Big Ten: North Carolina Tar Heels

Big Ten Friday mailblog

February, 22, 2013
NFL combine weekend is upon us. We'll have an update Monday on how the Big Ten contingent fared in the early testing.

To your emails ...

Brian from Atlanta writes: Adam, How can you think Chicago makes sense for the B10 CCG until two things change: 1. The game stops being a primetime game so the windchill isn't below freezing for much of the game, 2. The groundskeepers at Soldier Field learn how to grow a decent field in December? I've seen elementary playgrounds with better grass than Soldier Field has, and a rock hard field with bad grass causes injuries (head and knee). I'd be OK with the game played in the afternoon outdoors in Chicago, but they need a decent field.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I completely agree with you about the playing surface at Soldier Field. As a Bears fan, it's embarrassing to see that slop on Sundays. They should have installed FieldTurf when they did the renovation. The field certainly would be a concern for the Big Ten, mainly because of player safety. No one wants to see injuries in the title game, especially because those teams will be advancing to major bowl games or the playoff. The Big Ten would need assurances from Soldier Field and the Bears that the playing surface would hold up.

I'm less concerned about the weather. While an afternoon kickoff might be the way to go, the temperature in Chicago on the first Saturday of December isn't always frigid. Last year, we had temperatures in the 40s and low 50s. Thank global warming, I guess. While there's always potential for bad weather, it's not as if this game would be played in late December or early January. And c'mon, this is the Big Ten. These teams are used to playing in the cold. This type of thinking is why we haven't had November night games in the Big Ten, which in my view has hurt the league's image/brand.

Chas from Ames, Iowa, writes: ARitt: I appreciate your constant criticism of Iowa Football and the article about Ferentz allegedly reducing recruitment of Florida. Do you think this could be due to the fact that his most recent hires have deep, deep ties in another football hotbed [the Country of Texas]? If so, why would that be a bad thing [especially if one considers that Iowa has done well with athletes from Texas since Hayden Fry's heyday in the 1980's]?

Adam Rittenberg: Chas, as someone who has read this blog from the start, you know criticism or praise depends on how the team is performing. Iowa has deserved the recent criticism, just like it deserved the praise I doled out in 2009. You and others have pointed out the staff's ties to Texas, which is great. But I don't get the either/or argument at all. You can recruit both Texas and Florida. There's no rule that prevents teams from doing so. Sure, Texas can be a bigger emphasis now with former Longhorns assistants Greg Davis and Bobby Kennedy on staff. But Kirk Ferentz has had the chance to make many more hires. Why not bring in one assistant with ties to Florida so you can have a presence there as well? Both states mass-produce talent, and a program like Iowa that has limited in-state talent should have a presence in both spots, even if Texas is emphasized more than Florida.

James from Lincoln, Kan., writes: Looking at the Combine numbers for invitees over the last 3 years, and as a Husker fan, should it be concerning that the list of invitees from Nebraska have been declining over the last few years. Now although I am sure there were some snubs in the past (Baker Steinkuhler), shouldn't a school with Nebraska's pedigree be able to send more than 3 players to the NFL combine in any given year?

Adam Rittenberg: You would think so, James. I wouldn't be overly concerned, but I would closely monitor the number of defensive players Nebraska sends to the combine in the coming years. Nebraska sent four defenders in 2010, four in 2011 and three in 2012, but only one (safety Daimion Stafford) this season. Bo Pelini has produced NFL defenders everywhere he's been, but the unit certainly took a step backward in 2012. Nebraska is looking for leadership and star power on that side of the ball. I think the number of offensive players Nebraska sends to Indy will fluctuate a bit -- partly because of the offensive system it runs -- but Big Red should always be sending a handful of defenders to the combine under Pelini.

Heisman Voter from New York writes: Adam and Brian, as a Heisman voter, let me be the first to congratulate you two for your omission of Kawann Short from the Top 25 player rankings. Sure he was a consensus All-Big Ten and he had the most sacks (7) and TFL (15.5) by a defensive tackle, in addition to his 1 FF and 4 blocked kicks, but his team was bad this year. That's why he as an individual doesn't deserve to be with the likes of Hankins, whose 1 sack, 4 TFL, zero fumbles forced, and 12 wins completely overshadowed Short. By now you realize this is sarcasm. For the record, I am not a Purdue fan, but I find it astounding that Short gets so little respect because the rest of his team hasn't been among the best. He has been one of the most consistent performers the last three years, racking up 19.5 sacks, 44.5 TFLs, and an astounding 8 blocked kicks. Can you explain how he gets left out, because it really seems like you're using team record as the most important stat. Oh, and Replogle would like a word too...

Adam Rittenberg: You make some fair points, Heisman, and both Short and Replogle had good seasons and were considered for the list. Again, it's a very exclusive group, only 25 players, and we looked for guys who made the biggest impact week in and week out -- beyond the numbers. Hankins' stats don't come close to reflecting what type of impact he had on games this past season. The same goes for Penn State's Jordan Hill, who had better numbers than Hankins and was even more dominant, especially late in the season. It's not all about the numbers for the defensive tackle position. My issue with Short is he'd have a few huge games every year and then disappear for others. And I can't look past the fact he led a Purdue defensive line that quite frankly underperformed this season and was gashed by so many opponents. That reflects poorly on him. The same goes for Replogle at Indiana. Again, both men had solid seasons overall and were considered for the Top 25, but neither made as big of an impact as Hankins or Hill.

