going to want to have that strong East Coast presence, and it just opens up another valuable recruiting area for Big Ten football."

Maryland fans will still have to get used to life outside the ACC, while Rutgers will be making a major step up from the American Athletic Conference. There are bound to be some bumps in the road. But Rudner doesn't think those will be hard to overcome.

"I really don’t see a whole lot of overwhelming challenges facing either them or us," he said. "Both institutions are very Big Ten-like."

Big Ten Friday mailblog

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
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Time to check the inbox for another weekend of frigid temperatures! Can you feel the excitement?

Don't forgot to follow us on Twitter.

In 3, 2, 1 ...

Sam from Nashville writes: Do you think the B1G would ever allow the title game to be in a central location outside of "B1G Country"--like Nashville or Louisville--or is the conference's "SEC inferiority complex" too great? LP Field is big, new, actually outdoors, and warmer in December -- plus, it's only a 13 hour drive from the B1G's peripheral schools. Indy, by comparison is a 10-hour drive, and Chicago is 12.

[+] EnlargeMichigan State Spartans
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsIt's hard to imagine the Big Ten title game not utilizing Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Adam Rittenberg: While I'm sure LP Field is great, and that Brian Bennett would love to have the Big Ten title game in his home city, I don't really see the point of moving the game outside league borders. It has nothing to do with the SEC. Would the SEC ever play its title game in Indianapolis? Of course not. It has a great thing going in Atlanta. Fans love it, schools love it. Why mess with it? The Big Ten would be doing a major disservice by moving its game to Nashville or even Louisville when Indy or Chicago work much better for most fans.

Ndamukong Suh from The House of Pain writes: You give no credit from my Huskers beating OSU in 2011. You make excuses that that year OSU was just mediocre, not saying that you are wrong here, but some credit belongs to Nebraska for gutting out the win. I can make the argument that the B1G got Nebraska aboard during one of its historic low points. From 2002 through 2013 Nebraska has been at its lowest win percentage since 1951 to 1961 (64 percent). That is good enough to tie for third-best win percentage with Iowa, only OSU (75 percent) and Wisconsin (70 percent) are higher in the B1G. So why do you insist on belittling that victory over the Buckeyes in 2011? The real difference between Nebraska and the top of the B1G is the turnovers. Granted it is part of the game, but when the Huskers do get a handle on that there isn't a team in the conference that they cannot compete with and beat.

Adam Rittenberg: If this really was Suh, I'd be entering the Witness Protection Program. Sure, I'll give Nebraska some credit for a historic comeback against Ohio State, but to use that win in an argument why Nebraska is all of a sudden going to dominate the Big Ten West Division rings hollow. Nebraska has some decent wins since joining the Big Ten. It also has had some stinkers, none more so than in the 2012 Big Ten championship game. As to Nebraska's historic low period, so what? Nebraska is down (according to you) and Ohio State was down in 2011, so that game really doesn't matter. I agree completely with your last points about the turnovers holding back Nebraska and the fact the Huskers can compete with anyone. I never said they couldn't.

TM Ryan from Evanston, Ill., writes: Adam: Will the Big Ten continue with a football championship game? It sounds like the SEC's game is the only true moneymaker (always sold out) among all conference title games and with the playoff coming in, the game allows for a playoff contender to pick up a late loss which can eliminate them from the playoff. Seems like there isn't much to gain any longer.

Adam Rittenberg: There are certainly downsides, Ryan, but I think the Big Ten title game will be a moneymaker in most years, like the SEC's. It certainly was last year with two top 10 teams squaring off. If the selection committee puts emphasis on winning your league, which it says it will and which Jim Delany is fighting for, the game will have significance in the playoff picture. There will be some years where the Big Ten champ doesn't go to the playoff, but in most years, the Rose Bowl will be on the line, too. So there's more at stake -- and more money to make -- in having the game.

A.P. from East Lansing, Mich., writes: I'm sure you've heard/seen the incident with Cass Tech QB Jayru Campbell. I fully expect Mark Dantonio to take his offer back. While this is disappointing (since he was a 4-star recruit), do you think this will affect anything for MSU moving forward in terms of recruiting? We'll be fine in the QB position because we'll have Damion Terry and possibly Connor Cook, too. What are your thoughts on the whole incident?

