Big Ten: Mark Rudner
"I think we’re in a pretty good place," Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner told ESPN.com. "We've sort of approached Rutgers and Maryland as we approached Nebraska three years ago: we acclimate them, help them, welcome them and integrate them. And then, we really go forward and don’t look back."
Rudner said constant communication is a big key in making for a pain-free transition. Since the two schools received their official invitations in November 2012, their coaches and administrators have attended every major conference meeting and have had a voice in such things as football scheduling and division alignment, though neither school has a vote yet. Maryland and Rutgers sent their coaches and athletic directors to Big Ten meetings that were held this week in Chicago.
"It’s been a pretty intensive period of trying to acclimate them to a new culture, a new system," Rudner said. "There have been lots of questions, lots of answers and lots of collaboration."
The biggest difference in this round of expansion vs. the addition of Nebraska, Rudner said, is just that the schools are in the East this time. The Big Ten learned a lesson when it added Penn State but left the Nittany Lions on a metaphorical island. That's part of the reason the league is opening an East Coast office, which is still in the works.
Another key difference lies in the football pedigree of the two schools. Nebraska and Penn State entered the league as established powers. Rutgers and Maryland still have a lot to prove in that regard. Many doubt whether the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights will do much, if anything, to boost the Big Ten football reputation, but this move is about more than just what they bring on the field.
"In the last 10 years, both teams have certainly had measures of success in football," Rudner said. "It's hard to evaluate what kind of impact they’ll have in the short term. But I think in the long term, absolutely, it will have an impact on our football. We’re going to want to have that strong East Coast presence, and it just opens up another valuable recruiting area for Big Ten football."
Maryland fans will still have to get used to life outside the ACC, while Rutgers will be making a major step up from the American Athletic Conference. There are bound to be some bumps in the road. But Rudner doesn't think those will be hard to overcome.
"I really don’t see a whole lot of overwhelming challenges facing either them or us," he said. "Both institutions are very Big Ten-like."
"It wasn't easy, and I probably would concede that when our administrators first reviewed it, there was probably a little bit of sticker shock," Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner told ESPN.com. "Because when you go from an eight-game schedule to a nine-game schedule, it looks a lot different."
That's for sure. But the league had decided on some guiding principles, and the rest was just a matter of making everything fit. Remember that the Big Ten is committed to a few factors, including:
- Parity-based scheduling. That means the top teams play each other more often, which is good for fans and TV. That's why you see games like Ohio State-Nebraska and Wisconsin-Michigan in 2016 and 2017, and Ohio State-Wisconsin in 2016 and Nebraska-Penn State in 2017. "We wanted to be more strategic," Rudner said. "It was our intent all along to start looking at 2016 to begin doing that."
- Playing everyone. You'll notice the "mirror" concept is gone; the cross-division opponents you play one year won't all be the same the following season. Instead, the goal is making sure all 14 teams play one another in a four-year cycle. "Our philosophy is we're trying to make sure every player who stays for four years will have an opportunity to play everybody," Rudner said. "Until we create the 2018 and 2019 schedules, it probably won't be too apparent. But that was important to our coaches and ADs."
- No more than two road games in the final four contests for any team, and no more than two consecutive road games at any point in league play. The Big Ten accomplished both those goals with these schedules and felt that was the fairest way to handle a slate that will necessarily be imbalanced with home and road games.
With all that in mind, there are still going to be things people don't like. Let's address a couple of the major ones.
No Nebraska vs. Michigan between 2014 and 2017?
"Michigan has Wisconsin as its cross-division opponent," Rudner said. "Nebraska will play Ohio State. Michigan and Nebraska will play in the out years, and they could play as soon as 2018, though I can't really say for sure right now."
Wisconsin opening 2016 at Michigan, at Michigan State and vs. Ohio State in three straight non-division games?
"We went with our principles, and that's how it came out," Rudner said. "There are lot of those kinds of stretches, whether that's at the start of the schedule or in the middle of the schedule. "
If you don't like the way things shook out, don't blame the league office. Remember that the conference athletic directors approved all of the guiding principals that went into the schedule.
And don't forget all those marquee matchups and extra league games we'll get in 2016 and beyond.
"It's going to be a lot of fun to see it all play out," Rudner said. "There will be a lot of fun, great games each week. What more could you want as a Big Ten football fan?"
Jeremy from Columbus writes: With regards to the future Big Ten schedules (2016 and beyond), will we go to a system of staggered crossover games? Since we went to divisions, we've played two non-protected crossover teams one year, then the same teams at opposite sites the next, leading to the same opponents two years in a row. With the three crossover schedule coming with nine conference games, are all three crossovers going to swap simultaneously, or can they implement a staggered system? We would have to in order to play all seven teams in the other division every four years, which I believe was a major goal for the ADs to allow every player to play against every other Big Ten team once. Alternatively, any chance of not playing direct home-and-homes with the crossover teams? For example, hosting a team one year, skipping them the next, then visiting them the third year? I personally would prefer this system in order to play the widest variety of teams.
Adam Rittenberg: Jeremy, I reached out to Big Ten scheduling czar Mark Rudner to get some clarity on your question. The main thing to remember, as you point out, is the league-wide directive to have each Big Ten team play every other conference member at least once every four years. That will happen in the post-2016 scheduling model. To meet that goal, the crossovers after 2016 will be staggered, so you won't always see the same teams in consecutive seasons. You also won't always see direct home-and-homes with crossover opponents. Eventually every game will be, in a sense, returned, but it won't be as "clean" as the current setup. The goal remains to avoid these long breaks without certain matchups.
Ethan from Prague writes: Adam, I am a PSU fan living in Prague so thank you for your blog so i can keep track of my team. I know the quarterback race is down to two: Ferguson and Hackenberg. For me, I think even if Hackenberg edges Ferguson slightly in preseason camp, I would rather have him redshirt just to save his eligibility. For PSU right now I think the long-run is more important than this season and having Hackenberg learn O'Brien's offense while not wasting a year of eligiblity could get many offensive recruits excited to come to PSU because they can play with him while competing for two bowl games. I also think O'Brien will be there for as long as Hackenberg is playing, so 5 years minimum with O'Brien would be better than any alternative. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Ethan, first off, thanks for reading us all the way from Prague. I've always wanted to visit. I understand your perspective here, and if Steven Bench had stuck around in Happy Valley, it might make sense for Penn State to consider redshirting Hackenberg if he and Ferguson are about even in preseason camp. But without Bench, Penn State doesn't have much else behind Ferguson if Hackenberg doesn't play. Penn State could start Ferguson with the hope he can last the entire season and perform at a relatively decent level, but if not, the team can't tank the season just to save a year of eligibility for Hackenberg. While it's never ideal for a quarterback to play as a true freshman, there could be tremendous value for Hackenberg, a mature kid with a high ceiling.