Adam from Washington D.C., writes: Your Iowa article was atrocious today. I'm a Michigan fan so I don't have a dog in the fight other than I hate reading ignorant stuff. Iowa needs to recruit better players and have them stay. Literally the sentence before you said "I don't see a good reason for them to leave Florida," you explain that none of their Florida recruits had panned out. Then you say something nonsensical about Michigan ramping up Southern recruiting efforts. You do realize we're recruiting Florida significantly less since Michigan fired Rich Rod and went with Hoke, right? It's like you just type stuff that you think sounds good but don't actually back it up with anything factual. That's why you're no longer in my google reader. It's sad, because sometimes you do great work. Other times, you two the ESPN line wayyyy too much.

Adam Rittenberg: It's a major ego blow not to be in your google reader. Not sure how I'll possibly recover. The argument that Iowa should de-emphasize Florida because it has had a run of recruits who didn't pan out doesn't make sense to me, either. We know there are many Florida recruits who do pan out. Just look at Wisconsin, which has players like running back James White (Fort Lauderdale), safety Dezmen Southward (Sunrise) and linebacker Conor O'Neill (Delray Beach), as well as recently graduated players like safety Aaron Henry (Immokalee). Wisconsin's success in Florida should encourage Iowa, especially since Bret Bielema and Charlie Partridge are no longer in Madison. Just because you've had a bad run doesn't mean you throw up your hands. As for Michigan, of course I realize the Wolverines are recruiting Florida less without RichRod. But as noted in the post, Michigan was the only other Big Ten team besides Iowa not to sign a Florida player this year. That should change in the future. WolverineNation's Tom VanHaaren, who knows Michigan recruiting better than anyone, told us on a recent podcast that the staff is emphasizing Florida and Southern recruiting more in the 2014 class. The article linked in the post supports this. Michigan will continue to focus on the Midwest but Hoke and his staff are spreading their recruiting net as well, which should be reflected next year.

Cody from Okinawa, Japan, writes: Adam,During this break from college football, I keep running into articles and speculation about further B1G expansion. Maryland and Rutgers are in, and that is tolerable for me. But rumors of Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia have me worried. I know there has been growing support for a pod system with more teams, but lets stop and consider games like Ohio State at Georgia Tech, Nebraska at Virginia, North Carolina at Michigan. That is not B1G football! I'd love to see a column from you outlining the negative aspects of further expansion.

Adam Rittenberg: There are several potential drawbacks, Cody. The first is more general -- that bigger isn't always better. Big Ten teams will play one another less often -- despite more overall conference games -- and the intimacy of a league, which commissioner Jim Delany often has talked about, will be harmed to a degree by going to 16 or more teams. Another drawback is that North Carolina and Georgia Tech -- and, to a lesser degree, Virginia -- are in fundamentally different areas of the country than the current Big Ten members. Although the Big Ten wants to become a bi-regional conference -- Midwest and East Coast -- it also wants to maintain a certain culture. The culture around college sports in North Carolina and Georgia is different -- not better or worse, just different. My friend David Jones outlines it well, writing:
People belong with their own kind. And most Carolinians aren't transplanted New Yorkers and Ohioans working for GlaxoSmithKline. They are hot-weather-barbecued Southerners who grew up in the pines. They love their area's unique basketball heritage, they talk like Andy Griffith and see the world in different ways than we do. Many of them are wonderful people. My kid goes to camp in northwest North Carolina every year and I've met many of the locals. But they do not belong in the Big Ten. And they will feel like the foreigners they will be if this expansion happens.

His point is that Big Ten folks can relate to Maryland and Rutgers better than they'll be able to relate to North Carolina and Georgia Tech, and vice-versa. Will the Big Ten get richer financially? Sure. But the league's core values -- the essence of who it is -- could be harmed by these moves.

Michael from Los Feliz writes: Hey Adam, I enjoyed your article about Michigan State in honor of Black History Month. However, as a Gopher fan I hope you take some time this month to check out the Gophers' legendary 60s teams. Sandy Stephens was the first African American QB to play at the collegiate level, and he led the Gophers to a National Title and 2 Rose Bowl appearances (1 win). He finished 4th in Heisman balloting at a time when America was still segregated. That is astonishing. Other All-Americans on those teams include Bobby Bell and Carl Eller. All those players remarked on how little racism they found in Minneapolis in comparison to their respective hometowns. This is an important legacy.

