Big Ten: Mark Emmert

I caught up earlier today with Maryland coach Randy Edsall, who has some very interesting thoughts on recruiting reform as well as how to better assist athletes during their playing careers.

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyRandy Edsall would like an overhaul of how scholarships are offered by programs.
Edsall's biggest initiative is to slow down the scholarship offer process. He wants to see no offers, written or verbal, extended to recruits before Sept. 1 of their senior year in high school. He also wants all offers of scholarships or financial aid to come from the institutions, not from football coaches. Written offers currently can't be sent out until Aug. 1 before a prospect's senior year, but there are no regulations on verbal offers.

The setup, in which Edsall admits he participates, but hates, has coaches extending verbal scholarship offers to prospects in eighth or ninth grade. They're doing so primarily because others already have. There are major questions about academic development, athletic development and where they fit in on rosters, questions that can't be answered when prospects are barely in high school or, in some cases, still in middle school.

"I have my iPad right here and this is crazy: I’ve got a board of 2015, 2016 and 2017, guys that we’ve offered in 2017," Edsall said. "I don't even know what my own roster will be like in 2017. The day and age of developing players is going by the wayside. Because now a kid comes in and if he isn't what somebody thinks they are in a year or two, 'You've got to transfer. Time for you to get out of here.'

"The number of decommitments, the number of transfers we have, that have skyrocketed in the last five to eight years. We have an issue, so let’s sit down and take care of the issue."

Edsall recently discussed his ideas with NCAA president Mark Emmert, specifically the need to have full-time national oversight devoted to football issues like this one.

"You can't let the institutions try to decide this," he said. "You've got to have people talking about these issues and make sure you get out ahead of these things. What's happened is you didn’t have anybody and that's why we're where we're at today."

Edsall also weighed in on the athlete experience, in light of the Northwestern unionization ruling earlier this week.

"Look what’s happening with Northwestern," Edsall said. "The kid [former quarterback Kain Colter] said they wanted to bring me here for athletic reasons, not academic reasons. Well, yeah, there's validity to that when we’re out here offering kids when they’re eighth, ninth and 10th graders. It's based on their athletic ability. It's not based on who they are as students because you don't have enough information."

The basic parameters of an athletic scholarship haven't changed since Edsall played quarterback at Syracuse in 1976. But back then, seasons were 10 games and players went home in the summer.

"It's still room, board, books, tuition and fees," he said "We've increased the games, we've increased their time commitment, all those things, but we have not done anything for the student-athlete. I can see how they ruled in the student-athlete's favor to unionize."

Edsall would like to see money going toward player personnel departments, of which more college teams are establishing, instead go toward increasing the value of athletic scholarships.

"You have a pro model at the college level," he said. "Eliminate that stuff and put the money back into your student-athletes you have on campus. Make the scholarship cost of attendance with all the extra things that have been added to their plate."

Edsall makes a lot sense here. What do you think? Let me know.

NCAA trying to unring sanction bell

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
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NCAA president Mark Emmert can explain until he turns Nittany Blue that the NCAA eased its sanctions against Penn State as a reaction to the university's good behavior. And on its face, that's true. Penn State has begun implementing the change in athletic culture that the NCAA demanded when it threw the Nittany Lions under its jail for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The decision to begin restoring football scholarships, Emmert said in a hastily called teleconference Tuesday, is "solely a recognition of the very good work that has been done by the Penn State leadership and their willingness to drive change."

But the decision to begin restoring football scholarships to head coach Bill O'Brien is a tacit acknowledgment that the NCAA sanctions constituted an overreaction that diminished the organization in the eyes of its member schools and the public. That sound coming from University Park, Pa., is a bell unringing.

Here's the meat and potatoes: instead of three more years of granting 15 initial and 65 total scholarships, O'Brien will be allowed to restore five per year in each category. Penn State will return to the NCAA maximum of 25 initials in 2015-16, and a team limit of 85 the following year. The other sanctions -- the $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban and the five-year probation -- remain intact.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said the decision followed the recommendation made by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, the Independent Athletics Integrity Monitor appointed by the NCAA to oversee a change in the Penn State athletic culture.

The decision is, Emmert said, "solely a recognition of the very good work that has been done by the Penn State leadership and their willingness to drive change."

To read the rest of the story from Ivan Maisel, click here.

NCAA responding to winds of change

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
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NCAA president Mark Emmert didn't see the boulder sitting behind him on that July day when he announced unprecedented sanctions against Penn State.

But it was there, waiting for someone to get it rolling.

The bungled Miami investigation gave it a good tap, followed by a decent shove from Ed O'Bannon and, finally, the last bit of oomph, courtesy of Johnny Manziel.

Now the NCAA isn't so much Sisyphus, helplessly rolling the boulder back up the hill, as it is an ant, watching it tumble at full blast and scurrying away in the hopes of not getting steamrolled.

While explaining the decision to reduce the scholarship penalties against Penn State, Mark Emmert insisted this was unprecedented action for unprecedented circumstances.

Nothing the NCAA does can be taken in a vacuum. As much as the organization likes to preach about individual cases and unique decisions, it is, as it also likes to remind us, a membership organization. Its actions -- or more accurately its reactions -- always encompass the greater good.

This decision says as much about where the NCAA is today as the tough stance taken just 14 months ago defined the organization then.

There is less of an appetite for a punitive and righteous NCAA than there ever has been. The public doesn't want cheaters, but it has seen how the collegiate sausage is made and doesn't like the current rule book any more than the cheaters. From APU arm bands to dissecting investigative reports, the culture has changed and changed dramatically.