Keep in mind, too, that Penn State will surround its new quarterback with some good weapons. The offense has a chance to be good again and that, more than anything else, will help recruiting. I think you're overvaluing Hackenberg's effect on Penn State's recruiting and on O'Brien staying or leaving. Penn State still can recruit top offensive players even if Hackenberg doesn't play, and O'Brien likely will base his future on which NFL teams come calling and how comfortable he feels in State College.
Matt from Michigan writes: Hey Adam, there's been some confusion on whether or no Jake Ryan can medically redshirt this upcoming season. Some say that because he redshirted for non-medical reasons his freshman year that he could not redshirt again. Could you verify this? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg: Matt, Ryan wouldn't get a second redshirt season but a sixth year of eligibility, which would come after he's exhausted the years given to each player coming into college. It would be similar to the Devin Gardner situation, except Gardner didn't redshirt as a freshman in 2010, but had his season limited by injury. If Ryan's injury is severe enough to cost him the entire 2013 season, he could return as a fifth-year senior in 2014 and then apply for a sixth year in 2015. He would need to show medical proof that he couldn't return for a good chunk of 2013. This all likely is moot as Michigan coach Brady Hoke has said repeatedly that Ryan will return this fall, but if he has a setback in his recovery, I could see him going the sixth-year route.
Michael from Los Feliz writes: Hey Adam, As a Gopher fan I am outraged over the twenty fourteen and fifteen schedules. Minnesota is finally building what looks like a solid program under new leadership at all the big positions: football coaching staff, University President, and AD. However, apparently Jim Delany wants to see the Gophers continue to struggle. It is totally unfair to saddle Minnesota with cross division games against Ohio State AND Michigan, the two best programs in the conference. You can force Minnesota to play one of those schools, but both is totally unfair. It's especially brutal because Wisconsin and Iowa look to be taking a step back on the field, yet Iowa gets Maryland/Indiana and Wisconsin gets Rutgers/Maryland. This is gerrymandering and I am livid. Don't you think the Gophers got screwed by JD?
Adam Rittenberg: No, I don't. This might absolutely shock the conspiracy-theorist contingent of Big Ten blog readers, but Jim Delany has almost nothing to do with league schedules. Mark Rudner and his staff handle the schedule, and, after the league-wide scheduling principles (i.e. no more than two straight road games) are met, a computer generates the schedule and then the ADs sign off on it. Minnesota AD Norwood Teague agreed to the schedule, just like his Big Ten colleagues did. Is it a tough crossover schedule for 2014 and 2015? Sure. But Minnesota still is in what most believe to be the more favorable division (West). The Gophers won't have to deal with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State every year. Besides, aren't you happy that the Jug rivalry will continue in 2014? That has to be some sort of consolation.
Jon from Bangladesh writes: I've read a few articles that mope about the change of demographics and pool of talented players increasing in the South. No doubt as a Husker fan one has to accept that things aren't quite what they used to be. However I just had a thought today. What if the talent base in the South continued to increase? Assuming no new big Southern colleges are being founded, no move to Canadian style 13 players or more, and talented players not wanting to play third string, could a pattern like this actually begin to saturate the South, overflow a bit towards bigger colleges further North, and perhaps actually even the recruiting playing field a bit?
Adam Rittenberg: Jon, thanks for reading us from so far away. I've thought about the same thing: if demographic trends continue the way they are, more quality players should be looking for opportunities in far-flung leagues like the Big Ten. The counter argument is that SEC schools still will be getting the very top players from their surrounding areas and therefore will remain a cut above the Big Ten and the rest. If the SEC can pick and choose and not have to look far for national championship-type talent, it will continue to win those crystal footballs. That said, Big Ten schools must continue -- and, in some cases, ramp up -- their recruiting efforts in the South and Southeast. There's just too much talent in those regions to ignore and expect to compete at the highest level.
Stephen from Chicago writes: I am an Indiana Hoosier fan and was excited when Nebraska joined the Big Ten. I was looking forward to making the trek out to Lincoln and meet the supposed nicest fans in the country. As luck would have it, Nebraska ended up in the other division as Indiana and we were the one team that missed them the first four years in the conference. With Maryland and Rutgers joining the Big Ten, we were once again in the opposite division as Nebraska. Not only that, we were the only team with a protect cross over; meaning until the Big Ten goes to 9-game schedules, IU will only play one other team from the west each season. As I opened the 2014 schedule hoping for the 1 in 6 chance to find Nebraska, Nope we have Iowa. Am I ever going to see Nebraska play Indiana?
Adam Rittenberg: Stephen, this is a good point to raise, and it's obviously an unfortunate component of a scheduling model that keeps changing. Although having no Indiana-Nebraska game for Nebraska's first four seasons as a Big Ten member isn't ideal, it's not as bad as having a six-year break in the Illinois-Iowa series, which is currently going on and thankfully will end in 2014. The answer is yes, you'll see Nebraska soon enough, most likely in the 2016 schedule. After 2016, Indiana won't go four years without playing the Huskers. Things will begin to settle down from a scheduling standpoint. Look on the bright side: because of the quirky schedule, IU gets back-to-back home games against archrival Purdue this fall and next.
Kase from Dallas writes: Adam, as Nebraska alumni I'm a very disappointed in the 2014 (and 2015) schedule. No Penn State, No Ohio State, No Michigan. My biggest excitement about joining the B1G was getting to play these power programs. But it looks like this won't happen until at least 2016 when the B1G goes to a parity scheduling system. Home games against Illinois, Rutgers, Purdue & Minnesota are not exciting. Do you think the B1G is taking the Husker fans for granted? I doubt many other B1G programs would have sellout homes games with these opponents. Looking at 2015, I'm sure these schools will love the thousands of Nebraska fans that will likely travel to these away games. When making the schedule did the B1G take into account the "fans"?
