Big Ten: Scott Frost

Big Ten Tuesday mailbag

July, 2, 2013
One more mailbag coming on Friday before vacation, so send in those emails. And be sure to follow us on Twitter.

Let's begin ...

Mel from Cincinnati writes: Is there any chance that the Big Ten would go to a scheduling model similar to the SEC, where most teams play a non-conference game against a weaker opponent later in the schedule? Essentially the game acts as a bye. Doing that might reduce the need for bye week(s) in October - prime football weather in the midwest - and would spruce up the September schedule by playing 1-2 league games earlier. Directional State Teachers College might not looks so bad in late October if it was understood to be replacing a bye week.

Adam Rittenberg: First off, this isn't from my uncle Mel in Cincinnati, although it's always great to hear from the Queen City. Mel, this topic has been brought up in recent years. Not surprisingly, former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema pushed for an SEC-type scheduling model. Bielema wanted to see the Big Ten play league games earlier in September and create spots for a nonleague "breather" late in the season. He made some good points about how the Big Ten should mirror the nation's dominant league in its scheduling model. Bielema obviously doesn't have to worry now as he's in the SEC at Arkansas.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and others seem open to playing league games earlier, and we'll see a few in the next few years, from Wisconsin-Purdue in Week 4 this year to Penn State-Rutgers remaining as a Week 3 contest in 2014. There are a handful of nonleague games scheduled for later in the season the next few years. The bye week isn't going away -- the double-bye the next two seasons stems from the calendar -- but the Big Ten could move closer toward this type of scheduling model, which helps teams during the grind.

Gary from Spencerville, Ohio, writes: Adam, I enjoy the blog and appreciate your coverage of B1G issues. However, sometimes you tend to wear your ESPN blinders and fail to see the B1G picture. A prime example of this is your contention that B1G fans need to simply "get over it" when we complain about playing all of the bowl games away. Everyone knows that home teams have substantial (aprox. 80%) advantage over road teams. Even you yourself admit that B1G teams are at a disadvantage. Yet, you simply state that we need to accept that, and that our teams just need to win regardless of the disadvantages. Wrong answer. Any organizational leader will tell you that when faced with that type of skewed paradigm that leadership needs to change the dynamic to something more advantageous. Delaney and the B1G Presidents do have the clout to accomplish that. Bowl games are NOT about the tourism industry. Sure, tourism profits from it, but that is not the primary purpose or driver behind the bowl games themselves. Just as fans travel to go to NFL playoff games at Chicago, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, etc., they will go to those same locations for NCAA football. The post season match-ups are driven by dollars from corporate sponsors and television networks. The midwest is chock full of huge corporations as potential sponsors and we already know that television networks will follow B1G football. Delaney needs to be bold. He needs to do as the SEC, Big Twelve, Pac 12, and ACC have done. They set up bowls in their conference footprint with corporate sponsors, television follows, and the money rolls in. Delaney needs to set that up for three B1G locations like Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Minneapolis, ets. Announce that our top seed teams not in the playoffs will play in them. As those bowl venues are established, Delaney could then push for inclusion as one of the playoff / CCG sites as well. Leaders set their own playing field and don't simply follow along. This must happen or the B1G will continue to fall behind in post-season wins because of the disadvantages of constantly being the road team.

Adam Rittenberg: Gary, while you make some good points here about leadership and not backing down, you're misguided about the way bowls work. The Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big 12 didn't set up the most important bowls in their footprint. Those bowls came about independently, mostly through civic organizations. They built up their tradition and their appeal over the years. The bowl experience, in essence, has been about traveling somewhere warm as a reward of sorts for a good to great season and playing a worthy opponent from another conference. Sure, it's set up as a disadvantage to the Big Ten because of the locations, but it hasn't bothered Big Ten fans who make long trips year after year to escape the cold. You say Delany needs to start throwing his weight around with the bowls. The funny thing is Delany might be the biggest Rose Bowl advocate on the planet. The day he says he'd rather have the Big Ten champion in Chicago or Green Bay or Cleveland rather than Pasadena is the day I pull off a Nik Wallenda walk with a blindfold. It will NEVER happen. And I don't think Delany is less of a leader for appreciating the Rose Bowl and its history, as well as other marquee bowls with which the Big Ten has agreements. He's just being realistic about the nature of the bowl system.

Your plan is entirely contingent on the Big Ten building up a set of new bowls -- games with zero tradition -- by saying it only will play in them rather than games in states like California and Florida. If leagues like the SEC and Big 12 ever tied into these games, they'd do so reluctantly. They wouldn't want to be there, and neither would their fans. Try selling all of that enthusiasm to famously fickle corporate sponsors.

