Big Ten: Mack Brown
Rutgers reeling them in
Rutgers likely won’t dethrone Michigan and Ohio State from the top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings when its move is official, but the way the Scarlet Knights have been recruiting for the Class of 2014 certainly has to give fans reason for excitement.
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They also represented two of the sport's better bargains.
Bielema and Dantonio are ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in salary among Big Ten coaches in 2011. Both men have since been bumped down a notch after Ohio State hired Urban Meyer at $4 million per season.
Dantonio has won 22 games the past two seasons, translating to $165,000 per victory. Texas' Mack Brown, meanwhile, the nation's highest-paid coach at $5.2 million per year, earned $800,000 per victory during the past two seasons.
Bielema commands a slightly higher salary (approximately $2.5 million), although he has earned his keep at Wisconsin, averaging 10 wins per season during his six-year tenure as Badgers coach. Bielema boasts four seasons of 10 or more wins.
A similar track record in the SEC almost certainly would result in a salary of more than $3 million annually.
Speaking of the SEC, nine of the league's 12 coaches earned $2.5 million or more in 2011. Bielema's salary would rank 10th in the expanded 14-team SEC, while Dantonio's would rank above only Kentucky's Joker Phillips.
When it comes to coaches who bring the biggest bang for the buck, Dantonio and Bielema top the chart in the Big Ten.
Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald also has been a coaching bargain so far. A first-time head coach who took over after the sudden death of Randy Walker in 2006, Fitzgerald has guided Northwestern to a record four consecutive bowl appearances and 7.2 wins per season during the past five years. Fitzgerald received a new contract last spring that reportedly puts his salary at $1.8 million annually (Northwestern doesn't release salary figures). Before the extension, Fitzgerald made in the neighborhood of $1.2 million, putting him near the bottom of the Big Ten.
Who else fits the description? Keep an eye on Michigan's Brady Hoke. The former Wolverines assistant took his dream job in Ann Arbor without signing a contract, and when one was finalized months later, it showed Hoke earning just $2 million in his first year. While Hoke's six-year deal goes up in compensation -- he'll average $3.25 million if he completes the contract -- it still puts him below some of the coaches at name-brand programs in the SEC and the Big 12.
Several other Big Ten coaches could turn out to be bargains, including new Penn State boss Bill O'Brien, another first-time head coach who agreed to a five-year contract that pays him $2.3 million annually. Minnesota's Jerry Kill, Indiana's Tim Beckman, Indiana's Kevin Wilson and Purdue's Danny Hope are also among the lower-earning major-conference coaches.
But when it comes to best bang for the buck, Dantonio and Bielema are at the top of the list.
Don't be surprised if they're taking a similar picture in December.
Nate from Easley, S.C., writes: I really like the idea of a spring scrimmage but, other than injuries, I have one major concern. The current system is slanted towards benefitting those with a good pre-season ranking, so, if voters took the results of a glorified scrimmage into account, wouldn't it further skew the pre-season rankings? (Granted, voters pre-season ranking are already perception-based and not entirely accurate.) Said another way, do you think a scrimmage "Win" would take on more value than player development? Would two highly perceived teams want to to scrimmage if it hurt their stock going into the season?
Adam Rittenberg: Nate, this is a good question. Let me first say I despise preseason rankings. As much fun as is it to see where teams that haven't played games for nine months are subjectively rated in August, it really hurts a sport where there's such limited access to the national title game. My solution is to release the first polls about Oct. 15, but I don't know if it'll ever happen. That said, my hope is that spring scrimmages wouldn't have an overly significant impact on perception. Most teams aren't going to scrimmage their top players for very long, or risk injury to their starting quarterbacks. You can glean a few things about depth, potential breakout players, etc., but how a team performs in these scrimmages wouldn't be a great indicator of how good they'd be in the fall. So my hope is that the perception factor wouldn't be there, and it wouldn't affect whether teams scrimmage or how the polls turn out.
A.J. from Madison, Wis., writes: I agree that Wisconsin needs someone to step up on the defensive line, as well as more speed in general on defense, but I'm not sure I understand the criticism of the lack of receivers. Last year, did the Badgers have anybody we knew about other than Nick Toon? The fact is they almost never run formations with more than two receivers, and I don't think it will be hard to find one player to fill that role between Jeff Duckworth, Kenzel Doe, A.J. Jordan, or anybody else that could potentially step up.
Adam Rittenberg: A.J., I agree that Toon was the big name entering 2011, but Jared Abbrederis also had shown promise after recording 20 receptions in 2010. Wisconsin felt pretty good about Abby, and while some might not have expected him to match Toon's production, he and Toon looked like a solid 1-2 punch. You're right that Wisconsin rarely uses more than three wideouts at once, and with tight end Jacob Pedersen back, along with Abbrederis, the Badgers should be OK. But if either guy gets hurt, I'd be very concerned. Duckworth made a great catch in the Big Ten title game, and he could be that next man in. Yet he and the others have a lot to prove. Mannaseh Garner is another intriguing player. Ideally, Wisconsin wants to be able to go four or five deep at receiver, so it'll have insurance if there are injuries.
