NCF Nation: Barry Alvarez

When the Big Ten decided early last year to institute a policy against playing FCS opponents, fans and common sense were the big winners.

Yet there's a long way between the conception of that policy and its actual execution, especially as the league faces some tough realities with scheduling and views the rest of the college football landscape. Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips was asked about the FCS policy on Tuesday at the College Sports Information Directors of America convention in Orlando.

"That was really a hard decision," he said. "I don’t know if we’re sure that’s the right decision to make.”

Is there some waffling on the Big Ten's part? If so, there are understandable reasons why.

Nonconference scheduling is becoming more and more of a headache, and a wildly expensive one at that. As this recent Fox Sports Wisconsin report illustrates, the cost of a guaranteed home game is skyrocketing. The average price to schedule a lower-level FBS team to come to a Big Ten stadium without a return date is $827,838 this year, with several of those games costing more than $1 million, according to the report.

[+] EnlargeBarry Alvarez
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsWisconsin AD Barry Alvarez believes there has to be exceptions to the Big Ten's FCS scheduling policy. "In some cases, they're a tougher opponent than some of the FBS opponents," he said.
Leagues such as the MAC have a lot of leverage now, with power teams needing seven home games to make budget and having to find a mid-major program willing to travel for a one-shot opportunity. Excluding FCS teams from the mix further shrinks the pool of available opponents.

Complicating matters is the arrival of the nine-game Big Ten schedule in 2016. The divisions will rotate the home-road ratio, meaning league teams will have four home conference games every other year. That leaves three nonconference slots that must be filled by guarantee games in order to get to seven home dates.

"When you put a pencil to it, can everybody get FBS schools?" Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez told Fox Sports. "Can you find enough of them? Do we have to make some exceptions and have some FCS schools? That's what you have to take a look at. In some cases, they're a tougher opponent than some of the FBS opponents. If your choice is to not play a game because you can't find anybody or play an FCS team, you don't have much choice."

And like the move to a nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten is going to a place where other leagues won't. While a few prominent SEC coaches such as Alabama's Nick Saban and Florida's Will Muschamp recently came out in favor of avoiding FCS foes (Muschamp might have ulterior motives), SEC commissioner Mike Slive said last month that his league does not plan any sort of anti-FCS scheduling policy. Yea, more exciting October and November clashes like this one and that one.

Similarly, the ACC has no interest in quitting its FCS relationships. All 14 ACC schools will play an FCS opponent this year. So you have two leagues whom the Big Ten might be competing against for spots in the four-team playoff who will soon be A) playing one less conference game per season; and B) scheduling easy wins over FCS teams. Sure, that sounds fair.

So you can understand why the Big Ten might not want to be alone on this island. Still, there are many good reasons why the league should not be scheduling FCS teams, as Phillips explains.

"With the new structure of the playoff system, you will be rewarded [for playing tougher schedules], like in basketball," he said. "Also ... our fans really want you to challenge yourself in the nonconference schedule. And candidly television [is a reason]; look at ratings, that had an effect.”

Athletic directors and administrators are already worried about declining attendance, especially among students, and what that means for the future. Schools are paying millions of dollars to upgrade their video boards and enhance Wi-Fi capabilities in their stadiums, all in an effort to keep people from staying home and watching the game on their high-definition TVs.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJim Delany says the Big Ten is "continuing to work with people" on future football scheduling.
So it runs counter to that movement to schedule a game against an FCS team that no fan wants to see. There are some exceptions, such as Northern Iowa vs. Iowa or North Dakota State vs. Minnesota. But for every one of those, there are dozens more unwatchable games like these 2013 thrillers: Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0; Wisconsin 48, Tennessee Tech 0; Michigan State 55, Youngstown State 17; and Indiana 73, Indiana State 35.

The argument that FBS schools should play FCS teams to help them with their budgets makes no sense. Since when did big-time football become a charitable organization? The power-five conferences are already trying to write their own rules and threatening to start their own division. How does that jibe with suddenly wanting to give FCS schools a handout? And if FCS teams can't make their budget without those one-time paydays, maybe they need to scale back their football programs.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com that the conference is "continuing to work with people" on scheduling and the FCS policy. Minnesota and Purdue have FCS games on their 2016 schedule, and Delany said it could be until 2017 or 2018 until the policy, which he said should not be described as an outright ban, really goes into effect.

Let's hope the Big Ten sticks to its guns here. Playing FCS opponents might save some money, but the league is rolling in cash, so it's hard to cry poverty. Neutral-site games are a potential option, too. The Big Ten's future TV partners won't want to see Citadels and Eastern Kentuckys on the schedule when they fork over billions for the broadcast rights.

The strength-of-schedule angle is also a big one for a conference that probably will need every possible talking point in its favor in the annual playoff debates. Better opponents make for better games, better experiences for fans and a better overall sport.

The Big Ten was right to go to nine conference games and is correct in eliminating FCS opponents. If other leagues are too cowardly to follow suit, so be it. Let the conference that once gave us a Leaders Division show some true leadership to improve the game.
After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we're putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series continues today with a look at the money Big Ten teams have paid to opponents over the years.

[+] EnlargeOhio Stadium
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images Ohio State is the league's largest athletic program with 36 varsity sports and a massive, often sold-out football stadium.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis was scheduled to meet with reporters during the lunch break of Wednesday's Big Ten administrators' meetings, but he showed up earlier than expected.

He jokingly offered a possible reason for his escape.

"It seems like every vote we take," Hollis said, "costs us $100,000."

Expenses are rising for major-conference schools, especially with the welfare of college athletes in the national spotlight. One area that continues to get more expensive is the cost of home games, and the prices will continue to rise.

While Big Ten schools make millions from football games in their campus stadiums, they also are paying large guarantees for opponents to show up and play. According to recent analysis from "Outside the Lines," Big Ten teams paid nearly $42 million to visiting teams in all sports during the 2012-13 season (this includes Rutgers and Maryland, but not Northwestern, a private institution that doesn't report figures). The Big Ten, with its big football stadiums and broad-based athletic programs, paid more to opponents than any other conference. It's not a surprise considering many Big Ten teams make more than $3 million per football home game.

In 2012-13, Ohio State led the nation in money paid to opponents ($7,999,881), followed by Minnesota ($4,799,383) and Wisconsin ($3,987,864). Two other Big Ten teams -- Michigan State ($3,650,864) and Indiana ($3,375,562) -- finished in the top 10, and 10 schools finished in the top 25.