Between those shifting tides, jabs and body blows from frustrated conference commissioners, and lawsuits coming at it from every angle -- O'Bannon on behalf of athletes, the Paterno family on behalf of Penn State -- the NCAA is at a critical crossroads that may end up as a fight for its very livelihood.

To read the rest of the story from Dana O'Neil, click here.

 
CHICAGO -- It's not Jim Delany's style to simply restate the party line. The Big Ten commissioner has always been one to step out on his own.

Wednesday, he took the ongoing discussion about the NCAA one step further.

Delany didn't echo the pointed criticism of the NCAA from his commissioner colleagues, but he agreed that some restructuring needs to be done with college sports' governing body. He devoted much of his media-day address presenting a four-point proposal shaped around academics -- "the substance" to go along with the necessary structural changes, including the possibility of the major football-revenue-generating schools forming a separate division within the NCAA.

"Restructuring, great; high-resource institutions, great," Delany said. "But if we don't reattach and reconnect on these educational-based initiatives … I don't care what restructuring comes out of it -- we're not going to be where we want to be."

Here's a look at Delany's reform ideas:

1. Lifetime educational coverage for college players

Under Delany's plan, an educational trust would be set up by institutions, conferences or at a national level that would ensure education coverage for athletes even if they drop out or leave school early to turn pro. "We'll stand behind you, so when you're ready to get serious, or when you have the time, we'll support your college education degree for your lifetime," he said.

2. Limits on time spent on sports

Delany acknowledged the obvious, that major-college athletes spend way more than 20 hours per week (the NCAA limit) on their respective sports. He also admitted that athletes are specializing in one sport at an earlier age, and that training regimens have ramped up more and more. Delany met with the Big Ten football coaches earlier Wednesday and asked how they can help enforce stricter limits. "It's my belief that if you're going to be a full-time student, you have to have time to be a full-time student."

3. At-risk student-athletes

Delany is supportive of providing educational opportunities to athletes from tough backgrounds, but he questions their readiness to handle the academic and athletic workloads at major colleges. He proposes "a year of residence," by which athletes can acclimate to the athletic environment without losing a year of eligibility. "Give them the financial aid they need," Delany said, "but let's make sure that we haven't shortchanged anyone or exploited anyone because we've taken at-risk students and haven't given them the adequate time to prepare to transition educationally."

4. Increasing the value of athletic scholarships

This is hardly a new issue. Delany first brought it up more than two years ago at the Big Ten spring meetings. Despite support from NCAA president Mark Emmert and other major-conference commissioners, there has been no movement nationally on increasing scholarship values with a stipend, possibly all the way to federal cost-of-attendance values. This would apply to all full-scholarship athletes and meet Title IX standards. "It's the right thing to do," Delany said. "Whether that's $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000, I don't know, but we need to address that." He added that some schools in the five major conferences -- Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC -- haven't supported the plan to increase the value of scholarships, but it's time to get on the same page.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsOf major NCAA reform, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said, "we may get it within a year."
Delany's plan will resonate with some and come off as idealistic to others. He prefaced it by talking about his belief in college sports and his experiences as a basketball player at North Carolina.

"I believe in the opportunity for young people to go to college through intercollegiate athletics, who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to go there," he said. "I believe in the equal opportunity of players and students to achieve that opportunity. These, in some ways, seem like maybe quaint ideals, but they're more than a quaint ideal to me."

There's no denying that Delany presented his plan with the ongoing Ed O'Bannon-NCAA antitrust lawsuit in mind. He has been steadfast in his belief that college athletes shouldn't be paid and that it could destroy the structure of college sports.

Delany said Wednesday that the O'Bannon lawsuit could end up reaching the U.S. Supreme Court and that Congress could get involved with the Title IX component.

Although Delany's talk centered on the NCAA going forward, he also addressed the organization's embattled leader, Emmert, saying that the NCAA president has done some good things and also made some mistakes along the way while he's "learned on the job."

"We've tried to work with him in every way we can on every major issue that's come up," Delany said. "I wish him the best and have no motive other than to see him and the NCAA succeed, but there's no doubt that we have challenging times and he's the leader of an entity that's our group but also is responsible and accountable for where we are over the last three years.

"But most of the challenges we have at the NCAA predate Mark Emmert."

Delany later told ESPN.com that the NCAA's scrutinized enforcement group has been "a lightning rod within a lightning rod." As a former NCAA investigator, Delany said he plans to study the situation further and provide some suggestions going forward.

"I would like to see the people who make the mistakes pay the price and see the institution pay a lesser price," Delany said. "I would like to see it clearer when an institution is in jeopardy on institutional control that that's reserved for the worst of the worst. And I want to make sure if you make a mistake, there's a process. … We should be able to communicate better which are the major [infractions] and which are the not-so-major ones."

Delany doesn't think the major football-revenue schools have to separate themselves from the rest, and the big schools still will likely always compete against those with fewer resources. But "some autonomy" is needed.

Although the NCAA has come under fire in recent months, Delany sees better days ahead with major reforms now on the table at the highest levels.

"Very optimistic we'll get [change]," he said. "And I think we may get it within a year. The conference commissioners I've spoken with throughout the range of Division I are open for that discussion. It's necessary, and it's a traditional organization and it needs to innovate -- as we all do -- and I'm pretty optimistic that we'll do that."
ESPN.com's Mike Fish caught up with NCAA president Mark Emmert for a Q&A on the Penn State sanctions and other items, one year after the penalties were issued. You can read the whole thing here.

A few key excerpts:
Q: Could you talk about the Penn State decision? Why you made it? What the thought process was?

A: First of all, it wasn't my decision. That is one of the big points of confusion. This was a decision of the [NCAA] executive committee and the board of directors. I certainly participated in it, but as president of the association the president doesn't have the authority to make a decision like that.