Ryan from Lincoln, Neb., writes: In every practice update I read the players talk about the attitude or "swag" this team is carrying with them this spring. Is that something you can sense with them? Also, how big do you think the strides Taylor Martinez has taken actually are? Thanks Adam!
Adam Rittenberg: Definitely, Ryan. I felt Nebraska was a confident team last spring, particularly on defense, but the Huskers' swagger seems to be reaching another level this year. They feel they have greater chemistry and camaraderie now, and it can't hurt that Bo Pelini and his staff have recruited everyone in the program. They also feel they'll be able to execute their schemes a lot better on both sides of the ball. Nebraska talked a lot last season about how different its two-gap defense is from what we see in the Big Ten. But for various reasons, including the first go-round through a new league, the advantages within the scheme didn't surface as often as most folks thought. There's a much greater comfort level on offense, as Nebraska is not only in Year 2 as a Big Ten member, but Year 2 of coordinator Tim Beck's scheme. Spring is always a time to be hopeful and optimistic, and you should want your team to have high expectations. Will Nebraska be projected as a national title contender outside Lincoln? No. But the players and coaches are shooting for that goal, and if a few things fall right, you never know.
Jon from Murfreesboro, Tenn., writes: I'm not an Iowa fan, but if I was, I would be expecting more from the program. With the amount of money Ferentz is getting paid and the minimal success he has had there, I just don't get it. Is there a coach in the Big Ten who is getting paid so handsomely for doing less than Ferentz? In 13 years in Iowa City he's had 4 ten win seasons and 2 conference titles, not exactly killing it. Outsider looking in, it sure seems like Iowa is just throwing cash at him and accept his mediocrity in the hopes that he stays and doesn't bolt for one of NFL jobs his name gets rumored about every year.
Adam Rittenberg: Jon, this is one of the topics I want to address when I'm in Iowa City this week. The thing that jumps out to everyone nationally about Iowa is Ferentz's salary. People acknowledge the wins totals, which are pretty respectable, but wonder why Iowa can't get more despite paying its coach top-10 money. With Iowa, you have to look at the bigger picture. There are some inherent disadvantages there, namely location for recruiting, that will always make it tough to be consistently elite. Iowa has some tradition, but it doesn't have the national allure of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska. What Ferentz can sell is the ability to get players to the NFL. The pro personnel evaluators love Iowa, and if you're a good recruit with the potential to get a lot better in college, Iowa isn't a bad place to go. But it's certainly fair to expect more from Ferentz, especially at a time when Wisconsin, a comparable program, has reached back-to-back Rose Bowls. As for the constant NFL buzz, it has worked in Ferentz's favor with the school. But Iowa also doesn't want to become a North Carolina or a Washington State, programs that backslide after losing successful coaches (Mack Brown, Mike Price).
Andrew from Harrisonville, Mo., writes: I love the blog Adam, especially your coverage of the Huskers. And when I was watching your video with Ben Cotton, I noticed how much bigger he was then you. Do you feel small when your in a room full of football players?
Adam Rittenberg: No doubt, Andrew. Clearly bad genetics. It's especially tough with offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends and wide receivers. It's why I'll miss guys like Edwin Baker and Jay Valai -- I was at eye-level with them. If your team has a lineman or a tight end who looks about my height on the videos, you might want to get worried.
Chris from Chicago writes: Given the relative depth/speed at linebacker and the trouble developing a consistent pass-rush with the D-line, did you get any indication during your visits to Evanston that Northwestern might be shifting to a 3-4? Seems like it might be well employed there....
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, it's interesting. When Pat Fitzgerald first became head coach, he mentioned several times on record that the 3-4 was the team's future on defense. But the plans have changed, and I don't see the 3-4 on the horizon in Evanston. Although the coaches feel they've upgraded the athleticism at the linebacker spot, there aren't many proven players aside from the three returning starters (David Nwabuisi, Damien Proby and Collin Ellis). Although the defensive line has some major question marks after recording a league-low 17 sacks in 2011, I get the sense the coaches like their depth there and expect better things this fall. The fact is Northwestern's linebacker play has dropped off a bit after a nice run in the first part of the last decade. I don't know if this is the time to make a switch to the 3-4.
Goldy Gopher from the Frozen Four writes: Do you see Optimus Prime (Rasheed Hageman) having a breakout season making the Gopher run defense respectable?
Adam Rittenberg: Ah, Ra'Shede Hageman. How long have we been hearing he's on the verge of stardom? I remember former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster raving about Hageman a few years ago. Perhaps this is the year he turns the corner, and Minnesota could really use a dominant pass-rusher to emerge. He's a specimen at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, and he delivered a big hit at a recent practice, but he has only 18 career tackles in 20 career games. So he's still very much unproven in my eyes. But he's only a redshirt junior, so he has time to make strides, and should be better off in the second year under coordinator Tracy Claeys. Minnesota should be OK at linebacker, but it needs several players to make big strides up front and in the secondary. Hageman could be a building block for the Gophers.
Zac from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, when will ESPN choose the B1G night games?
Adam Rittenberg: It varies each season, Zac, but the primetime schedule usually comes out in late April or early May. Last year, it came out on May 19, a little later than usual. But there's a larger demand for night games now, and the Big Ten is dealing with ABC/ESPN and the Big Ten Network making picks. I'll bug my pal Mark Rudner in the Big Ten office and see if I can get him moving. So many great choices this year!
