Big Ten: Ron Guenther
- Nick Saban talks about why Alabama nixed the Michigan State series. More on the series cancellation from Joe Rexrode. The Spartans bolster their kicking game in recruiting.
- Some more takes on Jim Delany's pay-for-play comments here and here and here.
- Tom Dienhart previews Week 5 in the Big Ten.
- A great look at Kenny Guiton's evolution with Ohio State. Ohio State's run game is based around power. Urban Meyer calls Wisconsin the king of the Big Ten, but his Ohio State players disagree.
- Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda talked with two former Badgers assistants to help prep for Ohio State. Center Dan Voltz is ready for his chance at Ohio State. Badgers nose guard Beau Allen wants to rush the passer. TCF Bank Stadium is sold out for Floyd. Wisconsin's defense is getting healthier.
- A video look at the Iowa-Minnesota series. An excellent profile of Iowa CB B.J. Lowery from Marc Morehouse. Hawkeyes offensive linemen Brett Van Sloten has molded himself into a Big Ten player.
- QB Philip Nelson and RB Donnell Kirkwood don't appear on Minnesota's latest injury report. Minnesota has played disciplined football so far.
- The USA Today crew makes its national Week 5 picks.
- A good look at Illinois' versatile offensive weapon Josh Ferguson. Illini LB Jonathan Brown mentors the defense. Former Illinois AD Ron Guenther, who will be honored Saturday, hasn't been forgotten in Champaign.
- A good breakdown of the Purdue-Northern Illinois matchup. The Boilers defense will be tested by NIU's Jordan Lynch. Purdue needs a win before it can regroup during the open week.
- Some Michigan nuggets from offensive coordinator Al Borges. Nick Baumgardner's Michigan mailbag. Michigan and Michigan State have time to fix their flaws, Bob Wojnowski writes.
- Three good things and three questions for Penn State after the first four games. Lions safety Ryan Keiser (hand) likely will miss next week's game at Indiana. After the NCAA amended Penn State's sanctions, USC is looking for the same thing.
- There's no real rift between Kain Colter and Northwestern over the APU movement.
- Indiana is anxious to return to the field after last Saturday's loss.
- Nebraska plays the waiting game in recruiting. The Huskers' Spencer Long says it's time to hit the gas pedal as Big Ten play looms.
Is the selection committee a perfect solution? No. Would there be challenges in assembling such a committee and concerns about biases? Without a doubt. Would the group need to earn the public's trust over time? Absolutely. But the committee seems like a better solution than the current methods, as long as it has some transparency.
My sense is the selection committee component ultimately will bring the leagues together on a model during the next few weeks. It shouldn't be that hard of a sell to most conferences.
The big question, then, is who serves on such a committee? Brian Bennett and I debated the topic this week. Brian is more open to former coaches being on the committee than I am, although neither of us have closed the door.
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden says he'll serve. Colleague Joe Schad reports that other former coaches, including former Ohio State boss John Cooper and former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, also are up for the job.
"I would love to do this," Cooper said. "I would love to be a part of it. My life revolves around college football and coaching. I would vote for the best team, regardless of conference. And I know we all would operate that way."
My top criteria is to find individuals who have connections to multiple conferences.
A committee clearly has to represent the sport nationally as best as possible, so who would be best to rep the Big Ten in the room? There are so many possibilities, but I tried to narrow them down a bit.
My top pick is actually a former coach who is still involved in the sport as an athletic director: Tom Osborne. The Nebraska AD is well respected throughout the sport. He's smart and fair. And he has been affiliated with multiple conferences (Big Ten, Big Eight/Big 12), which I think is key for selection committee candidates. The committee won't need to be in place until 2014. Osborne, 75, might be retired by then, which could be better than having him on a school's payroll.
Here are a few other potential candidates with Big Ten ties:
John Cooper, 74: Coached at Ohio State from 1988-2000. Also was a Pac-10 head coach (Arizona State) and an assistant in the SEC and Big Eight.
Lloyd Carr, 66: Coached at Michigan from 1995-2007. Also a Michigan assistant from 1980-94. Retired as an associate athletic director in 2010.
Hayden Fry, 83: Coached at Iowa from 1979-1998. Texas native played at Baylor, and made several coaching stops in former Southwest Conference.
Bill Mallory, 77: Coached at Indiana from 1984-96. Also coached in Big Eight at Colorado, and has roots in the Mid-American Conference.