Q: Did you make a recommendation? What was your role?

A: Well, we talked about all the available options. So sitting with my senior management team and looking at other circumstances that might have been relevant, recognizing there had been nothing like this, of course. And then discussing what the options were and putting them in front of the executive committee and talking those through. So it was a conversation.

Q: As you know, some people are upset, saying what transpired here with Penn State has never been done before. Or that it wasn't following due process. Do you understand and what is your response?

A: Of course, I understand. There's nothing about this case that anyone should be happy about. This was an awful circumstance. It had an extraordinarily bad impact on a lot of people's lives. No one at Penn State was happy about it, obviously. I can't imagine anybody feeling good about this ... And so the collective decision of the board, of the executive committee and of the university was to not go through another 18 months or however long it would take, two years, of inquiry when all the data were laying there and people were agreeing to what the facts were. So the move to go to a consent decree was something that all parties agreed to and recognized that that wouldn't make everyone happy. That wasn't anyone's expectation.

Q: As you look back a year later, would you have handled this in any way differently?

A: No, I think the way it was addressed by the board, the way it was discussed and explored by the university -- I think was the best that could be done under very, very difficult and trying circumstances. Again, this is a case that leaves no one feeling good here.

Q: In terms of the penalties levied against Penn State, is there any discussion or thought of revisiting those?

A: Well, that again would be up to the executive committee.

Q: Wouldn't you be part of that?

A: I'd be involved in the conversation, of course. Those are again not my decisions to be made. One of the really positive things going on here is the ongoing engagement of Sen. Mitchell [former Sen. George Mitchell and his law firm] on monitoring the implementation of a variety of changes at the university. So that provides the executive committee and the Big Ten with an opportunity to on a quarterly basis see what is going on here and how things are moving forward. I think that is healthy. If at some point the executive committee should want to revisit that question they are certainly able to do that. That, too, would be unprecedented.

The good news for Penn State fans is that Emmert didn't close the door on revisiting the sanctions at some point down the road, though he did call it "unprecedented." Emmert certainly has done some unprecedented things as NCAA president. He doesn't exactly sound eager to reduce the sanctions on the Nittany Lions, either.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien reiterated Friday that he understood why the NCAA imposed severe sanctions on the program almost exactly a year ago.

But O'Brien also believes Penn State's off-field progress in the past year and a half shouldn't go unnoticed. Perhaps it can sway the NCAA to reconsider the penalties against Nittany Lions football.

"I believe this football program is being run the right way," O'Brien said Friday during a conference call with reporters to discuss Penn State's 2014 opener against Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland. "I believe we have great kids here. We work very, very diligently to stay in compliance. We make our mistakes, but we admit them right away, whether it's a text message or something like that we shouldn't have said.

"Hopefully, at some point in time, the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, can look at that. And maybe they can meet us halfway."

NCAA president Mark Emmert has given no indication he'll consider reducing penalties for Penn State, which include a four-year postseason ban and major scholarship reductions. Penn State continues to receive good marks from former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the independent athletic integrity monitory appointed to track the school's progress in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Last Friday, O'Brien made a presentation to Penn State's board of trustees where he reportedly addressed a potential proposal to modify the NCAA sanctions and discouraged individual lawsuits against the NCAA, which could hurt the program's cause for a reprieve. O'Brien on Friday confirmed that he made the presentation but didn't discuss many specifics, referring questions to university president Rodney Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner.

"What I believe is best for our football program and our kids, is for everybody to pull in the same direction," O'Brien said. "Hopefully, we can continue to do that."

Joyner added that the university has "done an outstanding job" in the year since the sanctions came down.

"The university is on very solid ground," Joyner said.
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally 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.

The NCAA's infractions committee on Wednesday announced its penalties for Oregon's football program, which didn't amount to much other than a show-cause penalty for former coach Chip Kelly, now with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike Big Ten members Ohio State and Penn State, Oregon avoided the dreaded postseason ban. Today's Take Two topic is: How should the Big Ten react to the Oregon decision?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

Every infractions case is different and Penn State's situation certainly was unlike anything we'd ever seen in sports. But I can't imagine the folks in Columbus and State College are too pleased to learn that Oregon basically gets a slap on the Nikes. Like Oregon, Ohio State had its head coach receive a show-cause penalty. Like Oregon, Ohio State fully complied with the NCAA's investigation after dismissing head coach Jim Tressel. Like Oregon, Ohio State didn't expect a bowl ban from the NCAA. But it got one. Neither school had a Mike Garrett-like figure trying to defy the NCAA. This is another example of the NCAA being unpredictable and inconsistent with its infractions decisions.

Looking at the length of the NCAA's investigation into Oregon's violations and the few penalties actually imposed, Ohio State has reason to be miffed. I still go back to the second wave of Ohio State violations, the ones involving former booster Bobby DiGeronimo that surfaced after the initial infractions hearing took place in the summer of 2011. If those hadn't surfaced, I really believe Ohio State avoids a bowl ban. The delay in those violations coming to light pushed back Ohio State's ruling and ultimately the bowl ban from 2011 to 2012. Ohio State ultimately had more people involved in its violations -- the head coach, two groups of players, a booster -- than Oregon and perhaps paid a heavier price for it.

Penn State's case is so different from the ones at Oregon and Ohio State, but the Oregon ruling lends credence to the argument that the NCAA acted too emotionally in its penalties for Penn State, both in what it imposed and how it did it. The lengthy infractions process tends to dilute the emotion and anger about specific cases, which isn't a bad thing. Penn State had no such process, as NCAA president Mark Emmert felt he had to act immediately and drop the hammer. Unfortunately, the NCAA seems content to use this hammer with most of its non-Big Ten infractions cases.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

What? The NCAA was inconsistent in one of its rulings? I'm shocked -- shocked!

