Big Ten: Terrelle Pryor

Big Ten writers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett occasionally will give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which writer is correct. recently completed its three-year retrospective on Ohio State's tattoo/merchandise scandal with a story about Terrelle Pryor. The former Buckeyes quarterback, who committed multiple NCAA violations, departed the program in June 2011, a week after coach Jim Tressel resigned under pressure. In July 2011, Ohio State declared Pryor ineligible for the 2011 season and banned the quarterback from any association with the program for five years, citing his unwillingness to cooperate with school and NCAA investigators.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFormer Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor wants to reconcile with Ohio State. Does the school want the same?
Pryor would one day like to reconcile with his old school:
"I'd love to, if I'm invited or accepted, I'd love to. I don't want to cause any type of thing. I just want everything to be smooth. Even if I could talk to the guys about not taking things and being smart about the people you deal with, I'd love to do that one day, if the coaches are up to it or the head people at Ohio State are up to it. But that's a couple years away."
Today's Take Two topic: Should Ohio State reopen its doors to Pryor after the five-year ban expires in 2016?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

The wound is still fresh for some Buckeyes fans, who regard Pryor a half-step above anyone associated with the University of Michigan. His actions contributed to the program's backslide -- Ohio State hasn't won a Big Ten title or a bowl since Pryor's final game in January 2011 -- but he's hardly the only one at fault. Pryor isn't the reason Tressel had to resign. Tressel made poor decisions that led to his resignation, and while he certainly felt an attachment to Pryor -- he does to this day -- that's not Pryor's fault.

Ohio State received a bowl ban because of its casual approach to the NCAA infractions process, and the second wave of allegations that arrived in the fall of 2011. Pryor was a highly immature, overly entitled player who made some very poor choices during his Buckeyes career. But this scandal went way beyond one person.

Pryor absolutely should be welcomed back to the program after five years. Americans are typically a forgiving lot, and college football fans have forgiven a lot worse characters than Terrelle Pryor. He never committed a violent crime. He never had academic issues and actually was an Academic All-Big Ten selection at Ohio State. He said and did some stupid things at Ohio State, but he also helped the Buckeyes win a lot of games and excelled in BCS bowls, especially the 2010 Rose Bowl.

At some point, Pryor should walk through the doors of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center again. While I wonder about his maturity, his story could be a cautionary tale for the current players who face constant temptation in a city obsessed with Buckeyes football. There's value in a reconciliation, and I hope to see it happen.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

Time heals all wounds. I was at the Michigan game in 2012 when Tressel got a loud, standing ovation from the crowd at the 'Shoe, even though he was the very person most responsible for that being Ohio State's final game and not a possible entry point toward a championship run. Of course, Tressel had built up more goodwill than Pryor, but it showed that Ohio State fans are willing to forgive one of their own.

It also helps that Pryor's mistakes didn't doom the program. Sure, the 2011 season was one of the worst in recent Buckeyes history, but they still went to a bowl and then bounced right back after hiring Urban Meyer by going on a 24-game winning streak. The tattoo scandal seems rather petty in hindsight, especially in light of all the calls for more money and benefits for college athletes that are dominating the landscape right now. Pryor has appeared to be a solid citizen since leaving Ohio State and even has made an impact in the NFL.

His No. 2 is never going to be retired, and maybe Pryor will never receive more than polite applause if he returns to an Ohio State sideline someday. But there's no need for him to be a complete pariah when his disassociation with the program concludes. If you're going to talk about a football program being a family, then you're going to have to accept some family members who have been difficult to love at times. And maybe most importantly, Pryor can offer some life lessons to younger Buckeyes players and hopefully help them avoid some of the same mistakes that stained an otherwise successful career.

Big Ten lunch links

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
Get well soon, Tracy Morgan.

Several coaches close to Jim Tressel whom I spoke to for this story in November held out hope that he would one day return to the sideline.

They also knew his interest in education -- teaching, mentoring and administration -- wasn't just something to fill his days until the next coaching opportunity came along. Tressel was mentioned as a candidate to join Jim Caldwell's staff with the Detroit Lions in January, but he stayed at Akron as the school's vice president for student success and soon applied for the president positions at both Akron and Youngstown State, where he coached from 1986 to 2000 and won four Division I-AA national championships.

Akron selected another candidate on Thursday, but Youngstown State's trustees on Friday voted to offer the position to Tressel. He had been one of three finalists at both schools.

"Mr. Tressel has the personality and leadership skills, in addition to widespread community support, to dramatically raise YSU’s profile and prominence across Ohio and the nation," Youngstown State board of trustees chairman Sudershan Garg said in a statement.

Tressel's appointment won't be finalized until contract terms are reached.

Earlier this month at a public forum in Youngstown, Tressel told a questioner that his coaching days are over.

He left the door open a little more when we spoke in November, but his interest in education came across as sincere, including how he taught a coaching staff with Jim Dennison and how he interacted with students around campus.

"We're mediocre in the world in education," Tressel told me. "We're not at the top of the heap. I don't like being mediocre. I want every kid to get that job they're looking for. It drives you every day to figure out how we can get 26,000 to 27,000 kids to succeed. That's as tough of a game as there is."

Tressel's coaching friends wanted him back in the game, not just because of the success he had but because of the way things ended at Ohio State. But his own pull to the sideline didn't seem as strong.

He wasn't overtly bitter about Ohio State, and while he still spends much of the fall around football, he seemed to get his competitive fill from being a top administrator at Akron.

"Jim is a lot more comfortable in a shirt and tie than most coaches," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "I don't think there are many coaches in the country that are as comfortable in the administrative side of colleges as Jim Tressel. So I wouldn't be surprised if that's where he finishes his career."

It appears that will be the case. Tressel knows Youngstown and immediately enhances the school's profile as president. The job is largely about fundraising, an area where he will undoubtedly excel.

Tressel has trouble spots in his past, including some during his coaching tenure at Youngstown State. People remember Ray Isaac and Maurice Clarett and the Tat-5 scandal. Tressel is still under a show-cause penalty from the NCAA. These issues will be brought up as he begins his new role.

But college presidents aren't saints. Neither are coaches, despite the image Tressel often portrayed. Tressel has his flaws, but I found it interesting that two of his former players he talks to the most -- Clarett and Terrelle Pryor -- are the ones who most damaged his reputation. You can't say he doesn't care about helping people.

Bottom line: You look at what college presidents do and where the job will be, and Tressel looks like a good fit. He reportedly wanted the Youngstown job more than the Akron one, and he remains extremely popular in the Youngstown community.

He has turned a page on his career. So should we.
Enjoy the Final Four. And for you Michigan fans out there, enjoy the spring game at the Big House.

Don't forget: Twitter!

To the inbox ...