Adam Rittenberg: Completely agree, Michael. Minnesota came up a lot while I was doing my reporting for the Michigan State story. Although other Big Ten teams recruited blacks from the South and provided tremendous opportunities for these players, Minnesota and Michigan State certainly were ahead of the curve. Former MSU quarterback Jimmy Raye, who faced the two obstacles of being black and being a black quarterback from the South, told me, "I wanted to go to school at the University of Minnesota because Sandy Stephens had played quarterback there and taken them to the Rose Bowl. He was the first black All-America quarterback, so I knew if I was being recruited by Minnesota, I would have a chance to play quarterback there." Players like Raye were very aware that Minnesota had brought in Bell and Eller from the same state (North Carolina). I agree that it's a very important legacy.
The ACC presidents say they're sticking together. Stop laughing, guys. They're serious.

OK, I'm laughing, too. Can't help it.

Here's the statement the ACC presidents released today:
"We, the undersigned presidents of the Atlantic Coast Conference, wish to express our commitment to preserve and protect the future of our outstanding league. We want to be clear that the speculation about ACC schools in negotiations or considering alternatives to the ACC are totally false. The presidents of the ACC are united in our commitment to a strong and enduring conference. The ACC has long been a leader in intercollegiate athletics, both academically and athletically, and the constitution of our existing and future member schools will maintain the ACC's position as one of the nation's premier conferences."

Well, isn't that nice, the illusion of solidarity. I don't buy it, you don't buy it, and even the ACC presidents, if injected with truth serum, don't buy one word of this. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wouldn't buy it, either, if he wasn't so busy counting his money.

It would be nice if the statement were true, but what we've seen in the past two and a half years invalidates every word. Remember when the Big East put out a similar statement in September 2011?

The realignment rage is far from over, and the chances of the ACC preventing another raid from a richer league like the Big Ten are slim to none.

Is the Big Ten expanding now? No. Were the rumors last week about talks with Georgia Tech substantiated? Not according to league officials I spoke to in Indianapolis. Is the Big Ten in a mad dash to become the first league to 16? No. In fact, the Big Ten has been reactive more than proactive.

But the Big Ten eventually will become a 16-team league, and odds are the additional schools will come from the ACC. If you want to speculate about the Big Ten's next expansion targets, look at big markets with good recruits and lots of Big Ten alumni.

Georgia Tech is a strong candidate because of its location, and schools like Virginia and maybe even North Carolina -- the white whale for the Big Ten, in my view -- could be in play. And while the ACC claims it's sticking together, there's simply too much money involved for individual members to say no.

NC State athletic director Debbie Yow, who previously held the same post at Maryland, this week expressed displeasure at Maryland's recent departure for the Big Ten.

"Maryland will be on a plane to play Wisconsin in the middle of the winter," Yow said. "Hope that money is really, really good."

Of all people, Yow should know why Maryland needs the Big Ten's money so badly. And yes, the money is really good and will only get better after the Big Ten finalizes its mammoth TV deal in a few years.

These types of statements insult fans' intelligence. What is that line about anything you say can and will be used against you? Brace yourselves, ACC.

Big Ten mailblog

November, 20, 2012
Nice, slow week in the Big Ten. Let's get to your questions. Expansion, anyone?

Matt from Wisconsin writes: Hey Adam: I hope the Big 10 and Jim Delany get the division model correct his time. Scrap the Mix of geography that makes absolutely no sense in the Leaders and Legends Divisions and just make it a Simple East West. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in the East (one of them is usually down every year anyway). and then The Powers of Wisconsin, Nebraska, and mixed in with Iowa or Illinois who usually come up and have a really good team one out of every four years to challenge for a title. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I liked the Big Ten's original division alignment because it created seemingly good competitive balance and divided the four major brands (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska). But with the recent expansion, some of the rising programs on the western side of the conference -- Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa until recently -- and the potential decline of a power program (Penn State), it might be wise to follow your model. Although Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema likes being in the Ohio State/Penn State division, the Badgers would have annual series with both Nebraska and Iowa on the other side. You would avoid the potential of a Michigan-Ohio State rematch in the title game the week after The Game, and the final Saturday of the regular season could feature more division games. It's something for the ADs to consider.

Dan from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam,Love the blog. If the BIG tries to go to 16 who do you see as the most logical fits for the conference? I know Virginia, UNC, G. Tech are on the radar as potential candidates. All are in the AAU but none of the potential targets really brings in much to the table for football sake. One that no one is talking about is Vanderbuilt. I think Vandy is a better fit than Maryland and Rutgers, still adds a TV market (Nashville/Tenn.) and none of the schools would have to travel as far = win win. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, this is clearly all about demographics, so I see the Big Ten looking to the southeast next. Vanderbilt certainly fits academically, and the Nashville market is decent. But I think the other schools you mention, particularly North Carolina, would be more attractive to the Big Ten. North Carolina is a strong academic school with great basketball tradition and some tradition in football, and the location in a growing area is a big plus. It doesn't hurt that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany played hoops for the Tar Heels. Virginia would strengthen the Big Ten in the Mid-Atlantic region and help build the "bridge" from Penn State, as Delany has discussed. And Virginia's academic reputation would make the Big Ten presidents drool.

