NCF Nation: Glen Mason

You've probably seen The Scowl. Just about everybody has.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is often typecast on the sideline, where he's most exposed. His standard game-day expression -- furrowed brow, piercing eyes, pursed lips often forming a scowl -- creates a default image.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesMark Dantonio might be best known for his sideline scowls, but his success at Michigan State has made Spartans fans smile.
Saturday snapshots create lasting labels for coaches, as the Mad Hatter (LSU's Les Miles) or The Vest (former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel) can attest. For Dantonio, it's the scowl.

"People always ask me questions, about how he's grumpy or scowling," said Dan Enos, an assistant for Dantonio from 2004 to '09. "My daughter's even said that to me, watching him on TV. I don't know how he portrays himself to the public, but he's very funny, very engaging, obviously very bright -- one of the most pleasant, best people I've ever been around."

There's much more to Dantonio than the scowl. There's the meticulous mind who impressed his superiors as a young defensive coach by providing scouting reports, recruiting evaluations and game reviews. There's the chief who grants autonomy to his deputies while creating a culture of confidence fueled by themes -- this season's: Chase It -- and gutsy decisions.

There's the 57-year-old who names his trademark special-teams fakes after children's movies such as "Little Giants" and dances to hip-hop -- specifically, Rich Homie Quan's "Type of Way," MSU's anthem this season -- in the locker room after wins. There's the man dedicated to faith and family whose beliefs have been strengthened in recent years after a health scare and his father's death.

There's another label Dantonio has earned: elite coach. He has won 41 games since the start of the 2010 season, guiding Michigan State to two Big Ten championships, including its first outright title and Rose Bowl appearance in 26 years. Only five coaches have won more games than Dantonio in that span, including Alabama's Nick Saban, a Dantonio mentor known to scowl occasionally.

"He's just been rock solid," said Tressel, who had Dantonio on his staff at Ohio State and at Youngstown State. "He's always known what he wants to accomplish with his kids. He knew if he established a good, steady program, the winning would come, and it certainly has."

Dantonio's plan is blossoming at MSU, but the seeds were planted decades ago. As a graduate assistant at Ohio State, Dantonio oversaw live scouting (then permitted) and compiled extensive reports.

While serving as Ohio State's defensive coordinator, Dantonio wouldn't let the team recruit defenders unless they were sound tacklers and unselfish, regardless of their raw athleticism.

"He was very strict and stringent in his evaluation," Tressel said. "He wanted to meet every one of those defensive kids."

Dantonio's ability to "take the entire picture of a recruit," as Enos puts it, sets him apart. It helped when he left the brand-name program in Columbus for his first head-coaching post at Cincinnati, which he boosted in three years there.

Michigan State had greater recruiting reach, but, other than the 2009 class, Dantonio's hauls haven't landed on the national radar. Even this year's team, which featured the nation's No. 1 defense, had just three players rated in the ESPN 150/300, including two redshirting freshmen (Shane Jones and Damion Terry).

"They might not have a lot of four- or five-[star] recruits, but they play like four- and five-star," said Big Ten Network analyst Glen Mason, who had Dantonio on his staff at Kansas from 1991 to '94. "That's what he went after, that's what he's built it around."

Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo sees similarities between Dantonio's program and his own, from player development -- "It's not like either of us are loaded with top-five guys," Izzo said -- to core values. The difference: Spartans hoops is a national powerhouse.

Dantonio's teams had been very good but not elite until this year. Player development and staff continuity helped -- only four assistants have departed in seven years, two for head-coaching jobs -- but Dantonio's handling of adverse situations pushed MSU a step further.

"He's gotten better at making tough decisions," Izzo said.

Dantonio suspended 13 players for the 2009 Alamo Bowl for their roles in an on-campus fight after the team banquet. He showed patience with a messy quarterback situation early this fall. Connor Cook eventually emerged.

"Everybody ripped him for having three quarterbacks in the same game," Izzo said. "Nobody stood out; he's trying to give each a chance. He did what he knew was right."

Dantonio made one of his toughest calls Wednesday night, suspending starting middle linebacker and two-time captain Max Bullough for the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.

Dantonio's coaching trials have been interspersed with personal challenges. He suffered a mild heart attack in the 2010 season and missed two games. Five days before the 2011 season, Dantonio's father, Justin, died at age 86.

"You hope that all these experiences shape you," Dantonio said.

