Big Ten: Vince Lombardi
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
If you're sick and tired of the Big Ten bashing in the national media for both football and men's basketball, check out Tom Izzo's rant this week at Michigan State. The Spartans men's basketball coach, who Saturday will be making his fifth Final Four appearance since 1999, will surely fire you up.
After repeated questions about the Big Ten's slowed-down, defense-oriented, unsexy style of basketball, Izzo launched into a spirited defense of the league.
One of his main points traced back to the gridiron, which is no surprise given Izzo's love for football and football coaches. Izzo was even rumored as a candidate for Michigan State's football coaching vacancy in 2006.
"I'm blaming Bo [Schembechler] and Woody [Hayes]," Izzo said Tuesday when asked about the Big Ten's style of basketball. "That's whose fault it is. It's Bo's and Woody's, God bless you. It was 3 yards and a cloud of dust. It spilled over to basketball. The Big Ten does play a certain style, a little bit different."
A few weeks ago I examined each Big Ten team's football and basketball identities to see who matched up and who didn't. But the league-wide identities for Big Ten football and hoops appear to be the closest right now.
And both sports are fighting a negative national perception.
"So where did I learn it?" Izzo said. "When I say Vince Lombardi, you can laugh. I idolized him. I watched his teams. They were simple. They ran three plays: up the middle, off tackle and around the end, try and stop it. That was it. I love him. I love Bo Schembechler. I loved what he stood for, I loved how he coached. I loved Woody Hayes. I mean those guys were smashmouth. At the end, men are men and you have to able to go through somebody."