Kenny from Cincy writes: I was comparing on-the-field accomplishments of the past two Ohio State QBs and I feel like Terrelle Pryor has had a better career (you know, despite crippling the program the next year but I feel like most in Buckeye land have forgiven him). Pryor: 3 Big Ten championships, a Rose Bowl win, and a Sugar Bowl win over a SEC team in three years (I know the games were vacated, but it did happen). Braxton Miller: 0-2 in bowls and 0 Big Ten championships, but two Silver Footballs and 24 wins in a row are nice. My question is, due to the expectations that QBs like Troy Smith and Pryor elevated, do you think Miller has to win a Big Ten championship or more this year or will the Braxton Miller years be seen as a failure in Buckeyes fans' eyes?

Adam Rittenberg: Kenny, this is a really interesting debate regarding each quarterback's legacy. There's no doubt Miller has accomplished more individually than Pryor. He could be the first Big Ten player to win three offensive player of the year awards. He likely would have won a Big Ten championship in 2012 if Ohio State had been eligible for postseason play, but when you look at macro team accomplishments -- league titles and BCS bowl wins -- Pryor definitely gets the edge. He likely was an ill-timed blitz away from having a third BCS bowl win in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl against Texas. One big difference is Pryor played on teams with much better defenses. Miller had several reasons to return for his senior season, and winning a Big Ten title certainly is one of them.

Joe from Phoenix writes: I don't understand everyone's love for a nine-game conference schedule. I do not believe rematches in college football are a good thing, as it makes the first game irrelevant. With a nine-game schedule, you almost guarantee a rematch in the championship game. Why not schedule one more "quality" nonconference game? That way all Big Ten schools have an opportunity to have one more win on their record, and look better for the bowl committees.

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, I hear you and it definitely increases the likelihood of a rematch in the Big Ten championship, but I also see the league's viewpoint. It wants a greater schedule rotation to enhance your product week after week. It wants players to face every league team at least once in a four-year period. I also think it's tricky to demand another quality nonleague game in place of the ninth Big Ten contest. Some schools would step up, but you need teams from other power conferences to play ball, too, which is no guarantee. I also think some schools would schedule cupcakes. Bowl committees rarely care about strength of schedule.

Joe from South Bend, Ind., writes: Adam, what was maybe one thing you found impressive with your visit to Happy Valley and was your one big takeaway?

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, I'm very impressed with James Franklin's staff. They're very sharp guys who know how to keep the energy level high and relate well to a group of new players. Everyone knows that Franklin operates in fifth gear, but his assistants do, too, and there's tremendous cohesion with the staff. It would have been much harder if the staff lacked familiarity as it tried to get to know the players. My big takeaway: Penn State's defense is much further along than the offense, and the Lions likely will need to win low-scoring games this fall. Coordinator Bob Shoop has a good plan and inherits some good pieces. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is a once-in-a-generation type quarterback, but he'll face more pressure this year because of the issues with the offensive line.

Kevin from Las Vegas writes: Is history the only thing that qualifies a team for elite status? Wisconsin is seen as a sleeper in the B1G, and two years ago they were "elite." Michigan and Ohio State would never be considered "sleepers," even after down years. Is this simply because of historic achievements (lots of national championships when Teddy Roosevelt was president), branding (our helmets have wings!), or lazy writers (not you guys, of course)? Do teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State or Iowa ever really have a shot of being elite because their legacy doesn't include deep history?

Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, it's a good point to raise, especially because I think Michigan State is being overlooked heading into 2014 just because it hasn't been a traditional power. You hear a lot about Ohio State making a run for the College Football Playoff, but Michigan State dominated the Big Ten last year (nine wins by 10 or more points), won the Rose Bowl and brings back quarterback Connor Cook and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, among others. Wisconsin has gained national respect in the past 20-plus years, but the Badgers also recently lost three consecutive Rose Bowls, which hurt their cause. Iowa has had its moments but lacks the consistency of Wisconsin. Michigan State, meanwhile, really has it rolling under Mark Dantonio. At some point, the Spartans need to be viewed as elite for what's happening now, not in the past.

Charlie from Chicago writes: What recruits in the conference are due to have breakout seasons in their freshman year?

Adam Rittenberg: There are potentially quite a few this year, Charlie. Early enrollees have an advantage, so keep an eye on players such as Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan, Michigan WR Freddy Canteen, Ohio State WR Johnnie Dixon and Penn State WR De'Andre Thompkins. Other potential impact recruits arriving in the summer include Michigan CB Jabrill Peppers (the Big Ten's top-rated recruit in the 2014 class), Illinois DE Jihad Ward (junior college transfer), Minnesota RB Jeff Jones and Michigan State DT Malik McDowell, whom Mark Dantonio gushed about Wednesday after he finally signed.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg hasn't even completed two weeks of spring practice, so it's still anybody's guess how the reigning Big Ten freshman of the year will perform in 2014.

But, over the last 25 years, five other Big Ten quarterbacks have found themselves in similar positions. Like Hackenberg, they impressed fans with memorable rookie campaigns, were named the Big Ten freshman of the year and raised expectations over the offseason.

[+] EnlargeChristian Hackenberg
MCT via Getty ImagesHow will Nittany Lions signal-caller Christian Hackenberg follow up his fantastic freshman season?
Hackenberg's sophomore season won't be in the books for quite some time. But here's a look at those other five QBs and how they fared in their sophomore seasons and in their careers:

Braxton Miller, Ohio State, won award in 2011

Sophomore stats (2012): 148-of-254 passing (58.3 percent); 2,039 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs; 227 carries, 1,271 yards, 13 TDs

Ohio State record (2012): 12-0, no postseason due to sanctions (2011: 6-7, lost to Florida in Gator Bowl)

Sophomore synopsis: It would've been difficult to ask Miller for a much better sophomore campaign. He was the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, finished fifth in the Heisman voting and even bested Carlos Hyde in both rushing yards (1,271 to, 970) and yards per carry (5.6 ypc to 5.2 ypc). Miller was more renowned for his legs than his arm, but he was still the second-most efficient passer in the conference. He also came up big when his team needed; the Buckeyes won six games that were decided by a touchdown or less.

His career: He could've opted to leave early for the NFL this offseason but instead decided to stay one last season. He's becoming more well-rounded with each season, and he's once again one of the favorites to win the Heisman.

Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State, won award in 2008

Sophomore stats (2009): 167-of-295 passing (56.6 percent); 2,094 yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs; 162 carries, 779 yards, 7 TDs

Ohio State record (2009): 11-2, beat Oregon in Rose Bowl (2008: 10-3, lost Fiesta Bowl vs. Texas)

Sophomore synopsis: With the top tailback (Chris Wells) and wideout (Brian Robiskie) from 2008 both gone, Pryor put the offense on his back and carried it to an improved record. Pryor led the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and he was instrumental in the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl win. He threw for 266 yards, rushed for a game-high 72 yards and was named the MVP. Statistically, his sophomore campaign wasn't his best season -- but he had a lot to overcome.

His career: He led the Buckeyes to three straight BCS bowl berths, but his legacy was marred by an early exit. He was suspended for the first five games of his senior season -- due to Tattoo-Gate -- so he instead opted for the NFL's supplemental draft in 2011. The Oakland Raiders took him in exchange for a third-round pick, although reports this week have said Pryor is now seeking to cut ties with the Raiders because he hopes to be a starter somewhere.