Bryan from Michigan writes: Adam,What are the odds of Michigan beating Alabama the first game on the year and then going undefeated for the next 11 games and then wining the big ten championship game and then playing for the national title.
Adam Rittenberg: The Alabama game provides an excellent barometer for Michigan. Are the Wolverines on the cusp of being elite again, or were they a good team with a great record in 2011? We should find out a lot at JerryWorld. People can talk all day about the players Alabama has lost, but any time you beat the Crimson Tide under Nick Saban, it's a signature win in my book. I regard Saban as by far the best coach in the nation, and the Alabama program as a notch above the rest. Looking for an elite program in a competitive environment? Look at the Tide. So if Michigan can beat Alabama, the sky's the limit, although the Wolverines' road doesn't get easier with trips to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. It'll be tough to go undefeated with this schedule.
Alden from Chicago writes: Adam, Do you see potential for a budding rivalry between Michigan State and Wisconsin? As a huge Michigan State fan, I'm starting to feel it a bit. I see it possibly as a third obviously behind Michigan and Notre Dame. But perhaps it'd be more from Wisconsin fans at this point. Things are kind of building between the programs and we've clashed on several occasions. In recent history: Michigan State beats Wisconsin in 2010, but Wisconsin finishes ahead of Michigan State in the BCS and steals the Rose Bowl berth. Michigan State beats Wisconsin on a game ending (rocket) pass for a touchdown. Now, the rematch game in the first B1G Championship, and if this is as tough and close a game as we all expect, I can see some real animosity between the schools over it. If Michigan State loses and falls all the way down to the Outback bowl, I'll hate Wisconsin for beating us just as much as I'll hate Michigan for getting a BCS spot ahead of us. If Michigan State wins, I would expect them to hate us for stealing what was supposed to be their special season. Especially after Russell Wilson was draft... I mean, went to Wisconsin after his time at NC State. Countning down the hours to kickoff!!!
Adam Rittenberg: Bring it, Alden! Love the new rivalries that are building in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin-Michigan State certainly fits into the category. Michigan State always will hate Michigan, and Notre Dame is a great rivalry, but to have another true rival within the Big Ten would benefit the Spartans, who won't ever be Michigan's No. 1 rival. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has the rivalry with Minnesota, but the Gophers' struggles have taken the edge off of the game in my view. The Badgers have a more competitive rivalry with Iowa, but Michigan State certainly has to be rising to that level after the close games between Mark Dantonio and Bret Bielema.
Dan from Omaha writes: Can you imagine Bo Pelini and Mike Stoops on the same sideline?!? Refs will be bringing earplugs to every game! In all seriousness, I like the idea of Stoops, but if not him, who else would you potentially see filling this position?
Adam Rittenberg: It would be rather awesome, Dan. Most intense sideline in America, at least when the defense is on the field. Bo should make a play for Stoops, but it will be interesting to see who else he pursues to fill his big brother's shoes. Would Pelini try to get Mike Ekeler back? Ekeler left for a co-coordinator post at Indiana, and the Hoosiers' defense really struggled this year (110th nationally), but he did a nice job as a position coach with the Huskers and seems like a coach on the rise. There also could be some very good defensive coaches available from Penn State (Tom Bradley, Larry Johnson, Ron Vanderlinden) or Ohio State (Jim Heacock).
A-Duke from Waterloo, Wis., writes: Based on what metrics is Trent Richardson having a better year than Montee Ball?
Adam Rittenberg: Really none, Duke. Richardson's receiving numbers are a bit better than Ball's. But the eye test comes into play when voters are evaluating both backs, and Richardson plays in a league viewed as better than the Big Ten. His performance against LSU, even in a losing effort, strengthened his case immensely for the Heisman. But it would be a travesty if Ball didn't at least get an invitation to New York. He'll be on my Heisman ballot. Where he is depends a lot on how he performs Saturday night.
David from Wilmette, Ill., writes: Adam, with the bowl selection coming up shouldn't the NCAA rule on the OSU sanctions before the selections so that if they do a bowl ban for this year it will not mess up the fans travel plans as well as negativity impact the Bowl the Buckeyes are chosen to? If they do not rule until after is that a sign of no bowl ban?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, David. With the process taking so long, it appears any bowl ban handed down would apply to future seasons rather than this one. Ohio State has said all along it doesn't expect a bowl ban, but you can bet the Buckeyes would rather accept one for this year than in future seasons. I can't imagine the NCAA would hand down a bowl ban for this season after Sunday's selections for the reasons you outline.
John from Pasadena, Md., writes: I thought only 2 teams from any one conference can be eligible to play in BCS bowl games? If Georgia beats LSU, they win the automatic berth from the SEC. How could Alabama and LSU still play for a national title in this case?
Adam Rittenberg: John, first of all, I didn't know there was a Pasadena in Maryland. Think I'd rather spend New Year's Day at the other one, but thanks for your note. Here's the deal: if LSU and Alabama finish 1-2 in the final BCS standings, no matter what LSU does Saturday, those two teams go to the title game. Georgia would gain the SEC's automatic berth to the Sugar Bowl, but LSU and Alabama would head to the championship if they're 1-2 in the BCS standings.