All that said, I completely agree with your point about the Big Ten pushing for College Football Playoff games in its footprint. The national championship game, in particular, could and should be bid out to all cities rather than held at existing bowl sites. I understand the commissioners' desire to give playoff teams the full bowl experience, but the two teams that reach the title game will treat it more like a league championship in terms of their travel. It would benefit the Big Ten to have the sport's most meaningful game in its footprint from time to time.

Gregory from Kingsport, Tenn., writes: Ok Adam, you think (Harvey] Perlman's job is safe even with all the football blunder hires he has made in the past (Pederson and Callahan) -- but what happens to Pelini when he goes another dud filled season of 10-4, and gets blown out in 2 or 3 games like he always does? Do you see new AD going after Scott Frost? And or what about Craig Bohl?

Adam Rittenberg: Gregory, I love that a 10-4 season qualifies as a "dud" for Nebraska fans. The Bo Pelini debate is a valid one because, while averaging 9.6 wins as the Huskers' head coach, he has yet to win "the big one," going 0-3 in league championship games. It's fair to ask whether Pelini can get Nebraska to the next level, and we'll find out more this season. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst didn't hire Pelini, which always creates a unique supervisory dynamic. But I don't sense Eichorst would part ways with a guy averaging more than nine wins a year. Nebraska learned a painful lesson from parting ways with Frank Solich. I think it's more likely Pelini leaves for another job after this season than gets fired if things don't go well. If and when Nebraska searches for a new coach, Frost and Bohl are two names that would come up. Bohl has done a fantastic job at North Dakota State and has roots as a former Huskers player and assistant.

Eli from New York City writes: No disrespect to Maryland and Rutgers fans, but Penn State earned its respect by blowing through the Big Ten in '94. Nebraska earned its respect by making it to the championship game last year. If Rutgers and Maryland fans want respect, their teams can earn it on the field starting in 2014.

Adam Rittenberg: That's certainly true, Eli, but both Penn State and Nebraska came into the Big Ten with strong national reputations. Both programs had won national titles and produced iconic players and coaches. Neither Maryland nor Rutgers moves the needle the way Nebraska did in 2011 and Penn State did in 1993. So both teams certainly have something to prove in the Big Ten, especially in the East Division, but they have a longer road to league-wide respect than either Penn State or Nebraska had.

Dan from Eldridge, Iowa, writes: What are the chances of Iowa returning to 9 or 10 wins. There is scuttlebutt that if the Hawkeyes do not, Coach Ferentz might be gone. Has time passed him? His style has not appeared to have change to the wide-open scrambling type of QB offense that has done well the past few years. Is there a glimmer of hope? From what I have seen the past two years and looking at what is returning, I have my doubts.

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, those doubts are understandable, but I wouldn't count out Kirk Ferentz turning things around in Iowa City. He's a tremendous coach with a strong track record of developing players. While his conservative style of play turns off some, it's a formula that has worked for programs like Alabama (obviously better talent in Tuscaloosa, but still). Ferentz has to show improvement this year after the 4-8 clunker in 2012, but I highly doubt Iowa parts ways with him if the team fails to win nine or 10 games. Ferentz might be paid top-10 money, but Iowa's internal expectations aren't nearly that lofty. Ferentz's huge contract and hefty buyout also decrease the likelihood that Iowa dumps the coach after another subpar season. At some point, Iowa can't make it about the contract and must evaluate Ferentz based on performance, but he would have to go through another hugely disappointing season for that decision to appear on the school's radar.

Jake from Minneapolis writes: I know you are probably tired of this conversation, but I honestly think the idea of doing a Chicago bowl is feasible. Maybe I am crazy because I live in the land of ice and snow, but I think there is a precedent for a cold weather game. Look back to a couple years ago when the Metrodome roof collapsed. The Vikings-Packer game two weeks later at TCF Bank Stadium was unreal. People went nuts for outdoor cold weather football. People go nuts for the NHL's Winter Classic. It could prove to the most unique of all the bowl games. Adam as a Chicago Guy you know how beautiful that city is in the winter. Most of the fans of Wisco, Iowa, UIll, Purdue, Indiana live in rural areas and would revel in the opportunity turn the weekend into a big city weekend get-a-way. The only issue is getting another conference to commit to trying it out, but I think there really is potential there.