Ohio State has spent more on visiting teams in each of the past six years, averaging $7.4 million per year. Its total spent since 2007-08 ($44,418,002) is more than double that of the next Big Ten school, Indiana ($21,576,798). The simple explanation for the disparity: Ohio State is the league's largest athletic program with 36 varsity sports, and with a massive, often sold-out football stadium, it spends because it can.

"We’ll net north of about $7 million off of each [home football] game," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told ESPN.com. "That's why we can afford to pay that guarantee. If you're over 100,000 seats -- you look at Michigan, us, Penn State, Tennessee -- you have to look at their average ticket price, which is typically north of $75. Then, you're probably looking at $5-7 million that those stadiums are netting individually.

"So when you take out a $1-million, $1.2-million, $1.3-million guarantee, you can handle it."

According to the Associated Press, Ohio State will pay more than $2 million in guarantee money to its three home nonconference opponents this season (Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Kent State). The Buckeyes also will receive an $850,000 guarantee for playing Navy in Baltimore.

These fees aren't new to college football. Many major-conference schools with big stadiums have been spending $800,000 or more on guarantees since the latter part of the last decade. In 2008, both Ohio State and Michigan State paid more than $5.5 million to road teams, finishing first and second nationally, respectively.

"We're in the market, we're part of that market because we’re a large stadium," Smith said. "It's just what you have to do today to get the mix."

The problem going forward is inventory, a word used by several Big Ten athletic directors at last week's meetings. Although the Big Ten moves to a nine-game league schedule in 2016, which reduces the number of nonconference games to schedule, the demand for nonleague home games remains high, if not higher. Big Ten teams will have five conference road games every other year, so to get the seven home games most need to meet budgets, all three nonleague games must be at home.

The Big Ten also has placed a moratorium on scheduling FCS opponents, a route many Big Ten teams have taken because FCS schools don't require return games and have relatively lower guarantee fees. So Big Ten teams in many cases must find FBS teams willing to play on the road without requiring a return.

"The issue with nine is inventory," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "You're trying to schedule all [FBS] schools. The inventory becomes questionable. People don't want to go home-and-home. You try to stay at seven games at home, it's very difficult to do that in the year that you have four Big Ten games at home. So there are some issues."

One of them is cost.

"As the supply shrinks," Hollis said, "those that are in the window of who you want to play have the ability to ask for more."

Like many college football observers, Smith had hoped both the SEC and ACC would join the Pac-12, Big 12 and, soon, the Big Ten in adopting nine-game league schedules. But he didn't see it as a competitive balance issue.

The problem: inventory.

"If they'd gone to nine, obviously there's a lot more inventory out there because they would only schedule three [nonleague games]," Smith said. "Everyone is trying to schedule the same types of nonconference games in the same window of time, September. It's challenging."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, while reiterating the need to avoid scheduling FCS opponents, says he will assist member schools with the scheduling dilemma. Some schools are exploring neutral-site games, which are lucrative and have gained greater popularity in recent years. Penn State AD Dave Joyner, who will watch the Nittany Lions open the 2014 season in Ireland, said, "It's almost like having a home game."

But Big Ten ADs also have been resistant to move games -- and the money they generate -- away from local markets.

"I don't know about the neutral-site thing," Minnesota AD Norwood Teague said. "We just built a stadium on campus, a beautiful new 50,000-seat facility. That was built for a purpose, and $150 million of that stadium was paid for by taxpayer dollars."

Hollis also has stiff-armed the neutral-site trend, but he acknowledged last week that MSU and longtime rival Notre Dame are discussing a neutral-site contest, possibly in Chicago.

"Some of us aren't traditional thinkers," he said. "You can come up with some creative ways that make sense for student-athletes, fans and … that you can meet your financial challenges."
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- If you've listened to Jim Delany lately, you undoubtedly have heard the Big Ten commissioner talk about living on the East Coast, not just visiting.

It's all part of the Big Ten's push to be a bi-regional conference with the additions of new members Rutgers and Maryland on July 1. The league has partnered with the Big East for the Gavitt Tipoff Games in men's basketball and moved the 2017 men's basketball tournament to the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. The football championship game, which will remain in Indianapolis at least through 2015, likely will stay in the center of the league.

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJim Delany knows the Big Ten has to walk a fine line between building the Big Ten's presence out East while not forgetting its Midwest roots.
Delany, a New Jersey native and the driving force behind the Maryland and Rutgers additions, is not surprisingly devoting much of his time and energy to all things East Coast.

"The challenge will be living in two regions," Delany said Wednesday after the league's athletic directors met. "All the major conferences are doing it. Nobody has done it before. That will require a real concerted effort to build, make friends, become relevant and build relationships. That's what we're in the process of doing.

"But the other side of it is that 80 percent of our historic fan base and our alums aren't in this region."

In some ways, that's the real challenge for Delany and the Big Ten: building the brand in a new, competitive region, without forgetting where you came from and what made you who you are.

"I want to get a better sense of what our landscape is going to look like in the conference with the Eastern push," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. "It’s an extremely important component for the conference. It’s important for Michigan State because of the donors we have there. But you don’t want to leave the Midwest in the wake of an Eastern push.

"Our conference is founded in the Midwest, and it's important we continue to understand those roots. While excited to have this new frontier, our foundation is in Chicago and Indianapolis and Detroit and other areas. I just want to make sure we protect our homeland while flanking out to a very important East Coast."

Hollis is absolutely right. While time, money and some events should be devoted to the new territory, the Big Ten can't alienate its base, a large chunk of which remains miffed about the new additions. But the Big Ten's latest expansion always was less about the specific schools than their locations.

If the ACC hadn't added Pitt and Syracuse -- infringing on the eastern edge of the Big Ten's current footprint, because of Penn State -- there might not have been a need to get bigger than 12. But the Big Ten felt it needed to protect Penn State and enhance its footprint, especially with a new TV contract on the horizon.

"That's the new Big Ten," Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez said. "We all have to accept it, our fans have to accept it. We want to welcome our two new members in Rutgers and Maryland, and we want a presence in the East. We want to take advantage."

It's Delany's job to capitalize on those advantages, while not turning his back on the region that defines the league.

"You're going to see a rotation [of events] and a respect for both regions," Delany said. "You're going to see a representation in both regions with our competitions, our championships, our television network and our alumni base."


ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The Big Ten spring administrators' meetings wrapped up Wednesday with more discussion about the proposed NCAA governance changes, nonconference scheduling, athlete welfare and other topics.

Here are some notes from Day 2:

COST OF ATTENDANCE

Big Ten schools are in agreement that increasing the value of athletic scholarships to federal cost-of-attendance figures needs to happen. They've felt this way for years.