Brooks Bollinger, Wisconsin, won award in 1999

Sophomore stats (2000): 110-of-209 passing (52.6 percent); 1,479 yards, 10 TDs, 7 INTs; 157 carries, 459 yards, 6 TDs

Wisconsin record (2000): 9-4, beat UCLA in Sun Bowl (1999: 10-2, beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)

Sophomore synopsis: The Badgers needed to fill the big shoes of Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, so they leaned a little more on the passing game in 2000. But, make no mistake about it, this was a run-first team that lived and died on the ground while relying heavily on Michael Bennett. Still, Bollinger played a big role as an effective dual-threat quarterback -- and this Wisconsin team came close to equaling success from the year before. Three of the Badgers' four losses were decided by six points or less, and two of those losses came in overtime.

His career: Bollinger never put up big passing numbers -- he never ranked higher than third in a given Big Ten stat category -- but he was consistent and did what was asked of him. The Big Ten Network even chose him as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the conference from 2000 to 2010. He played five seasons in the NFL and was the Pittsburgh Panthers' QB coach for two seasons.

Antwaan Randle El, Indiana, won award in 1998

Sophomore stats (1999): 150-of-279 passing (53.8 percent); 2,277 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs; 224 carries, 788 yards, 13 TDs

Indiana record (1999): 4-7 (1998: 4-7)

Sophomore synopsis: Randle El's sophomore season was his best, by passing numbers, in his four years as a starter. He accounted for 69 percent of the entire offense that season and led the Big Ten with 30 combined touchdowns. The main reason Randle El couldn't lead Indiana to more wins? The defense allowed at least 30 points in nine of 11 contests. The highlight of the Randle El's season came against Illinois in October, when he overcame a 21-point deficit late in the third quarter to force overtime. Neil Rackers nailed a field goal to open up overtime for Illinois, but Randle El tossed a 25-yard TD pass on the very next play to seal the 34-31 win.

His career: The Hoosiers never won more than five games during his career, but he was clearly the team's best player. (And he was probably the most athletic person on campus -- he also played two years of basketball and one year of baseball.) He had a nine-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins.

Eric Hunter, Purdue, won award in 1989

Sophomore stats (1990): 200-of-366 passing (54.6 percent); 2,355 passing yards, 12 TDs, 14 INTs; 97 carries, 0 yards, 7 TDs

Purdue record (1990): 2-9 (1989: 3-8)

Sophomore synopsis: Hunter was looked upon as a young Randall Cunningham, but his career never lived up to those freshman expectations. He threw 11 TDs on 178 attempts as a freshman and just 12 TDs on 366 attempts as a sophomore. The main problem was an inexperienced offensive line, and it only got worse as the season wore on. In the last five games, Hunter had 11 picks.

His career: Those sophomore struggles led to the firing of Purdue's coach, which meant a new coach and a new system for Hunter. The line continued to struggle, Hunter never got back on track, and he saw less time on the field each season thereafter. He earned a reputation for his inability to read defenses, and the Boilermakers never won more than four games a season during his career.

Ultimate 300: Big Ten's top recruits 

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29

There have been plenty of memorable prospects and players to come through the Big Ten, but RecruitingNation's scouts have put together their Ultimate ESPN 300 list of top recruits.

Here are the top five Big Ten recruits who made the list:

Looking back on B1G freshman QB starters

September, 2, 2013
It's rare for a true freshman like Christian Hackenberg to earn the starting quarterback job -- but it's not unheard of in the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargeChristian Hackenberg
Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/Getty ImagesChristian Hackenberg started his Penn State career with a win over Syracuse on Saturday.
We took a look at the Big Ten true freshmen who came before the Penn State signal-caller to see how they fared. We looked at quarterbacks from the past 10 years who started at least six games that first year and offered a rundown of those true freshman seasons, along with how their careers played out.

There's no telling right now where the four-star Hackenberg (Scout grade: 88) might end up. But here's what Big Ten history has to say:

Minnesota, 2012
Philip Nelson, Scout grade: 74

Freshman stats: 75-of-152 (49.3 percent) for 873 yards, eight TDs, eight INTs; 69 carries for 184 yards

Record as freshman starter: 2-5

Freshman synopsis: Nelson was expected to redshirt but, between injuries and inconsistent QB play, his number was called earlier. He started the last seven games and had limited success. But he showed some potential such as the Purdue win, where he completed 68 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns.

College career & beyond: He started Week 1 and helped lead Minnesota to a 51-23 win over UNLV. He could be in line to become a four-year starter, and all eyes will be on whether he can guide Minnesota to back-to-back bowls.

Penn State, 2010
Rob Bolden, Scout grade: 81

Freshman stats: 112-of-193 (58 percent) for 1,360 yards, five TDs, seven INTs; 30 carries for minus-11 yards, one TD, one fumble lost

Record as freshman starter: 5-3

Freshman synopsis: Bolden became the first true freshman to start a PSU opener in 100 years. He impressed in Week 1 by dominating Youngstown State with 239 passing yards, two TDs and a pick -- but his season would falter afterward. He seemed to regress, and a quarterback battle with Matt McGloin lasted all season. (Actually, for two seasons.) PSU finished 7-6 and lost to Florida in the Outback Bowl. Bolden didn't play in the postseason.

College career & beyond: Bolden transferred to LSU last year but has yet to attempt a pass. He's not poised for any playing time, and rumors have continued to circulate that he's considering another transfer.

Michigan, 2009
Tate Forcier, Scout grade: 81

Freshman stats: 165-of-281 (58.7 percent) for 2,050 yards, 13 TDs, 10 INTs; 118 carries for 240 yards, three TDs, four fumbles lost

Record as freshman starter: 5-7

Freshman synopsis: He got off to a solid 4-0 start and made his mark by throwing a last-second, game-winning TD against Notre Dame. ESPN analyst Matt Millen, echoing a shared sentiment of Forcier's bright future, called him the best QB in the B1G. But his career took a nosedive in Week 5. The Wolverines lost to Michigan State, 26-20, and Forcier would win just one more game -- against Delaware State -- the rest of the season. His early performance still helped him earn a spot on ESPN's All-Big Ten freshman team.

College career & beyond: He was briefly listed as the third-string QB at the start of the next season and saw limited time behind Denard Robinson. He hoped to transfer to Miami (Fla.) after a sophomore slump but ended up at San Jose State. He then withdrew from that school in January, 2012 because of poor academic standing.

Ohio State, 2008
Terrelle Pryor, Scout grade: 93

Freshman stats: 100-for-165 (60.6 percent) for 1,311 yards, 12 TDs, four INTs; 139 carries for 631 yards, six TDs, one fumble lost

Record as freshman starter: 8-1

Freshman synopsis: He came in as a consensus top-five national recruit, and he lived up to expectations. By Week 4, the dual-threat rookie supplanted Todd Boeckman -- a quarterback who took the Buckeyes to the national title game a year before -- and started the rest of the regular season. OSU finished 10-3 and lost the Fiesta Bowl to Texas. He was named Big Ten freshman of the year.