Philip from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Huge Husker fan here, I need help. My good friend is a die hard Maize & Blue fan and I need an honest, professional opinion. Overall who is a better coach; Brady Hoke or Bo Pelini? I really need to silence this angry fan of Michigan!

Adam Rittenberg: Philip, it's probably not the answer you want, but they're both good coaches. Hoke has been a head coach longer, while Pelini has had more successful seasons. Both helped turn around traditional power programs that had fallen on hard times under their predecessors (Bill Callahan and Rich Rodriguez). I rate them similarly right now as neither has won a league title, both have led teams to division titles (Pelini at Nebraska, Hoke at Ball State), and both served as assistants on national title-winning teams. The two coaches have split their matchups in the Big Ten the past two seasons. Right now, I'd call it a push.

John from Cleveland writes: Adam, It's good timing that the coaching salaries came out the same time as the B1G money/demographics grab with Maryland and Rutgers. With all this new money, can the schools in the conference shell out a few bucks to upgrade the coaching staffs? My assumption is that a good coach will attract better athletes and produce a better football team. Right now, 8 schools (including the two additions) pay their coach less than $2 million. I'd love to see the B1G top that chart and bring in the country's best coaches and build the best conference.

Adam Rittenberg: John, you'll definitely see Big Ten coaching salaries -- and those around the nation -- continue to climb. We can certainly debate whether all these salaries are out of control, but that's the market and the Big Ten must stay competitive. One thing to remember, though, is that the Big Ten is full of broad-based athletic programs, and most schools sponsor far more sports than, say, their counterparts in the SEC. You have to spread the money out a bit, although football obviously takes the biggest piece of the pie. But if the projected revenues come in, I would expect Big Ten head coach salaries -- and, just as important, assistant coach salaries -- to escalate.

B1G fan stuck in Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan: Thanks for taking a question from a stranded Airman 10000 miles away from home. Am I in the minority for siding with Coach Kill about the Barker situation? In my opinion, who cares if your coach called you out in front of your peers. His job is not to be your friend. His job is to be your mentor, and if that means calling you out for something you did, then so be it. Today's mentality of if your supervisor is being a meanie, that means it's wrong is bull. If my supervisor was nice to me no matter how much I messed up, nothing would get done here.

Adam Rittenberg: First off, thanks for writing in, and thanks for everything you do. Coaches aren't saints, and they will challenge their players, Jerry Kill being no exception. Barker contends he wasn't given all the information about his injury up front, and had his work ethic questioned by Kill and the training staff. That's a pretty powerful accusation, and we'll never fully know the truth. He also makes strong accusations about Kill threatening to not award a scholarship. Kill defended himself Monday by saying Barker confronted the training staff, disrupting a practice, and needed to be disciplined. If that's the truth, I don't blame Kill. But it comes down to who you believe. For the most part, players should respect their coaches and understand the nature of the relationship. Most of Kill's players at Minnesota love him. He's extremely well respected in the profession. But coaches can cross the line at times, and questioning a player's toughness following an injury would be doing it, if that's what actually happened. The bottom line is it's a very unfortunate situation all around.

Grant from Detroit writes: I might be the only one who thinks the Maryland/Rutgers move is absolute genius. It is the first step in the next B1G acquisition: Notre Dame. Am I off-base in the following thinking? As conferences begin to expand, they will all opt for the 9-game conference schedule. This will eliminate one of the preseasons, and teams will want to win all of those to remain bowl eligible with potentially harder conference schedules. This will make Notre Dame fall off of many ranked teams' out-of-conference schedules, and ND will have a difficult time finding quality opponents willing to use one of their preseason games on a tough matchup. Without a conference, or strength of schedule, it will become extremely difficult for ND to make the playoffs in the new NC format. They will be forced to join a conference if they want to regularly be in the NC hunt. With the added profitability of TV demos that MD and Rutgers bring, the B1G would offer Notre Dame the most profitable (and winnable) conference option, and it would also maintain several of its current rivalries. ND will end up being forced to join the B1G in ALL sports because the SEC is too tough for them to compete, the Big12 is not a good cultural fit, the Big East and ACC are dissolving, and the Pac12 is too far away. This addition of Maryland and Rutgers will spark another round of conference expansion and will put many teams in panic mode. Though I think that ND will be the last major team to join a conference, I think they will be a member of the B1G within 6 years, along with Pitt. What are your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Grant, unless the ACC completely falls apart, I don't see this happening. One thing that's clear is Notre Dame would have to fully commit to the Big Ten -- all sports including football -- to be admitted. The Big Ten will never cut the deal the ACC did for Notre Dame, Texas or any other school that thinks it's above the fray. Here's what Delany told and the Chicago Tribune on Monday: "It was pretty clear to me that Notre Dame for a long time wanted to maintain its independence, and as that's a matter of fact, I knew there wasn't a possibility for us to add Notre Dame. I've always respect Notre Dame's history and their vision." The ACC is a good cultural fit for Notre Dame. So unless the ACC falls apart, I think Notre Dame stays put.