Adam Rittenberg: It's always disappointing to see an incident like that, especially involving someone who has a promising future at stake. Michigan State surely will wait to see if charges are filed against Campbell -- nothing has come down yet -- and will want to know all the details. But it certainly doesn't look good for a recruit who has had other issues with violence and plays a position where you need discipline and maturity. Michigan State seems set at quarterback for the next few years either way.

Samuel from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam, just finished reading about the continuing troubles with Penn State's AD. Which has brought me back to a question I've had for awhile. Why are AD hires not more high-profile news? Who are these guys who decided who will get millions, who will recruit the teams of the future? A lot rides on the B1G's ADs, and they are mostly enigmas to me.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsNo Big Ten coach in the BCS era fashioned better defenses than Mark Dantonio.
Adam Rittenberg: It's a good point, Samuel, but in general we care a lot more about coaches than those above them. The coaching searches in the pro sports are similar, while general manager hirings usually aren't huge news (unless you live in Chicago and the Cubs hire Theo Epstein). Texas' somewhat recent AD hire generated some buzz, and like Dave Joyner, Steve Patterson has some baggage. Penn State's situation certainly was unique after the scandal, and Joyner certainly isn't your typical AD hire, especially for a program that large.

Mac from As Far South While Being Considered North writes: Who were the best offensive-minded and defensive-minded coaches in the B10 during the BCS era? My pick for defensive mind is Mark Dantonio for what he did at OSU in 2002 and MSU the past four years. I found offense a little more hard to pick, my thoughts were Jim Tressel, Bielema and Lloyd Carr. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: It's an interesting topic, Mac, although some of your picks for offense are off base. Bret Bielema is a defense guy (former coordinator at Kansas State and Wisconsin), while few would describe Jim Tressel and Lloyd Carr as offensive geniuses. My pick would be Joe Tiller at Purdue. He changed the game in the Big Ten with his spread system and had tremendous success early in his tenure. Dantonio would be my pick for his accomplishments both as a coordinator and head coach in the B1G. I'd mention Norm Parker, too, as he did a great job as Iowa's longtime defensive coordinator.

King from Los Angeles writes: You told Brent from Iowa that "It's a what-have-you-done-lately type of deal." to support putting Nebraska ahead of Iowa. But a few questions down, you told Kenny from Nebraska that "Wisconsin ended the season poorly but had a better, more consistent squad than Nebraska for much of the season." Doesn't that contradict each other?

Adam Rittenberg: I can see how it might be interpreted that way. I should have used different language. It comes down to which team I/we think is better at that moment if they played. Despite Iowa's convincing win against Nebraska five weeks earlier, I would pick Nebraska if the two squared off today after seeing both in bowls. And I'd pick Wisconsin to beat both.
As the Big Ten prepares to officially welcome new members Rutgers and Maryland on July 1, the league is mobilizing to increase its brand in the valuable Northeast corridor.

The Big Ten will now regularly play games in Piscataway, N.J., and College Park, Md., and will likely be a bigger presence at neutral-site venues like MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and FedEx Field in Maryland.

But the Big Ten's signature football event, the championship game, likely isn't leaving the heart of the league.

The league hasn't started receiving bids for football title games in 2016 and beyond -- the 2014 and 2015 contests will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis -- but feedback gathered from top athletics officials and faculty representatives last fall suggests the event will remain in the center of the conference footprint.

"We believe it makes more sense perhaps to be more centrally located rather than moving that around to avoid a bad geographic matchup," Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia told ESPN.com.

Indianapolis has successfully hosted the first three title games and qualifies as a central location. Chicago's Soldier Field is another option, and centrally located cities such as Detroit and Cleveland also could be in the mix. The Big Ten considered bids from both Indianapolis and Chicago in 2011 before settling on Indy to host the championship game from 2012-15.

There's no firm timetable as to when formal discussions for future title games will begin, although there could be some when the Big Ten's joint group -- consisting of athletics directors, senior female administrators and faculty representatives -- meets again in February. The group met in the fall and concluded that keeping the game centrally located makes sense because only two schools participate and they aren't known until the week before the event. Those views were relayed to the league's presidents and chancellors, who met in Indianapolis after the championship game.

"Say you have an Indiana-Nebraska game at a New York- or a D.C.-type location, or if you had Purdue-Maryland and you had that in Minneapolis -- is that a good deal?" Traviolia said. "In talking through those things, we think football in the central region probably makes sense, and basketball, if we want to move around and be both in the East and the Midwest, basketball is probably the sport to do that."