Seriously, though, what could we have possibly expected from an NCAA whose enforcement division is in complete disarray under Emmert. At least there were no major ethical lapses in the investigation a la the Miami football and UCLA basketball probes. But this is just the latest in a long line of head scratchers ("punishing" a coach who's already in the NFL, really?) in infractions decisions. The penalties Oregon received are probably about right, given the murkiness of that case. But schools like Ohio State, Penn State and especially USC have every right to wonder why they were treated so much differently.

It seems to come down to this for the NCAA: The cover-up is worse than the crime, and if the organization feels like it has been personally betrayed in some ways, it reacts emotionally. Think about it. USC was defiant and got sent to the woodshed. Ohio State had a coach who lied about his knowledge of broken rules and leadership that insisted there were no more problems, until there were. And Emmert not only believed that Penn State hid its knowledge of child sex abuse allegations, he was probably offended that old pal Graham Spanier was allegedly involved. Emmert erased all previous precedent to cripple the Nittany Lions' program. In the future, any Big Ten team that is accused of infractions should just supplicate itself before the NCAA, beg for forgiveness and kiss the ring of Emmert.

Of course, here I am trying to find some pattern in the NCAA rulings. Silly me. There is no such thing.
We already knew that Big Ten coaches and athletic directors expressed serious concerns over proposed NCAA recruiting de-regulations, and that the NCAA eventually suspended those rules until it could be studied further. But thanks to some fine reporting by the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Scott Dochterman, we now know more about the discussions that led to the Big Ten's objections.

The Gazette obtained several email exchanges between league officials and coaches and even between Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and NCAA president Mark Emmert. Shortly after signing day, the league issued a statement on behalf of its coaches and ADs expressing "serious concerns" about new rules that included unlimited text messaging to recruits and the ability to hire people who aren't coaches for recruiting positions.

The story contains an exchange between Delany and Emmert where Delany apologizes for not calling Emmert before the statement was released. Emmert responded that the proposals had been studied for months and that the only opposition had come from Rice, "who I don’t believe is a mainstream D1 school."
"If now the membership doesn’t want some of these changes, fine by me," Emmert wrote. "But to be honest, I don’t know how the membership wants to make decisions. The process used to make these changes was as open, representative and democratic and I could imagine -- other than the old town hall convention model I suppose."

The Gazette reported that Delany passed along this exchange to six Big Ten presidents, saying, "I’m not sure anyone has an appreciation of the compulsions, competitiveness and energy that underlies that pursuit of a 16 year old recruit by an assistant coach at our institutions. This process of pursuing athletic talent nationally and globally is something we have never found even a half way healthy way of managing/regulating. This continues to be the case."

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon, who chairs the NCAA executive committee, was part of the group that came up with the recruiting proposals. She was upset at first that the league coaches and ADs raised objections so late in the process.
"I find it interesting that I was advised by the conference to vote for these rules being assured that they had been discussed within the conference and we were involved in the committee process,” she wrote. "I must admit after all of our integrity and power coach discussions, I found the press release -- the tone, the method and lack of conversation with Mark [Emmert] or me prior to release -- very disturbing.”

Delany responded to Simon's email in about a half an hour, writing: "These issues somehow did not get vetted on campus during football season or if they did minds were other places. With respect to tone I think the tone was quite responsible and the concerns were narrowly drawn."

The story also includes an interesting text message sent from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald in February about his concerns over the rules. Meyer texted:
"There are already teams that have made plans to have separate scouting depts. [sic]. There has already been NFL scouts that have been told they will be hired to run the dept. (hired for over 200k). I checked with an NFL friend and he confirmed that there was much conversation about this. Appealing to scouts because of no travel. Also, there has been movement to hire Frmr players/coaches with big names to work in that dept. and recruit full time. This will all happen immediately once rule is passed. Thought u should be aware if [sic] this nonsense to share with who u feel can assist."

Meyer’s text was circulated among Big Ten presidents and officials on Feb. 14. The email also included a scholarship offer of a freshman running back, which prompted Fitzgerald to write "This is what’s wrong with recruiting."

Fascinating stuff. The recruiting rules have been tabled but aren't dead yet. A new NCAA working group will review the proposals. You'd have to think everyone in the Big Ten will be on the same page during this latest process.
When Penn State's coaches' caravan set out last May, Bill O'Brien found himself in the awkward spot of new guy/object of curiosity.

"I barely even knew the people I was on the bus with," O'Brien told ESPN.com on Thursday.

He knew a lot more about his fellow Nittany Lions coaches when they boarded the bus last week for this year's caravan. He also knew a lot more about the program he represented.

Penn State fans knew a lot more about O'Brien, too, especially after he guided the Lions to an 8-4 record, including wins in eight of the final 10 games, last season. Each caravan stop this year felt less like a job interview and more like a pep rally.

[+] EnlargeO'Brien
Rob Carr/Getty Images"Regardless of sanctions, one of your responsibilities as the head football coach at a place like Penn State is to help do your part in raising money," said Bil O'Brien.
"This year, I'm not standing up there doing a PowerPoint presentation," O'Brien said. "I'm talking to these people about how much we appreciate their support and how much we need their support now more than ever."

Penn State's 12-stop caravan wrapped up Thursday night in Pittsburgh. O'Brien and several other Lions coaches, including men's basketball's Patrick Chambers, made nine appearances around the state of Pennsylvania as well as in New York, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

O'Brien said more than 5,000 people attended the events. He signed autographs and gave updates on the program heading into the 2013 season. But there was a fundraising component, too.