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has seen a more relaxed Dantonio, who often reminds players that life is short so enjoy every moment.

"Mark is still the same Mark, but, when you lose your dad, it has an impact," MSU athletic director Mark Hollis said. "Do you shift the rudder a bit? Absolutely.

"But he's used those life experiences, I believe, to complete his life in a positive way."

Hollis hopes Dantonio will complete his coaching career at MSU. Hollis built bonds with Dantonio and Izzo while all three served in assistant roles at MSU in the 1990s. The triumvirate talks daily about player conduct, recruiting, academics and other issues.

"The three of us literally are like brothers," Hollis said.

Hollis has kept the family intact despite NBA overtures to Izzo. He must do the same as Dantonio's stock soars.

Named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2010 and again this season, Dantonio is arguably the nation's best bargain, earning about $1.96 million, ninth among Big Ten coaches. A substantial raise is coming.

"Coach D and I are in a very good place," Hollis said. "We both know what the future is going to look like for him and his staff."

Deep-pocketed programs such as Texas still might court Dantonio, but the Zanesville, Ohio, native is rooted in the Midwest and at MSU, where both of his daughters are students.

Asked recently about the Texas job, Dantonio called it flattering but said, "I see Michigan State as a destination, not a stop."

Those who know him best agree.

Mason: "He might want to be the Tom Izzo of football at Michigan State. He's definitely put his footprints all over that program."

Izzo: "Mark's not all about the money, he's not about the name, he's about building something that's his. I'd say this is home for him."

Tressel: "He's never been a guy that's bounced around. All signs are he'll be wearing that green and white."

For Spartans fans, that's nothing to scowl at.
The signature sideline scowl had disappeared, leaving in its place a look of genuine pride.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
AP Photo/Al GoldisFor all his success at Michigan State, Mark Dantonio knows he still has work to do.
As Michigan State's players and coordinators stood at a podium and reviewed Saturday's destruction of Michigan, head coach Mark Dantonio watched from the back, admiring the men who had helped his vision become reality. He leads a Michigan State program that appears headed for a third 10-win season in the past four years and a second Legends Division title in the past three seasons. The 29-6 victory against Michigan marked the Spartans' fifth in the past six seasons, their best stretch in the series since winning six of seven between 1956-62.

Dantonio didn't look satisfied. Not after a regular-season win, even against a rival. Not for a guy who considers Nick Saban and Jim Tressel his two main coaching influences.

The 57-year-old looked more like an architect admiring his latest and greatest creation. College football's best coaches are often praised for shaping their programs in their own images. That's what Dantonio has done in his seventh season at Michigan State.

How many other Big Ten coaches can say the same?

"We're going to play to win, and we're going to play hard, and we're going to play like I've been taught throughout my coaching career," Dantonio said Saturday. "We're going to play good defense. We're going to try and run the ball. We're going to try and physically win."

Good defense -- actually, great defense -- along with the power run game and physical play are three characteristics of a culture Dantonio feels has been in place at Michigan State for some time. It has translated into 28 Big Ten victories in the past five seasons, more than any other league squad. Michigan State's seniors are a win away from becoming the program's all-time winningest class, a mark currently held by the 2011 seniors.

The 2012 season -- when the Spartans, a popular preseason pick to win the Big Ten title, dropped five league games by a total of 13 points -- has become the exception more than the rule in East Lansing. But Dantonio sensed better days were ahead when Michigan State won its final two games, including a come-from-behind victory against TCU at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

At the team banquet, he told the group: You will be the ones.

"I felt like they were destined for greatness, but we've got to do the work," he told ESPN.com this week. "It's not our God-given ability. It's an attitude and a culture. What separated last year's team from this year's team, quite honestly, were inches.

"We're just finding the inches this year."

The offensive woes that plagued MSU in 2012 spilled into this season, as the Spartans, despite more superb defense, scrambled for answers on the other side of the ball. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun scored three touchdowns in the first two games, more than the entire Spartan offense.

A 17-13 road loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 21 suggested another season of what-ifs, but Big Ten play once again has brought out the best in Dantonio's team, which now complements the nation's best defense with a decent offense led by quarterback Connor Cook.

 


We're going to play to win, and we're going to play hard, and we're going to play like I've been taught throughout my coaching career. We're going to play good defense. We're going to try and run the ball. We're going to try and physically win.


-- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio

 

"People left us for dead after September and said, 'They're playing good defense but they can't score,'" Dantonio said. "Now it's sort of changed through October, and the first week of November, all of a sudden, people are saying, 'Hey, maybe.'"

Dantonio has tried to incorporate the best elements of the men he has worked for, whether it's Saban's famous "process" and attacking defense, or the way Tressel approached rivalry games. He hopes to be a combination of Saban, Tressel and his other former bosses (Glen Mason and Earle Bruce are two others), but the MSU program undoubtedly belongs to him.

Dantonio believes in empowering his players and assistants.

He allows players to help structure open weeks like this one and choose uniform combinations on game days (the Spartans went all green against Michigan). Although his external image is, fairly or unfairly, characterized by that game-day scowl, he has a lighter side, as he showed after the Michigan win, when he danced with players in the locker room to Rich Homie Quan's "Type Of Way."

"Our team has done it this entire year after every win," he said. "I told everybody, 'Hey, I'm not dancing until the Michigan win. When we win, then I'll dance.'"

Dantonio can come off dry in public, but he showed his sense of humor after the Michigan win, telling Spartan fans, "Walk the streets. Don't burn any couches, though."

"Everybody says I'm very stoic on the sideline, but I like to have fun, and I want our team to have fun, and I try to make it fun for them," Dantonio said. "At the same time, they don't need somebody soft sitting at the head of the table, either."

Dantonio isn't soft. He's quickly becoming one of the nation's better coaches. But like his team, he has one step left and that's taking Michigan State to the Rose Bowl.

The Spartans came close in both 2010 and 2011 but lost out to Wisconsin in both seasons. Despite a win against the Badgers in 2010, the Spartans were passed over for the Rose Bowl because of Wisconsin's higher ranking in the final BCS standings. The following season, the two met in the inaugural Big Ten championship, an exhilarating game that Wisconsin won 42-39.

Heading into this season, Dantonio made "Chase It" the team theme, not to be confused with Ohio State's credo, "The Chase."

"That's what we'll do, we'll chase it down," Dantonio said. "We've been to New Year's Day bowl games, won one against Georgia, beat TCU last year, but to truly get there, you've got to win a championship. To truly establish yourself, you've got to do that. And that's something that hasn't been done here for a while.

"So we truly are chasing it."

The Spartans hope to catch it Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. If they do, "Type Of Way" will play in the locker room, and Dantonio will once again dance along.

This much is clear: Dantonio's type of way is working at Michigan State.
There's hardly ever a perfect time to part ways with a coach, especially one who has had success. Some programs opt to nudge out long-tenured, mostly successful coaches only to pay the price later for their decisions. Others that part ways with a veteran coach end up seeing improvement. ESPN.com is taking a closer look at this topic today, and we're putting it under the Big Ten microscope.

Here are some notable Big Ten (and Nebraska) coaching forceouts:

LLOYD CARR, Michigan (1995-2007)

What happened: A longtime Michigan assistant for Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller, Carr moved into the top job in 1995 and two years later guided Michigan to a national title. He led the Wolverines to at least a share of five Big Ten championships and six bowl victories, including the 1998 Rose and 2000 Orange bowls. Carr had the Wolverines positioned for another national title run in 2006 as they faced archrival Ohio State in an epic matchup of undefeated teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally. But Carr's squad fell to Jim Tressel's Buckeyes, a theme during the later part of Carr's tenure. The 2007 season began with a humiliating loss to Football Championship Subdivision team Appalachian State. Although Carr officially retired in November 2007, there certainly was some pressure for the school to go in a new direction.

[+] EnlargeLloyd Carr
Chris Livingston/Icon SMILloyd Carr is carried off the field following Michigan's win over the Gators in the Capital One Bowl, which was Carr's final game.
What happened next: Michigan went away from its coaching tree and plucked Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia to succeed Carr. It was a rocky situation from the start that never truly smoothed out. Rodriguez's first Michigan team in 2008 might have been the worst ever, tumbling to 3-9 and ending the school's streak of consecutive bowl appearances at 33. The following summer, Michigan admitted to committing major violations for the first time in its history -- relating to practice time -- and self-imposed probation. The Wolverines once again missed a bowl game in 2009 and struggled to make one in Rodriguez's third season. After a blowout loss in the 2011 Gator Bowl, Michigan fired Rodriguez, who went just 15-22 at Michigan (6-18 Big Ten, 0-3 against Ohio State). Michigan might have slipped a bit from the ranks of the elite under Carr, but the program plummeted to historic depths under Rodriguez. Michigan replaced Rodriguez with former Carr assistant Brady Hoke.