Jason from Dallas writes: Illinois, Texas A&M, Ohio State and others have realized that 6-6 is not acceptable (despite bowl bids) and have fired their coaches. Any chance Purdue does the right thing and fires Danny Hope and goes after Purdue Alumn Kevin Sumlin? Purdue at 6-6, not having beat anyone with a winning record, should not be acceptable either, even if they get to go to a bowl.
Adam Rittenberg: Jason, I'm stunned you're writing to me rather than gearing up to see the Boilers play in your home city, as they're looking likely for the TicketCity Bowl. Listen, I understand your frustration about Hope, and you're not alone. But the team did take a step forward this year, albeit a small step, and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. This is a team that also lost its starting quarterback (Rob Henry) weeks before the opener. Purdue fans should expect more and Hope will need to produce next year, but this isn't the time to make a change. Hope has had no luck on the injury front and has only been in this position for three seasons. As for Sumlin, while he's an alum, I'd be surprised if he chose Purdue over some of the other options he'll have.
Jim from Cape Giradeau, Mo., writes: Adam, I can't believe that coverage of Saturday's game hasn't included one of the most obvious storylines -- Keshawn Martin is kryptonite to the Badgers. Jet sweep/double reverse -- touchdown; drag route over the middle -- touchdown; punt return -- touchdown; 85 yard pass -- touchdown. Maybe you could correct me if I missed a few. I expect the national media to be unawares, but I thought you would have been all over this. Please comment.
Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I touched on this a bit with discussing how Wisconsin has to avoid a special teams breakdown (citing Martin's TD return from last year), but you bring up a great point about how much No. 82 has tormented the Badgers. He's one of the fastest and most dangerous offensive weapons in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin has to make sure Martin doesn't enter the open field. Almost impossible to catch him. Wisconsin ranks 58th nationally in punt return yards defense (7.63 ypr).
Herky from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Adam, If you take out the 2009 season which appears to be a flash in the pan, Kirk Ferentz is a very average 36-27 overall. If you take into a consideration a generally fluffy non-conference schedule each year, then I'm sure he's closer to .500 in the last 6 years or so. Before Urban Meyer joined the league, Kirk was the highest paid coach in the B1G. Is his seat getting warmer and warmer by the year? As a Hawks fan I love Kirk as a coach, but I also love being nationally relevant and beating teams that we should beat. Is Kirk's Iowa career winding down or is he safe for awhile given the amount of support he has from Hawkeye faithful? Can he get us over the hump to be a B1G contender every year?
Adam Rittenberg: Herky, you're overlooking the stretch from 2002-04, when Ferentz's Iowa's teams averaged 10.3 wins. But I totally see your point, and you're not the only Iowa fan who feels this way. A lot of people struggle to see why Iowa pays its coach like a top 10 program but doesn't get the top 10 results on the field that often. I've supported Ferentz and his salary, as I think Iowa could become like Washington State (Mike Price) or North Carolina (Mack Brown) if it doesn't pay its coach top dollar. But Iowa fans also deserve more 9- or 10-win seasons than they're getting. Does Ferentz wield too much power at that university? Probably. Has he upgraded the program? Without a doubt. But there should be more pressure to produce because a lot of coaches could win 6-8 games a year at Iowa for less money.
Adam from Atlanta writes: Hey Adam,Quick question PSU stated they want the next coach to be a man of integrity...how about Mike Sherman? He turned A&M around and had a top 10 recruiting class coming in...plus he has some ties to the Midwest coaching in Green Bay.
Adam Rittenberg: Sherman hasn't coached college football in the Midwest for a very long time -- he was a GA at Pitt and also coached at Holy Cross. No direct ties to Penn State. I wasn't very excited when Texas A&M hired Sherman, and while I agree with others that he got a raw deal in College Station, his team really didn't impress this season after all the hype. He certainly is an accomplished coach, but I don't see this happening. We'll see.
Will the Badgers also lose the architect of their dominant offense?
We should find out soon. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst returned to Madison on Tuesday after interviewing with Texas about its offensive coordinator vacancy in Austin. He hasn't said anything yet about his intentions.
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
It’s almost certain Chryst had an offer in hand before departing. Given the way Texas coach Mack Brown has hired coaches in the past, it’s unlikely Chryst and his family would have been flown down without an offer being made.
Given Chryst’s track record and his contentment with his current job, it seems likely he would give UW coach Bret Bielema the chance for a counter offer. Whether the Badgers could do enough to convince Chryst to stay remains to be seen.
It is believed the Longhorns will pay up to $1 million for the right offensive coordinator. Chryst has a compensation package worth $361,094 for the current school year but Bielema and athletic director Barry Alvarez are working on a new deal.
Chryst will get a nice raise if he stays at Wisconsin, but there's no way UW will pay a coordinator $1 million. I can't fault a guy for getting paid, and we know Texas can pay big bucks. Then again, Chryst and his family are in a good situation at Wisconsin, his alma mater.
Chryst didn't have a great Rose Bowl as a play-caller, but he was outstanding for much of the season as Wisconsin put up historic offensive numbers. Although the Badgers don't run a flashy offense, they run a very good one with a very good coach calling the plays.
It would be a big loss if Bielema has to replace Chryst.