Penn State must pay a $60 million fine as part of NCAA sanctions leveled last summer. The school also isn't receiving its bowl revenue share from the Big Ten until the 2016 season. Penn State saw a decline in overall athletic revenue last year, although football-related donations increased considerably.

Football attendance ranked fifth nationally in 2012 (96,730), down from 101,427 in 2011.

"Regardless of sanctions, one of your responsibilities as the head football coach at a place like Penn State is to help do your part in raising money," O'Brien said. "I'm just trying to do my part in helping our chief fundraisers. We have 90,000 alums in Philadelphia, so it's important to get out and talk to those people."

O'Brien is a unifying figure for Penn State fans, many of whom remain upset at the university's leadership for their decisions after the child sex-abuse scandal broke in November 2011. The tension puts the coach in an awkward position, as he must acknowledge all viewpoints while urging the fans to move forward together.

I asked O'Brien what he thinks Penn State's fans are feeling about the program and the school right now. Not surprisingly, he only talked about the program.

"People are very proud of last year's football team," he said. "People have passion and energy for the 2013 season. I hope we fill that stadium, and I hope we go out there and play well in front of our fans. That's a big part of it."

In leveling the severe sanctions last summer, NCAA president Mark Emmert said a "football-first culture" at Penn State enabled former Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky to commit his heinous crimes over the years. That word -- culture -- has stirred Penn State fans more than any other, as they take pride in the program's athletic and academic success.

O'Brien spent part of the caravan talking about the program culture he has observed.

"Our culture at Penn State is a good culture," he said. "We have a culture of academics and good football. Our kids leave practice early to go to class. They're students first, and that's the way it is at Penn State.

"It's important for me to update our fans and our alums on that."

O'Brien will keep providing these yearly updates as long as he's at Penn State. Although he's not a huge fan of riding the bus -- "I don't know if I can handle it another year," he joked -- he understands his role in outreach at such an important time.

"I'm going to try and chip in," he said. "If they want me to get on a bus again, I'll get on a bus, but more than anything, it's just important to get out and thank the supporters of Penn State."

Big Ten mailblog

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
5:00
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Your questions, my answers ...

Mike from Denver writes: Because it's never too early to compare....You were in East Lansing and two days later in Ann Arbor. I understand it's just Spring and only a day on site so I'm not looking for a prediction. But how would you compare where each team is and how high their ceilings are? If you want to go ahead and predict a score, don't let me stop you ...

Adam Rittenberg: No score predictions just yet, Mike, although there's plenty of time for foolish/fearless predictions before the season kicks off. Both teams have a good chance to be better than they were in 2012. Michigan State's physical play on defense really stood out to me in practice. The Spartans boast tremendous speed and depth in the secondary, and they lay the wood on ball-carriers every chance they get. Michigan's speed also caught my eye -- it's an area the Wolverines have upgraded on both sides of the ball. I still get the sense Michigan is a year away, numbers-wise, from being back among the nation's elite. The Wolverines will have more elite players in position to contribute in 2014. Both teams have similar question marks -- running back, pass rush, wide receiver. I have little doubt Michigan State's defense will once again be among the nation's elite, but the Spartans need to threaten opponents more on offense. Michigan needs some star power to emerge on defense and a running back to complement quarterback Devin Gardner's passing skills.




Bob from Crown Point, Ind., writes: Adam...What differences do you see in how the new Purdue coaching staff is handling practice as opposed to the last four years?

Adam Rittenberg: For starters, most practices are now open to the media and public, so we can see a lot more of what's going on with the Boilers. Darrell Hazell doesn't waste time, and his practices are crisp and efficient. The team isn't out there long, but they seem to get a lot done. Overall, the atmosphere around the program is much more relaxed. Danny Hope is more high-strung/intense than Hazell, who brings a calming presence to the Mollenkopf Athletic Center. The practice itself featured a lot of special teams and ball security drills, two hallmarks of Hazell, a Jim Tressel disciple.




Brett from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, what do you think about the Badgers losing David Gilbert? Obviously, losing a veteran player with his athleticism is going to hurt, but how big of a loss do you think it is? Also, after watching the Badgers practice and talking to the coaching staff, who do you see as the guy who's going to replace him?

Adam Rittenberg: The impact of Gilbert's loss will be determined by the pass-rushers who remain, players like Brendan Kelly, Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel. Kelly is the one to watch as he racked up eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss the past two seasons after battling several injuries early in his career. He could be a very good fit for Gary Andersen's defense. Dippel had five sacks last season, while Muldoon added 2.5. The bummer is that Gilbert likely would have thrived in the new scheme, which features players of his size in an outside linebacker/rush end role. Wisconsin lacks proven depth in the secondary, which could be a problem area if the pass rush isn't strong. The Badgers haven't had a difference-maker up front since J.J. Watt, so the defensive end spot will be very interesting to watch from now until Aug. 31.




Russ from Roanoke, Va., writes: How does Maryland's history and bowl records /wins compare with the other Big 10 schools? I know they were once coached by Bear Bryant, but where are they in terms of bowl game wins & national championships pecking order?

Adam Rittenberg: Maryland football will enter its 121st season this fall. The Terrapins boast nine ACC championships (seven outright, two shared, last title in 2001) and an 11-11-2 record in bowl games (last appearance: 2010 Military Bowl). Bryant coached the Terrapins for just one season, in 1945, going 6-2-1 before taking the Kentucky job. He clashed with Harry Byrd, the school's president and former football coach (Maryland's stadium is named after Byrd).