JOHN COOPER, Ohio State (1988-2000)

What happened: After a rocky start (4-6-1 in 1988), Cooper went on a nice run at Ohio State in the mid- to late 1990s, averaging 10.3 victories between 1993 and 1998. He guided Ohio State to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 13 years during the 1996 season and emerged with a victory against Arizona State. He also won the Sugar Bowl after the 1998 season and coached Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. But Cooper had two problems: an inability to beat archrival Michigan (2-10-1) and struggles in bowl games (3-8). Three times the Buckeyes entered The Game with a perfect record -- 1993, 1995 and 1996 -- and fell to the Wolverines. After a 6-6 clunker in 1999 and another loss to Michigan in 2000, Ohio State fired Cooper, who finished second on the school's all-time coaching wins list, behind Woody Hayes, with 111.

What happened next: Ohio State made an unorthodox move in bringing in Youngstown State's Tressel to succeed Cooper. It paid off as Tressel guided the Buckeyes to a national title in his second season. Ohio State remains the only Big Ten team to win a crystal football during the BCS era. Tressel ended up dominating the Big Ten (six titles) and Michigan (8-1) during his tenure, leading Ohio State to five BCS bowl wins (one vacated) and three appearances in the national title game. Although Tressel's tenure ended in scandal, he certainly boosted Ohio State's program after the Cooper era.

BILL MALLORY, Indiana (1984-1996)

What happened: After mostly successful runs at Miami (Ohio), Colorado and Northern Illinois, Mallory came to Indiana and put together an impressive run, reaching six bowl games between 1986 and 1993. He became the first man to win back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1986 and 1987. Indiana had three top-four finishes in the Big Ten (1987, 1991, 1993), but after Mallory went just 5-17 (1-15 Big Ten) in 1995 and 1996, Indiana fired him. Mallory remains Indiana's all-time coaching wins leader (69) and is responsible for six of the Hoosiers' nine bowl teams.

What happened next: Indiana has yet to come close to achieving the type of moderate success it enjoyed in the Mallory era. The program struggled under Cam Cameron and Gerry DiNardo before surging a bit for the late Terry Hoeppner. Still, it took 11 seasons after Mallory's dismissal for Indiana to return to the postseason under Bill Lynch in 2007. Although the Hoosiers are making strides under Kevin Wilson, the program has a ways to go to match where it was under Mallory.

GLEN MASON, Minnesota (1997-2006)

What happened: Mason never got Minnesota to the promised land -- its first Big Ten championship since 1967 -- but he made the Gophers a consistent bowl team. He won six to eight games in six of his final eight seasons, slumping to a 4-7 finish in 2001 but breaking through with 10 victories in 2003. Minnesota reached bowls seven times under Mason, but his middling Big Ten record (32-48) and inability to challenge for league titles eventually stirred the administration into action. The school fired Mason two days after Minnesota squandered a 31-point third-quarter lead against Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl.

What happened next: The program backslid with the overmatched Tim Brewster at the helm, going 1-11 in 2007. Brewster made some splashes in recruiting but couldn't get enough talent to translate to the field. After a 7-1 start in 2008, the Gophers dropped their final five games, including a 55-0 decision to archrival Iowa at the Metrodome. A 6-7 season followed in 2009, and Minnesota fired Brewster after a 1-6 start in 2010. Brewster went 15-30 at the school and 6-21 in the Big Ten, which included an 0-10 mark in trophy games. His tumultuous tenure had many questioning why Minnesota ever got rid of Mason.

FRANK SOLICH, Nebraska (1998-2003)

What happened: A former Huskers fullback, Solich had the nearly impossible task of following coaching legend Tom Osborne, who won national titles in three of his final four seasons at the school. Solich won 42 games in his first four seasons, a Big 12 championship in 1999 and Big 12 North titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He guided the Huskers to the 2000 Fiesta Bowl championship, and the 2001 team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, played Miami for the national title at the Rose Bowl but fell 37-14. Nebraska then went 7-7 in 2002, its first nonwinning season since 1961. Solich rebounded with a 9-3 mark in 2003 but was fired despite a 58-19 record in Lincoln.