Adam Rittenberg: I don't think the Big Ten bases its schedule on whether Nebraska can continue its sellout streak, if that's what you're asking. Certain home schedules will be more appealing than others, but until parity-based scheduling kicks in, Big Ten schedules aren't designed with the quality of opponent in mind. It's fairly random after the core principles agreed upon by all the ADs are met. The good news for Nebraska fans is after 2016, you'll see Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in Lincoln more often than other East division teams. Although Nebraska fans aren't pleased with the 2014 home schedule, I'd be stunned if many stayed away. This is the same program that drew more than 60,000 for the spring game in April.
ESPN.com caught up with Rudner, the Big Ten's senior associate commissioner for television administration, to discuss how the 2014 schedule came together.
It's important to note the Big Ten compiled the 2014 slate based upon principles green-lighted by its athletic directors.
- Nonconference games that had been previously contracted were protected. For example, Northwestern visits Notre Dame on Nov. 15, 2014, so the Big Ten made sure not to schedule the Wildcats on that day. Also, Penn State and Rutgers had a previously scheduled non-league game for Sept. 13, 2014, which became a conference game with Rutgers joining the Big Ten. The date wasn't changed.
- No more than two consecutive road games
- Each team must play two home games and two road games in each half of the season
It's not as if athletic directors ask the league not to schedule multiple rivalry games on the road every year.
"Once you do that," Rudner said, "you're at risk of never having a schedule."
There has been some reaction to Michigan facing in-state rival Michigan State in road games in consecutive seasons (2013, 2014) and Purdue visiting Indiana for the Bucket game the same two years. The Wolverines never have played the Spartans in East Lansing in back-to-back years and haven't hosted MSU in consecutive years since 1967-68.
Although it'll be new for Michigan, such back-to-backs are fairly common when a scheduling model changes. Between 2010-11, there were 13 instances of back-to-back matchups, including rivalry games like Iowa-Minnesota (both games in Minneapolis) and Penn State-Ohio State (both games in Columbus) and other good matchups like Wisconsin-Michigan State (both games in East Lansing).
"It's unavoidable," Rudner said. "It happened five times in 2008-2009. So it's not foreign, it's not ideal, but it's unavoidable. When you're introducing new institutions and you dole out home and road games, it just happens."
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has said "parity-based scheduling," where teams will face one another more often in crossovers based on historical success,will begin in 2016, will begin once the league goes to a nine-game conference schedule. Rudner said the league asked the ADs if they wanted to start the nine-game schedules in 2014 but they couldn't because of so many signed contracts for non-conference games. If they had, the 2014 would have incorporated parity scheduling.
The 2014 slate ultimately features none of it, as the traditional powers in each division -- Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in the East, and Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa in the West -- don't play at all.
"I don't think it's going to hurt us," Rudner said. "Brand is strong enough. There are enough games that are strong that'll drive television interest. Short of a full round-robin, which nobody in our conference wanted to do, you're going to have these sort of issues."
A few other schedule notes:
- Rudner and his staff didn't have a directive to schedule mostly division games in November, but it worked out that way as most teams will play exclusively in their division or play only one crossover in the season's decisive month. "Ideally, that's what we would like to do," Rudner said. "It makes a lot of sense to play division games late in the season, toward a championship."
- The Big Ten doesn't look at long-term trends of how often teams open league play on the road when crafting schedules. Athletic directors haven't asked it to a be a principle of building schedules. "It's never been important to them," Rudner said. "What they want to avoid is long road trips and making sure there's balance, home and away, in each half of the season. The rest of it, they can live with. Not everybody plays the same kind of schedule, but they do it based on those principles. They look at it and say, 'That's fair. Let's do it.'" Penn State, by the way, will open league play on the road for the fifth straight year and for the ninth time in the past 11 seasons.
- That new members Maryland and Rutgers host traditional powers Ohio State and Michigan on the same day (Oct. 4) was pure coincidence, Rudner said.
The 2015 Big Ten schedule, which should be released by the end of the month, will feature the same matchups at the opposite locations. The league has to maneuver around some previously scheduled non-league games before finalizing the slate.
The Big Ten's main involvement in the issue has been its participation in an annual minority coaches' forum, launched in 2006 and held annually through 2010 by the commissioners of the BCS automatic-qualifying leagues. The event brought together top minority assistant coaches, athletic directors and conference officials to network and discuss the hiring process. The Big Ten had 17 African-American assistant coaches attend the forum between 2006 and '10. Five since have gone on to become FBS head coaches, and four -- Ron English (Eastern Michigan), Darrell Hazell (Kent State), Don Treadwell (Miami University in Ohio) and Garrick McGee (UAB) -- remain in those roles. ...
The forum, held in conjunction with the Fiesta Frolic, didn't take place in 2011 because of the fallout from the Fiesta Bowl scandal. The leagues had a conference call scheduled for Tuesday to discuss a 2012 forum, which could take place in June at the athletic directors' convention.
"It's important for us to continue," Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner said. "This really was the one vehicle, at least on the football side, that everybody in our conference coalesced around."
Well, here's the good news: the forum will take place next week, and two Big Ten assistants will be in attendance. According to Mark Rudner, the event is now called the NCAA Champion Forum and will take place Monday-Wednesday at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention in Dallas.
Minority assistant coaches from around the country will attend, including Northwestern wide receivers coach Dennis Springer and Michigan State secondary coach Harlon Barnett. Assistants from schools like Stanford, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Kansas State also will be there.
Participants will go through a mock interview process for a head-coaching position where they'll interact with a search firm and talk with a panel of sitting athletic directors, including Northwestern's Jim Phillips. The assistant coaches also will rub elbows with a university president (Western Kentucky's Gary Ransdell) and receive media training from the NCAA. Rudner and officials from other conferences will attend to talk to the coaches about the role of league offices. Representatives from the NFL also will be on hand, and other Big Ten athletic directors will be in Dallas next week.
"It's a fabulous program," Rudner told ESPN.com "There's search firm engagement. Participants are going to go through an interview process. It's a chance to network, which is always important."