But the increase means different things for different institutions and different leagues, as some, like the Big Ten, sponsor more sports than others. The Big Ten ADs spent much of their meetings discussing the details.

"It varies from $1,200-$4,900 [per scholarship] just in our league," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "I think ours is in the $3,000-$4,000 range, so we're probably talking about another $1 million to $1.5 million just on cost of attendance. I'm very supportive of that. I've always been supportive of whatever we can do for the student-athletes."

Such a large gap, however, could allow some programs to use their more valuable scholarships as advantages in recruiting. Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, who said the cost-of-attendance plan would be about $1 million for the school, thinks there needs to be a "firewall" between athletic departments and financial aid offices in how numbers are calculated.

"Every school tends to take whatever information they have available and try to make it to their advantage," Hollis said. "It'd be a bad situation to use cost-of-attendance as a recruiting advantage, but the likelihood is that will come into play."

FUTURE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SITES

[+] EnlargeJim Delany
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJim Delany expects the Big Ten football title game to remain in the Midwest.
The Big Ten expects to finalize future sites for football championship games and basketball tournaments after the league's presidents and chancellors meet in early June. Indianapolis has hosted the first three football title games and is contracted to host the 2014 and 2015 games.

Although the men's basketball tournament heads to Washington, D.C., in 2017 and likely will make other future appearances on the East Coast, the football championship isn't expected to leave the Midwest.

"A central location would be the presumption," commissioner Jim Delany said of future sites.

DEFENDING THE COLLEGIATE MODEL

Delany said the Big Ten would "aggressively" defend itself against several antitrust lawsuits challenging the collegiate model, even if the cases go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said polls show most people don't want unions with college sports, pay-for-play systems or some type of minor-league system.

"There's a tremendous public interest in what we do," Delany said, "and some of what we do could be improved upon. I think people are just saying to us, 'Get it right, get it balanced.'"

Delany sees that as a three-step process: restructure and reform; defend themselves against litigation and advocate for all college athletes. How they address cost-of-attendance, athlete time demands, health coverage and other topics will be under the microscope.

The commissioner reiterated the need to set up a voting model to push through change.

"We're going to have a scorecard," Delany said, "and the question is going to be, what did you accomplish?"

TIME SPENT ON SPORTS

Athlete welfare was a big topic here this week, including increased amount of time they devote to their sports. Delany, who brought up the issue last summer, wants to consult athletes and coaches about how to strike a better balance with time.

The major conferences could implement "dead periods" after seasons or in the summer. Delany mentioned study abroad programs and internships, two opportunities many students enjoy but most athletes cannot, as areas that should be explored.

"We need to really inspect the experience," Delany said, "talk to the athlete, talk to the coach, and come up with a template is that is more flexible and more balanced."

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Iowa was not offered a night game this season and will not appear in prime time for the second straight year, but athletic director Gary Barta doesn't think it suggests the school has second-class status in the league. "At the end of the day, we'd love to have one or two night games a year," Barta said. "We don't have one this year. That's not going to affect the way we go into the season. We're going to be excited and play the games."
  • Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke reiterated that athletes need more power in shaping the decisions that affect their experiences. He also thinks recently graduated athletes could be involved in the discussion because they can devote more time. "You want to make sure the voice is not a token thing," Burke said. "I've found that if you engage people at the earliest possible time on all the facts you have, the chances of having wide disagreements dissipates. You drive yourself closer together."
  • Alvarez, a member of the playoff selection committee, is concerned about the rising cost of travel with an expanded football postseason. He saw it firsthand this spring as Wisconsin's men's basketball team made the Final Four. "We have to be sensitive about [ticket] pricing," Alvarez said. "It's been brought up."
  • It wouldn't be a Big Ten meeting if the expansion question didn't come up. But Hollis doesn't think the league is looking to increase beyond 14 members. "We're going to 22," he joked. "We're settled at the number that we have. Expansion is always done for strategic reasons. Sometimes it's reactionary to what's being done on the national landscape, but it was extremely important to the Big Ten to ensure that Eastern corridor was protected as other conferences had rubbed into some of our traditional markets. The new Big Ten logo is not a B-1-6. It's actually a B-one-G.

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ROSEMONT, Ill. -- When Big Ten athletic directors and administrators gather each spring, they normally look in the mirror and explore internal issues.

In 2010, expansion buzz consumed the league's meetings in Chicago; weeks later, Nebraska became the conference's 12th member. In 2011, the athletic directors and coaches discussed the new football divisions and heard pitches from both Chicago and Indianapolis to host future football championship games. The 2012 meetings brought more national discussion, particularly about a potential college football playoff. Last year's gathering featured presentations about the Big Ten's new bowl lineup and its format for assigning teams to certain locations.

Athletic directors -- along with senior woman administrators and faculty representatives who form the Big Ten's joint group -- gather Tuesday and Wednesday at the Big Ten's swanky office just east of O'Hare Airport. Although this year's meeting site is more private -- previous meetings had been held at Chicago hotels -- the participants will spend most of their time looking beyond the Big Ten's walls and exploring national issues, particularly the proposed NCAA governance changes that would give more autonomy to five major conferences (Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC).

[+] EnlargeMorgan Burke
Patrick S Blood/Icon SMIPurdue athletic director Morgan Burke, left, will brief the league on discussions about the likely big changes coming to the NCAA.
"The biggest discussion will center around the NCAA governance," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told ESPN.com.

Burke and his Missouri counterpart, Mike Alden, have represented the 351 Division I ADs in discussions with the NCAA about the likely seismic changes in how business is done. The movement to improve conditions for college athletes has gained unprecedented momentum in recent months, spurred not only by the unionization push at Northwestern but by several antitrust lawsuits filed against the NCAA, the Big Ten and other major conferences.

Big Ten attorneys will brief the ADs this week.

"There are some things where autonomy makes a lot of sense if you’re being attacked," Burke said. "Right now, you've got to have some freedom to try to address the issues."

One of those issues is increasing the value of scholarships up to federal cost-of-attendance figures. The Big Ten discussed a cost-of-attendance proposal three springs ago at its meetings, but the plan never was approved nationally as schools with smaller budgets, but equal voting power, voted it down.

"That's a very significant issue that needs to be resolved," Burke said.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has proposed a voting model that would make it easier for the major conferences to approve major changes. If three of the five conferences approve a proposal, 60 percent of all schools (39 of 65) would need to vote yes for an item to go through. If four of five conferences approve, only a simple majority would be needed.