College career & beyond: He helped OSU earn three straight BCS berths before declaring early for the NFL's 2011 supplemental draft when it looked as if he'd be suspended. Oakland gave up a third-round pick for him, and he currently looks to be the backup. He has thrown for 155 yards so far in his NFL career.

Illinois, 2006
Juice Williams, Scout grade: 82

Freshman stats: 103-for-261 (39.5 percent) for 1,489 yards, nine TDs, nine INTs; 154 carries for 576 yards, two TDs, six fumbles lost

Record as freshman starter: 1-8

Freshman synopsis: Williams got the nod in Week 4 and shocked the nation one week later at Michigan State. Coming in as huge underdogs -- about four touchdowns -- Illinois' Williams threw for 122 yards and rushed for 103 to upset the Spartans 23-20. Illinois dropped the last seven games and finished 2-10, but four losses were decided by one score. He was an honorable mention on The Sporting News' freshman All-American team.

College career & beyond: Williams' sophomore campaign was a memorable one, as he beat No. 1 Ohio State -- the Illini's first win over the top-ranked team in a little over a half-century -- and finished 9-4 with a season-ending loss in the Rose Bowl. That was the highlight of his career, however, as he won just eight games over the next two seasons.

Michigan, 2004
Chad Henne, Scout grade: N/A

Freshman stats: 240-of-399 (60.2 percent) for 2,743 yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs; 55 carries for minus-137 yards, two TDs, two fumbles lost

Record as freshman starter: 9-3

Freshman synopsis: The Pennsylvania native started Week 1 when a sore arm hindered Matt Gutierrez, and Henne never looked back. He picked up national headlines in October after back-to-back 300-yard games. Said Minnesota coach Glenn Mason: "If you didn't know he was a freshman, you wouldn't know he was a freshman." He tied Elvis Grbac's season record for touchdown passes with 25 and, unsurprisingly, made the All-American freshman team. He also led Michigan to the Rose Bowl, in which it lost to Texas, 38-37.

College career & beyond: Henne's college career saw its ups and downs, but he's still at -- or near -- the top of most Michigan passing records. He went 0-4 against Ohio State, but UM still finished in the top 25 in three of his four seasons. Miami selected him the second round of the 2008 NFL draft, and he's now the backup QB on Jacksonville.

Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

August, 6, 2013
Time to check the mail again. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.

Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: Is it just a coincidence that Northwestern, Stanford, and Vanderbilt are on the upswing as far as football programs?

Adam Rittenberg: There are definitely some favorable circumstances in place for each program, like having the right head coaches in place. But all three institutions have made greater investments in their football programs in recent years, too. There's a realization that academically focused private schools can also succeed on the gridiron, and that the pool of recruits who can make the grade at these schools is large enough to achieve that success. Also, all three schools either have made or will make significant facilities upgrades.

Stanford has put its program among the nation's elite thanks to Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw, while Northwestern is enjoying the most consistent period of success in its history under Pat Fitzgerald. Although I'm not as sold on James Franklin and Vanderbilt as some of my media colleagues, I see the obvious strides being made in recruiting. The bottom line: it's not a coincidence that all three programs are on the rise, although the circumstances each enjoys play big roles.

Divine Wind from Tokyo writes: In a scenario where the top three teams at the end of the year are Oregon, Ohio State and Alabama, the first two teams are 13-0 and the Tide is 12-1. Is there any realistic scenario you see where an OSU team with a 25-game winning streak doesn't make it to the championship game? And if not, who would be their opponent?

Adam Rittenberg: It all depends on the strength of the SEC and Pac-12 vs. the Big Ten and how that translates to the BCS computer rankings, but I wouldn't rule out any scenario in the final year of the BCS system. Ohio State will open the season ranked higher than Oregon in the human polls, and while it's possible an undefeated Oregon leapfrogs and undefeated Ohio State based on the Pac-12's strength, I can't imagine much would separate the teams in the voting. It'll come down to the computers and whether the SEC's strength (real or perceived) would vault Alabama past an undefeated Oregon or Ohio State squad. As many know, the Buckeyes' schedule could work against them as they don't play any top teams in non-league play and miss Nebraska and Michigan State in the Legends division. The Buckeyes need to beat teams like Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan, and then have those teams all go onto strong seasons. Ohio State could be hurt by Vanderbilt backing out of the season opener in Columbus. Beating an SEC team would help the Buckeyes' cause. Ultimately, I doubt an undefeated Ohio State team gets left out of the title game. As to who would be Ohio State's opponent in the Rose Bowl, I'd go with Stanford or UCLA.

Fred from Annapolis, Md., writes: Hi Adam, a Husker expatriate here whose memory goes back to the late-Devaney era. I am writing about Bo Pelini being on the hot seat, and for me, that is certainly his status. I appreciate that he wins wins most of his games and has brought stability to the program. But the fact that I think his defenders miss is that too many losses are not even competitive, dare I say that they are of a Callahan-ian level. I think he has put together a great young coaching staff, and I would hate to lose any of them, but maybe Bo should take off the head phones (ala Brady Hoke) and let them coach.

Adam Rittenberg: Your first point is fair, Fred, and I agree that blowout losses, particularly in big games, cause more damage than falling on a last-minute field goal or touchdown. Pelini's Husker teams have fallen flat when the lights are brightest, most notably in last year's Big Ten championship game against a 7-5 Wisconsin team playing with a nothing-to-lose attitude. It might be a while before Nebraska has an easier path to the Rose Bowl than it did last season. I'm not sure about your second point. If anything, Pelini has been criticized for hiring so many young coaches and giving them a lot of responsibility. Pelini doesn't seem to be impacting Tim Beck's ability to coordinate one of the nation's top offenses. I agree that good coaches know when and how to keep their distance, but I think Pelini does that, and his involvement on defense could be really beneficial for Big Red.

Jason from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, football is upon us! I'm sure you're looking forward to it as well. On the targeting rule: "The ref & replay officials must agree." What is the process for this? Ref calls it and then the replay official looks for "incontrovertible video evidence" to disagree or isn't bound by that and uses his opinion on intent? This may not seem different to some but it is vastly different to me. Video evidence to overturn a subjective call would just result in it not being overturned often.

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Jason. Every targeting penalty that results in an ejection must first be called on the field. The replay official then will review the foul and determine if it meets the standards for an ejection. The replay official will need to see clear evidence that the call should be overturned or downgraded to a 15-yard penalty with no ejection. Here's how Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo explained it to me in March: "We're asking replay to get a little bit involved more in the judgment call. They do [currently] have some judgment, a few rules where they can create penalties, but the replay person in the booth is not the eighth official. The game is being officiated by the seven men or women on the field. Now he'll buzz down once it’s targeting, and he'll confirm that hit. ... The targeting calls are going to stand unless there's indisputable video evidence that shows it's nowhere near above the shoulders." So the bigger responsibility rests with the on-field officials. We'll see how often targeting ejections get overturned or downgraded, but given the seriousness of the foul, I hope replay officials wouldn't hesitate to step in when a foul isn't blatant targeting above the shoulders.