George Perles, 77: Coached Michigan State from 1983-94. Served as Michigan State's athletic director from 1990-92.
Joe Tiller, 69: Coached at Purdue from 1997-2008. Also coached at Wyoming, and served as a Pac-10 assistant at Washington State.
Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin athletic director: Wisconsin football coach from 1990-2005. Played at Nebraska, and served as an assistant at Notre Dame and Iowa.
Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner: Has served in role since 1989. Worked for NCAA from 1975-79. Served on several NCAA committees. Played basketball at North Carolina.
Mark Hollis, Michigan State athletic director: Has served in role since 2008. Also worked at Pitt and for the Western Athletic Conference. Recently named 2012 athletic director of the year by SportsBusiness Journal.
Tom Osborne, Nebraska athletic director: Has served in role since 2007. Nebraska football coach from 1973-97. Nebraska assistant from 1964-72. Former member of U.S. House of Representatives.
Jim Phillips, Northwestern athletic director: Has served in role since 2008. Former administrator at Notre Dame, Tennessee and Northern Illinois, and also spent time as a basketball coach at Arizona State.
Gene Smith, Ohio State athletic director: Has served in role since 2005. Led athletic departments in Big Ten, Big 12 (Iowa State), Pac-12 (Arizona State) and MAC (Eastern Michigan). Former Notre Dame football player. Former chair of NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee.
Looking outside the coach/administrator model, Tony Dungy might be an interesting candidate. He's a Michigan native and a former quarterback at Minnesota who is well respected throughout the sports world. Former longtime Big Ten ADs like Ron Guenther (Illinois) and Pat Richter (Wisconsin) also might be potential options.
Who would you want to see on a selection committee?
Most of this information has been publicized in team-by-team form, but it's interesting to examine from a league-wide perspective. Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are the league's highest-paid assistants, both earning $750,000. Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges ($550,000) is next, followed by Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi ($500,000), who recently received a raise that more than doubled his previous salary ($233,000).
Several of the Big Ten's highest-paid assistants from 2011 -- Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning -- since have left the league for other jobs.
Here are the totals paid for assistants among the 10 schools reporting salaries:
1. Ohio State -- $3.22 million
2. Michigan -- $2.755 million
3. Illinois -- $2.314 million
4. Michigan State -- $2.18 million
5. Iowa -- $2.16 million
6. Nebraska -- $2.13 million
7. Wisconsin -- $1.973 million
8. Indiana -- $1.96 million
9. Minnesota -- $1.745 million
10. Purdue -- $1.61 million
When factoring in the head coach salaries, the rankings look like this:
1. Ohio State -- $7.22 million
2. Iowa -- $6.035 million
3. Michigan -- $6.009 million
4. Nebraska -- $4.905 million
5. Wisconsin -- $4.571 million
6. Michigan State -- $4.098 million
7. Illinois -- $3.914 million
8. Minnesota -- $3.445 million
9. Indiana -- $3.22 million
10. Purdue -- $2.535 million
The Big Ten had 40 overall coaching changes during the past offseason (head coach and assistant). Here are the highest-paid new assistants among the programs reporting salaries (not including assistants promoted internally).
1. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers -- $450,000
2. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman -- $420,000
T-3. Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks -- $400,000
T-3. Illinois co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales -- $400,000
T-3. Illinois co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty -- $400,000
6. Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner -- $350,000
7. Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis -- $300,000
8. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada -- $265,000
T-9. Purdue defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar -- $250,000
T-9. Indiana offensive coordinator Seth Littrell -- $250,000
- It's no surprise Ohio State paid top dollar for head coach Urban Meyer, but the school also has increased its commitment for assistant coaches. Former coach Jim Tressel had a fairly anonymous staff for a big-time program, and while there were good coaches on it, you knew the overall financial commitment would need to be increased. The Buckeyes have three assistants making more than $400,000. Interestingly enough, Illinois is the only other Big Ten squad listed here with three aides at the $400,000 mark.
- As Rexrode points out in his post, Michigan State's staff was a major bargain before the recent raise. The Spartans paid approximately $1.6 million for a staff that helped them to 21 wins in the past two seasons. The pay increases put Michigan State fourth in the Big Ten in assistant coach pay, which sounds about right.