Barnett, who played at Michigan State before going onto the NFL for seven seasons, has coached defensive backs under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State and Cincinnati since 2004. Springer has coached a variety of positions -- wide receiver, running back, linebacker, secondary -- at Northwestern, Indiana, Western Kentucky, Bowling Green and Ball State.
It's great to hear the minority coaches' forum is taking place again. Hopefully, it will produce more capable and qualified coaches to continue the recent trend of hiring coaches of color.
The details are still being worked out, which isn't a surprise when you have 24 major-conference programs with unique interests, scheduling philosophies and scheduling agreements. But Delany hopes to have a more specific idea of the scheduling models in the next few months.
"We do want it all fit in," Delany said Wednesday. "Whether that means you have 12 games or 11 games or 10 games in the first cycle ... we're going to want 12 games ASAP. A lot of scheduling has been done in other nonconference areas that's reliant on this."
The original goal was to have a full round-robin schedule by 2017, but it could be wishful thinking. Ohio State, for example, has games scheduled with both Oklahoma and North Carolina, and athletic director Gene Smith told ESPN.com last month that he wouldn't add a Pac-12 opponent to the slate in 2017. Pac-12 teams have their own issues, namely a nine-game conference schedule -- as opposed to eight in the Big Ten -- and long-term agreements with teams like Notre Dame (USC, Stanford).
The partnership eventually will feature six home-and-home series, but it might not be complete until after 2017.
The scheduling process will be a "hybrid" effort between the schools and the two league offices. Big Ten and Pac-12 teams are facing one another with more frequency in the coming years -- three matchups take place this fall -- and some series are already set for 2017 and beyond. Northwestern and Stanford, for example, have a four-game series set for 2019-22.
Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner and Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, are overseeing the scheduling elements.
"We may have to do less," Delany said, referring to the league. "In other words, if there are three or four games [set] in '17, '18, '19 and '20, maybe the conference will only have to come in and pick seven or eight other games."
Before announcing the Pac-12 partnership, the Big Ten had approved a nine-game conference schedule, supporting Delany's frequent statement that league teams should play one another more, not less. But the Big Ten decided to stay at eight league games because of the Pac-12 agreement.
"On balance, it's a close call," Delany said. "But in the nine-game conference schedule, who you don't play was one factor, but the other fact was five home games, four away. If you can create a situation where you improve your schedules, you improve the fan experience, you improve the games that are going on television without affecting the home/away segment inside of the conference, [it] was the preferred method. If we hadn't done the collaboration, we'd do nine [league games]. If we do the collaboration, we'll do eight.
"We're able to attract a higher-quality of game."
One potential concern is how the scheduling partnership will impact teams' other nonconference agreements. Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke has made it clear he wants to keep the annual Notre Dame series going as long as possible, and added that the Boilers have played Notre Dame and a Pac-12 team (Oregon, Arizona) in the same season before.
"It adds some name recognition to your schedules in September," Burke said. "Working together, we can try to get the programs in comparable stages of development, to compete against one another so we don't have an imbalance. It's not easy to do that, but that's something to work toward."
Fitzgerald was struck by the notion that at age 37, heading into his seventh year as the Wildcats' head man, he is now the second-longest-tenured coach in the league. That shows how much change the conference has experienced the past two years -- and illustrates why this spring looms as an important time for many of its teams.
Three schools -- Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois -- hired new permanent head coaches this offseason, following the three that did so last year (Michigan, Indiana and Minnesota). Add in Nebraska, and seven of the 12 Big Ten teams have coaches either in their first or second year of competing in the conference.
"That's unprecedented," said Big Ten associate commissioner Mark Rudner, who has worked for the league since 1979 and currently serves as the football coaches' liaison to the conference. "It's a whole new world."
The Big Ten used to be known as a collection of icons, the league of Woody and Bo and larger-than-life coaches. No school is less familiar with change than Penn State, which will begin a season without Joe Paterno as head coach for the first time since 1966.
All the new personalities lead some to wonder if the Big Ten will maintain its identity and culture. Already, new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has made waves with some aggressive recruiting tactics, leading Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema to criticize Meyer and caution that the Big Ten does not want to become a northern version of the SEC.
Meyer and Bielema met to hash out their differences in that coaches' meeting earlier this month. Rudner took it as a positive sign that 11 of the 12 coaches attended what was a voluntary gathering just two days after signing day. The only coach who didn't attend, Penn State's Bill O'Brien, was preparing to coach in the Super Bowl.
"Everybody seems willing to throw in with everybody else, so hopefully that will make for a lot smoother transition," Rudner said.
Meyer will install the offensive system that helped the Florida Gators win two national titles as the Buckeyes begin their quest to regain Big Ten supremacy -- after the 2012 bowl ban expires, of course. Illinois is switching to a full-fledged spread attack under new coach Tim Beckman, himself a former Meyer assistant.
Jerry Kill at Minnesota and Kevin Wilson at Indiana will seek better things after disappointing first seasons, and each has brought in some junior college players to try to fill holes on the roster. Michigan won the Sugar Bowl in Brady Hoke's first year but still wants to move toward more of a pro-style offense, as long as it doesn't restrict the talents of QB Denard Robinson. Nebraska had its share of successes and setbacks in its first season of Big Ten play and now has a better idea of what it takes to compete in the league. The Huskers need to get stronger on defense but will have to do so without departed stars Lavonte David, Alfonzo Dennard and Jared Crick.
Even some of the most stable programs weren't immune to change. Wisconsin, which has gone to back-to-back Rose Bowls, lost most of its offensive staff when coordinator Paul Chryst went to Pitt and took several assistants with him. Purdue coach Danny Hope wasn't satisfied with making the program's first bowl since 2007 and reorganized his defensive staff. And as Big Ten dean Ferentz enters his 14th season at Iowa, he'll do so for the first time without defensive coordinator Norm Parker (who retired) or offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe (who left for the Miami Dolphins).
"We probably cheated time here a little bit," Ferentz said.
Some veteran staffs stayed intact, such as Northwestern and Michigan State. The Spartans figure to make another run at a Legends Division title if they can adequately replace QB Kirk Cousins, All-American defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and their top three receivers.