Adam Rittenberg: Jake, I agree a Chicago bowl is feasible and if enough people get behind the idea, it could be a fun thing. Although I don't anticipate a Midwest bowl rising to levels of the tradition-rich games in the West and South, it could work well as a mid-level game. The Pinstripe Bowl in New York seems to be increasing its profile with the Big Ten and ACC both on board. I know Pinstripe was a tough sell to the Big 12 folks, but Chicago is a little more accessible and might be a better option for a Big Ten-Big 12 matchup. You can't really make the comparison to the Bears-Vikings game or the NHL's Winter Classic because both games catered to fans who are comfortable watching sports in the cold. A Chicago bowl would appeal to a segment of Big Ten fans for a weekend getaway, but I still think it would be a very tough sell to fans of most other conferences, which would ultimately limit how big the event could become.

Tyler from Florida writes: We're in the slowest part of the offseason, still nine weeks from kickoff, so here's an appropriately bizarre question for you: Do you think UM's change from "maize" to "sun" (starting in 2008) put a curse on the program? Since switching uniforms, the team is only 34-29 overall, and 18-22 within the conference. And then there's the 4 combined wins in a five year period over their three biggest rivals to consider ...

Adam Rittenberg: This is definitely a nominee for email of the year. Yes, Tyler, ditching maize for sun undoubtedly sent Michigan into a death spiral. It had nothing to do with a coach who didn't fit, a massive system change and the inability to field a decent defense. Michigan's decision to go with adidas after years with Nike, which copyrighted maize, proved to be its pivotal moment. Remember the stories about how the winged helmet would spot Michigan 14 opponents against intimidated opponents? Well, it was actually the maize on the Wolverines' unis. When Michigan went with sun, it lost its edge. We all know Big Ten teams can't play in the sun!

Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

June, 18, 2013
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To your emails ...

David from Chicago writes: I may be out of step with other fans, but I would like to see Iowa schedule a MAC team and a Sun Belt team every year as non-conference opponents, in addition to keeping Iowa State on the schedule. The ultimate goal is to go to the best bowl game as possible, and a guaranteed two (or three) non-conference wins are more important than strength of schedule. If Iowa can consistently go 5-4 to 7-2 in Big Ten play (optimistic but doable), this strategy should translate to seven to ten total wins and a solid bowl invite.

Adam Rittenberg: David, while I disagree with your philosophy, you make some valid points about nonconference games and strength of schedule. Now it's important to note that schedule strength will be a much bigger factor with the upcoming College Football Playoff, and if Iowa intends to ever make the Playoff, your scheduling model likely wouldn't get the job done. If you believe Iowa isn't a Playoff contender -- a pessimistic or realistic view, depends on who you ask -- your model likely would get the Hawkeyes to "better" bowls. But ask yourself: is being an Iowa football fan all about getting to the Outback Bowl or the Gator Bowl or the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? Or is it about winning championships and playing exciting games?

Most Iowa fans want to see their team on the big stage playing big-deal teams -- not the MAC, the Sun Belt or even Iowa State. If Iowa really wants to elevate its national profile, which a lot of Hawkeyes fans desire, a different non-league scheduling model likely is in order.

Terry from Detroit writes: I know a national title would be ideal, but do you see programs like Wisconsin and Michigan State, if they can consistently put together solid bowl-winning teams, being able to leverage that success more so than if they were to win it all? (both in recruiting and respect) Look at Michigan State basketball, even though they havent won a title since 2000, they have consistently made it deep into the tournament with final 4's and conference championships. It seems as though they have gained this respect because of their consistency (although the 2000 title certainly helps)... could this apply to college football as well?

Adam Rittenberg: Terry, I love discussing program perception, so thanks for raising this interesting question. The Michigan State basketball model certainly is a reasonable goal for both Wisconsin and Michigan State, although Wisconsin is much closer to that level because of its Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances in the past two decades. Michigan State hoops is seemingly always in contention for Big Ten titles, and Tom Izzo's reputation as a brilliant NCAA tournament coach, despite only one national championship, boosts the program's overall stock. You mention winning bowl games, and Michigan State has gotten over the hump the past two seasons, while Wisconsin has dropped three straight Rose Bowls after winning the Champs Sports Bowl in 2009. But both programs have had some consistent success, which matters in terms of perception.

Still, a national championship would fundamentally change the way both programs are viewed. It would show they had the talent and coaching to beat the best in college football, not merely compete with the very good. Neither team would want to fall off after one national title like Auburn has, and I can't deny that overall consistency, good bowl games and bowl wins matter in the long run. But a title would show that Wisconsin and Michigan State could rise from the ranks of the very good to the truly elite, a jump many think will never take place.