- Illinois' athletic director transition from Ron Guenther to Mike Thomas didn't change the school's approach toward rewarding assistants. Guenther allowed former coach Ron Zook to open the coffers after a disappointing 2009 season and land high-priced coordinators (Petrino and Koenning). While new Illini head coach Tim Beckman ranks eighth in the league in salary, he was allowed to spend a lot for his staff, which includes just one holdover (D-line coach Keith Gilmore, who earns $200,000). It's why Illinois ranks third in the league in assistant coach pay.
- Wisconsin's staff turnover after the Rose Bowl resulted in lower overall compensation, which isn't a huge shock because of Chryst's departure. It's a bit surprising that Badgers coordinators Chris Ash (holdover from staff) and Matt Canada (new addition) are near the bottom of the league in coordinator pay. Wisconsin did spent a good amount for new offensive line coach Mike Markuson ($255,000).
- Some Nebraska fans I've heard from complain that Bo Pelini's staff lacks prestige, given the program's tradition and resources. The Huskers have a mostly young staff that ranks in the middle of the league in compensation. Pelini lured new secondary coach Terry Joseph for $230,000, while new defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski made the move from Iowa and will earn $195,000. Kaczenski is a bargain in my view.
- Anyone else find it odd that Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker, promoted during the winter from secondary coach, makes $1,000 more than new offensive coordinator Greg Davis? While it's nice for Iowa to reward Parker's loyalty as a position coach, the $1,000 difference seems a little trivial, especially since Davis has been a coordinator for decades.
- Purdue pays less for assistant coaches than the nine other Big Ten schools reporting information here. Penn State obviously doesn't rank at the bottom in paying assistants, and I've been told Northwestern doesn't, either. Factoring in head coach Danny Hope's salary, and Purdue's overall coach compensation is significantly lower than others, including its arch-rival Indiana. Boilers fans, how do you feel about this?
Before agreeing to the terms, ESPN’s legal department sends me the contract to review. I read it over. Usually several times. And then I sign it and send it in.
It's all right there in print -- no gray area.
The assistants were irate and lashed out. Offensive line coach Joe Gilbert called the situation "very unprofessional." They even threatened to boycott Saturday's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA, adding even more controversy to a game filled with it.
But the Bizzaro Bowl Boycott won't be taking place.
Zook told ESPN colleague Gene Wojciechowski on Friday night that his former aides will show up Saturday at AT&T Park.
"They're going to coach," said Zook, when contacted by ESPN.com Friday evening. "They're [the assistants] frustrated. But they're going to coach. They know it's about the kids. But they were trying to make a point. They've got careers, family, all of those things. They're class guys. And it's important that everyone knows they're really good people."
More from the story:
The dispute centers around a contract promise that Zook said was made to several of his assistant coaches by him and former Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther. According to Zook, the assistants -- Jeff Brohm, Ron West and Chip Long -- were told they would receive two-year deals which would run through the 2012 regular season. Assistant Joe Gilbert has told SI.com that he also was promised a multiyear contract.
"Somewhere -- I'm not sure how -- a couple of the contracts got changed," said Zook. "I truly believed they had two-year contracts. ... I'm not exactly sure how things got changed. I feel awful about it. They're great people and they did a great job. I don't know where it went wrong. I was under the understanding that they had two-year contracts."
I feel for the Illinois assistants. It's a bad deal for them, but it's because they signed bad deals. As athletic director Mike Thomas told SI.com, "We have a contract that's pretty clear, and we intend to honor that contract. We assume they'll honor it as well."
Boycotting would have been worse for the coaches and for the Illini players than it would have for the administration. If you want to stick it to your bosses, boycotting the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl probably isn't the best move. If you want to stick it to your players, boycotting is the way to go.
Plus, these assistants are looking for jobs. They have good credentials. But no employer wants to see "quitter" on a résumé.
Who knows what to expect Saturday afternoon in San Francisco? But at least the Illini assistants with be with the players they've coached all season.
Here are some of the topics we discussed:
The scheduling partnership means the Big Ten won't be moving from eight conference games to nine beginning in the 2017 season. The league had announced the increase in August.
"If it's not off the board, it's coming off the board," Delany said. "When this opportunity was raised, it's pretty much the understanding that it's in lieu of."
The lingering concern with nine-game conference schedules was the 5-4 split with home and road games, which would create inequities every season. The nine-game league slates also ensured the Big Ten of six more losses each season. With the Pac-12 agreement, "you might have less [losses], you might have more, but they'll all be home and away and they'll all be intersectional."
Delany reiterated a point he has made for months in quashing expansion rumors: that Big Ten teams want to play each other more often than less. While that won't happen with this announcement, the Pac-12 opportunity provides the type of nonconference scheduling enhancement, much like the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in basketball, that couldn't be passed up.