That's Good with a capital 'G.'
Celebrity sightings are part of the deal out here, and Henry's pre-bowl highlight came when he met actress Meagan Good.
"You guys probably don't know her, but in the African-American community, she's very, very popular," Henry told reporters Wednesday. "And this young lady is as good as advertised."
"It was definitely an honor to meet her," Henry added. "She actually gave me a hug as well, so that was pretty nice."
Henry's story prompted a media member to do some research.
Reporter: Aaron, I just Googled Meagan Good, so I can understand your excitement.
Henry: Yes, sir.
Henry and fellow Badgers safety Jay Valai provided plenty of entertainment in Wednesday morning's media session.
Valai, a 5-9, 205-pound sound bite, weighed in on several topics.
Here are a few of Valai's pearls of wisdom:
On leaving his home state of Texas for Wisconsin: "No. 1 party school, No. 1 college sports town and No. 9 education. I said, 'Hey, you live once, why not Wisconsin?' It's been a great move, except dealing with that cold, cold weather. Not good for my African blood. Besides that, it's all good."
On Texans vs. Sconnies: "Wisconsin people, they're pretty strong no matter what's going on. They have your back and stuff like that. Being a [Dallas Cowboys] fan, I've done this up and down, I get upset real quick. We're used to winning so much, we get angry real quick after one game, one loss and they'll be all over you. But Badger fans, they're Packer fans, they're not going to kill you, they'll still support you. Texas people, we're a little more hot blooded."
On Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema: "He's the man around Madison. You see him out, he's all dressed up. He's a good dude. Sometimes it's better to be a bachelor in your life. ... Only reason he gave me a scholarship is because I had long arms after he saw how tall I was."
On whether he would have gone to Texas if offered: "Yeah, probably so, I'm not going to lie to you. Texas is done recruiting their junior year and then everybody else is left for the pickings. Coach [Mack] Brown picks his, and the rest of us mortals got to go to other schools, simple as that."
On the Wisconsin weather: "I remember this: They said we'll never go outside and practice if it's below 40. 40 degrees and lower we'll never be outside. Yeah, about 17 degrees and we were outside. I felt like a bunch of knives were being stabbed in my hands."
On whether Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien is unathletic: "I think he doubled his career yards in rushing the other day in practice. He had a little 15-yard scamper. He would have slid, too, but I think he wanted to dive for it again."
Good times with Wisconsin's safeties.
Record: 5-1 (1-1 Big 12)
National rank: No. 16 in BCS standings, No. 14 in AP poll, No. 13 in coaches' poll
Last result: Lost 20-13 to Texas at home
News to know: Last Saturday's matchup lost it edge with Texas' early-season struggles, and apparently Nebraska lost its edge, too. After annihilating Kansas State, Nebraska stumbled against the hated Longhorns, who jumped out to a 20-3 lead and handed Husker Nation another dose of disappointment. Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez saw his stock drop as he completed only 4 of 12 passes and racked up only 21 rush yards on 13 carries against Will Muschamp's defense. Then again, T-Magic got no help from receiver Niles Paul, who was heckled after dropping two touchdown passes, or Rex Burkhead, who also dropped a TD. "They had more pressure on them today than us, and that's unusual," Texas coach Mack Brown said after the game. "I thought their fans hung in there with them. But I could feel some of their fans, when we got up 10-0 thinking, 'You've got to be kidding, not again.'" Ouch. Texas might get the last laugh in this tense rivalry. Nebraska looked rattled and came down to earth a little bit, although the Huskers still seem like a good bet to reach the Big 12 championship game. They face another big test this week against undefeated Oklahoma State.
Up next: Saturday at No. 14 Oklahoma State
I can't remember how many times I heard Brewster mention Minnesota's 18 Big Ten championships and six national championships, never mind the fact that neither event had happened since 1967.
Brewster knew the bar needed to be raised in Minneapolis. You couldn't blame him for aiming high. Why else would the school fire a coach (Glen Mason) who consistently made bowl games?
When he stopped winning in September and October this season, his days became numbered. And after Minnesota lost its sixth consecutive game Saturday at Purdue, dropping to 1-6 on the season, the school pulled the plug on the Brewster era.
Brewster went 15-30 at Minnesota and 7-18 since November 2008.
"While I appreciate the passion and commitment that Coach Brewster has shown, it is clear that a change in the leadership of Gopher football is necessary," athletic director Joel Maturi said in a prepared statement. "We have high aspirations for our football program and we are not satisfied with its current direction. The results so far this season have been unacceptable and the program has simply not shown enough improvement over the past three and a half years to continue with the status quo."
Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Horton will take over for Brewster on an interim basis. I hate to see lame-duck coaches in college sports, so this seems like the right move.
Firing Brewster only cost Minnesota $600,000, a buyout lowered in his recent contract extension.
Brewster never lacked passion, and his recruiting abilities as a former Mack Brown assistant showed at Minnesota. I loved the way he upgraded Minnesota's schedule, which had been a joke during the Mason era, and added showcase nonconference games against teams like USC.
But he also showed too many signs of a first-time college head coach.
His decision to replace veteran offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar and switch from the spread to a pro-style offense didn't pay off. He replaced Dunbar with an NFL assistant in Jedd Fisch whose complex concepts flew over the players' heads. Brewster kept shuffling his staff, a formula that rarely works in a sport where sticking to your guns usually is the way to go.