Delany believes a stricter voting bar -- two-thirds or three-fourths required for approval -- would be "damaging to all of us."

He likely won't get opposition from Big Ten ADs this week.

"We've been pretty good about that as a conference, trying to make sure we have solidarity," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "Sometimes we may have some differences on different pieces of legislation, but on this one, we've been pretty aligned all along. So I think we'll come out of there with some recommendations, probably on the voting, probably on the autonomy legislation."

The ADs also will discuss the final steps with integrating new members Maryland and Rutgers, who officially join the league July 1. Last week, the Big Ten announced basketball initiatives in both New York and Washington, D.C. Delany will spend much of the next six weeks on the East Coast promoting the new arrivals.

While leagues like the SEC and ACC recently announced football schedule models -- both are staying at eight conference games -- the Big Ten last year approved a nine-game league schedule beginning in 2016.

"I don't see us backing up on that," Burke said.

The ADs will discuss the upcoming four-team playoff and hear from Delany, who attended an FBS commissioners meeting last week in Texas. Both Delany and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a member of the playoff selection committee, can provide more details to the group.

"We've been more interested in how is it going to work," Smith said. "If you're playing in the first game, who's coordinating a lot of the logistics? Are they scheduling the flights for you? How are the tickets going to work for families? All that type of stuff, nobody's really talking about."

The ADs also will discuss football non-league scheduling, which remains a challenge despite the selection committee stating it will value schedule strength in picking the top four. They also will be briefed on the league's new bowl selection process, which uses a tiered system rather than a traditional order and gives the league more power to determine who goes where.

Although past spring meetings have produced some newsy items, this week's get-together could be quiet.

"I don't see any real major issues," Smith said. "This might be a pretty boring meeting."
All the chatter about SEC schedule models and stolen crab legs overshadowed some important news about the upcoming College Football Playoff, especially how the selection committee will pick the top four teams. Colleague Brett McMurphy has a helpful playoff Q&A about what came out this week. Two issues generating discussion are the recusal policy and the fact the committee will reveal Top 25 rankings each week beginning in late October.

I caught up with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a playoff selection committee member, to discuss some of the particulars.

[+] EnlargeBarry Alvarez
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsWisconsin AD Barry Alvarez says strength of schedule will be a major factor for the college football playoff.
On the time commitment for committee members, who will meet in person every Monday and Tuesday from late October through early December: The thing that's nice for me personally is we start meetings on Monday afternoon, and we have a 10 a.m. flight, a two-hour nonstop from [Madison, Wis.] to Dallas. So I leave at 10 a.m. Monday and we're done at 2 [p.m.] on Tuesday, so I spend one night down there. That really works out well.

On the recusal policy: We've taken a lot of that from what they've done in the past on the [NCAA men's basketball selection] committee. I can answer questions about Wisconsin and they can ask me whatever they want, but when it's time to vote, I have to leave the room. I don't have any problem with that. Like Archie [Manning] said, 'I was on the committee at Mississippi to pick the athletic director and football coach, and they're going to name a building after my wife and I.' So he felt like he should be recused from there. We had some discussion about it and when it was all said and done, we felt comfortable.

On the responsibilities for each committee member: Each of us will have two leagues that we're responsible to report on. You use your contacts wherever you are -- in my case, the people I know who are close to specific teams or leagues -- and get information from them. They do the same thing in basketball. It just makes sense. The Big Ten would not be my primary conference. I may be a backup. I know the Big Ten. The ADs that have a league, they watch every game in that league and they could give some helpful information, but they will not be the primary person.

On using rankings to get to the final four: I'm comfortable with it. My thinking is this: You don't want to surprise people. I think it's only fair. These are the teams that are going to be represented in the semifinal games. It's important that people know where they are in our eyes. We're the ones placing them. It's not the Coaches' Poll or the AP. We're also placing teams in the other games [Cotton, Fiesta and Peach bowls in years when those bowls are not hosting semifinal games], so you've got to know what your chances are, that type of thing.

On the criteria for evaluating teams: It's your win-loss record. Did you win a championship? It's strength of schedule, it's common opponents. Those are things that will be considered. We have access to all films -- cutup films, coaches' films -- that we can watch on an iPad. We have a multitude of statistics. We took the top four teams over the last 10 or 15 years and looked at the statistics that were most consistent with the champions. That was very valuable.

On the different schedule models between major conferences: It's not my place to decide what they want to do with their scheduling. That's up to them. We've chosen to go to nine [in the Big Ten], strength of schedule is a factor. If you're not at nine then your nonconference scheduling is important. You take a look at us, we're playing LSU. I think it will be obvious which schools tried to play up and understand that strength of schedule is important. They do so with nonconference games.

On the group's biggest challenges: I feel comfortable with it. We've had very good dialogue. You have a lot of different views. You have people who are intelligent, they're football people. They're comfortable expressing their opinions. I think we'll work through things. We have a number of people who have experience on the basketball committee. That really helps when some of the whys and why-nots come up.

Flip Week: Wisconsin

December, 24, 2013
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Editor's note: During Week 12, 10 ESPN.com reporters changed conferences to experience college football in unfamiliar territory. Here is what they learned from the experience.

As you know, we here on the blog circuit changed things up this year and took trips to relatively foreign college football lands. We had Big Ten guys in SEC surroundings. SEC guys in 40-degree, rainy weather. ACC folks hanging out with Bevo!

It was a lot to consume during our exciting flip week of fun, and we couldn't express our emotions in just one post. So we are throwing out superlatives for our trips. I dared to set foot in Madison, Wis., for the Badgers game against Indiana in November. It was rainy and gross, but the fans didn't disappoint and Wisconsin rolled over the Hoosiers 51-3 in a game that was pretty much over after the opening kick.

I stuffed my face and started to adore that Midwestern accent that makes Wisconsin go 'round.

Madtown was a blast. Here are a few things that I took away from my time in Dairy Land:

Best meal: I love food. I want to taste every single flavor in whatever I'm consuming, and I want a good atmosphere. While I loved the signature "Jake" and delicious Oreo malt at Potbelly on State Street, I have to go with homegrown on this one. The cheese curds and brats were scrumptious at State Street Brats, but the meal that almost put me in a food coma was the scrambler I had at Mickies Dairy Bar (cash only!). It was loaded with potatoes (yanks), peppers, onions, eggs and chicken, and was topped with a mound of cheese. I put some salsa and hot sauce on that bad boy, smushed what I could between two slices of whole wheat bread and went to town!