Ty from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, your comment regarding Pelini running a cleaner program than Osborne rubbed me the wrong way. Pelini has run a very clean program, no doubt, but any criticism of Osborne is really unfair. The man was head coach for 25 seasons, and all any non-Nebraska fan wants to bring up is two players (Christian Peter and Lawrence Phillips) from his best team in 1995. The thing many people do not realize is that any second chances TO gave to his players were due to him truly caring about and believing in his players, nothing at all to do with winning. Do you really think Nebraska needed Lawrence Phillips to beat Florida in the 96 Fiesta Bowl?? Not to mention, the man wrote a book called "More Than Winning"!!!. He cared only about what may happen to these guys if they didn't have a chance in football. He didn't want to give up on them which I believe is very admirable. The easy thing to do is to kick a guy off the team. He knew he would be criticized heavily, but he went with his heart. Obviously, with Lawrence Phillips, hindsight is 20/20 and TO wouldn't have kept him around knowing his future. But at the time, he was doing what he believed to be the right thing and I respect him even more for it.

Adam Rittenberg: Ty, you bring up some good points here, and my intent with that response wasn't to disparage Osborne and the way he ran the Nebraska program. But let's face it, Bo Pelini hasn't had a Lawrence Phillips situation or a Christian Peter situation at Nebraska. The most high-profile player to find trouble during Pelini's tenure -- former cornerback Alfonzo Dennard -- did so after his Husker playing days had ended. My point is that Pelini doesn't get as much credit for keeping his team on track both academically and from a conduct standpoint. Sure, Osborne coached Nebraska longer, so you would expect more conduct issues over time. But one coach had a few high-profile incidents and the other has not. I would give the edge to Pelini in terms of conduct, and he clearly takes a no-nonsense approach toward discipline. No one is saying Osborne isn't a great man or a great coach. He undoubtedly won more at the highest level than Pelini. But I think when you look at the total picture -- won-loss, academic progress, off-field conduct -- Pelini has done pretty well in Lincoln.

John from Atlantic Beach, Fla., writes: Double Standard? Ohio State receives a year probation, bowl ban, and lost games for six players selling gold pants trinkets they owned and the nation didn't think it was enough. Now Johnny F. accused of violating rule #1 of selling autographs for profit and the nation thinks we should change the rule.

Adam Rittenberg: John, while I understand your frustration, I'm not sure this is a double standard. The outrage about Ohio State stemmed more from the fact that head coach Jim Tressel knowingly played ineligible players and didn't speak up even after the violations initially surfaced, leading to the "Tat-5," thanks in large part to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, being allowed to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl, a Buckeyes victory later vacated by sanctions. I think there were many back then, just like there are now, who think players should be allowed to sell their merchandise/autographs. Tressel really seemed to be the lightning rod with Ohio State. Unless Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin knew that Manziel had committed the alleged violations and did nothing, this case will be more about Manziel, his celebrity, his off-field issues and whether he should have the right to profit off of his fame. Ultimately, the rules haven't changed and that's what it will come down to for Manziel, just like it did for Terrelle Pryor and the other Ohio State players.

Mitch from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, I'm a current MSU senior and I love my football program. But there is one thing that drives me absolutely off the wall about it. Friday night games. If you've noticed, MSU has kicked off the past 2 seasons with a Friday night home game, and they're doing it again this year. I'm a science major, which means that I have Friday classes. This upcoming semester, I have Calculus 3 at 3 PM. Tailgating starts at 1 PM for night games. That means that walking to and from class through MSU's huge campus will entail having to weave through drunken tailgaters. But this isn't nearly as bad as it is for those students who commute. Parking lots around campus are closed down for tailgating, meaning that commuting students need to use lots that are a 30+ minute walk from their classes. I know that many college students don't have Friday classes, but this is getting out of hand for those of us who do. I feel like this is the complete opposite of what the NCAA wants- to put the emphasis on education and not on athletics. Will ADs realize this and put a stop on Friday/Thursday night games, or is the money too big to think about the students?

Adam Rittenberg: Mitch, my man, you're a senior and you're taking calculus on Friday afternoons? You clearly missed the seminar on senior scheduling. Friday at 3 is beer o'clock to most folks. All kidding aside, I understand your frustration, and the hassle the season opener will create for you, your classmates and all the commuter students on Aug. 30. The reason you're seeing more Thursday/Friday night games is the branding opportunity it creates for teams. Michigan State has the Big Ten stage by itself on the Friday night, rather than being in a crowd of games at noon on Saturday. Last year's opener against Boise State was more of a national showcase and would have received attention on Saturday, but more people will pay attention to Michigan State-Western Michigan on Friday night than Saturday afternoon. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, one of the more creative ADs when it comes to scheduling, saw an opportunity when many Michigan high schools moved their Labor Day weekend games to Thursday night rather than Friday night. Many fans start the holiday weekend early and can attend a Friday night game, especially when it doesn't conflict with high school contests. Hollis wrote in his blog in 2011: "We realize that some challenges are created due to work schedules and we respect the campus academic mission of the day. At the same time, the timing of this game brings a positive impact to our team, fans and state." I also see the value in these games. They're fun for many MSU students and fans. But I understand that it creates a hassle for you and others.
Jordan Hall watched most of Ohio State's 12-0 season from the sideline with mixed emotions.

"It was tough to watch and miss," Hall told "I played in two and a half games or something. I was happy for my team, but I just wanted to be out there so bad."

[+] EnlargeJordan Hall
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesHealthy again, RB Jordan Hall is giving Ohio State options within its offense.
The running back figured to be out there a lot for Ohio State after the team completed spring practice last April. New head coach Urban Meyer singled out Hall as one of few bright spots for an offense he called a "clown show." But Hall's fortunes turned in late June, when he cut his foot on a broken glass bottle strewn in the front yard of his residence.

The "freak accident" set off a series of setbacks for Hall, the Buckeyes' likely starting running back before his injury. After undergoing surgery, missing preseason camp and the first two games, Hall returned in Week 3 against Cal but suffered a partial tear of his PCL two weeks later at Michigan State. He sat out the rest of the season and received a medical hardship. This spring, the coaches moved Hall to the slotback role where Percy Harvin had shined in Meyer's spread offense, and Hall had a strong start to the session before being slowed by a hamstring injury.

"I just want to get out there," Hall said. "I had to miss a lot of time."

Hall is back to full strength this summer and looks forward to going through a full preseason in the offense. The slotback role is similar to what Hall played in high school, when he teamed with former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in Jeannette, Pa.

Hall also has slimmed down 10-12 pounds from his 2012 playing weight and checks in at 191 pounds, the lightest he has been since high school.