Ian from Philly writes: Dear Mr. Rittenberg,Your and Mr. Bennett's lack of coverage (in terms of both quality and quantity) of the Big Ten's expansion beginning this Saturday morning through today is highly disappointing. Outside of Mr. Bennett's lone piece about the lack of short term gain that Maryland and Rutgers provides the conference your blog seemed to serve no greater role than an aggregation of links and tweets.Your readers have come to expect more, much more.

Adam Rittenberg: Ian, we were under direction from Bristol not to address the expansions until they became official Monday. No speculation, no commentary. Since then, we've provided a ton of coverage you can find here. Think it's more than sufficient, especially during a pretty big game week, but you may disagree.

Video: Friday Four Downs

October, 19, 2012

Urban Meyer's increased involvement with the Ohio State defense and a lot of scheduling are among the top storylines in the Big Ten this week.
When the Big Ten announced its decision to introduce nine-game conference schedules in 2017, concerns were raised about the impact the move would have on nonconference scheduling.

Those concerns have been validated.

Ohio State announced Tuesday that because of the move to nine-game Big Ten schedules, it had to cancel a home-and-home series with Tennessee set for 2018 and 2019. Given how rarely Big Ten and SEC teams meet during the regular season, the Ohio State-Tennessee cancellation is rather unfortunate. Ohio State said in a news release that the schools might look at the possibility of scheduling games again in the future. But it's no guarantee.

While there are some upcoming Big Ten-SEC matchups -- Michigan-Alabama will open the 2012 season in Dallas, Michigan State and Alabama will play in 2016 and 2017 -- there aren't nearly enough regular-season games between the two most popular conferences in college football.

Ohio State announced a bit of good news Tuesday: the Buckeyes will play a home-and-home series with North Carolina in 2015 (Columbus) and 2017 (Chapel Hill). Although ACC opponents typically don't excite Big Ten fans, North Carolina is a nice addition for Ohio State.

Ohio State also announced it will host Florida A&M, an FCS team, on Sept. 7, 2013. Florida A&M will receive a guarantee of $850,000 for its appearance.

Ohio State and North Carolina have met four times previously, all in Columbus, with Ohio State winning three of the four games. The 2017 game will be Ohio State's first in Chapel Hill.

Here's a look some of Ohio State's confirmed nonconference opponents in the coming years:


Sept. 1 -- Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 8 -- Central Florida
Sept. 15 -- California
Sept. 22 -- Alabama-Birmingham

Aug. 31 -- Vanderbilt
Sept. 7 -- Florida A&M
Sept. 14 -- at California

Aug. 30 -- at Navy
Sept. 13 -- Kent State
Sept. 20 -- Virginia Tech
Sept. 27 -- Cincinnati

Sept. 5 -- North Carolina
Sept. 12 -- Northern Illinois
Sept. 19 -- at Virginia Tech

Sept. 3 -- Bowling Green
Sept. 17 -- at Oklahoma

Sept. 16 -- Oklahoma
Sept. 23 -- at North Carolina

Sept. 8 -- Cincinnati

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

More scheduling news out of Minnesota, which continues to beef up its nonconference schedules with BCS opponents.

Minnesota and North Carolina have agreed in principle to a home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014. The Gophers will travel to Chapel Hill on Sept. 7, 2013 and host the Tar Heels on Sept. 13, 2015. The school shuffled games with both Oregon State and Colorado to accommodate the changes.

"Our upcoming non-conference schedules are very exciting for three reasons," head coach Tim Brewster said in a statement. "First and foremost, these games are important from the standpoint of recruiting. Then, it is also exciting for our fan base and for our football team. It is inspiring for all three of those groups to play challenging non-conference schedules like we're going to play."

Minnesota's non-league schedules are now finalized for 2010-11 and 2013-14, and several games have been scheduled for way down the road. As a Big Ten observer, I really admire Minnesota's new scheduling philosophy under Brewster and AD Joel Maturi after too many years of cupcakes at the Metrodome.

Here's a look at the Gophers' upcoming non-league schedules:

Sept. 2 at Middle Tennessee State
Sept. 11 South Dakota
Sept. 18 USC
Sept. 25 Northern Illinois


Sept. 3 at USC
Sept. 10 New Mexico State
Sept. 17 Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 24 North Dakota State


Sept. 1 at UNLV
Sept. 15 New Hampshire
Sept. 22 Syracuse


Aug. 31 UNLV
Sept. 7 at North Carolina
Sept. 14 Western Illinois
Sept. 21 San Jose State


Aug. 30 Eastern Illinois
Sept. 6 at Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 13 North Carolina
Sept. 20 San Jose State


Sept. 5 South Dakota State
Sept. 12 at Colorado State
Sept. 26 Ohio


Sept. 3 New Mexico State
Sept. 24 Colorado State


Sept. 9 Oregon State
Sept. 16 Middle Tennessee State


Sept. 8 at Oregon State


Sept. 18 at Colorado


Sept. 17 Colorado

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

What if Penn State resumed its rivalry with Pitt? What if the Iowa-Missouri series finally happened? Why can't Wisconsin man up and play a solid BCS team every year? How about a Big Ten-ACC Challenge in football?