[+] EnlargeWisconsin
Edward AschoffTheres as much entertainment in the stands as there is on the field during a Wisconsin home game.
Must-see sight in Madison: There's so much, but I was in awe of how cool the UW Field House looked attached to Camp Randall Stadium. The rustic cathedral is still holding up after opening in 1930, and it really did bring a nostalgic feel to my experience.

Also, check out the "Badger Wagon." It's a souped-up tailgate wagon made from an old utility truck. Thousands of dollars have gone into it, making it this beautiful, metallic party bus. It has a wet bar, there's a push button for four different liquors, an electronic beer tap on the side of the truck that is operated via remote, two grills attached (one for pizza and the other for just about anything), a beautiful TV, an amazing 10-speaker stereo system operated by an iPad and a V-8 engine. You'll find it parked just outside the stadium every Saturday.

Biggest surprise: The weather was bad so I won't blame UW students too much, but Friday night before the game, I couldn't tell that it was a game-day weekend. Down South, Fridays are sacred nights of celebration. I was expecting a lot of action on State Street, but it was relatively quiet. The students more than made up for it with the most entertaining performance in the stands that I've ever seen at any sort of sporting event. I barely knew the game was going on! That just doesn't happen in the SEC.

Biggest difference from SEC: The entertainment from the fans, students and band during the game blew my mind. I'm so used to the actual game being the one and only focal point, but inside Camp Randall, everything is the focal point. There's the wave, choreographed dances during songs and action during plays. Students blurted chants at random times and the band struck up tunes while the Badgers played just yards away from them. I didn't know who to focus on.

They said it: Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez on his first time getting on the team bus with former assistant Dan McCarney on lower University to drive to the stadium before a game with barely any fans around: "You could have shot a cannon through there. There wasn't anybody. I looked at Mac and said, 'We're going to change this.' And we did."

They said it II: Badgers fan Melissa Lund on comparing tailgates at Wisconsin with the rest of the Big Ten: "Like, Ohio State compared to Wisconsin, they're a football fan first and then they're a tailgater. Where here, it's definitely tailgate and an atmosphere, then it's the football experience.

"Other places it revolves around the football program, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But at least here, it doesn't matter if you're football, basketball or any other fan, you're definitely a tailgater first and then you're a fan."

If I could go back: I want to see a big game in Camp Randall. I want to see that place rocking for Ohio State or Michigan. I want to see what kind of show the students can put on when the big boys come to town. I bet it's great.
The ESPN.com college football reporters are on a foreign mission this week. We're venturing outside our conference footprints to see how folks in other parts of the country experience the game in their own unique ways. College football means different things to different people in different places. We're heading out there to soak it in and report back what we see, hear, smell and taste.

For those who don't know us, Adam covers Big Ten football from his Chicago base, while Edward is all over the SEC happenings from his headquarters in the ATL. We both have ties to our regions and attended schools in the leagues we now cover.

We'll trade places later this week, as Edward ventures north to Madison, Wis., for Wisconsin's game against Indiana, and Adam takes in the oldest rivalry in the Deep South: Georgia-Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It'll be different, eye-opening and a whole heck of a lot of fun.

Let's get started ...

Adam Rittenberg: Edward, I'll admit I'm a Yankee. I grew up first in the Northeast (New Jersey and Massachusetts), spent most of my formative years in Northern California and have called Chicago my sweet home for the past 14 years. If there's a blue state, I've probably lived in it. My experience in the South has been limited to major cities like Atlanta and New Orleans, one of my favorite places on earth. My college football roots are firmly in the Big Ten with a little Pac-12 mixed in. But after hearing about the SEC's game-day experience from you, C-Low, that Schlabach fella and others, I'm ready to see it for myself.

[+] EnlargeToomer's Corner
AP Photo/Dave MartinThe oak trees no longer stand on Toomer's Corner, but the tradition is still rich on The Plains.
Auburn is a great place to start. I'm looking forward to seeing what The Loveliest Little Village on the Plains is all about. Checking out Toomer's Corner and where the oaks once stood definitely is high on my to-do list, and I'll obviously head back if Auburn beats Georgia on Saturday. Sources tell me the lemonade isn't bad there, either. What's the War Eagle tradition all about? I'm going to find out. I'll check out the Tiger Walk -- and the Reverse Tiger Walk -- and the tailgating around Jordan-Hare. I'll talk to people who have been around Auburn football, and learn about Pat Sullivan, Zeke Smith, Bo Jackson, Terry Beasley and, yes, Cam Newton. I cover the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, considered the most intense in all of sports. Auburn fans surely will disagree, and will tell me why Auburn-Alabama is king.

I'll leave my heavy jacket at home, but should I bring my houndstooth hat along? Kidding, kidding.

My main objective is to have fun and to identify the answer to a question you and I have often discussed. Why does college football mean so much in the South? Don't get me wrong: It resonates in Big Ten country, too, but so do other sports, both at the college and professional levels. As you'll find out, Big Ten folks take great pride in their tailgates, their stadiums and their game-day traditions, but football seems to consume the communities more in SEC territory. Why is that the case, and how that passion impact the product on the field?

Auburn, here I come. Can't wait. What are you looking forward to in Mad City?

Edward Aschoff: Well, you certainly have done your homework when it comes to Auburn. Just make sure you check out Toomer's Drugs, where you can get the best lemonade under the Mason-Dixon Line. Oh, and watch your head because Auburn's War Eagles have a tendency to go rogue sometimes. You're gonna have a blast, especially with Auburn back in the national spotlight.

I'm so excited to see Madison on game day. You know, I have some Midwestern roots. Half of my family calls Iowa City/Cedar Rapids home, so the cold weather will be nothing new to this southern gentleman. And I've been to Madison a few times in the past, but never for a game. Actually, I've never been to Madison when the sun was shining or the temperature rose above 50 ... and I was there for a few days in July!

But I couldn't care less about the weather during this trip. I'm ready to see State Street and all its game day glory. I want to see Camp Randall on a Saturday when the students are at their very best. You know, when the, uh, "water" is flowing through their veins. I'm ready to smell the brats and cheese curds early Saturday morning. As a former member of the drum line at the University of Florida, I'm excited to see Wisconsin's band during its pregame concert at Union South and during the Fifth Quarter.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin Badgers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesWisconsin students "jump around" after the third quarter at Camp Randall Stadium.
Obviously, I plan on throwing my body around with those Mad-town students during "Jump Around," and because I grew up in a household that embraced "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," I'm dying to school some kids in the Time Warp.

I also hear there's a pretty fun call-and-response between the students during games. We all know there's plenty of room for a potty mouth on game day!