[+] EnlargeMark Meyers, Lawrence Thomas, Trevon Pendleton
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesThe Big Ten title game, played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis through 2015, is likely to stay centrally located in 2016 and beyond.
The Big Ten men's and women's basketball tournaments have rotated between Chicago and Indianapolis -- and most recently Hoffman Estates, Ill., for the women's tournament -- throughout their existence. Both tournaments will take place in Indianapolis in March, before going to Chicago/Hoffman Estates in 2015 and back to Indy in 2016.

It's much likelier the basketball tournaments will take place in newer areas than the football championship.

"They're all-comer tournaments because you have all 14 teams that are going to be playing in them," Traviolia said. "Regardless of where you place it, you're going to have a team or two that basically will be a home team, whether it's Indiana and Purdue in Indianapolis or whether it's Maryland in D.C. or Rutgers and Penn State in New York."

Groups from both Indianapolis and Chicago have expressed interest in hosting football title games for 2016 and beyond. The Chicago group has enhanced its profile with the formation of a sports commission that helped promote last March's Big Ten basketball tournament, which set an attendance record at the United Center (124,543 fans during four days).

Sam Stark, executive director of Chicago's sports commission, told ESPN.com that the success of the Big Ten basketball tournament helped the city land other major college sports events like the Frozen Four in 2017 and the NCAA men's gymnastics championships in 2018. Although there's some concern about holding the football title game outdoors at Soldier Field, there's much more that goes into a selection.

"The game and the venue is probably the easy part," Stark said. "Most of the opportunity lies in the development and the enhancements of programs and the brand you can create in the community. Soldier Field, they could host any event. A lot of it comes down to community building."

Indianapolis has a lengthy track record of hosting major sporting events, which is the main reason why the Big Ten selected the city for its first five football championship games (commissioner Jim Delany praised the city for delivering "turn-key events"). Indiana Sports Corp, the city's sports commission, has had discussions with the Big Ten about future football title games after receiving positive feedback about the first three events, particularly the most recent one in December.

"We love working with the Big Ten, we love hosting these 12, soon-to-be 14, schools," said John Dedman, vice president of communications for Indiana Sports Corp. "They're still making some timing decisions on their end. We know that here, sometime in the near future, we'll be looking to secure [future games]."

While it's likely the basketball tournaments will continue to rotate -- both Indianapolis and Chicago want to be in the mix -- the football title game also could move "around our central region" after 2015, Traviolia said.

"There's nothing in stone," Traviolia said. "Based on how our discussions with different venues go and how our internal planning goes, it may be ripe for more advance discussions with our schools come February, or it may not."

Maryland's messy departure from the ACC has taken another turn, as the school has filed a $157 million lawsuit against its soon-to-be former league alleging, among other things, hypocrisy.

According to Maryland, ACC members Pittsburgh and Wake Forest made contact with two Big Ten institutions about at least two league members moving to the ACC. Maryland is trying to avoid paying a $52.3 million fee to exit the league. Its countersuit is for three times the exit fee because damages are tripled in antitrust lawsuits. The Maryland attorney general called the ACC's recruiting attempts "a competitive reaction" to Maryland's exit and hypocritical for the ACC to attempt to lure schools from the very league to which it is losing Maryland.

Most Big Ten folks don't care too much about Maryland's ACC issues, but it's interesting that the ACC attempted to pry away at least two Big Ten schools. Who are they? Maryland's counterclaim doesn't name the Big Ten schools, only saying that they're located east of the Mississippi river. That eliminates Nebraska, Iowa and half of Minnesota.

All signs point to Penn State as one, but the other(s) remain a mystery.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany declined to comment about Maryland's counterclaim, citing the ongoing legal proceedings. Both Wake Forest and Pitt declined to comment when reached by The Baltimore Sun.

It's a little amusing that of all the ACC schools, Pitt and Wake Forest would be the ones sent out to recruit members of the Big Ten, a league with more money and exposure than the ACC. Isn't that like sending two graduate assistants to pursue Jameis Winston?

As colleague Heather Dinich notes, Maryland already has lost two important decisions against the ACC. But both sides are digging in, as Maryland prepares to join the Big Ten officially on July 1.

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