We've all pondered these scheduling questions and many others in recent years. When it comes to college football scheduling, you can dare to dream a bit. Although you'll rarely be satisfied in this climate of home games or bust, it's fun to play around with the possibilities.

Here are some nonconference matchups I'd like to see for each Big Ten team.


There's no love lost between these two coaching staffs, especially as Illinois has become more competitive as a national recruiter (i.e. Arrelious Benn). This game won't happen any time soon, but it would be extremely entertaining to watch Ron Zook and Charlie Weis stand on opposite sidelines. Both schools constantly compete for recruits, especially in the Chicago area, so why not meet on the field?


The teams used to play almost every year, and it would be nice to see the series resume. Indiana and Kentucky have a great rivalry in basketball, and both football programs face similar uphill climbs in major conferences. The proximity between the two schools would make it extremely easy for fans to travel to the games.


Many Iowa fans wish this series had happened already -- Missouri backed out of an agreement several years back -- and it makes a lot of sense for the two teams to meet. You already know my view on Missouri joining the Big Ten, and a natural rivalry with Iowa plays a major role. Both schools recruit in the same area, and both programs have elevated their profiles in recent years.


Two of college football's greatest settings would make this series a must-see. Michigan always fills up the Big House for games, and Wolverines fans would be guaranteed a trip to the Rose Bowl every other year even if their team doesn't reach the big game on Jan. 1. The two teams have met nine times in the regular season, most recently in 2000, and it would be great to see them celebrate the Pac-10-Big Ten rivalry.


The Big Ten should be more aggressive in scheduling the ACC for football, and this series would be a good start. Both programs are on the rise under third-year coaches (Mark Dantonio and Butch Davis), and both have been recruiting better in recent years. Let's just hope for better games than the two basketball matchups this past season.


Minnesota has taken a more aggressive approach to nonconference scheduling, and a series against Washington would fall in line with the new philosophy. Both schools are located in major cities on the northern edge of their respective conferences. Both are trying to revive tradition with energetic coaches (Tim Brewster and Steve Sarkisian). And selfishly, I wouldn't mind making the trip to Minneapolis or Seattle each year.


This isn't really a fantasy matchup because these teams will begin a four-game series in 2010. It's long overdue. Both Northwestern and Vanderbilt face a similar challenge as private institutions with limited football success trying to compete with storied programs in major conferences. Both schools are among the nation's academic elite. There are way too many similarities for the teams not to play.


Though I like colleague Heather Dinich's suggestion for an Ohio State-Miami matchup, Buckeyes fans want the SEC, and they want it bad. No league has damaged Ohio State's national reputation more than the SEC, and the hatred between Buckeye Nation and SEC fans runs deep. Florida makes the most sense for Ohio State, but any of the SEC title contenders would suffice.


This is a no-brainer. Fans on both sides desperately want to see the rivalry resume, and it's a shame there are no immediate plans for a series. The game means a lot to folks in the state of Pennsylvania, and the teams' frequent recruiting battles would only add fuel to the series. Although Pitt doesn't have the wow factor it had several decades ago, the game would generate a ton of local interest.


Something tells me Robert Marve wouldn't mind another crack at Randy Shannon and the Canes in 2010. And Marve isn't the only connection between the schools. New Purdue head coach Danny Hope is a Miami native who signed 14 players from Florida in his first recruiting class.


Wisconsin's hesitancy to schedule big-name teams has irritated its fan base, but athletic director Barry Alvarez can win some support by scheduling his alma mater. Imagine the sea of red from both fan bases when these teams meet at Camp Randall Stadium or Memorial Stadium, two of the nation's most hostile venues. It would be great to see Nebraska play a Big Ten team every year, and Wisconsin certainly needs a marquee opponent.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

There has been a host of responses to Monday's post on Big Ten loyalties/rivalries in football versus men's basketball -- really great job, guys -- so I've decided to split up today's mailbag into two parts. I'll get to all your other questions later today, but for now, let's talk loyalty, rivalry and rooting interest.

Some varied responses from Big Ten Nation.

Dan from San Francisco writes: Every time a major in-conference rival enters a major non-conference game, I go through the same thought process as a Michigan Wolverines fan: Should I root for them? Yes, because that will strengthen our league. No, because they'll steal more of our recruits. Wait, yes, because recruits will want to go to a stronger league. Wait, Why would I ever wish Ohio State -- er, I mean, "major in-conference rival" -- any success at all? Inevitably, I can't decide, so I just end up staying neutral. But I've got to admit, I'm not exactly heartbroken when the Buckeyes lose to anyone. -Dan "Shoe" Hsu P.S. Keep up the great work on the blog! I check it every day. :)

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Dan. You're certainly not alone in this struggle. Most Big Ten fans want the league to do well and gain national respect, as it can only help their favorite team. But rooting for archrivals, even in basketball, is easier said than done.