Really, I'm just thrilled that I'll be stepping out of the South and into an environment where maybe the party really is bigger than the actual football game. I'm not saying that Badgers fans don't enjoy their football, but I just don't think it will be as ceremonial as it is down South. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm sure there's plenty of fun to be had up north!

Any other advice for me, other than packing my pea coat and mittens?

Rittenberg: The ATL Kid might end up being the Mad City Kid by the end of the weekend. You sound well prepared, my friend, certainly more than our pal Schlabach, whose system shuts down any time the temperature drops below 50 degrees.

Madison is my favorite town in the Big Ten, and you seem to have a good handle on it. Any place that ties its identity to beer, meat and cheese will warm a man's heart (and possibly block it). I expect you to come home 5-10 pounds heavier. Definitely check out State Street, buy a "Sconnie" T-shirt, check out the terrace and climb Bascom Hill on campus, where ESPN's "College GameDay" set up for its broadcast before the Wisconsin-Ohio State game in 2010.

Wisconsin's tailgating scene is arguably the best in the Big Ten (Penn State is also right up there), and despite the early start time, you should spend some time on Regent Street before the game. Stop by Lucky's for sure, as I saw people dressed up as sausages there before last week's game against BYU. The parties along Breese Terrace should be buzzing before and after the game. The neighborhood just west of Camp Randall is worth checking out.

Downtown Madison offers plenty in the way of fun, but to get a true sense of Wisconsin flavor, head on out to Quivey's Grove on the outskirts of town. It has been a regular stop for me the night before Badgers games. You'll leave stuffed and extremely happy. Other than that, you have most of your bases covered. You should spend some time in the student section, for sure, and enjoy one of the better in-game atmospheres. The Fifth Quarter also is a lot of fun. And if you can spend any time with Barry Alvarez, the face of Wisconsin's program, be sure to do it.

Any advice for me for my trip to the Plains?

Aschoff: I can already feel myself changing the word "Coke" to "pop" in my vocabulary. I'm really excited about everything. I actually have a Sconnie shirt and I'm on the email list, but I'll make sure I add to my collection.

If you think I'm going to gain some pounds, have fun getting in those pants after a few days with fried southern delicacies. While you're waiting for that prime-time kickoff, make your way to Momma Goldberg's and get a plate of nachos. They're simple, but well worth the trip and serves as a great pregame meal. Don't stay too long because you have to make it to what the folks on the Plains call the original Tiger Walk. Also, take a stroll near Samford Hall, which might be the most iconic building on Auburn's campus.

You'll certainly need to make enough time to walk around the glorious tailgating spots Auburn has to offer. Yes, expect to see chandeliers hanging in tents. The campus is absolutely gorgeous and don't worry if you don't have anything to share among your new family members, the folks at Auburn will have plenty for you to choose from ... as long as you aren't wearing red and black.

After the game, you'll have plenty of places to check out. Rumor has it that Good Ol' Boys has the best steaks in town and Niffer's Place is a great local spot. If want to try and run into Sir Charles Barkley while you're in town, check out Hamilton's, which is a bistro downtown.

You can also check out Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, which is a nice throwback place at the end of Toomer's Corner. You want a nice burger and a vintage milkshake? Well, then that's your place. Make sure you get there early because it will fill up quickly.

Trying to relive your college days where you try to outlast the moon, Adam? I'd head to the War Eagle Supper Club. There's live music, a bus bar out back, it doesn't close until the sun comes up and there's a van that will take you home. I mean, it just doesn't get any better than that.

I can't stress enough how much you need to get some of that Toomer's lemonade. According to urban legend, Abe Lincoln himself once sipped it.

Rittenberg: Lincoln was a Big Ten guy: Don't forget that, Aschoff. And please send along pictures of you wearing a Sconnie shirt, eating cheese curds and playing drums. You can let Bret Bielema know what he's missing.

Well, we both have plenty on our plates (literally) as we venture into the great football wilderness. But we need your help, too, to enhance the experience. Wisconsin/Big Ten fans, if you have some advice and recommendations for Edward when he hits the ground in Madison, send them here or tweet him at @AschoffESPN. Auburn/SEC fans, you can do the same for me here or tweet me at @ESPN_BigTen. Let's see what Southern Hospitality is all about.

That's it for now. War Eagle. On Wisconsin. It's time to hit the road.

Iowa, Wisconsin are common enemies

October, 31, 2013
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Wisconsin and Iowa are about as dead even as two rivals can be.

The two teams resume playing for the Heartland Trophy on Saturday after a two-year break, and the all-time series is tied 42-42-2. Both schools are located in states that don't produce many FBS prospects each year, and the ones who do come from their backyard tend to be linemen. And so it's right that both programs' calling card is their offensive line and running game.

[+] EnlargeGary Andersen
Keith Gillett/Icon SMINew Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen hasn't deviated from the Badgers' proven formula.
The facilities aren't that much different at each place, right down to their excellent game-day atmospheres. Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium holds about 10,000 more fans than Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, but that's not a huge advantage or disadvantage.

Barry Alvarez, the architect of Wisconsin's modern success, was an assistant under Hayden Fry at Iowa. Alvarez's handpicked assistant, Bret Bielema, played and later coached for the Hawkeyes. The similarities go on and on.

"The physicality both teams play with is a big part of the programs," Bielema said on Wednesday. "I heard it from Kirk [Ferentz] when I was an assistant to him and carried it forward to the days when I was with coach Alvarez. The other thing is that those kids are commonly recruited against one another. A lot of times, half the roster at Iowa was guys we either recruited or evaluated, and vice versa."

One thing you can say about each team is that it knows exactly what it is.

Ferentz has been Iowa's head coach for 15 years, and he didn't even change coordinators until two years ago. While the Hawkeyes have made small tweaks here and there, they've always stayed true to Ferentz's core beliefs.

"Teams that are successful and sustain success tend to be that way," Ferentz said this week. "At some point, you just have to decide, hey, who are you and what do you believe in, and then you try to work to that end. I think it’s a challenge to change every year or every two months. It's tough to get anywhere doing that."

Alvarez established a program built around massive but athletic offensive lines and a powerful running game. When he hired Bielema, he made sure that continued. First-year head coach Gary Andersen wisely hasn't deviated from that formula.

"We've come up with a system, and we know who we are and what our style of play is," Alvarez told ESPN.com. "I don't know what other people do. I just know what has consistently been good for us."

So the two rivals share much in common. It just so happens that Wisconsin is on a higher plane right now.