"We have a chance to do some things, through this coordination, in neutral markets and major cities and large arenas that we otherwise couldn't do," Delany said. "... We've really taken that concept of the nonconference games and expanded it to another conference that we have a lot of shared history with and a lot of shared vision with. It really increases the scope and reach of both conferences in a national way in a way that hasn't been done before."
OTHER NONCONFERENCE SERIES
One concern with the Pac-12 scheduling partnership is how it would impact other longstanding Big Ten nonconfernence series such as Michigan-Notre Dame and Iowa-Iowa State.
The answer: not much if at all.
While Delany said the Big Ten has no position on how its schools schedule outside the conference, his hope is that the venture won't impact historic rivalries. The decision to stick with eight conference games makes this a lot easier. Athletic directors like Dave Brandon (Michigan) and Gary Barta (Iowa) already have stated that their historic series with Notre Dame and Iowa State, respectively, will continue as scheduled.
DETERMINING THE MATCHUPS
One difference between the Big Ten-Pac-12 football scheduling and the ACC-Big Ten challenge in basketball is that television will have a decreased role in determining the matchups. The football games will be scheduled collaboratively by the two leagues and its members.
"We haven't involved television and I don't expect we would," Delany said. "We may ask an opinion, but like the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, television is integral to putting that together. ... Most importantly, it will be home-away-neutral, and I think there will be movement of games and opponents. But the notion of competitive equity would probably be the No. 1 aspect."
We could see six home-and-away series in 2017 and 2018 and then the matchups would shift. Another possibility is creating three pods of eight teams, four from each league, where each team would play the four from the other conference. These pods could be determined by teams' track record.
Delany said the games likely would take place in the second, third and fourth weeks of the season, although he didn't rule out having them during the opening weekend.
The two leagues already have quite a few games scheduled for the next three seasons. The idea is to increase that number in 2015 and 2016 with the goal of having 12 matchups in 2017. Some of the already finalized series could be rolled into the new partnership.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 noted that the partnership is an alternative to the expansions done by other conferences. But the venture also enhances both leagues' profiles -- especially because of the impact on both the Big Ten and Pac-12 television networks -- and in turn makes them more attractive to expansion candidates.
Quite a few folks have already commented that the move makes the Big Ten more appealing to a school like Notre Dame, which plays nearly half of its football games against Big Ten or Pac-12 schools.
Asked about becoming more attractive to expansion candidates, Delany said, "I don't know about that. You're always trying to become more attractive, whether it's the games or television or the collegiality, whether you're doing bowl tie-ins or ACC challenges or expansion, you're always trying to become more attractive. ... That probably has benefits in terms of television down the road, growth of the network."
The Big Ten's current TV deal expires in 2016.
Former Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther, now a consultant to the Big Ten, played an integral role in brainstorming the partnership. With further expansion unlikely, Delany asked Guenther and others to think about ways the Big Ten still could grow its brand.
An agreement with the Pac-12 seemed like a natural move.
"He said, 'This is a group that's got a lot of commonality, a lot of history,'" Delany said. "They go from the Canadian border to Mexico, and from the Pacific to Colorado. We go right up to Colorado, take it out to Pennsylvania. We have 12, they have 12, broad-based programs.
"I challenged Ron with, 'Hey, what's the next thing?' I didn't have in mind this."
Athletic directors from both conferences met in New York on Dec. 7. Another group of ADs and conference officials then met in Denver, while some university presidents from both leagues met in San Francisco. Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott then met with their respective presidents before finalizing the agreement.
"Everybody is good in terms of the concept," Delany said. "Now we have got to execute over time, but we have that time."
Ron Zook needed to go. No one’s denying that.
But Zook’s time shouldn’t have run out on Sunday. It should have run out two years ago.
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas’ move Sunday to fire Zook was like deciding to discard a carton milk that was well past its expiration date. Zook’s best days as Illinois’ coach had come and gone. Illinois’ epic collapse this season -- during which the Illini lost their final six games -- made it easier on Thomas in his first year on the job.
Firing Zook would have been the tougher but proper action following Illinois’ 2009 season. Former Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther had the opportunity to do so, but he prolonged Zook’s tenure. Guenther left the decision up to Thomas when he retired prior to this school year.