"Players just want to have consistency in vision and consistency in expectations," Fitzgerald said. "When you've had a position coach for four straight years, you know what to expect, and there's something to be said for that.
"At the same time, when there's change, there's a newfound sense of urgency. Our big challenge is making sure our guys don't feel like we're Charlie Brown's teacher going, 'Wah-wah-wah-wah,' and start getting bored."
There's nothing boring about the transition at Penn State. Paterno's reign came crashing down in shocking, controversial fashion before he passed away in January. For the first time in decades, the Nittany Lions will have several new assistant coaches, not to mention a new style of offense and leadership under O'Brien. Players can already see the differences in winter conditioning.
"There's a lot of excitement around here right now," linebacker Michael Mauti said. "It's just a whole new way of doing things."
They'll be saying that on a lot of Big Ten campuses this spring.
CHICAGO -- The 2011 Big Ten spring meetings are in the books at the antiquated Palmer House Hilton.
There wasn't a lot of major news coming out of the meetings, although league officials, athletic directors, coaches and faculty representatives discussed many topics during the three days. Nebraska officials were on hand, and while the school doesn't become an official voting member until it enters the league July 1, folks like AD Tom Osborne played an active role in the meetings.
Let's take a look back at some nuggets coming out of the Palmer House:
No resolution on nine-game conference schedule
Despite a lot of discussion, the league had no definitive answer on if and when it will implement a nine-game conference schedule. Athletic directors approved the nine-game schedule in February, but the vote was taken with the knowledge that further talks would take place.
Commissioner Jim Delany reiterated Tuesday that the biggest factor toward cementing a nine-game conference schedule is ensuring most league members will have at least seven home games per season. Coaches weighed in on the debate this week and while most if not all of them would rather have the schedule remain at eight league games, they know the decision ultimately rests with others.
"The onus is back on us," Delany said, referring to his staff. "We've got some scheduling information in the out years. We've got to be able to put that together in a way so all 12 athletic directors, they can get seven [home] games."
The general feeling coming out of the meetings is this: The nine-game schedule remains a strong possibility but not until the 2017 season at the earliest.
"I've gone from the eight-game philosophy to the nine-game philosophy because it benefits the entire conference," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "Selfishly, for Ohio State, the eight-game [schedule] is better financially for us. But for the overall health of the league, it's better to go nine as long as we have time to transition into that."
One of the issues Big Ten coaches discussed this week was the rise of traveling 7-on-7 high school all-star teams. Coaches are concerned about the increasing influence on recruits by people outside of their high school coaches and don't want their sport to end up like basketball, where AAU teams often take precedence.
"We signed a tight end from Dallas who played with another guy from Kentucky and this guy on those teams," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "I understand that because of the skill development and, I guess, the showcasing or whatever. But at the same time, you want them to be with their high school. It would be like if our guys were getting with a bunch of guys from somewhere and doing 7-on-7 without us being there."
For similar reasons, Hoke says he is against an early signing day in college football, even though he has racked up a lot of early commitments so far with the Wolverines.
"I want kids to enjoy their high schools and play for their high school teams," he said. "The whole process is getting pushed more. If you don't push the process, you may lose out on some guys. We're all doing it. I always worry about maybe a kid getting distracted and not being focused on what's important, which is his teammates and his high school where he's playing."
Wisconsin gears up for spotlight
Wisconsin will play make four ABC/ESPN primetime appearances this fall, more than any other Big Ten team. Coach Bret Bielema joked that while he had a good idea about Wisconsin's two primetime home games (UNLV and Nebraska), he didn't know his team would be playing back-to-back night games on the road (Oct. 22 at Michigan State, Oct. 29 at Ohio State).
Despite the late October challenges, Bielema appreciates the national exposure and so do his players.
"A couple kids texted me and commented on the exposure we're going to be able to have," Bielema said. "It makes everybody excited."
- Coaches can't publicly discuss potential transfers, but there's some mutual interest between Wisconsin and NC State quarterback Russell Wilson. While the SEC still appears to be the likeliest destination for Wilson, don't count out the Badgers, who might be a quarterback away from another Big Ten title.
- Michigan will host its first night game in team history Sept. 10 against Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium. Hoke called the Notre Dame game "a special one," and while he's used to plenty of night games from his time at both Ball State and San Diego State, he prefers noon kickoffs. "I hope not to play a bunch of 'em," he said, "but we're going to play them, so you just adjust." One game Hoke doesn't envision ever moving to prime time is Michigan-Ohio State. "No, not that one," he said, smiling.
- Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner said the league has no plans to move games to Sundays this fall if the NFL lockout is still ongoing. He also said that while some Saturday kickoff times could be moved around, most Big Ten non-primetime game will begin at noon ET or 3:30 p.m. ET.
- League officials said the decision of whether to put a rivalry trophy at stake in the Big Ten championship game rests with the respective schools. For example, rivals Iowa and Wisconsin don't play during the regular season but could decide to put the Heartland Trophy on the line if they clash Dec. 3 in the Big Ten title game.
The site of this year’s meetings has a historical connection, as the Big Ten was founded at the Palmer House in 1896. I think Joe Paterno was entering his 12th season as Penn State’s coach. I kid, I kid.
I will be on hand throughout the meetings. Although this year’s spring session shouldn't resemble the chaos of 2010, when realignment was the rage and Nebraska's arrival was just around the corner, there could be some important news coming out of Chi-Town.
Here's a look at some things to know heading into the spring meetings:
Big Ten athletic directors and coaches will continue discussing whether to add a ninth conference game to the schedule, and a resolution is possible this week. Commissioner Jim Delany first broached the possibility of a ninth game at media days last summer and indicated that it could happen several years down the line.
The momentum seems to have slowed a bit, but the conference schedule structure will be a main item on the agenda this week. Big Ten officials will present financial models of nine games versus eight games to the ADs. The Big Ten schedules are set through 2014, so the 2015 season is the earliest a nine-game schedule can go into effect.
"I think we'll finally get a resolution to it after all this time of talking about it," Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner, who oversees the schedule, told ESPN.com.
If the schedule issue does go to a vote, Rudner expects a large degree of agreement one way or the other.