The Badgers are coming off three straight Rose Bowl appearances and are No. 24 in the BCS standings this week. Iowa has been trying to recapture such highs since its 2009 Orange Bowl season, though the Hawkeyes are 5-3 this year, with losses to two undefeated teams (Ohio State and Northern Illinois) and one that's 7-1 (Michigan State).

Wisconsin has much more of a buzz than Iowa, thanks to recent star players like J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball. The last Hawkeyes player to really resonate nationally was probably quarterback Ricky Stanzi, thanks in large part to his patriotic leanings. The Badgers rolled up huge point totals under Bielema, pushed players hard for national awards and have been involved in several high-profile games the last few years.

That makes an impression on recruits. Three-star running back Chris James of Niles, Ill., was looking at both Iowa and Wisconsin. He recently narrowed his list of schools to three, and the Badgers made it while the Hawkeyes just missed the cut. James said he really liked Iowa and thinks both programs are very similar in their philosophies and styles.

I asked James if Wisconsin's recent success made a difference.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like they're dominating right now. They're doing a great job."

[+] EnlargeKirk Ferentz
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesKirk Ferentz is in his 15th season as Iowa head coach.
The Badgers also seem to have a lot more personality, part of which no doubt stems from the school's friendly media policies. Iowa under Ferentz has mostly played things very close to the vest, rarely opening practices and limiting access to players and assistant coaches. Think about it: What was the last big, national story you read about the Hawkeyes that didn't involve Ferentz's contract? Why have the the Badgers been more open?

"That's just the way we operate," Alvarez said. "Our players have really represented us well. Whenever they get in front of a camera or have a microphone in their face, they speak well. They're our biggest ambassadors, our biggest sales people."

These things, of course, often go in cycles. Iowa beat Wisconsin four straight times from 2002 to 2005 and was going to big bowls every season. The '09 Hawkeyes had plenty of interesting characters, from Stanzi to Pat Angerer to Adrian Clayborn and his dog, Ace. As Ferentz said this week, having an identity is great, but getting great players is even better.

Iowa just missed out on maybe the best player in Saturday's game, Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon. He originally committed to the Hawkeyes but the tug of family and his home state eventually swayed him to the Badgers. But Gordon was ready and willing to play for Ferentz.

"I've told other people that Iowa is Iowa and Wisconsin is Wisconsin," he said. "But when it comes down to it, we both love to run the ball. Both defenses are nasty. Both are powerful, both are strong. Things don’t really change."

One program has the clear upper hand right now. But that could start to change if Iowa wins on Saturday.
Each of the major conferences have been asked to nominate people for the new College Football Playoff committee. The list from the Big Ten was both lengthy and diverse.

Commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com on Friday that the league submitted "dozens" of names after the league office first came up with some and then asked for suggestions from athletic directors and coaches around the conference.

"It was a pretty lengthy list of names to consider, and basically we forwarded all of them," Delany said. "But obviously, some names have more support than others."

Like other commissioners, Delany declined to reveal any names on the list. But he called it a "pretty good cross section."

"We had former media, present ADs, former ADs, former coaches and people in the private sector with good football pedigrees," he said. "They came in all shapes and sizes."

And the list didn't just include a bunch of people with Big Ten ties, Delany said.

"It was a combination," he said. "There are some people outside of our region and some inside it. There are some people from other conferences. Our group, I thought, was pretty universal in their picks. There wasn't just Midwestern, Big Ten ties. We had people from the East, the South, the West Coast and the Plains. So while [the list] came from Big Ten people, the flavor was purely national."

Delany declined to say how many current Big Ten athletic directors volunteered for the role. But he added, "there were more people nominating other people than nominating themselves." Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez has expressed a willingness to serve on the committee, while Ohio State's Gene Smith has joked that he he wouldn't want the headache.

Delany said he hopes the committee will "recruit smart, experienced people with thick skin, lots of integrity and the ability to operate under pressure."

The commissioners will pare down the various lists of names and form the committee in the coming months.

"I think we'll be fine," Delany said. "I'm confident it will come together."
1. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said that the university wouldn’t release 2013 signee Eddie Vanderdoes to play at UCLA this year because he must be held accountable. Kelly is right. Vanderdoes signed the document. He has to live by it. So what took Notre Dame so long to commit to play at Arizona State in 2014? Sun Devils athletic director Steve Patterson said on the ESPNU College Football Podcast that it took a lot of lawyers and a lot of negotiation to get Notre Dame to agree to honor the contract it signed in 2008.

2. Wisconsin fifth-year linebacker Chris Borland is in that sweet spot for all college football fans. He is an immensely talented player who stuck around for all four years of eligibility. Those guys are so rare these days that it feels like Borland has been around forever. Doesn’t it seem like Borland played at least two seasons for Barry Alvarez, who retired in 2005? Nebraska senior quarterback Taylor Martinez is the same deal. I could swear he played for Frank Solich.

3. Borland, whom my ESPN colleague Matt Millen named as the No. 3 linebacker in the nation, is from Kettering, Ohio, and former Boston College All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly is from Cincinnati. What does it say that a) Ohio State signed neither player and b) that the Buckeyes’ star linebacker, Ryan Shazier, is from Pompano Beach, Fla.? The last native Buckeyes All-American linebacker is A.J. Hawk, also of Kettering, in 2005.
The news that Illinois is in talks to revive its football rivalry against Missouri got me thinking about non-league scheduling, matchups and you, the Big Ten fan.

Athletic directors around the conference now have the green light to craft future non-league schedules as the Big Ten will go to nine league games beginning in 2016. The league has encouraged ADs to upgrade their non-conference schedules -- a message received loud and clear at the recent spring meetings -- and the result should be beneficial for Big Ten fans.

That leads to the following question: Which non-league opponent do you most want your team to play? Brian Bennett and I want to hear your thoughts.

If you're a Michigan fan and you want USC or Florida or Texas, let us know. Or maybe you'd rather see the Notre Dame series continue past 2014. Speaking of the Fighting Irish, are they the top non-league choice for fans of Michigan State and Purdue? Let us know either way. Illini fans, do you want to see Missouri again or another team? Indiana fans, do you want to play Kentucky again?

Penn State fans might want another crack at Alabama or another SEC power. Michigan State hosted Boise State last year; do any other Big Ten teams want to take on the Broncos?

Your answer could be an opponent already on the future schedule. Most Nebraska fans are fired up about the return of longtime rival Oklahoma to the Huskers' schedule in 2021 and 2022. Ohio State fans might choose Oregon or Texas, two teams the Buckeyes are scheduled to play in the distant future. If you're a Wisconsin fan and you most wanted to face Alabama and LSU, Barry Alvarez has delivered on the first and soon will on the second.