"I feel a lot better in and out of my cuts," said Hall, who had 653 rush yards, 197 receiving yards and 1,494 return yards in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. "Top-end and everything, it just feels better. I feel like I'm hitting a gear I never really hit before. I'm 100 percent healthy, so I feel like I’m ready to go."

Ohio State took no chances with Hall after the hamstring injury this spring, and Hall admits he wasn't completely ready when he returned to the field last season.

"I didn’t really get to do the summer conditioning, none of the summer training, none of that," he said. "I was just lifting upper body, running on the underwater treadmill a little bit and then I practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the Cal week and then I played. I feel my leg just wasn't ready for competition, and that's what made me have my knee [injury]."

Hall looks forward to his first full preseason in the Meyer-led offense and recognizes the competition at his position will heat up. Chris Fields had a strong spring, and incoming freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall could fill the slotback role.

As a fifth-year senior who served as a co-captain before last season, Hall isn't concerned about re-proving himself to the coaches, especially Meyer.

"He's just always on me, [asking] if I'm catching, am I with the quarterbacks, am I doing my rehab," Hall said. "He's just making sure I’m ready to go. He has seen what I can do, and he says I can be a great player if I can stay healthy and do all the right things.

"Everyone's excited."

Hall's Twitter page contains the following words below his avatar: "This year I said it's all business." He has been through a lot Ohio State -- from off-field issues to moderate success to injuries -- and he wants to complete his comeback and be a part of another special season.

"I've just got tunnel vision," he said. "I'm not going to have any distractions. My only focus is football, really, and school. This is my last go-round, so I'm putting everything into it."
Former Ohio State wide receiver Ray Small is coming clean again.

Don't worry, Buckeyes fans, Small isn't sharing more stories of selling memorabilia and getting sweetheart deals from local car dealerships, as he did in an interview with The Lantern in May 2011, days before Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State's head coach. Instead, the troubled former Buckeye, who had off-field issues throughout his career from 2006-09, decided to apologize to his former coaches and fans through a YouTube video.

Small begins by saying the video is "for the people that I didn't do too well with" and other young athletes from tough backgrounds who struggle with the status that comes with their success. He says he "elevated as a man from this bottom level to the top level, and I'm kind of back at that bottom level."

In the video, Small apologies to his high school coach in Cleveland, Ted Ginn Sr., as well as Tressel and Darrell Hazell, the Buckeyes wide receivers coach during his career.

"I truly am sorry for my actions," Small said. "... Coach Hazell was like my favorite guy because he always kept it strictly real with me. I want to apologize to Coach Tressel because he told me, he tried, he gave me many, many chances. I'm just here today to speak up on my behalf, saying that I'm a man and I understand the things that I did wrong."

Small wasn't among the so-called Tat-5 but told The Lantern he sold his Big Ten championship rings and received special deals on cars and tattoos. Small later backtracked, telling Outside the Lines' Tom Farrey that the newspaper had twisted his words.

Small was arrested in February 2012 for allegedly possessing more than 200 suspected Oxycontin tablets, suspected heroin and a loaded gun. He mentions in the video that he'll stand trial July 22 "for some things that I did," which could explain the timing of the mea culpa.

In the video, Small admits to making poor decisions and "not having the willpower to transition from football to real life." He apologies to his former teammates ("I treated them like it was nothing") and to Ohio State fans.

"I'm a Buckeye for life," Small said, "regardless of how people like it. And I kind of got exed out from being a Buckeye. That hurt my heart."

Small rambles quite a bit, but his intent seems pretty clear.

Here's hoping Small is sincere about wanting to turn his life around. I'm interested to learn how Ohio State fans feel after seeing the video. Terrelle Pryor is the ultimate Buckeye non grata in Columbus, but Small is in the picture.

Wonder if Pryor ever shoots a video like this one.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel paid the heaviest price in the tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal, but the school's compliance department took a beating as well.

The details that emerged about Ohio State's compliance structure -- or lack thereof -- didn't paint the athletic department in a good light. Ohio State in February approved a new university compliance office, and the school appears to be taking the right steps to prevent similar violations from happening again.

As The Toledo Blade first reported this week, Ohio State sent the NCAA a 805-page report that, among other things, details new policies in place that increase athlete education about violations, prevent memorabilia sales and track car ownership (a major issue with former quarterback Terrelle Pryor). Ohio State is directly addressing the issues that surfaced in the scandal.

Check out the full report.

From The Blade:
An athletics compliance staff bolstered from five workers to a dozen is leaving little to chance. According to the report reviewed by The Blade, the school nearly tripled its number of rules education sessions, charged a former NCAA investigator with monitoring its highest-profile players, and reached out to 2,000 area businesses -- then employs exhaustive measures to verify the lessons take hold.

Among the safeguards include random audits to ensure current players have not sold or exchanged gear or awards, and license-plate software that allows school officials to determine car ownership.

One of the most publicized elements of the old compliance structure was the lack of a staff member in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Ohio State's football headquarters. Ohio State added former Tennessee compliance director Brad Bertani to its staff to deal specifically with football. Bertani has his office in the WHAC and travels with the football team.

Ohio State is also focused on ensuring no school-issued memorabilia is sold while athletes are still playing.
Players used to be able to purchase and take home gear and apparel like bowl-game jerseys or the alternate Nike helmets worn against Michigan in 2009 and 2010. Now, the uniforms will be kept in a secure container at the football facility until the player leaves the school.

As for awards like Big Ten championship rings or the gold pants trinket the Buckeyes receive for beating Michigan, players can still take those home. But they must be able to produce the goods in "random audits." Athletes sign a form acknowledging the school can make them "prove that I have not sold these items."

These are encouraging steps for a department that justifiably took a beating after the scandal. While time will tell how effective these measures will be, Ohio State deserves credit for directly addressing some major problems.

Big Ten Thursday mailbag

May, 10, 2012
You got questions, I got answers. Let's do this.

Mickey from Battle Creek, Mich., writes: Your recent "Take Two" post really has me fired up. I'm pretty sure that I speak for many of the "little 10" fans out there who are just tired of seeing nearly every future projection regarding B1G dominance including only Michigan and Ohio State. When will you guys realize that just because you get top flight recruits and a have high profile program, doesn't mean success on the field? A national title for U of M or Ohio St in the next 5 years? Not at OSU with Braxton Miller playing, or the young guy after he graduates. Michigan I will admit is much more likely than OSU. I know they aren't the "sexy" picks, but I'd be willing to wager that a team that develops its players better (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa) has a better shot, but still gets no mention, even with all the success those programs have had lately. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: Well, I laid out my thoughts in that post. I don't know why you dismiss Braxton Miller, who showed major potential as a true freshman and seems like the ideal fit for Urban Meyer's offense. As I wrote, I wouldn't be surprised if Wisconsin or Michigan State or Nebraska, etc., jumped up and played for a title. But if I've got to pick one, I'll take a team that is getting elite-level recruits and has good coaches. Ohio State did pretty well, before last season's tumultuous events, in making BCS games and even championship appearances. With a coach who knows how to win titles, why wouldn't the Buckeyes be a safe bet for doing it again?