"I don't think we’ll get a 6-6 vote," he said. "I don't think we’ll get a 7-5 vote. You'd like to have a strong majority favor one format over another. There’s a great deal of interest in looking at it and getting it resolved once and for all. They need to move on with their nonconference scheduling."
In announcing the new divisions, the Big Ten outlined its basic tiebreakers for determining division champions: head-to-head record, conference record, record within the division and BCS ranking. But the league still must finalize some of its more complex tiebreakers, and the discussion will continue this week.
Why is this a huge issue? Just look to the 2010 season, when three teams finished atop the Big Ten at 11-1. Because Ohio State and Michigan State didn't play, the ultimate tiebreaker was highest rating in the final BCS standings. Wisconsin held the distinction despite its loss to Michigan State. The Spartans ended up being left out of the BCS bowl mix. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said he was the only Big Ten coach to vote against using the BCS standings as a tiebreaker.
The head-to-head tiebreaker will prevent any two-team ties within a division. But what if there's a three-way tie and each team boasts a 1-1 record against the others? Could the BCS standings once again break the tie? I'd imagine there will be some resistance to this, and the discussion this week should be interesting.
"There's a lot they [the coaches] can use,” Rudner said.
Future championship game sites
The inaugural Big Ten football championship takes place Dec. 3 at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium. The league still is in the process of determining championship sites for 2012 and beyond.
Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia said the league began its evaluation of potential future sites this winter and wants to make a decision by early summer. The league is evaluating football sites as well as sites for the men's and women's basketball tournaments, which enter the final year of a deal with Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse.
Although Traviolia declined to reveal many details of the evaluation process, he said, "There's a general excitement over a new premier event. The buzz is great."
Expect the Big Ten to announce a multiyear plan for sites this summer, but the league is flexible with length of term and could use a rotation for all three championship events.
"We're open to any possibility," Traviolia said. "If there was a foolproof method of hosting a successful conference championship game and it would work well no matter what area of the country you're in or what the economic environment you're in, we'd sign up. But there are different schools of thought, whether you park it one place, whether you rotate it around.
"You take a look a the pros and cons of what's in front of you and you make a choice."
Because of scheduling and the advance planning needed to produce the football championship game, the Big Ten can't wait until after the 2011 event at Lucas Oil to determine sites for 2012 and beyond, Traviolia said.
Big Ten presidents and chancellors have the ultimate say on future championship sites, but the topic will come up this week with coaches and administrators. Athletic directors ultimately will recommend sites to their presidents or chancellors.
"The coaches and the administrators have very important opinions that need to be included in the process," Traviolia said.
The football coaches will gather Tuesday morning for their first meeting, which will be held in executive session without any league officials. Dantonio is the chair of the coaches' group and will lead the meeting.
Four new coaches will be in attendance: Michigan's Brady Hoke, Indiana's Kevin Wilson, Minnesota's Jerry Kill and Nebraska's Bo Pelini.
"They need some time together alone to sit across the table and communicate," Rudner said. "Our approach has always been, 'No surprises.' Don't leave anything off the table. Get it out in the open. Let's make sure we're communicating efficiently. And it makes a difference, it really does."
Rudner expects the coaches to discuss recruiting issues, including the possibility of an early signing date (which many Big Ten coaches want). Other topics include agents, freshman eligibility issues, the rise of 7-on-7 teams and gambling awareness initiatives. Delany will present the coaches and ADs with a report on the BCS and the Big Ten's bowls, and coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo will update the coaches on rules changes and the officiating training program.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the spring meetings throughout the week.
- The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Scott Dochterman reported Friday that the Iowa-Wisconsin series will resume in 2013 after a hiatus the next two seasons. This rivalry was arguably the biggest casualty of the division split, as Iowa and Wisconsin have met in 72 of the past 74 seasons.
- The Illinois-Iowa series also will resume in 2013 after a four-year hiatus, Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner told Dochterman. Because of expansion and the scheduling logistics, three pairs of teams are going four years without meeting. They are: Illinois-Iowa, Northwestern-Ohio State and Indiana-Minnesota. Each Big Ten team had two no-plays before expansion, a total that increases to three as long as the conference schedule remains at eight games.
- It seems like four years will be the maximum gap for two Big Ten teams not to play in the regular season. Iowa-Ohio State and Purdue-Northwestern are two regular-season matchups you won't see between 2011-14.
- Big Ten officials and athletic directors met in Indianapolis during the Big Ten basketball tournaments and discussed the possibility of going to nine conference games, but no decision has been made. Home games continue to be the main sticking point.
- “Whenever you start nine games, whether it’s 2015 or later, you have to look at who has nonconference road games," Rudner told The Gazette. "If a school has a nonconference road game in consecutive years, then it’s problematic because you can't provide that institution with five conference home games back-to-back. It's just not fair. So I think we’ll probably -- whether it’s this spring or this summer -- we'll probably have a better clue as to how we’re going to do it, if we’re going to do it, and if we are, when we’re going to do it." As Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said in August, we're not likely to see a nine-game Big Ten schedule until at least 2015. I'd still be surprised if we don't see the increase, but the discussion isn't over.
- The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier reports that Nebraska will visit Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium in 2013 in a division crossover game. The Boilers return to Lincoln in 2014 and also will face Michigan State in crossover games both seasons.
- Big Ten teams will have two open dates in both 2013 and 2014.
Some interesting stuff, especially about the nine-game schedule debate and the gaps teams will have between meetings.
- Things were a little awkward at first when former Michigan teammates Stephen Schilling and Justin Boren reunited at the NFL combine, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Penn State's uniforms likely will become even more basic in 2011. Lions running back Evan Royster recognizes the need for speed at the combine, Jeff Rice writes in the Centre Daily Times.
- Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi isn't lacking confidence at the combine, saying he's the best tackle in the draft, Aaron Wilson writes in the National Football Post.
- Michigan AD Dave Brandon says the school "isn't messing around" with Greg Mattison's lucrative contract, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News. Jim Harbaugh was "very interested" in the Michigan job but couldn't pass up the NFL, Dave Birkett writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt reportedly underwent hand and shoulder surgery. Allen Reisner hopes to continue Iowa's tradition of producing NFL tight ends, Chris Nielsen writes in the Des Moines Register. Some interesting quotes from Iowa offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde.