In 2009, the program was two years beyond Zook’s greatest accomplishment -- the 2007 Rose Bowl season. The evidence was strong that the Illini hadn’t benefitted from their Rose Bowl appearance, and they weren’t about to either.
Illinois went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten in 2008. A year later, the Illini were even worse, going 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten.
At that point, Zook had five seasons under his belt, the standard length of time a coach is given to prove himself these days. In five years, coaches have enough time to recruit their own players and fully implement their systems.
Zook had his five years, and there wasn’t many indications the program was succeeding or improving under him. Four of those campaigns ended with a losing record -- that Rose Bowl year being the lone exception. Illinois had gone 21-39 overall and 12-28 in the Big Ten during that period.
No one would have been surprised if 2009 was Zook’s final season. Plenty of athletic directors would have ended it then and looked for someone else to get the job done. It was certainly what a number of Illinois fans were after.
“There's a great deal of frustration obviously with the program at the moment," Guenther told reporters at the time. “We're still going to evaluate, but I think it's really unfair to start jumping at the end of the fifth year on a guy.”
Instead, Guenther retained Zook, fired the team’s offensive and defensive coordinators and went out and paid top dollar for two new coordinators. It was his way of hitting the reset button on Zook’s tenure.
Last season, Illinois again tasted moderate success. Having experienced three winning seasons since 2000, Illini fans were ecstatic about a somewhat positive year. The Illini went 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten and won the Texas Bowl against a Baylor team that struggled late in the season.
Still, the only way last season could have been deemed a true success if it was springboard for an even bigger 2011 season.
Of course, that wasn’t to be. After being set up with five homes games in their first six contests, in which they took care of business, they dropped their next six games. Illinois currently stands at 6-6 , hoping for a bowl invitation.
Which brings us to Sunday.
Although two years too late and under the wrong athletic director’s watch, Zook’s era was brought to a close, igniting some optimism in Champaign.
Thomas hired two successful football coaches -- Brian Kelly and Butch Jones -- during his time at Cincinnati. Thomas will now try to duplicate the feat and find himself a coach who can bring stability to an Illinois program that has never won bowl games in consecutive seasons.
Unlike his decision to let Zook go, this likely won’t be as easy.
Illinois has a new athletic director in Mike Thomas, hired Wednesday after spending nearly the past six years in the same post at the University of Cincinnati. Thomas looks like a solid hire, as he upgraded Cincinnati's athletic program in several ways, most notably by hiring Brian Kelly as the school's football coach in 2006.
Kelly led a program with almost no history of success to consecutive Big East titles and BCS games, including a 12-0 regular season in 2009, before being lured away by Notre Dame. Thomas also dealt with the fallout from the ugly firing of popular basketball coach Bob Huggins shortly before his arrival. He fired Andy Kennedy and hired Mick Cronin, sticking by him during some tough times. Cronin finally got Cincinnati back to the NCAA tournament last year.
Thomas oversaw a Cincinnati athletic program that was burdened by debt rung up by previous administrations. But he is known for having a solid business acumen, and he helped raise funds to build the first-ever practice facility for the Bearcats football team.
Thomas has no obvious ties to Zook, who enters his seventh year as Illini head coach this fall. Any athletic director change raises coaches' blood pressure, but Zook lost a man many regarded as his security blanket when longtime Illinois AD Ron Guenther announced his retirement in May. Guenther not only hired Zook in 2004 but stuck by his coach when few did after the 2009 season.
Most ADs like to bring in their own people, and Thomas brought in a great coach in Kelly. Zook likely won't have as much leeway as he did with Guenther. Illinois made strides on the field last fall and could be poised to take another step this year, as a favorable schedule and a formidable offense led by dynamic quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase provide reasons for optimism.
Anything less than a second consecutive bowl trip for the first time since 1991-92 would constitute a major disappointment for Illinois. And any step back would turn up the heat on Zook.
As is the case with any new boss, it's important for Zook to build a relationship with Thomas during the next few months. But as Zook knows, this is a performance-based business, and he must continue to get it done between the lines.
- Brady Hoke can seemingly do no wrong so far in Ann Arbor, Stewart Mandel writes in Sports Illustrated.
- The Buckeyes should be wary of Hoke and the Wolverines, Michael Arace writes. Mike Vrabel's NFL experience should help out Ohio State's linebackers. Ohio State is still the Big Ten's best job, Ken Thompson writes.
- Barry Alvarez praised the new Big Ten setup while being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this past weekend. Alvarez earned his spot among the greats of the game. Russell Wilson found a familiar face on his Wisconsin recruiting visit in the school's former chancellor.