William from Spartanburg, S.C., writes: According to ESPN, the Big 12, has 4 teams in the top 25 average rank 15.25. B1G has 4 teams in the top 25, average rank 13.75. The Pac-12 doesn't even have a top 25 ranked team. ACC has 5 in the top 25. SEC has like 8. So yes the SEC and ACC are out recruiting us I can admit that. The Big 12 is close, but the Pac isn't even in the same neighborhood in recruiting as of right now, today. How do you support the article you wrote "Big Ten fourth in recruiting rankings?"

Adam Rittenberg: William, while I wrote the post you refer to, I didn't compile the conference rankings, which were done by our recruiting analysts Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert. You bring up a good point about the current class rankings, but the league rankings were based on other factors as well. The Pac-12 has outperformed the Big Ten in recent national championships and BCS bowl wins, which contributed to its ranking. Luginbill and Haubert also specify in the post: "Conferences near the top include teams that have proved successful on the recruiting trail in the past." The Pac-12 boasts several of these teams in Oregon, Stanford and USC, and UCLA's recruiting efforts are on the upswing under coach Jim Mora. All that said, I think you can make a good case for the Big Ten's recruiting efforts being better than the Pac-12's at this early stage of the process. Northwestern is putting together a stellar class, and Nebraska is enjoying a strong recent recruiting surge. So it's not all about Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten right now.

Chris from Chicago writes: It seems like everyone predicts the season based on all the star players playing well and/or improving. Because they're impossible to predict, no one discusses the huge impact of injuries. So here's my question: what teams and/or positions are most susceptible and/or least susceptible to injuries in the B1G? I'm thinking Michigan is in trouble if Gardner gets hurt, and OSU/Nebraska would also struggle if Miller/Martinez went down, while Indiana/Northwestern wouldn't miss much since they have capable/experienced backup QBs, and Wisconsin has plenty of RB depth to survive injuries there ...

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, we addressed this topic recently with the most indispensable series. We made our picks for each team's most indispensable players, and Michigan's Devin Gardner, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez all made the list. We went with wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for Wisconsin rather than one of the running backs. We also asked fans to vote on the league's most indispensable offensive and defensive players. Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier edged Michigan State LB Max Bullough as the league's most indispensable defender, while Miller beat out both Martinez and Gardner as the most indispensable offensive player. Michigan's Gardner is my pick for the Big Ten's most indispensable player (offense or defense), as his absence could cost the Wolverines 3-4 games and possibly a Legends division title. Ohio State's Shazier also is in the conversation because of Ohio State's inexperience in the defensive front seven. Penn State also lacks depth in its linebacking corps and can't afford to lose a guy like Mike Hull.

Gregory from Kingsport, Tenn., writes: Adam--I still contend that the Cornhuskers downfall in football started when Perlman hired Pederson, then Pederson hired Callahan. All three tried to make it a Wall Street-like business atmosphere. They had no respect for the past culture of the program. Even Dr. Tom could not fix what they broke! The program is no longer respected and feared as it one was. I can not believe that the "real Husker Nation" has not ask for Harvey the rabbit to step down, and find some new young blood to go with the new AD. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Gregory, while Perlman has made some mistakes in relation to the football program, I don't think you fire a university president based on an athletic director hiring decision from more than a decade ago. Although the Pederson and Callahan hires certainly contributed to Nebraska falling from the nation's elite, there have been other factors involved, namely the SEC's historic surge coupled with the change in recruiting demographics with more elite players coming from the South. It's simply harder for Nebraska to get the great players these days.

Nebraska also has had opportunities to elevate its program under Bo Pelini, but the Huskers keep falling short in league title games (Big 12 and Big Ten). I'm not sure what you mean by a "new young blood" to go along with AD Shawn Eichorst. Pelini is 42, which hardly makes him old among major-conference head coaches. Would you feel better if Nebraska hired Scott Frost?

Joshua from Louisiana writes: Hey Adam, I'm a huge Michigan fan, and I fully admit this following question may sound like me being a homer but...Would you say that its pretty clear that Brady Hoke can recruit with the "big dogs"? All I have heard for the past two years from ohio and SEC fans is that he cant keep pace with guys like Saban, Meyer, and Spurrier. I think its obvious he can, seeing as how the majority of recruiting rankings had the Wolverines 2013 class in the top 5 and the 2014 class is sitting pretty at number 1 on a few sites. He has brought in a swagger that RichRod didnt have and has signed top talent out from under OSU and most SEC teams noses. Some more insight on this would be great Adam.