Mike from Allentown, Pa., writes: Hey Adam,I know a lot of us PSU fans are asking about what penalties (if any) Auburn or Rutgers might have dropped on them. How about the reverse? What if Penn State never issued an internal investigation? Would the NCAA have even done something? Miami seems to be questioning, with good reason, everything the NCAA has brought against them. Is that just the difference between a school president that has years of experience, as opposed to someone just thrown into the fire? It's tough to feel as had we not launched our internal investigation, we would be sanction free (at least for now).

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, there's no doubt the NCAA would have conducted its own investigation into Penn State if the school didn't do its own probe. It's fair to wonder if the NCAA investigation would have run into the same problems as the Miami probe, but I have a hard time thinking no action would have been taken, judging by NCAA president Mark Emmert's response to the Freeh Report. I really think the only way Penn State would be sanction-free is if the NCAA investigation was sidetracked. A better question is whether Penn State would have received reduced sanctions if it went through the normal NCAA infractions process. Former NCAA investigator Ameen Najjar criticized Penn State president Rodney Erickson for not pushing back more against the NCAA sanctions, writing in an email that the NCAA had no right to impose sanctions. Maybe he's right, but the impact of the Penn State scandal prompted the NCAA to act in some way. The impact also prompted the university to conduct its own investigation. After the P.R. hit Penn State took, the university was under a lot of pressure to do some type of internal probe.




FFXLion from Washington D.C. writes: I don't have a football question for you, but just a comment. I saw that you finished very well in our blog hoops pool. In fact, you finished tied with my 8th grade son for 14th place. Given his prowess at picking winners, I have to congratulate you on quite an accomplishment. PS: I didn't do as well.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm usually in your boat, FFX, when it comes to my bracket. Louisville winning it all definitely helped me, and I had a good first two days. But that Georgetown pick -- man, oh man. Maybe your son can pick the games for me in the fall. I'm looking forward to another dinner at St. Elmo's on Bennett's dime.
NCAA president Mark Emmert appeared earlier Monday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show and discussed several topics, including the Penn State case.

In recent months, the state of Pennsylvania and the NCAA both have filed lawsuits against one another, the family of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has released its own report criticizing the university-commissioned investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh, and Penn State received a favorable progress report from independent athletics integrity monitor George Mitchell. The latest report from Mitchell prompted some, like ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski, to call for the NCAA to reduce penalties on Penn State's football program, which include a postseason ban for three more years and significant scholarship losses.

Not surprisingly, Emmert, who last summer made an unprecedented decision to impose the penalties without conducting a full investigation -- the NCAA used the Freeh Report in lieu of its own probe -- said it's unlikely the sanctions will be reduced.

"We're confident in the decisions that we made," Emmert told hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. "The facts were the facts, and we operated on those. I guess if somebody were to come forward with a whole new set of facts, that would change the world, but otherwise, we're comfortable with where we are and know that we did it the right way."

Emmert went on to praise Penn State for being "incredibly cooperative" and is showing great responsibility in "working on changes in their processes and culture."

He couldn't comment on the pending lawsuits but said the NCAA is confident in its position and that he and the NCAA's executive committee assessed Penn State's case with "much greater deliberateness than the world thinks."

You can listen to the entire Emmert interview here (he begins discussing Penn State around the 5-minute mark).

Big Ten mailblog

February, 19, 2013
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Your questions, my answers ...

Matt from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: The B1G could be in the news quite a bit during the offseason. Will we get the final decisions on division alignment, division names and 9/10 game schedule all at once or will they come out one at a time whenever that specific decision is made? Will this be something decided early in the offseason to have people discussing it all summer or will we have all summer to talk about what we want it to be and get the answer during the season?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, you definitely won't need to wait until the season. The most pressing topic is the future conference schedule and whether the Big Ten will have nine or 10 games. It impacts nonconference scheduling, and the athletic directors want to get things sorted out as quickly as possible so they can craft their schedules. I think we could have a decision as soon as mid-March -- the ADs meet again during the Big Ten basketball tournament in Chicago -- or shortly thereafter. Division alignment is next on the list, and should come by the end of the spring. The key event is that the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors meets in early June at league headquarters. The Big Ten wants to get most of these issues sorted out by that meeting. Division names is a low priority, as league commissioner Jim Delany told me last week, and the future bowl lineup probably comes after the league schedule and divisions. We should have decisions on all of these topics by the middle of the summer.




AAWolv from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hi Adam, I'm not usually one to get worked up about top 25 lists, but I can't wrap my head around this. In your post-season top 25 rankings, you state that the criteria is based solely on performance in the past year. If that's the case, how do you put Taylor Lewan at number 7? He proved that he was the best or 2nd best tackle in the country by shutting down guys like Jadeveon Clowney. I realize that linemen don't get much love in rankings, but based on his performance and your criterion, I have to disagree with your ranking.

Adam Rittenberg: That's fair, AA, and Brian and I debated a bit about Lewan and certainly could have included him a little higher. I'm glad you point out that the rankings are based on in-season performance rather than NFL potential, as some of your fellow Wolverines fans are pointing out Lewan will be a first-round pick in April. So will Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins, who we have at No. 12. That doesn't matter for these rankings. I realize Lewan made a bunch of All-America teams, but did he have a season like Gabe Carimi in 2010? I don't think he was that good. Michigan's offensive line certainly wan't great, and Lewan, while the group's best member, could have been more dominant at times. Carimi won the Outland Trophy in 2010 and came in at No. 6 in our postseason rankings. So he's comparable to Lewan, who could have been a spot or two higher. Ultimately, I'm comfortable with the guys we have in the top 5, who all made a major impact for their teams in 2012.