Minnesota is the first FBS program to make a coaching change in 2010, and the school now begins what could be an extensive coaching search. There are some dream candidates Minnesota can pursue (alum Tony Dungy, former assistant Kevin Sumlin, Mike Leach) and some more realistic ones (Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney).
It will be interesting to see how much control Maturi has in the search since he was the one who hired Brewster.
Minnesota is a challenging job, but it's a better job now with a beautiful on-campus stadium to sell.
There are no excuses why Minnesota shouldn't be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, building toward the high bar Brewster set but never could reach.
Minnesota has significantly upgraded its nonconference schedule during Brewster's tenure, adding the likes of California, USC, North Carolina and Oregon State. The Gophers no longer live in Cupcake City in September like they did under Glen Mason.
That's why it was disappointing to see Minnesota's two-game series against Texas canceled Wednesday. The Gophers had been scheduled to host Texas on Sept. 19, 2015, and visit Austin on Sept. 17, 2016. Minnesota attributed the cancellation to "a contract impasse concerning video rights," which relates in part to Minnesota's commitment to the Big Ten Network.
School officials didn't hide where they think the blame lies.
Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi told the Associated Press, "It’s extremely disappointing. The kind of agreement we could not come to is the same agreement every other school on our schedule agreed to. Every other school in the Big 12 agreed to this."
Maturi added: "We have a signed agreement. If we wanted to go to court, we’d win. But that’s not our style."
"I'm extremely disappointed that Texas has chosen not to play us," Brewster, a former Texas assistant who cut his teeth under Longhorns head coach Mack Brown, said in a prepared statement. "This was very unexpected, considering we had an agreement in principal. Our fans and our team were excited to play Texas. Obviously, they weren't as excited about playing us. We plan to fill that slot in our upcoming schedule with a quality BCS opponent."
Minnesota has a bit of a cushion to fill the vacancies, and here's hoping Maturi and Brewster add a solid team from a major conference. I doubt the replacement will carry the prestige of Texas, but Minnesota should continue its aggressive approach to scheduling as it tries to enhance its national profile.
As we all know, Ferentz won the award, his third after claiming the honor in both 2002 and 2004. Tressel amazingly has never won the award despite leading Ohio State to six Big Ten titles, a national title, seven BCS bowl appearances and a 59-13 mark in conference games since he took over as head coach in 2001.
Let the record show that I endorsed Ferentz for the 2009 award, though I wouldn't have made a fuss if it had gone to Tressel. I cited Iowa's ability to overcome a brutal road schedule and several key injuries as primary reasons why the award should go to Ferentz. Plus, Ferentz and his assistants regularly take average recruits and turn them into All-Big Ten performers.
"Ferentz had so many things working against him this season, namely a brutal road schedule and several unfortunate injuries. ... Ferentz readily admits Iowa isn't the most talented or deepest team in the Big Ten, but he and his assistants got the most out of the Hawkeyes this fall. ... Tressel deserves to win this award one of these seasons, and he did a great job turning things around after Purdue and worked his November magic yet again. I'd be happy for Tressel if he got the nod tonight, but the honor should go to Ferentz."
So how does the NFL draft change this, if at all?
Well, Iowa had six players drafted, including a first-round pick in left tackle Bryan Bulaga, a second-round pick in linebacker Pat Angerer, two third-round picks in cornerback Amari Spievey and tight end Tony Moeaki, and a fourth-round pick in linebacker A.J. Edds.
Ohio State, meanwhile, had its weakest draft in recent memory. The Buckeyes had no players drafted in the first three rounds and only one, outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, drafted before the seventh round.
The draft also mirrored the 2009 All-Big Ten selections, which included only two first-team selections from Ohio State (safety Kurt Coleman and guard Justin Boren) and five first-team selections from Iowa (Bulaga, Spievey, Angerer, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and safety Tyler Sash).
Despite having a weak senior class, at least according to NFL potential, and one of his least decorated teams at Ohio State, Tressel won another Big Ten title, not to mention a Rose Bowl championship.
Did he deserve the Coach of the Year Award over Ferentz?
I've heard plenty from both fan bases on this topic, and I'll attempt to summarize the viewpoints.
Ohio State fan argument: It's ridiculous Tressel has never won the award despite dominating the Big Ten since his arrival. Why should he get penalized for Ohio State recruiting well and being the preseason favorite all the time? Look at the 2009 season. Iowa had more than twice as many first-team All-Big Ten selections, and a much stronger NFL draft class. And Ohio State still beat the Hawkeyes head-to-head to win the Big Ten championship and then the Rose Bowl. This was one of Tressel's best coaching jobs, and if he can't win the award in a year like this one, he'll never get it. O-H!
Iowa fan argument: It's ridiculous that Tressel has never won Big Ten Coach of the Year, but Ferentz deserved the award in 2009, just like he did in 2002 and 2004. Look at where Iowa's recruiting classes rank next to Ohio State's year after year. Ferentz consistently does more with less talent, while Tressel wins the league because he has the most gifted recruits. It goes back to recruiting and player development, and a coach should be judged by what he does with players after they come under his watch.