- Recently retired Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther will serve as a Big Ten consultant.
- Kirk Cousins is becoming the face of the Michigan State program.
- Marc Morehouse nominates Marvin McNutt as Iowa's 2011 MVP.
- Catching up with former Minnesota tight end Ben Utecht.
- Sam McKewon checks in on what the preseason magazines are saying about Nebraska (and throws out a pretty sweet Galaga reference in the process). The Cornhuskers are high on the list of an Ohio safety.
- Another defensive lineman has decommitted from Penn State.
- In case you missed it from earlier today, I clarify the Big Ten's proposal to restructure scholarships. Here's a good look at the Big Ten's debate about whether to add a ninth league game from The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises.
- Big Ten coaches are concerned about the spread of 7-on-7 teams.
- Some good links from the ESPN Recruiting crew on the Columbus NFTC here and here and here.
- Ohio State comes in at No. 9 on Athlon Sports' preseason countdown. Weigh in on whether Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor should regain his starting job if his replacement is thriving.
- Michigan now turns its recruiting focus to the secondary, Josh Helmholdt writes in the Detroit Free Press. Annarbor.com's Michael Rothstein catches up with former Michigan star Jarrett Irons.
- The timing of Ron Guenther's decision to retire leaves Illinois in a bit of a bind, GateHouse News Service's John Supinie writes.
- A look at Penn State's September slate from The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Jared Shanker. Coveted offensive line recruit Patrick Destefano picks Clemson over Penn State.
- Nebraska AD Tom Osborne disusses the Big Ten, the BCS, how he misses coaching and other topics with the Orlando Sentinel's Matt Murschel.
- Indiana AD Fred Glass is glad the Big Ten is discussing scholarship upgrades, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times.
- Check out the On Iowa podcast with Marc Morehouse and Scott Dochterman.
- Wide receiver recruit Tyrone Williams sounds very interested in Purdue, Rivals.com's Brian Neubert writes.
- Former Minnesota player Pinky McNamara passes away.
- Car salesman Aaron Kniffin says his sales to Ohio State players were all legit, WBNS-TV reports.
- Nebraska appears at No. 10 on Athlon Sports' preseason countdown. Three Nebraska defenders appear on the early 2012 draft boards, Brian Christopherson writes in the Lincoln Journal Star.
- Michigan coach Brady Hoke is winning the in-state recruiting battle, Pat Caputo writes in The Daily Tribune.
- Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez advocates making the scholarship go further for athletes, Andy Baggot writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. SEC commissioner Mike Slive seems to agree, Jon Solomon writes in The Birmingham News.
- Retiring Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther has a close bond with Big Ten commish Jim Delany, Loren Tate writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette. A list potential athletic director candidates for Illinois.
- An interesting piece by The Columbus Dispatch's Ken Gordon on how the wait for the Hall of Fame call can be a lot longer for some than others.
- Recruit Patrick Destefano could fulfill his father's dream by playing ball at Penn State, Frank Bodani writes in the York Daily Record. Unlike last spring, JoePa is making the rounds, statecollege.com's Mike Poorman writes.
- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz talks about finishing games better, John Bohnekamp writes in The Hawk Eye.
- Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray is a guy to rally around, Jim Souhan writes in the Star Tribune. Minnesota's academic situation is better than coach Jerry Kill expected, Sid Hartman writes in the Star Tribune.
- Indiana lands its first commitment for 2012. Former Hoosiers quarterback Dave Schnell dies after battling cancer.
- Purdue comes in at No. 84 on the Orlando Sentinel's countdown of FBS teams.
- Missed this from last week, but Bill Connelly looks at how Northwestern keeps defying the stats and winning.
- Not surprisingly, Jim Delany's comments about potentially allocating more money to student-athletes have generated a ton of attention. Check out some links on the issue here and here and here.
- Big Ten coaches and ADs remain divided over a nine-game league schedule, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Illinois is pursuing Northwestern's Jim Phillips for its athletic director vacancy, so Northwestern should open its wallet, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Marc Morehouse weighs in on the Big Ten Network's prime-time schedule.
- Penn State's only night game will come on the road this year, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Penn State outlines a points system for student tickets, Onward State reports.
- Michigan State is hoping to land some prospects from Texas, Matt Dorsey writes in the Detroit Free Press. The Spartans, meanwhile, are trailing Michigan in local recruiting, Tom Markowski writes in The Detroit News.