Matt from State College, Pa., writes: Do you think the most recent missteps in the Miami investigation gives any validity to the State of PA's lawsuit against the NCAA in relation to PSU's sanctions?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I think Monday's news certainly hurts the credibility of the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert. If the NCAA had done its own investigation into Penn State, led by now-fired compliance chief Julie Roe Lach, and made missteps along the way, it certainly would have strengthened the state's case. But the NCAA used the Penn State-commissioned Freeh Report as the investigation for the Penn State case. Penn State signed a consent decree to the penalties Emmert imposed. Because the investigative process took place outside the NCAA, I don't think the Miami missteps will help the state's case as much as if they'd taken place within the NCAA.




Debra from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Adam: I find the Nebraska-Michigan rivalry more attractive than Ohio State or Penn State. Considering Penn State as a rival is based on old, old grudges no longer relevant. Ohio State is okay but not feeling the history. Michigan seems a more friendly rivalry. And friendly is better than the bitter kind, like Colorado. Who wants to go there and get your tires slashed if you have a Nebraska license plate? Ugh

Adam Rittenberg: Debra, thanks for sharing your thoughts. While I'm not sure all fans would prefer "friendly" rivalries over the alternative, it's good to know that some do. I know a lot of Nebraska fans want to keep playing Michigan every year. They bring up the 1997 season and the fact that the first two games in the Big Ten have made an impact on the division race. I like the Nebraska-Penn State series because both teams don't have longstanding Big Ten rivalries and, until November, had been the league's most recent additions. Ohio State and Michigan always will have bigger conference rivals than Penn State or Nebraska. I don't think Nebraska and Michigan will be in the same division after the realignment, and I don't expect the teams to have a protected crossover. But the Big Ten would like to have the Huskers and Wolverines play often -- two great brands, good for TV.




Al from Chicago writes: Nice article on Illini branding, but you'll have to show me where Northwestern has seen increased attendance (from their fans - not the visitors)!

Adam Rittenberg: Al, that's a fair point, as visiting fans like those from Nebraska have helped Northwestern's attendance numbers. The Wrigley Field game in 2010 also boosted attendance because it was part of a season-ticket package. But Northwestern's increases since the 2009 season, when it averaged 24,190, to this past season, when it averaged 33,442, can't be solely attributed to visiting fans. Northwestern is responsible for a portion of that increase, and its marketing push certainly has been a factor.




Scott from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Roushar is out as MSU's offensive coordinator. Spartan Nation cheers his departure but should they?

Adam Rittenberg: It's tough to say. Dan Roushar had much better success in 2011 when he had an established quarterback in Kirk Cousins, three good wide receivers and a better offensive line, which he helped mold. He did a nice job as the team's offensive line coach, although MSU needs to take things to another level up front. You can make a case that aside from RB Le'Veon Bell and TE Dion Sims, Roushar simply didn't have the weapons to do what he needed to in 2012. But some of his play-calling, especially in the red zone, left a lot to be desired. Was Roushar the main problem with Michigan State's offense in 2012? Perhaps. But many of us expected more from the players, too. The offensive structure isn't going to change at MSU under the next coordinator, but his play calls will be scrutinized, just as Roushar's were.




Paul from Minneapolis writes: Can you please tell me the racial breakdown of assistant coaches in the Big Ten by school. I got thinking about this as I noticed both of Iowa's latest hirings are white, but I have no idea how diverse any Big Ten school is in thier coaching ranks. Does the Big Ten have a program to promote racial diversity in it's coaching ranks?

Adam Rittenberg: Paul, I addressed this a bit in this story from last February, but the Big Ten has participated in an annual minority coaches' forum, which brings together top minority assistant coaches, athletic directors and administrators to network. The assistants learn what ADs are looking for in interviews and how they can improve their chances of landing head-coaching positions. Five of the 17 Big Ten assistants who attended the event from 2006-10 have become FBS head coaches, including former Ohio State aide Darrell Hazell, now the head man at Purdue. Still, Hazell is only the fourth black head coach in Big Ten history, a low number given the Big Ten's history as the conference of opportunity. As far as staff diversity, every Big Ten team has black assistant coaches and all but two teams have two or three on staff. Not all coaching staffs are complete, so those numbers could go up. One item of note: there are only two black coordinators in the Big Ten in Illinois' Tim Banks and Ohio State's Everett Withers.




James from Pasadena, Md., writes: Adam,I have switched over from the ACC blog to the B1G blog in anticipation of Maryland's move in 2014. I want to say that I have really enjoyed getting more familiar with the Conference through your posts. Having explored some of the message boards for schools around the B1G, I think many B1G fans are sleeping on Rugters and Maryland. At what point do you anticipate incorporating the two new schools in your blog? Will you be waiting until after the 2013 season or do you plan to keep B1G fans updated on the happenings with RU and UMD during the summer/fall this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Welcome, James! I know Big Ten fans are starting to familiarize themselves with both Maryland and Rutgers, and we'll do much more of that as we get closer to the official arrivals of those teams in 2014. We will post Maryland and Rutgers-related content from time to time this season, including updates on how the teams are performing, but they likely won't officially transition to the Big Ten blog until after national signing day 2014 (Feb. 5). That has been the point where we've seen teams move from one blog to another.
The NCAA is facing more political pressure to lessen its unprecedented sanctions against Penn State.

The Associated Press reports that Pennsylvania congressmen Charles Dent and Glenn Thompson co-authored a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert asking that the 40 football scholarships taken away from the Nittany Lions be restored. The scholarship reductions were part of the heavy sanctions Emmert levied against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Dent and Thompson argued in the letter that the loss of scholarships only deny opportunities and do nothing to punish those associated with the scandal.

"I want to make it clear to the NCAA who they are really hurting with this scholarship reduction," Dent said in the letter. "It’s not Jerry Sandusky and it’s not the University. They are hurting young people who are completely innocent of anything relating to the Sandusky situation and who through no fault of their own are being denied a chance to get a great education.”

