Big Ten: Jim Mandich

Big Ten lunch links

May, 2, 2011
What a Sunday night in America, and Big Ten students were part of the celebration here and here.

B1G Friday mailblog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ten lunch links

April, 27, 2011
As the Big Ten world turns ...
There was sad news Tuesday as Jim Mandich, a former All-American tight end at Michigan, died after a fight with bile-duct cancer. Mandich was 62.

Mandich served as a captain for Michigan in 1969, as the Wolverines upset Ohio State and advanced to their first Rose Bowl in five seasons. He went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, winning two Super Bowl championships with the Miami Dolphins and one with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mandich, inducted into Michigan's Hall of Honor in 1994 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004, played for the Dolphins' undefeated 1972 championship squad.
"Jim was a Michigan Man in every way," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a prepared statement. "He did so much for our football program and our University as a student-athlete, supporter, donor and ambassador of positive energy. ... He was a legendary player and an even better person. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family as they grieve the loss of a great husband and father."

Mandich was part of the Dolphins' broadcast crew for 17 years after his playing career ended.
"I was sad to hear about Jim’s passing," former Dolphins coach Don Shula said in a statement. "I know he fought a courageous battle, but that was typical of his fighting spirit. When I think about Jim, I always looked at him as a guy who was bright, well prepared, and competitive. He was someone who I could count on as a player and was instrumental in the success we had during his time with the Dolphins. Mary Anne and I want to pass along our condolences to his wife, Bonnie, and the rest of his family."

Mandich was diagnosed with cancer in early 2010. Asked by The Detroit News last November if he still had time to follow Michigan during his cancer fight, Mandich replied, "Are you kidding me? Of course I care about that stuff. To the point of irrationality. It will always be Michigan first, cancer second."

For more on Mandich's passing, click here and here and here and here.