Then again, maybe you'd rather see your old pal Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Here's your chance to tell us -- and maybe some of the ADs who read the blog (believe or not, some do) -- who you want to see on the future schedule. Contact us here and here and be sure to state your Big Ten fan affiliation, which non-league team you'd like to see added to the schedule and why.

We'll print some of the best responses, hopefully in team-by-team form, in the coming days.
We don't want to beat this story about Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee's controversial December comments into the ground. But Sports Illustrated has posted the entire audio from Gee's talk during a Dec. 5 meeting of the Buckeyes athletic board, and it appears we'd only scratched the surface of the lightning-rod remarks by the Bow Tie.

Let's get right to the most stunning part of the new Gee comments, concerning former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema leaving for Arkansas.
“Someone was saying to me, well, you know, Bret Bielema leaving … that was a blessing for Wisconsin and they knew it. Because he was under tremendous pressure. They didn’t like him. Barry Alvarez thought he was a thug. And he left just ahead of the sheriff.”

Wow. Just ... wow.

Gee also talked about the possibility of the Big Ten becoming a superconference of 16-to-20 teams and dropped these nuggets:
"The blocking strategy is that we simply have now put the ACC in an almost no-win position. So who do they immediately go to? Louisville. They may think about Cincinnati. They may think about Connecticut. But they’ve lost their foothold in that middle part of the area, in that middle part of the Atlantic coast. ...

"I think the Big Ten needs to be predatory and positive rather than waiting for other people to take away from them. Very candidly, I think we made a mistake. Because thought about adding Missouri and Kansas at the time. There was not a great deal of enthusiasm about that. I think we should have done that at the time. So we would have had Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and then moved into that other area. I think, by the way, that that can still happen. ...

"I also think this. This is a high possibility. If the ACC continues to struggle, and Florida State goes off to the SEC or something like that, and Clemson moves in a different direction, all of a sudden Virginia and Duke, which are very similar institutions to -- and North Carolina -- which are very similar institutions to the Big Ten, there is a real possibility that we may end up having that kind of T that goes south. And I could see them joining us. And I could see them having a real interest in joining us. ...

"I would see potentially Missouri and Kansas. By the way it goes without saying this all has to be speculation that remains right here. And I could also see a T that goes south all according to what happens with the SEC, but we have to be ready to move.”

True or not, these are the kinds of things no Big Ten official would ever say on the record. And yet Gee said them in a meeting attended by lots of people, with the audio being recorded. How much is actual Big Ten strategy and how much he's just spouting off here can be debated. But don't forget that he is president of arguably the most powerful university in the league, and so you can't discount the influence of his opinions.

The SI.com audio also adds more to Gee's jibe about the SEC needing to "learn to read and write." Here it is in its entirety:
"Well, you tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write then they can figure out what we’re doing. I’ve been down there. I was the chairman of the Southeastern Conference for two years. I’ll tell you something. It’s shameful. It really is."

Gee already found himself in hot water with his own trustees and many others before this full audio came to light, so this won't help his cause. The Big Ten presidents are scheduled to meet on Sunday in Chicago. I'd love to be a fly on the wall there to see how Jim Delany and Gee's colleagues greet him after those remarks became public.
As we get closer to the dawn of the College Football Playoff, conferences are submitting names of potential selection committee members this spring. The more we learn about the committee, the more the question shifts from who from the Big Ten should take part to who has the time and desire to sign up for this demanding job.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the playoff, said during the SEC spring meetings that the committee could meet up to five times during the 2014 season, with each meeting lasting three or four days. Big 12 commissioner Bill Bowlsby compared the time commitment required to that of the basketball selection committee.

"There's going to be a lot of film study. There's going to be a lot of travel," Bowlsby told reporters. "The last year I was on the men's basketball committee, I think I was in the hotel 66 nights for the basketball committee. I think there's going to be a similar level of commitment that's going to be required from this."

The time and travel requirement is one reason conference commissioners have decided that they won't serve on the panel. Hancock said active athletic directors could be eligible, but that playoff officials are focusing more on former administrators, coaches and media members.

That makes sense. While Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez is an obvious choice for the committee, the demands on any current administrator could be too much, not to mention the extreme pressure involved. It's one thing when the basketball committee gets criticized for tournament seeding or its decisions on bubble teams among the final 68. The scrutiny will be more intense when there are only four teams involved. Alvarez told the Wisconsin State Journal that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley issued the following warning about serving on the committee:
"There are people that will tear into your background. They will try to find anything they can to discredit you. Your email will blow up with people raising hell with you. You couldn’t pay me enough to do that."

We don't know what names the Big Ten has or plans to submit as potential candidates and we may never know the full list. Bowlsby told reporters that he has suggested about 15 people, including current and former ADs, ex-conference commissioners, retired coaches and former media members.

Hancock expects to receive about 100 names, and the selection committee will eventually have between 12 and 20 members and will be formed by the end of this season.

If playoff officials decide that former coaches and administrators are the best way to go, the Big Ten still offers a lot of options in that regard. Recently retired Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne seems like the ideal choice, assuming he wants to put in all that work. Former coaches like Ohio State's John Cooper, Michigan's Lloyd Carr and Purdue's Joe Tiller also make sense.

The question is, how many of them really want the gig?
The proposed series between LSU and Wisconsin is getting closer toward reality.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva told Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com that the working plan now between the two schools is to play next year's season opener at Houston's Reliant Stadium. The Tigers would then travel to play the Badgers at Lambeau Field sometime between 2016 and 2018. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who was scheduled to undergo a knee replacement surgery last week, has yet to comment on this latest story.

Alleva told Fowler that the likeliest date for an LSU trip to Lambeau would be 2017. But Wisconsin is already scheduled to play Virginia Tech, BYU and USF that season. Games can be moved around, of course, and the Badgers seem unlikely to play all three of those nonconference games in a year with a nine-game Big Ten schedule, anyway. Wisconsin only has one nonconference game on the books for 2016 -- Virginia Tech.

The Badgers also have four non-league opponents set up for 2014 -- Western Illinois, Bowling Green, South Florida and Washington State. But the Washington State game currently has no scheduled date, and it could get bumped back if the LSU game comes through.

The negotiations for the LSU-Wisconsin series are dragging on, but we salute the Tigers for being willing to play up north in Big Ten country, something many SEC teams shy away from. And a game at Lambeau Field will be undeniably cool, especially with such a name-brand opponent.

"I think it will be great for our fans," Alleva said.

Make that all fans.

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