- Big Ten associate commissioner Mark Rudner talks with Off Tackle Empire about expansion, division alignment, scheduling and other topics.
- Six Big Ten venues appear in Dennis Dodd's list of top 25 college football stadiums.
- After my Michigan State sport ID debate, The Daily Gopher wonders what sport best defines Minnesota's program.
- Damarlo Belcher and his Indiana teammates are slimming down before spring ball, Pete DiPrimio writes in The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel. Hoosiers players are tired of losing and willing to buy in to Kevin Wilson and the new staff, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- USC's hiring of former Nebraska assistant Ted Gilmore is now official.
- Purdue coach Danny Hope discusses Al-Terek McBurse's apparent departure and the waiting game for receiver Keith Smith, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Michigan State's Kirk Cousins will be speaking about football and faith tonight.
Turns out, Big Ten fans aren't the only ones getting an early start on the tall task of splitting up the league.
When Big Ten athletic directors gathered in Chicago for their spring meetings in May, they looked at different models for division alignment. Nebraska had been discussed as an expansion candidate, but the ADs didn't anticipate any imminent action, so they played around with the divisions without knowing the potential addition or additions to the league.
"We didn’t have names, but we talked about different ways you could do it, depending on the size of the conference," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said.
Now that Nebraska is joining the league in 2011, the process has accelerated.
The Big Ten athletic directors received a memo this week from league commissioner Jim Delany, outlining the priorities and the process for determining divisions. Big Ten associate commissioner Mark Rudner and others are spearheading the project, and will present data to the athletic directors when they gather in Chicago for the Big Ten's media days and kickoff luncheon Aug. 2-3.
A resolution should come shortly after, especially because of the need to sort out future schedules.
"I believe the divisional makeup will be done by the beginning of the academic year," Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said, "and the schedule will follow shortly thereafter because we all want to know where we’re playing and when. I don’t see this being as big an issue as some people have made it. Maybe I’ll be surprised at that, but I do believe we'll come to a conclusion relatively quickly."
Maturi is confident in a group of ADs who have made tough decisions before. The fact that they got a jump start on the process in May also helps.
"We weren’t sure how the expansion thing was going to pan out, but we did talk about the notion that geography doesn't always work," Burke said. "The one thing we talked about, and it’s actually in our bylaws, is comparative parity. You have to make sure you protect the rivalries as best you can, and I think we’ll be able to do that, but you don’t want either of these divisions to be imbalanced."
Burke added that divisions likely would be necessary only in football, which lacks a conference tournament like the other sports. So the concerns about non-revenue sports travel aren't valid because their scheduling format won't change much.
Many Big Ten fans favor a geographical split down the Illinois-Indiana border. They think it maintains competitive balance, preserves longstanding rivalries and limits travel to many of the road games.
"That’s just the easy thing to do, just draw a line and divide it up geographically," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best way. Competitive equality in both divisions is important."
How do you assess competitive balance? Traditional power Michigan is at its lowest point in 45 years, while Wisconsin certainly isn't the sputtering program that Alvarez took over as head coach in 1990. Minnesota is no longer winning national titles, while Northwestern hasn't been the league's doormat for 15 years.
How far back should the ADs go to evaluate programs?
"You have to look with a wide lens," Burke said. "You have to look over a 50-year period and look at who’s been consistent. If you take a snapshot of a five-year period or a 10-year period, you may miss it. Clearly, Michigan and Ohio State and Penn State and Nebraska, if you look at a 50-year history, are your four biggest brands. It doesn’t mean they win all the time, but they’re your biggest brands. I don’t think there’ll be any disagreement among all the Big Ten ADs about that.
"You’re not going to stack all four of them in one division. You’re going to try to create some level of parity."
Like the rest of their colleagues, Burke, Alvarez and Maturi will go to Chicago with their own specific interests to protect. Wisconsin wants to safeguard its rivalries with Minnesota and Iowa. Burke values the Purdue-Indiana rivalry, and he wants to keep playing Notre Dame out of conference every year, too. Maturi is well aware of Minnesota's extensive history with both Wisconsin and Iowa.
But to reach a consensus, the ADs also have to go in with an open mind.
“Have to is a strong term because again, we’re all willing to give up something," Maturi said. "Our traditional rivalries always have been and remain Iowa and Wisconsin. Those are the two schools we would hope to maintain competitive balance and a relationship with. But even those schools, I’m willing to take a deep breath and look at the big picture and do what is necessary because this is a good, long-term commitment for the betterment of the Big Ten.
"I think you’ll find that the athletic directors and the commissioner will lead us down that path."
They have a message to Big Ten fans about the league's newest addition: you're gonna like Big Red.
Brewster and Bielema roamed the sidelines at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium as assistants with Texas and Kansas State, respectively. They faced the Huskers multiple times, and they're looking forward to a reunion in the Big Ten.
Nebraska on Friday officially became a member of the Big Ten and will begin play during the 2011 season.
"It's a first-class operation," Brewster said. "Coach [Tom] Osborne exemplifies what class is all about. And some of the classiest fans I've ever seen. When I was at Texas [in 1998] and we broke Nebraska's 47-game home winning streak, I was truly amazed leaving the field, the Nebraska fans gave Texas football players a standing ovation.
"That doesn't happen many places, let me promise you."
Bielema also had the fortune of winning a game at Memorial Stadium, as Kansas State crushed the Huskers in 2003 while he served as the Wildcats' defensive coordinator. Nebraska certainly wasn't Nebraska at that time, but Bielema came away impressed with the atmosphere in Lincoln.
"It reminded me a little bit of a Michigan-type stadium," Bielema said. "They've got their traditions -- they clap when you're walking off the field. It's a great environment. The people in Nebraska are very proud of the program and the history and all that goes into it, so it's a really unique place to play."
Bielema and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a former linebacker at Nebraska, had been trying to schedule a home-and-home series with the Huskers for several years. Although Bielema had heard Nebraska mentioned as a potential Big Ten expansion candidate for some time, he didn't stop pursuing a nonconference series with the Huskers.
Now there's no need, as Wisconsin and Nebraska could be playing every year if placed in the same division.