Both sides bring up great points, and both coaches certainly did enough to deserve the award last fall.
I took a look at who was winning Coach of the Year in other conferences. Specifically, I wanted to see how often the award went to the coach from the dominant team, or the team that recruited the best.
- Pete Carroll won Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors three times during his dominant USC tenure. He claimed the award outright in 2006 and shared it with Washington State's Bill Doba in 2003 and UCLA's Karl Dorrell in 2005.
- Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has won Big 12 Coach of the Year four times, while Texas' Mack Brown won his second award last season. The Sooners and Longhorns have dominated the league in the last decade.
- Florida's Urban Meyer has never won SEC Coach of the Year, making him the closest parallel to Tressel. Nick Saban has won or shared the award three times, once with LSU and twice with Alabama.
- Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer won back-to-back ACC Coach of the Year awards in 2004 and 2005. Beamer and the Hokies have been the league's dominant team since moving over from the Big East.
This shows that dominant head coaches can win Coach of the Year awards in their leagues, although Tressel and Meyer both have been passed over.
Pretty much everyone agrees that Tressel deserves this award, but unless Ohio State takes a nosedive on the field or in recruiting, his drought likely will continue.
Six Big Ten head coaches participated this year: Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Michigan's Rich Rodriguez, Illinois' Ron Zook, Indiana's Bill Lynch, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Minnesota's Tim Brewster.
Let's take a quick look at the notable selections from each coach's ballot.
Jim Tressel's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Oregon at No. 7, Ohio State at No. 8, Iowa at No. 9, Penn State at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 15, USC at No. 25.
Rich Rodriguez's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Texas at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Oregon at No. 8, Penn State at No. 9, Iowa at No. 10, West Virginia at No. 18, Wisconsin at No. 20.
Ron Zook's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Texas at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Penn State at No. 10, Iowa at No. 11, Wisconsin at No. 17.
Bill Lynch's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Texas at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Iowa at No. 9, Penn State at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 16, Northwestern at No. 24.
Mark Dantonio's ballot: Texas at No. 1, Alabama at No. 2, Cincinnati at No. 3, Ohio State at No. 7, Penn State at No. 9, Iowa at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 18, Central Michigan at No. 25.
Tim Brewster's ballot: Texas at No. 1, Alabama at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Iowa at No. 9, Penn State at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 23.
- Dantonio and Brewster were two of only four coaches to rank Texas at No. 1 (Idaho's Robb Akey and Nebraska's Bo Pelini were the others). Brewster coached under Mack Brown at Texas and has a son, Nolan, who plays safety for the Longhorns.
- Only three of the six Big Ten coaches voted Iowa ahead of Penn State despite the Hawkeyes' head-to-head victory Sept. 26.
- Brewster ranked Wisconsin much lower than his Big Ten colleagues (think there's a rivalry there?).
- Lynch was the only Big Ten coach who voted for Northwestern. Louisiana-Monroe's Charlie Weatherbie ranked the Wildcats at No. 19.
- Ohio State received its highest ranking (5) from a Michigan guy, LSU head coach Les Miles. The Buckeyes' lowest rating (11) came from South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, who ranked Iowa at No. 10.
- Penn State ranked anywhere from 8 to 13, with the lowest votes coming from Eastern Michigan's Ron English and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.
- Iowa ranked anywhere from 8 to 18, as Washington State's Paul Wulff clearly didn't think much of the Hawkeyes. Stanford's Jim Harbaugh ranked Iowa 16th.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Any discussion about Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz always traces back to his salary.
Let's be clear: college football coaches' salaries are out of control, swelling from the excessive to the absurd, but the fact that Iowa shells out more than $3 million a year for Ferentz really seems to strike a chord.
|Stephen Mally/Icon SMI|
|Kirk Ferentz owns a 75-53 record during his time as Iowa's head coach.|
Critics argue that Ferentz doesn't regularly challenge for national titles. They note that he has won only two Big Ten championships in 10 seasons as Hawkeyes head coach (2002 and 2004). They bring up the program's struggles both on and off the field between 2005-07, culminating with a wave of player arrests in 2007 and the early part of 2008. They say Ferentz's name looks out of place among the list of the 10 highest-paid college coaches.
And in some ways, they're right.
But they're also missing the bigger point.
By paying big bucks for Ferentz, Iowa distinguishes itself from comparable programs that lose good coaches to powerhouses and prevent long-term continuity and stability. Ferentz is the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten behind Penn State's Joe Paterno, and he's one of two men to lead Iowa's program in the last 30 years. He knows Iowa inside and out after serving as an assistant from 1981-89, and he has helped to shape the culture of an overachieving program.
Iowa faces several inherent obstacles outside of its control, namely a small in-state recruiting base. Well-compensated coaches like Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, Urban Meyer and even Jim Tressel make comparable salaries to Ferentz, but they recruit locally in California, Texas, Florida and Ohio, four of the more fertile states for top-level talent. The challenge for Ferentz in Iowa is much, much more daunting.
Under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have been bowl eligible in each of the past eight seasons. They have appeared in five January bowl games since 2001 and have finished in the top half of the Big Ten in seven of the past eight seasons. They've had their hiccups, like in 2007, but it hasn't been the all-out disasters recently witnessed at Notre Dame, Michigan and the like.