Max from Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., writes: I enjoy the blog and thinks you guys do a good job most of the time, but you seemed to have "mailed it in" today. OSU and UM on the fast track? Come on. In today's game defense wins national championships and only Michigan State has that type of defense. Speed and depth at every position, two players considered to be possible first rounders next year, and loads of experience. What am I missing here? Adam mentions that the losses on offense will hamper the Spartans then states that UM will challenge next year after they lose their only weapon. You mention OSU's lines while discounting the experience and depth of both lines at MSU. Come on, guys, you can do better.

Brian Bennett: I absolutely love what Michigan State is doing on defense. Yet I'm still not sure it's quite at the level of some of the recent SEC superpowers. Remember that the Spartans' 'D' was rated one of the nation's best a year ago, and yet it still gave up 30 points to Georgia. (OK, only 23 of those points actually came against the defense, but the 'Dawgs mustered just 10 points against LSU, for instance). A Big Ten team is going to need to score points as well to win a national title, just as Michigan State was able to put up 33 points in that Outback Bowl. I have serious questions about the Spartans' passing game this year. I think once Ohio State gets rolling, it will have a top-notch defense and a highly productive offense. But we'll see who's right in the next few years.

Ry P. from Greensburg, Pa., writes: You understated PSU's nonconference opponents. Temple is now a Big East school AND they are a rival, especially since they are 1 of 3 PA FBS schools and that many kids go to Temple after PSU and PITT pass them over. Also, Navy is an important independent school and cannot be overlooked and disrespected like that. PSU has one of most consistent nonconference schedules with n0 FCS schools scheduled the next 3 years. Personally I'd love to see PSUs nonconference schedule be Temple, PITT, WVU, and Syracuse EVERY season.

Brian Bennett: Memphis, San Diego State and SMU are in the Big East, too. Would you like to play those teams? Temple might be in the same state as Penn State, but it's hardly a rival, given the unequal results between the two. As you said, Penn State has consistently scheduled ambitiously, and the Nittany Lions should be taking on marquee teams like Alabama or USC at least once every year.

Jeff from Marquette, Mich., writes: Hey, Brian, how much of an impact do you really think Andre Rison can have as a coach for MSU? The current coaching staff has done a pretty good job developing receivers and it seems like we've got talent, just not experience. It's not like Rison can take the field so how much of a difference can he really make?

Brian Bennett: I see it as every little bit helps. Rison won't be the main voice in the meeting room or the practice field. But kids will listen to him, because of the success he had in his career. And he surely has some tips and advice to offer. With a group as inexperienced as this one, another mentor can only help.

Ryan from Geneva, Ohio, writes: I think Jim Delany really needs to play hardball with Mike Slive when it comes to campus sites/neutral sites north of the Mason-Dixon. If Slive doesn't capitulate then Delany and Larry Scott (of the Pac 12) should walk out of the talks and announce plans for starting a rival, 8-team playoff on their terms and let the other conferences decide who to follow. The other conferences, particularly the ACC, BE, and the former non-AQs will be inclined to side with the Delany/Scott playoff because they have greater access to it. To entice them to come any conference champion in the top 12 would automatically qualify. What are your thoughts?

Brian Bennett: Boy, I hope that doesn't happen. We're so close to a workable college football playoff system that your scenario would be a nightmare. And can you imagine the fan backlash against the Big Ten and Pac-12 if they were basically to announce they were taking their ball and going home? Delany and Scott have no interest in expanding the playoff beyond four teams, anyway. The problem is the Big Ten doesn't have a ton of leverage against the SEC, because Slive is the one holding all those trophies. The home site idea appears to be dead or dying; at the very least, the Big Ten needs to make sure that Midwest sites are strongly considered for the championship game.

Brian from Warrensburg, Mo., writes: Am I the only one that was shocked to see both Montee Ball and Rex Burkhead missing from Todd McShay's way too early 2013 mock draft first round? Are they both too undersized to be first rounders?

Brian Bennett: I'm not surprised by Burkhead's omission. As much as I love him as a college player, I don't think he fits the mold of what NFL scouts -- who often rigidly adhere to measurables and preconceived notions -- are looking for in a running back. But he'll play in the league. It has to be disheartening for Ball, who came back to school largely to improve his draft status after receiving a third-round grade. But after seeing Doug Martin and David Wilson go in the first round, Ball has to like his chances of moving up with a big senior season.

Charlie from Chicago writes: As a Northwestern fan, I think it's a little lame that Fitz is copying Woody Hayes by calling Illinois "that team from Champaign." What do you think about him maybe changing it to "Champaign's Big Ten team"?

Brian Bennett: That's funny, though I've grown tired of the "Ohio" and "That team up north" stuff. Everybody knows who you're talking about. Let's find more clever ways to tweak our rivals.

Andrew F. from Fairbanks, Alaska, writes: As a Buckeye fan, I love Terrelle Pryor -- the kid was awe inspiring on the field, and its not like he was beating up women crashing cars off of it. I don't want him to go away. Did he screw up? Did Tressel screw up? Sure. But I don't care if Urban Meyer is the coach now, I have enjoyed the best coach that Ohio State will ever see, and Terrelle Pryor gave us three wonderful years. I am proud to call them Buckeyes.

Brian Bennett: We have found Terrelle Pryor's fan base: it's in Alaska. Just kidding, Andrew. So you don't want Pryor to go away? Well, Ohio State certainly does, since it banned him from any association with the program for five years. And get back to me if he does actually write that book he promised. I've got two words for you: Jose Canseco.

Logic from Ohio writes: Brian, I agree with your comments about Terrelle Pryor's tattoos not being much help for his family. Another thing - didn't Pryor's attorney claim that his mother bought him a car last May? (The Nissan 350Z that he showed up to a team meeting in). If she couldn't afford her rent, why was she buying him a car? It's hard to feel bad for a kid who time and time again appears dishonest, and only out for himself.

Brian Bennett: You're right, and there was also the issue of some pretty nice cars with dealer tags he drove around Columbus. Was he doing "God's work" in those? Look, I can't begrudge anyone for trying to help their family, and sometimes people go through economic ups and downs. But the point is that Terrelle Pryor has always been about Terrelle Pryor, and I don't find him credible on any of this stuff.

Drew from Milwaukee writes: I can only imagine what kind of completely outrageous emails you are receiving about this Ron Brown business, but I do have a bone to (respectively) pick with you about something you said in your chat on Monday. I find the approach of giving equal consideration to opposing view points, even when one of those viewpoints is utterly objectionable, to be completely irresponsible. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. If any public figure associate with a major institution like the University of Nebraska had spoken up to say the same things about laws protecting African Americans or Women from discrimination he would fired immediately (especially if he listed his residence as a campus building). Should he be arrested? No. Should he be fired? I'm not even sure about that. But lets stop saying that this is a 'complicated issue' because people have the right to believe whatever they want to. Its not complicated. Ron Brown is a bigot.