- Michigan's uniforms for the Notre Dame game will be modeled after this. Wolverines wideout Darryl Stonum will return to court next month for an evidentiary hearing, annarbor.com's Lee Higgins writes.
- Minnesota coach Jerry Kill hits the road to fire up Gophers fans, Phil Miller writes in the Star Tribune. More on Kill's appearances here.
- Kevin Wilson's home debut at Indiana will kick off in prime time.
- Missed this from the other day, but Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel makes a good case why the Big Ten should play its championship game outdoors.
- Illinois coaches don't expect AD Ron Guenther to disappear after he retires, Justin Albers writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Golfer Jerry Kelly, a Wisconsin native, has to pay the price for the Badgers' Rose Bowl loss to TCU, Dave Curtis writes in the Sporting News.
- The Big Ten's newest member doesn't make the Big Ten Network's prime-time lineup.
- In case you've missed any of it, check out ESPN.com's coverage of the Big Ten spring meetings.
- More spring meetings coverage from The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Scott Dochterman, the Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht, the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein, the Sporting News' Dave Curtis and the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode.
- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel speaks -- but only to intrepid reporter Doug Lesmerises for two minutes in a hotel elevator. Tressel's lawyer for his Committee on Infractions hearing has much more to say, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany acknowledges the negative attention generated by the Ohio State situation, annarbor.com's Michael Rothstein writes.
- Brandon Ware's academic issues have eventually led the Penn State DT to transfer, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. The Penn State-Pitt rivalry belongs to the past, Steve Heiser writes in The York Dispatch.
- New Hall of Famer Lloyd Carr says the NCAA must crack down on rules enforcement.
- Adam Robinson's mother says the Iowa running back will transfer, Randy Peterson writes in the Des Moines Register.
- Plenty of links on the Ron Guenther era at Illinois from The (Champaign) News-Gazette.
- Nebraska goes 1-1 in Hall of Fame selections, Brian Christopherson writes in the Lincoln Journal Star.
- Former Michigan State receiver Gene Washington heads to the Hall. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio weighs in on several topics, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- More on this year's Hall of Fame class from colleague Ivan Maisel.
- Zach Brown's decision to transfer from Wisconsin comes as a bit of a surprise, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- In case you missed it, Michigan is two-thirds of the way through its practice hours reduction, colleague Brian Bennett writes.
- Nebraska AD Tom Osborne supports embattled Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
- Reflections on retiring Illinois AD Ron Guenther from the Chicago Sun-Times' Herb Gould, CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli and the Daily Herald's Lindsey Willhite. Also, some highs and lows of the Guenther era at Illinois.
- Some spring meetings notes from the Sporting News' Dave Curtis. And a look at the spring meetings agenda from the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson.
- Michigan coach Brady Hoke was fired up when quarterback Shane Morris committed to U-M, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Annarbor.com's Michael Rothstein catches up with former Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko.
- Eddie George's Hall call surprised the former Ohio State star, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Michigan State players respond on Twitter to Morgan Trent's comments.
- Wisconsin can prove it's an elite program by capitalizing on its prime-time games this fall, Andy Baggot writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Iowa looks to upgrade security at Kinnick Stadium, Emily Schettler writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Former Iowa star Nate Kaeding still gets his kicks in Iowa City, Mike Hlas writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- Indiana is changing its recruiting approach under new coach Kevin Wilson, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- Northwestern AD Jim Phillips discusses the new contract for coach Pat Fitzgerald, Colin Becht writes in The Daily Northwestern.
- Purdue will salute its astronaut alumni at a football dinner, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Penn State could be in good shape to land running back recruit Will Mahone. Recruit Jarron Jones has high praise for Penn State, Chuck Wade writes.
- Minnesota's website checks in with incoming recruit Kyle McAvoy.
There have been Big Ten titles in 2001 and 2007 but only six bowl appearances and several particularly rough stretches (1996-98, 2003-06).
But Guenther likes the direction the program is headed as he heads toward retirement July 1.
"Everything's in place here for football to have success," Guenther said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "We're coming off of a bowl-game win, we had an excellent spring. .... [Assistant] Dan Disch left to become a coordinator and we replaced him with an outstanding coach [Mike Gillhamer]. I feel very, very good about where we are in football. It still comes down to winning some games, but from the schedule to the facilities to the salaries and the budget, they have everything they need there to have success."