At 5-0, Iowa is off to its best start under Ferentz, earning a No. 12 national ranking heading into Saturday night's showdown against Michigan (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).
For the most part, Ferentz doesn't just get the most out of his players, he gets more.
Look around the country as talent-stocked teams like Cal and Florida State implode at the first sign of trouble. Then look at the way Iowa rallied from 10-0 deficit on the road against Penn State at night to win the game based on defense, special teams and a ton of mental toughness.
To many, Ferentz's credentials don't translate into a $3 million salary, but consider the alternative. If Iowa doesn't pay, it could turn into Louisville or North Carolina or Michigan State or Washington State, programs that went downhill after losing successful coaches (Bobby Petrino, Brown, Nick Saban, Mike Price). Coaching change really stings, and some programs never recover.
Iowa has avoided the same fate.
Ferentz is in a great situation at Iowa. His name always comes up in talks for NFL coaching vacancies, and while he always leaves the door slightly ajar, he maintains his loyalty to the Hawkeyes. He uses his leverage, and he consistently gets rewarded.
What's so wrong with that?
Iowa might never be able to consistently compete for national titles, but by being a big-time payer, the school at least acts like a big-time player. So far, the approach has paid off.
Minnesota once again proved Friday that it's willing to set a higher standard for nonconference scheduling in the Big Ten.
On the eve of its matchup against No. 8 California, Minnesota finalized a two-game series with national powerhouse Texas. The Gophers will host Texas in 2015 and travel to Austin in 2016. Minnesota also added a two-game series against Navy in 2019 and 2020.
The Texas series had been in the works for some time. Gophers head coach Tim Brewster served as an assistant to Mack Brown at both North Carolina and Texas from 1989-2001.
“It’s another great opportunity to help ourselves, facing two great teams like Texas and Navy,” Brewster said in a statement. “It creates tremendous excitement with our fan base, our players and in recruiting."
Brewster and athletic director Joel Maturi have been aggressive in nonconference scheduling, adding teams like Cal, USC and now Texas to future slates. It's a refreshing philosophy in a league still too prone to cupcake scheduling.
Here are Minnesota's updated schedules for 2015 and 2016.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Three months after finalizing a home-and-home series with USC, Minnesota could be adding another national powerhouse to its upcoming schedule.
Minnesota is in talks with Texas about scheduling a series. The Star Tribune reported Friday that Minnesota and Texas have agreed to a home-and-home series with the dates still to be determined, and a Gophers team source told me this morning that the Texas series will happen.
But Minnesota spokesman Garry Bowman said that no contract has been signed. The schools have been talking but "nothing is imminent," Bowman said.
Golden Gophers head coach Tim Brewster spent 13 years as an assistant for Texas head coach Mack Brown, the final three seasons in Austin. Brewster takes a bold approach toward nonconference scheduling -- a departure from his predecessor Glen Mason -- and has wanted to add the Longhorns to the Gophers' slate.
Minnesota will face USC in 2010 and 2011, and it's highly unlikely the Gophers would add a second elite opponent to the slate. The Gophers also are scheduled to face Colorado in 2012 and 2013, so the Texas series might have to wait until 2014 at the earliest. Texas' future schedules include UCLA and Mississippi in the next few years but feature no nonconference games for 2014 at this point.
Whether or not the Texas series works out, you have to love Minnesota's approach. Certainly there's risk to playing powerhouse teams like USC and Texas, but these games provide great opportunities and attention for a program that needs it.
With Michigan State beefing up its nonconference slate earlier this week, perhaps the Big Ten is turning a corner on the scheduling issue and giving its fans the games they want to see.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
You won't find Jim Tressel's name among the 16 players and two coaches elected to the College Football Hall of Fame earlier today in New York. The Ohio State head coach wasn't even on the ballot this year.
But Sporting News columnist Dave Curtis thinks Tressel deserves as plaque in South Bend right now, and it's hard to argue with him.
College football recently amended its policy of having no active coaches in the Hall of Fame to allow active coaches 75 years or older to be inducted. Obviously, the rule-makers had Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden in mind, and the two legends have been enshrined.
Curtis contends that Tressel, 56, who doesn't seem like the type to coach into his seventies and eighties, deserves a spot right now.
Tressel belongs with the greats in coaching. He deserves a place next to Bowden and Paterno and his father, Lee Tressel, who won 155 games in 23 seasons at Division III Baldwin-Wallace. Put him with Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce and (gulp) John Cooper, his predecessors at OSU. Given his accomplishments, there's no need to wait longer.
Need more than the wins and the championships at two levels? The guy has taken the Midwest's flagship program to four straight BCS bowl games, the second-longest active streak in America. He's 83-19 with the Buckeyes, including 7-1 against archrival Michigan. And despite brushes with players-taking-cash scandals at Youngstown State and Ohio State, it seems Tressel boasts 100 advocates for every critic.
It would be nice to see the College Football Hall of Fame follow basketball's lead and honor some of the game's top coaches while they're still working (and presumably in decent health).
I don't want to see younger, prodigy-types like Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops just yet, but I'd have no problem with coaches 55 or older like Tressel, Texas' Mack Brown, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and USC's Pete Carroll getting into the Hall right now.