"With Coach Osborne's and Coach Alvarez's history, maybe we can start a little trophy game," said Bielema, who frequently recruits against Nebraska. "Call it the Alvaborn Cup or something like that. We don't have a season-ending finale game, so maybe we can start a tradition here."
Bielema already has contacted Big Ten associate commissioner Mark Rudner -- who handles scheduling and will oversee division alignment and a football championship game -- and told Rudner that Wisconsin will do "anything we've got to do" to set up a rivalry. Wisconsin likely will have some competition from Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State and others.
Brewster expects Minnesota's division to include both Iowa and Wisconsin, which would preserve long-standing annual trophy games, but he'd like to see Big Red a lot, too. Minnesota has faced Nebraska 51 times but not since it suffered back-to-back shutout losses to the Huskers in 1989 and 1990, falling by a combined score of 104-0.
"Adding Nebraska forces Minnesota to continue to step up," Brewster said, "knowing that we're competing against a program that has amazing support in all areas. We want to be the best in the Big Ten, that's our goal, and adding a program like Nebraska does nothing but help Minnesota in every way.
"It's going to turn into a natural rivalry. I would probably think Minnesota and Nebraska will be on the same side of a divided conference."
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald hadn't been as pro expansion as some of his colleagues, seeing no need for the Big Ten to expand simply "to keep up with the Joneses." But Fitzgerald thinks Nebraska is "a great fit" and welcomes the league's newest addition.
"Just an outstanding program," Fitzgerald said. "Obviously, it's a big change for our conference, and what a great one. Nebraska solidifies us as a conference even more."
There are so many subtopics to discuss in the coming months, but here's a bit more about what we know now:
Further Big Ten expansion: It definitely could happen. Delany and Simon both said the league remains within its 12- to 18-month time frame to study expansion and could act again depending on the climate. The Big Ten only acted now because of circumstances with the Big 12 and Nebraska. Delany admitted the league might not have been ready to act three months ago. The Big Ten now will return to "the slower tempo sort of game" with expansion, but Delany said the league is prepared to act quickly again. "We have two-thirds of study period left to go and we’re real anxious to work with Jim and others around the next step," Simon said. Added Delany: "If we can be as successful with a 13th or 14th member as we were with Nebraska, that would be great."
Championship game: Delany has never been rah-rah about them, but he expects the Big Ten to begin playing a championship game in football in 2011. Venues and locations haven't been discussed, but Big Ten associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner and others will begin examining the possibilities. Feedback from athletic directors and coaches will be gathered before any decisions are made. "It’s important to get it right, and there’s no silver bullet," Delany said. "There will be different views on it."
Division alignment: The Big Ten also must figure out divisions in the coming months. Delany listed three main criteria for sorting them out: competitive fairness, maintenance of rivalries and geography. He stressed that competitive fairness is the No. 1 priority, which I believe to be the correct approach. Geography shouldn't determine divisions. You don't want another Big 12 South scenario.
Scheduling: Osborne hinted that the number of conference games could increase in the new Big Ten. He expects at least three nonconference games and, like many Big Ten athletic directors, wants to keep as many of those at home as possible. The Big Ten's challenge will be figuring things out for Nebraska's arrival in September 2011. "Mark Rudner and Mike McComiskey have done a lot of models," Delany said. "The issue for us it the short turnaround."
Rivalries: Delany has often talked about the intimacy of a league and how vital rivalries are to its fabric. "They're part of who we are," he said Friday. But he added that rivalries have to be evaluated independently to see which ones are worth preserving in an expanded league. "We’re going into this with the idea that rivalries really matter," Delany said. "But not all rivalries are equal."
Timeline with Nebraska: Delany and other Big Ten officials met with Nebraska officials three or four weeks ago to have informal discussions in an undisclosed location (it wasn't Lincoln, where Delany made his first trip Friday, or Chicago). Osborne also had briefly discussed expansion with Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez (a former Nebraska player and coach), both of whom told him the Big Ten was considering the Huskers. The process only really heated up after the Big 12 issued stay-or-go ultimatums to its members. If the Big 12 -- and Pac-10 -- didn't speed things up, the Big Ten would have continued to move along slowly. But Nebraska seems happy with the way things worked out. "We don’t feel like we’re walking into a room of strangers," Perlman said. Added Osborne: "We feel we share a lot of common values with what we know of Big Ten institutions."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
CHICAGO -- The recent announcement that a Nov. 7 game between Ohio State and Penn State won't be played at night because of a league policy prohibiting November night games created quite a stir within Big Ten Nation.
And after watching the Big 12 play four Saturday night showcase games last November, who can blame Big Ten fans? Especially Penn State supporters who live for night-game Whiteouts at Beaver Stadium.
Big Ten relevancy in November and December certainly is a healthy debate these days, but it's important to know the reasoning behind the policy.
Mark Rudner, the Big Ten's associate commissioner for television administration, explained the November night games policy to me before today's league meetings got under way. Though I don't agree with the league's position, it's important to understand get the full picture.
Some key points:
- This is not a new policy. It has been in place for quite some time and probably wouldn't be a big deal if it didn't affect what looks like the marquee conference game of the 2009 season. The Big Ten has no plans to revisit the policy, and any change likely wouldn't be made until the league renews its TV contract in the distant future.
- Weather certainly is a factor, but it's not the only factor. The Big Ten is simply not a conference that traditionally plays games at night, and that tradition still matters. There's no Tiger Stadium At Night in the Big Ten. Rudner noted that the league still plays night games in September and October -- 14 in all -- and sees the value in doing so, but it doesn't lose much exposure because all of its games are nationally televised. He also really values the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff time, which has become the Big Ten's showcase game in recent years.
- Night games present a logistical nightmare that most fans can't fully comprehend. From getting fans in and out of mammoth stadiums to policing the areas -- all in potentially lousy weather -- these events present some tough obstacles. Though many of the same challenges are present with September and October night games, the November weather compounds things.
- Expect the Big Ten to start scheduling potential marquee games like Ohio State-Penn State in October, like last year's game (Oct. 25). The league schedule is set through 2012, but don't expect to see Ohio State-Penn State in November many more times beyond that point. End-of-season rivalry games like Ohio State-Michigan, Iowa-Minnesota and Purdue-Indiana won't move out of the noon ET or 3:30 p.m. ET time slots.