Adam Rittenberg: I think it's pretty obvious that Brady Hoke and his staff can recruit with the nation's best. I've been impressed not only by the quality of recruits Michigan is bringing in, but the plan Hoke and his assistants have followed since his arrival. There's a crystal-clear vision at Michigan for what they want and who they want, and the coaches don't deviate from it when they're scouting prospects. They target players extremely early, which has contributed to the huge numbers of early commits they've had the past few years. It doesn't matter if Michigan signs the No. 1 class in February, and teams that pile up early commits tend to be penalized in the final rankings because they're not making a splash on signing day. It's clear Hoke has restored Michigan's recruiting to the top level. Although Michigan isn't located in the most fertile state for prospects, Hoke has done very well in Ohio and throughout the Midwest. The next step, and you're starting to see it, is branching out to the South and West to bring in elite prospects from those regions and cement Michigan's national recruiting brand.

Big Ten lunchtime links

July, 27, 2011
Heading off to Chicago to join forces with Rittenberg and the crew for media days. First, linkage:

Big Ten lunch links

February, 8, 2011
Maybe I should feel weird about giving a stranger my social security number, but the guy's a Nigerian prince!

Big Ten assistant coach updates

February, 7, 2011
Several Big Ten teams are still filling out their staffs for 2011, and we'll hear an official announcement or two later Monday.

Here's a roundup of what's been happening the last few days:


The Hoosiers on Friday announced the hiring of Brandon Shelby as cornerbacks coach. Shelby, who previously held the same position at Louisiana-Monroe, starred as a defensive back at Oklahoma during IU coach Kevin Wilson's time there and also served as a Sooners' defensive assistant in 2006. Shelby replaces Corey Raymond, who left Indiana to take a position at Nebraska. Although Nebraska hasn't made an official announcement about Raymond, he's expected to replace secondary coach Marvin Sanders, who resigned Thursday.

Indiana also last week hired Nebraska defensive assistant Brett Diersen as defensive tackles coach and Air Force running backs coach Jemal Singleton to the same position. Diersen replaces Jerry Montgomery, who Wilson said left for a position at Michigan.

These appointments complete Wilson's staff for 2011.


So far, Sanders' resignation is the only official announcement Bo Pelini has made about his staff. But Wilson said Raymond is on his way to Lincoln, and all signs point to offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and receivers coach Ted Gilmore being on their way out. Nebraska's offensive production dipped toward the end of the 2010 season, and the Huskers' receivers had an up-and-down year.

Multiple media reports from Nebraska state that Pelini might be targeting Oregon receivers coach Scott Frost, the former Huskers' star quarterback, and Notre Dame offensive line coach Ed Warinner as replacements. Warinner served as Kansas' offensive coordinator from 2007-09 and spent time in the Big Ten as Illinois' offensive line coach and run game coordinator from 2005-06.

The interesting part of this is Pelini reportedly will hand over play-calling duties to running backs coach Tim Beck. The Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald both report that Frost might not leave Oregon unless it's for a job as a play-caller elsewhere.

Pelini seems to be reshaping his staff before Nebraska's jump to the Big Ten. It will be fascinating to see how things play out in Lincoln.


Coach Brady Hoke will finalize his staff Monday and announce the defensive assistants to join coordinator Greg Mattison.

Montgomery is on his way to Ann Arbor, and he'll reportedly be joined by Akron defensive coordinator Curt Mallory on the Michigan staff. Expect Mallory to coach the Wolverines' secondary, while Montgomery will work with the defensive line. Mallory played at Michigan and has spent his entire coaching career in the Midwest, serving as Illinois' secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator from 2007-09. Montgomery played at Iowa and most recently served as Wyoming's defensive line coach.


After promoting Dan Roushar to offensive coordinator last week, Mark Dantonio reportedly has found the final member of his staff.

According to The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, Central Michigan receivers coach Terry Samuel has left to take the same position on Michigan State's staff. Samuel, who played wide receiver at Purdue, worked his way up through the FCS ranks before joining former Dantonio assistant Dan Enos at Central Michigan last year.

He'll coach the position group that previous Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell oversaw. Samuel inherits a deep and talented receiving corps led by B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin.


The Badgers lost a key assistant over the weekend as running backs coach John Settle departed for the same position with the Carolina Panthers. Settle did an outstanding job with Wisconsin's running backs, helping to mold standout players like P.J. Hill, John Clay, James White and Montee Ball.

Although Wisconsin always recruits talented backs, Settle leaves some big shoes to fill. It will be interesting to see who coach Bret Bielema hires as his replacement.