Guenther is right. The Memorial Stadium renovation was a big piece, and Illinois finally has a schedule set up for success this fall with eight home games.
The next step: Illinois needs to string together winning seasons and bowl trips. The Illini haven't made consecutive postseason appearances since a five-year run from 1988-92.
"I don't know if any one [Big Ten team] is going to dominate," Guenther said, "but I would hope to think we're going to be very competitive."
Guenther said that the decision to retire was a gut feeling and that while he'll serve as a resource in the school's search for a successor, he won't be taking the lead in providing names of potential candidates.
But quite possibly no one will miss Guenther more than Illini football coach Ron Zook.
Guenther hired Zook at Illinois in December 2004 and has consistently supported the coach, even when few others did.
Most athletic directors would have parted ways with Zook after he failed to capitalized on Illinois' 2007 Rose Bowl run and went 8-16 the next two seasons. Many Illinois fans wanted Zook out and so did some top boosters.
But Guenther stood by Zook and gave him money to hire two talented coordinators (Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning). Illinois began to turn things around last fall, going 7-6 and winning its first bowl game since 1999. Guenther reaffirmed his belief in Zook by awarding the coach and his assistant raises in February, a move that raised a few eyebrows.
Zook's chief advocate is retiring July 1. Guenther said in a statement Monday that he has been working with chancellor Robert Easter on a succession plan. A search committee is being formed, and Guenther hopes his successor will be in place by the end of the summer.
What does this mean for Zook, whose contract runs through the 2013 season?
Coaches always prefer to work for athletic directors who hired them. Although you'd think Guenther will have a say in his successor, Zook still will have to prove himself to his new boss.
"In more than 30 years in this business, coach Guenther is one of the finest men I've ever been around," Zook said in a prepared statement. "He's as good a boss as I've ever had, and I don't say that lightly. He is the ultimate coach's AD. He listens, he helps and he is always there -- always -- when you need him. I hope he will be around in some capacity for a long time, because when he is no longer involved, the university will have lost one of the brightest, most devoted and loyal administrators it will ever have. Nobody cares more about Illinois than Ron Guenther. This place is a much better place because of the time he spent here."
Those are some pretty sincere comments from Zook. Guenther believed in Zook when few did, and their mutual affection is obvious. It'll be interesting to see who takes over and how the new AD interacts with Zook.
Guenther leaves quite a legacy at Illinois, where he served as AD since May 14, 1992. He's the Big Ten's longest-tenured AD and the fifth longest-tenured AD at an FBS program.
His greatest accomplishments came as a fundraiser, as he made numerous facilities upgrades, including the $121 million makeover for Memorial Stadium, the largest construction project in school history. He also oversaw the construction of the Irwin Indoor Football Facility.
A former offensive lineman at Illinois, Guenther was a big-time football guy despite serving as AD at what most consider a basketball school. His fundraising helped put the football program in a position to succeed, but the results haven't come. His coaching hires have raised some questions, and despite spurts of success (2001, 2007), the Illini haven't been a consistent winner on the field. I'm sure Guenther would like nothing more than to see Zook build on 2010 and make Illinois a force in the Big Ten.
Here are some of statements released about Guenther's retirement:
Guenther: "The last 19 years have gone extremely fast and a decision to retire has been very difficult. I personally want to thank all the members of the [department of intercollegiate athletics] as well as our colleagues in the academic community for their support. I have been fortunate to work with an extremely talented and loyal group. I will always be indebted. Additionally, the Illinois fan base is the best in the nation. I've always said we are fortunate to have individuals who have great passion and loyalty for the University of Illinois."
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: "Ron Guenther's contributions at the University of Illinois over the last two decades have been truly remarkable, unique and historic. Ron has built buildings, balanced the budget, hired good coaches, grown educational and athletic opportunities for student-athletes and demanded integrity. And he has done it all with both a love for the university and a full awareness of how intercollegiate athletics is an integral part of the higher education mission. I will always appreciate his sense of collegiality and the value he placed on the conference. No other director of athletics enjoyed more friendships among Big Ten administrators than Ron, and we all look forward to continuing the relationships he has built over the last 20 years. On a personal note, I've had a lot of good friends in my time at the Big Ten, but there's no finer person than Ron, and I wish him and his wife Megan all the best in the future."
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez: "The Big Ten Conference will miss Ron Guenther. No one knows better what the Big Ten is all about than Ron. He made a great contribution not only to Illinois, but to our conference."