Eric S. from Parts Unknown writes: I just thought I?d let you know how some Big Ten students feel about cheering for our most hated rivals. As a senior at Ohio State I can honestly say that the number of conversations among friends about how badly we want to see SEC teams lose outnumbers the number of times we have discussed wanting to see Michigan lose by at least tenfold. I think students of Big Ten schools in general are tired of hearing how our beloved teams can?t compete with the speed and athleticism of the SEC and the powerful offenses of the Big 12. You posed a question about how many Michigan fans rooted for us in the national title games, and the answer is quite a lot. My father was born and raised in Detroit and he as well as the rest of my extended family living in Michigan wished the Buckeyes well over Christmas break before I headed out to watch us play Florida. Many of my peers recalled similar stories of other Big Ten fans hoping we could successfully carry the conference flag. The following year Buckeyes all around the country and especially campus returned the support as we watched the Gators lose to Michigan in their next bowl game. I can personally attest to the fact that many students on campus root for every Big Ten team in their bowl games regardless of rivalries. And, as the negativity from all around to country continues to be flung at so-called inadequate Big Ten teams, I can only see this cementing a better cohesiveness among schools of the conference. The latest generation of Buckeyes might not love Michigan, but I?d guess 9 out of 10 of them would root for the Wolverines if they took on Florida tomorrow.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the excellent insight, Eric. Interesting to see how the SEC has truly stoked the fire among Big Ten fans. And this also speaks to the national respect argument. It's definitely the popular thing to hate on the Big Ten right now, and much of it is justified. Look at the league's recent championship game flops in football and basketball. But all the national negativity does seem to unite Big Ten fan bases.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

If you haven't read it already, check out Mark Schlabach's piece about Michigan fans rooting for rival Michigan State in tonight's men's basketball national championship game in Detroit.

It seems as though the Spartans' effort to embrace Detroit and a state down on its luck, in addition to their underdog status against North Carolina, has found a soft spot among Michigan fans. Perhaps all the Big Ten hate nationally has united Big Ten fans, even those who hate each other most of the time.

But one excerpt from the story caught my attention. 

"There were no anti-Michigan people," said Michigan senior Mike Gradillas, who tends bar at The Blue Leprechaun in Ann Arbor. "It was all pro-MSU. If it was football, I'm sure it would have been different."

Bo Schembechler must be rolling in his grave.

Would it be different in football?

Imagine Michigan was playing Alabama in the BCS national championship game held at Ford Field in Detroit (in Big Ten country!). Would Spartan Nation go blue or turn blue?

How many Michigan fans rooted for Ohio State in the 2007 and 2008 BCS title games against the hated SEC?

On the flip side, I'm curious to see how many Michigan fans or Penn State fans were pulling for Ohio State in the 2007 basketball title game against Florida. Were Iowa fans rooting for Illinois to knock off North Carolina in the 2005 national title game?

It probably depends on the teams involved and the depth of the rivalry/hatred, but my guess is Big Ten fans are more likely to support a rival in basketball than in football. Make no mistake, there are some great basketball rivalries in this league -- Illinois-Iowa, Michigan State-Wisconsin and Indiana-Purdue come to mind -- but this remains a football league with a more extensive history.

But I could be wrong. I'll be posting a mailbag Tuesday, so here's your chance to jump in.  

Smell like Penn State for $60

December, 1, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

I can't tell if this is really cool or really, really weird, but a fragrance developer in Pennsylvania has produced a perfume and a cologne that capture the "essence" of Penn State's team colors, Blue and White. 

Harrisburg-based Masik Collegiate Fragrances developed the scents. The company said the Penn State perfume exudes vanilla, lilac, rose and white patchouli, while the cologne smells of blue cypress and cracked pepper vapor. The 3.4-ounce bottles cost $60.

The company says the unique scents are based on "school colors, campus flowers and trees" and other features.

Apparently the company already made a perfume and a cologne for North Carolina (hmmm, Tar Heels don't exactly sound too aromatic) and plans to do the same for six other colleges next year. So if you're really stumped for a Christmas gift, this might be an option. 

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Here's the second half of my interview with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

Are you pretty satisfied with the Big Ten's current bowl agreements or would you like to see some changes?

Jim Delany: Yeah, pretty satisfied. We're just into it two years. The Insight Bowl in Arizona is new for us, we've got the new Champs (Sports) Bowl in Florida. Certainly we think we've got a great bowl partners in Arizona with the Fiesta group, great bowl partners in Orlando with the Bank One group, that seem to be able to manage multiple events. Florida, Arizona, Texas and California are where our people are, and then we've got the regional bowl (Motor City) in Detroit. So I think so, but there are a lot of bowls and a lot of good teams and a lot of great bowl teams, but not everybody's created equal. So when we sit down, hopefully there'll be some competition and we'll continue to be able to grow those relationships.

Will there ever be enough bowls?

JD: Well, there could be as many as there are teams. It's not unheard of. Everybody says there's too many, but I've seen teams under .500 in the NCAA (basketball) tournament and teams at .500 in the NIT. College football is pretty unique. To say that every single bowl is a healthy bowl is probably not true, but to say every single first-round men's basketball tournament game has got a significant followership is probably not true.