Skip from Omaha writes: I want to let you know that I come to ESPN to read about SPORTS! If I wanted to read about social issues I'd go over to a news website. There is a large Christian following that agrees with Coach Brown. You should run some articles about their points of view, but right now you are just making a lot of people like me very angry. I support Coach Brown, he is a very moral person who has had a great impact on many people. Being openly against the gay community is not uncommon, nor is it an immoral stance. The way these articles beat up on Coach Brown, you would think that he is some sort of pedophile or anomaly. He is not. I support Coach Brown and his stances, and I know a vast amount of people who would stand up for him and agree with him. You need to be careful running articles like this. There is no reason to lose sports fans and paying customers over political, social issues.

Brian Bennett: I have largely stayed away from commenting on the Ron Brown story, because you start getting into political, religious and social views that are probably a bit too much for a college football blog. Others have had strong viewpoints and have made their case well. I do know this: I really, really don't want to read any of the articles Skip is talking about.

Video: Discussing Terrelle Pryor, scandal

May, 10, 2012
Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett talks about why the former Buckeyes quarterback has decided to revisit the Ohio State scandal.

Terrelle Pryor is trying to put his past behind him and become a successful NFL quarterback. But he's not finished talking about what happened at Ohio State.

In an interview with's Jim Trotter, the disgraced former Buckeyes star and current Oakland Raider offered a new perspective on why he sold his memorabilia for cash and favors, which eventually helped lead to the downfall of coach Jim Tressel and NCAA problems for the program.

Pryor was suspended for the first five games of last season and then decided to enter the supplemental NFL draft. He was later banned from associating with the school for five years.
"The reason why I did it was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent," Pryor told Trotter. "She was four months behind in rent, and the (landlord) was so nice because he was an Ohio State fan. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and she said, 'My son will pay you back sometime if you just let me pay you back during my work sessions.'

"She ended up losing her job, and she and my sister lived there. Let me remind you it was freezing cold in November, December, and she's using the oven as heat. That's what I did as a kid. I was telling the NCAA, 'Please, anything that you can do. I gave my mother this so my sister wouldn't be cold, so my mother wouldn't be cold.' They didn't have any sympathy for me.

"It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans. It's documented. Whenever I write my book the proof will be in there, the receipt that the money I gave my mother was to pay the electric and heat bill. The truth is going to come out one day when the time is right. I don't think I deserved (being punished) in that way, because of the reason I was doing it. I felt like I was doing God's work in a way, and I was getting driven into the ground."

Your heart would have to be constructed of stone not to feel some sympathy for a kid trying to pay the rent and heating bill for his mother and sister. And we all know that the system is stacked against college athletes, who make millions for their schools and see little besides tuition in return.

But is Pryor really credible? One of the key parts of the Ohio State scandal involved Pryor and other players receiving tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Unless body ink contains some heating ability I'm not aware of, it's hard to see how that helped his family. (Or, just possibly, Pryor has found the solution to our energy crisis: tattoo power!)

And remember this ESPN story that alleged Pryor made as much as $40,000 signing autographs from 2009-10? Was that "God's work?" Just how much was that rent and heating bill, anyway?

There's more from Pryor in the interview.
"It was humbling," he said. "A mistake I made when I was a freshman by selling my pants for $3,000 just took away everything from me. I was just driven into the ground. I was the worst person in the world. My face popped up on the screen, and it seemed like I was the only one who did anything. I was the only one who was getting attacked.

"At that point last year, I'm 21 and it just felt like everything was against me, like I can't do anything right. I did something to help somebody else out, and I end up getting into trouble. I understand. I shouldn't have sold the stuff and taken $3,000. But I was kind of in a place where I didn't understand why this is happening to me -- especially for the reason that I did it."

Again, there's at least a glimmer of something here with which we can emphasize. What Pryor and others did, selling their Ohio State rings, jerseys and other memorabilia -- things they earned, by the way, and which the school is more than happy to handsomely profit from -- is not the worst crime in the world, especially compared to some of the other scandals we've seen in college football in the past year alone.

Yet Pryor knew what he was doing was wrong and that it would hurt Ohio State. He often seemed like he felt bigger than the program. He admitted in the interview that "I had some type of ego with me" during his college days.

Pryor is not a super villain. He may have had some legitimate and understandable reasons for some of the rules he broke at Ohio State. Hopefully, he learned some important lessons.

But Buckeyes fans would like him to just go away. And the prospect of him writing a book, which he mentioned in the interview, has got to be highly unsettling for Ohio State supporters.
The Big Ten has had some odd choices for preseason offensive player of the year -- Terrelle Pryor in 2009 -- but this year's pick should be obvious. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball won the award after the 2011 season, and he's back in Madison for his senior year. Ball, one of two Heisman Trophy finalists returning for 2012, should be the preseason pick, end of story. We'll save you the suspense about our preseason player rankings: Ball will be No. 1.


Which Big Ten player is most likely to challenge Wisconsin's Montee Ball for offensive player of the year honors this fall?


Discuss (Total votes: 8,074)

But the preseason pick for OPOY often doesn't mean much. In fact, the preseason pick hasn't won the postseason award since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Smith, by the way, is the last Big Ten player to win the Heisman Trophy.

Preseason pick:
Michigan RB Mike Hart
Winner: Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall

Preseason pick:
Ohio State RB Chris Wells
Winner: Iowa RB Shonn Greene

Preseason pick:
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Winner: Wisconsin RB John Clay

Preseason pick:
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Winner: Michigan QB Denard Robinson

Preseason pick:
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Winner: Wisconsin RB Montee Ball

Ball will be the favorite, but he's far from a shoo-in. There are several players who should challenge the Wisconsin star this season, and we've listed four of them in the accompanying poll. Vote and let us know who you think has the best chance to beat Ball for the offensive player of the year award.

Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, Penn State running back Silas Redd and Michigan's Robinson are obvious choices. Burkhead and Redd carried their respective offenses as times last season, and both logged more than 240 carries (Burkhead had 283, the second most in the league behind Ball's 307). Burkhead plays for a unit that should see more balance and more weapons develop this season, but he remains the top ball-carrying option. Redd, meanwhile, might once again be Penn State's only viable offensive threat if the quarterback situation doesn't improve.

While Robinson's inclusion undoubtedly will spark some snide remarks, the guy has won the award before and remains one of the nation's most exciting offensive players. He's entering his third season as Michigan's starter, and if he can cut down on interceptions and become a more consistent passer, he'll be in the mix for both league and national awards.

The fourth choice was tough, and I considered several candidates, including Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, Iowa QB James Vandenberg and Michigan RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Any of them could contend for offensive player of the year honors, as could several others. But I've always thought Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell could be a potential superstar in this league. As Michigan State transitions back to a run-heavy offense behind an improved offensive line, Bell will have a chance to shine.

What say you? Be sure and vote in the poll.