This latest action comes on the heels of a federal lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who is seeking to overturn the NCAA sanctions. And, of course, the NCAA is under fire for how it botched the Miami investigation, announcing last week that an enforcement officer acted improperly and forcing the organization to investigate itself. The NCAA might not look too popular in many courtrooms these days.

Will any of these things wind up lessening Penn State's burden? It's very difficult to say. We must note that the school itself is not a part of these proceedings and agreed not to appeal when university leaders signed the consent decree accepting the penalties. So this is entirely externally driven, and there's no doubt that politics are playing a major role here.

Emmert seized unprecedented power to levy the sanctions against the Nittany Lions, so it's hard to see him giving in now. Then again, his power may be fading after a series of missteps. We've never seen anything like the penalties handed out to Penn State before. Who's to say we won't be surprised again in this case?

 

Gee's logic flawed on OSU bowl ban

December, 5, 2012
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As Ohio State's NCAA infractions case dragged on month after month last year, athletic director Gene Smith and other top officials reiterated that they didn't think the violations would merit a postseason ban.

When you take that position for so long, you can't change course to say Ohio State wasn't merely in jeopardy of a one-year postseason ban, but a multiyear ban.

But that's exactly what our friend The Bowtie, aka university president E. Gordon Gee, told The Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday while the 12-0 Ohio State football team toured the Statehouse in Columbus.
"We were caught in the tsunami of all the things that were going on and we were the big fish on the line, and the NCAA was under great pressure to impose sanctions and my strong belief is … if we would have self-imposed, we still would've had a bowl ban," Gee told The Dispatch.

But if the violations, in Ohio State's estimation and through its research with NCAA infractions case experts, didn't merit even a one-year bowl ban, why would the NCAA's infractions committee (not the NCAA itself, by the way) go for two?

Gee also noted in his interview with The Dispatch that he worked with NCAA president Mark Emmert, former NCAA executive committee chair Ed Ray (president of Oregon State) and NCAA infractions committee member David Williams earlier in his career.

"So no one knows more about this than I do," he said.

Hmmm, if that's the case, why was Ohio State so surprised when it received the one-year bowl ban, effective for the 2012 season? And if the NCAA was under so much pressure, why wasn't Ohio State proactive with self-imposed penalties to show just how seriously it took the violations?

Again, this is extremely faulty logic by Gee, who has proved to be a very smart guy who sometimes says dumb things.

Ohio State's problem all along, one that barely gets mentioned, is that the second wave of infractions, unveiled during the 2011 football season, pushed back the date of its infractions ruling. Remember when Ohio State was supposed to learn its fate in October? If that had been the case, any bowl ban -- and I do think it would have been a one-year ban -- would have gone into effect for the 2011 season. But the delayed date for the ruling, which came down in December, led to the bowl ban impacting the 2012 campaign.

As I wrote last year, Ohio State took a minimize-until-forced-to-maximize approach with the violations, cooperating with the NCAA but never admitting systematic problems. All along, the school maintained that the violations didn't merit a postseason ban.

Ohio State gambled and lost. It happens. But trying to claim a multiyear bowl ban was inevitable is nothing more than damage control.

NCAA approves new enforcement process

October, 30, 2012
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There's not exactly a new sheriff in town, but the existing sheriff now has some new ways to punish the crooks.

On Tuesday, the NCAA board of directors approved new enforcement rules aimed at streamlining the infractions process, increasing the severity of sanctions for the worst offenses and installing a more uniform set of penalties. Whether any of it will have much of an effect on cleaning up college sports remains to be seen.

Some of the highlights of the new enforcement process are:
  • Head coaches will be held responsible for violations by anyone on their staffs, unless they can prove that they maintained an atmosphere of strict compliance. Plausible deniability is no longer the easy way out for a head coach when an assistant or staff member breaks a rule.
  • Instead of having two categories for violations -- major and secondary -- the NCAA will now have four. Level 1 is the most serious and is described as a "severe breach of conduct." In such cases, the NCAA could hand out multi-year postseason bans and millions of dollars in fines. In other words, what Mark Emmert did to Penn State now becomes an actual, written power the NCAA can wield again.
  • Quicker hearings for infractions cases. In the past, these have sometimes dragged on for a year or more. The NCAA infractions committee will increase from 10 to 24 members, and the hope is that cases where the evidence is not overly complicated can be adjudicated in half the time or less. Remember how long Ohio State's case took? Do you think the Buckeyes might have liked a judgment before the end of last season so they could have potentially gotten a bowl ban out of the way in 2011? (Of course, part of that is their own fault, as new problems kept popping up).
  • More consistent penalties. The rulings handed down by the infractions committee have often been impossible to predict because they change from case to case with no apparent standard in place. Ohio State and AD Gene Smith were confident that the Buckeyes would not get a bowl ban last year because there was no precedent for it. USC fans are still mad at how harsh their penalties were for the Reggie Bush case in comparison to other, seemingly more serious violations at other schools. The NCAA has long needed more consistency with its enforcement, and if this works, schools would have a better idea of what to expect when they break rules.

So it all sounds pretty good. Still, the factors that often make NCAA enforcement rather toothless -- the lack of subpoeana power and a small staff of investigators -- isn't changing. Potentially harsher penalties could serve as more of a deterrent, but when there's so much money to be made by winning, the temptation will always be there. Head coaches will now have to make sure every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed with their paperwork and compliance to make sure they are not brought down by a rogue assistant. Just one more thing on their plate that I'm sure they're thrilled about doing.

Hopefully this will have some impact on a college sports landscape that has been rocked by too many scandals in the last couple of years. We shall see if that's actually the case.

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