As far as scheduling, you look at the Pac-10 and their nonconference schedules are very, very competitive. Are you satisfied with the scheduling in the Big Ten?

JD: If you look at where we were forty years ago -- I was looking at the schedules from 1966 -- we had far fewer games and far fewer mismatches, really sturdy kinds of opponents. Even if you maybe take a look at that twenty years ago, in the late eighties, they're stronger schedules than they are today. Again, fewer games, stronger matchups, more games with the Pac-10, more games out East. Historically, we really haven't played the SEC, in the regular season or in the postseason. So it's something we tried to do in the postseason, but they've got big stadiums, we have big stadiums. Big stadiums typically don't play big stadiums just because of the value of the gate. Everyone talks about TV, but the turnstiles are what drives the revenue, which is what drives the athletic department. Michigan is already playing an away game every other year (at Notre Dame), Ohio State is as well. Penn State historically has, but not recently. In my heart of hearts, I'm the guy that's largely behind the (ACC/Big Ten) Challenge, I'm the guy that's largely behind the Big Ten-SEC bowl games. They weren't here before. I'm the guy who wants to play the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-10. So if anything, I could be accused of overscheduling, not underscheduling, but our schools are going to be the ones who determine what's best for building their programs. (Some) programs are a stage where they're trying to get respect, others are trying to get a bowl game, others are trying to pay for all of the programs. The one thing that hasn't changed in the 20 years since I've come here is that football and basketball still provide 98 percent of the revenues. We've grown women's opportunities, we've gotten better at other sports, we've won championships in other sports. But the fact of it is, they're going to have to pay their way, and that means healthy football and healthy football means winning football. So that time means you have to manage you've got to manage your schedule in a way that makes sense.

Is there a model for scheduling in the Big Ten?

JD: I don't think there is a model. The Pac-10 has got a good situation, but they've got the 5-4, they can play a full round robin. I like that. I would tend to be more in that direction, but I also understand that Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue, have historically been in the second division. They don't have the legacy of the bowls in the way that Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan will have. What we've seen overall, with the growth of television and the growth of bowls and perhaps, maybe, weaker nonconference scheduling, is the growth of the middle class in terms of their own brand, in terms of their own strength, in terms of the perception. So you have to be careful when you say, 'You should be playing Oregon.' The fact of it is, Indiana did beat Oregon a couple years ago in the preseason (2004). But they're much more likely to beat Ball State than they are to beat Oregon. From a TV perspective, are those games better? But it's a combination of what the fan base demands, what the athletic director believes is appropriate. How much is stepping out? If you have them into a bowl game just twice in the last decade, you're going to put that pretty high on your priority list and not necessarily just (schedule) the best game. People do point out the Pac-10 and the Pac-10 maybe plays (a tough schedule) year in and year out, but they have far fewer choices because there are only four conferences that are east of the Mississippi. The other thing is I don't see everybody's feet being held to the fire with regard to nonconference scheduling. Some people don't even leave their own state. Our top teams have always played Notre Dame and historically, those have been good challenges. We've played lots of Pac-10 teams and we used to play more teams in the East, more Boston Colleges, more Syracuses, and I've encouraged our teams. We've got some that are playing N.C. State, have played North Carolina, Virginia. But also, you have to have two people who want to play.

How important is that first month of the season for the league, just with the negative perception nationally?

JD: It cuts two ways. To be honest with you, we've run up some pretty impressive records, but if you're not playing people, you're not going to get the credit, and I don't think necessarily that you should. I was always a strength-of-schedule, computer guy inside the BCS, but you looked at Kansas and they made a lot of progress without playing a lot of people. And whenever the computers trump the people, the fans don't like it. That's one of the things we've found. So we've really lowered the power of the computer and let the so-called experts, whether they're coaches or the Harris (Poll) people, try to figure out what those games mean. I don't have the magic formula on scheduling. I, like every other fan, like to see great teams play. The one thing that could help us, and we just can't get there with the coaches -- I guess we could get there with the interactive -- is just to delay (the rankings). But everybody wants to print their poll and they're all influenced by polls. So if you're Southern Mississippi or Fresno State and you take on the world and you beat (No.) 4, (No.) 11 and (No.) 28, you should be ranked No. 1 in the country, in my opinion. But none of the bloggers, none of the experts, none of the television people, do that. They go to Southern Cal and Florida and Michigan and Ohio State, and maybe that's right. But they don't necessarily go clean slate, start fresh, reward people who beat people and then delay their evaluation. Because that's what happens in the basketball tournament. The evaluations are made subsequent to the games. College football, quite to the opposite. Evaluations are made based on tradition. And I think we've improved that. The bowl system is so much better than it was 15 or 18 years ago. We've got a 1-2 game, we've got elite challenges. Coaches aren't setting up the games anymore. Bear Bryant used to set up the games. We went 50 years with I think nine 1-2 games. Of course, no one cared about 1-2. In '64, when Wisconsin played USC, it was a 1-2 game and if you listen to a replay of the game, they didn't even mention it. So things have changed.



Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12