What happened next: Much like Michigan, Nebraska went away from its coaching tree and hired Bill Callahan, who had led the Oakland Raiders for two seasons. And much like Michigan, Nebraska paid a price as the program went downhill. The Huskers went 5-6 in Callahan's first year, their first losing campaign since 1961. They won eight games the following year and the Big 12 North in 2006, but a highly anticipated 2007 season fell apart, particularly for the celebrated Blackshirts defense. Nebraska surrendered 40 points or more in six games and went 5-7, leading to Callahan's dismissal. Although Nebraska has rebounded under Bo Pelini, its last conference championship came under Solich's watch, 14 long years ago.
Offensive linemen usually go unnoticed until they do something bad.

Anyone who watched the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas noticed Minnesota offensive lineman Zac Epping midway through the second quarter. Epping drew personal-foul penalties on back-to-back plays, which, combined with a sack and an illegal block foul, resulted in a third-and-49 situation for the Gophers. Although Epping might not have been a fan favorite at that very moment, he displayed an attitude and an edge that Minnesota's offensive line has, quite frankly, lacked for years.

Epping's penalties generated attention, but his overall performance in the game flew under the radar. When I reached out to Minnesota for Big Ten all-bowl team offensive line candidates, the coaches nominated Epping, who had graded out best among the Gophers linemen in a game where Minnesota piled up 222 rush yards. The Gophers had generated a meager 4 net rush yards in their final regular-season game against Michigan State and just 87 the previous week against Nebraska.

[+] EnlargeZac Epping
Matthew Holst/Getty ImagesZac Epping brings a physical presence to Minnesota's offensive line.
"It was high tempo," Epping said of the bowl game. "Coach [Jerry] Kill challenged us as an offensive line, tight ends and all that, to push ourselves to the limit and give it all we can. We felt like we needed to do that."

Playing with an edge comes naturally for Epping, a 6-foot-2, 321-pound junior from Kenosha, Wis. He played defensive tackle as well as offensive line in high school and recorded 128 tackles as a senior.

RecruitingNation described him as "more of a mauler then finesse type guy" during the recruiting process, a description Epping won't dispute.

"I feel like I'm more of a physical guy on the O-line," he said. "I can push everybody else and make sure they can be as physical as I am."

Epping finally has a good group of teammates to push after injuries ravaged the offensive line throughout the 2012 season. Only two linemen -- Epping and Josh Campion -- started all 13 games. Epping started at three different positions: center (seven games, including the bowl), right guard (four games) and left guard (two games), earning the team's offensive lineman of the year honor.

He worked mostly at left guard this spring but still took some snaps at center, a spot where Minnesota is looking for solutions.

The offseason has been "crucial" for the line, in Epping's view, as players made significant gains in the weight room and showed greater maturity in practice. After making progress between the end of the regular season and the bowl, the line took another step this spring in its quest to return to the dominant rushing attack Minnesota had for years under former coach Glen Mason.

From the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press:
In 13 games last season, the Gophers had only five runs 25 yards or longer. The Gophers had five of those in their spring scrimmage alone Saturday, April 20.

Epping admits the line lacked energy at times last season. It's up to him to make sure the level remains high in every practice and in every game.

"We want to be a downhill running team, power football, run it up between the tackles and get after the defense," he said. "I love it.

"I've been playing that my whole life. I'm ready to bring that back to Minnesota."

The Big Ten's All-Bowl team

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The Big Ten won only two bowl games this season, but several players stood out around the league.

Let's take a look at ESPN.com's Big Ten All-Bowl squad ...

OFFENSE

QB: Devin Gardner, Michigan -- There weren't many good choices around the league, but Gardner fired three touchdown passes and racked up 214 pass yards. He has accounted for at least two touchdowns in all five of his starts at quarterback for the Wolverines.

RB: Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State -- The nation's ultimate workhorse running back did his thing in his final game as a Spartan. Bell had 32 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown, recording his eighth 100-yard rushing performance of the season. He also threw a 29-yard pass on a pivotal third-down play.

RB: Rex Burkhead, Nebraska -- Another back who stood out in his final collegiate game, Burkhead racked up 140 rush yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, and added four receptions for 39 yards. It's really too bad we didn't get to see what Burkhead could have done all season when healthy.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Gallon
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsJeremy Gallon celebrates one of his two touchdown catches against South Carolina.
WR: Jeremy Gallon, Michigan -- Gallon recorded career highs in receptions (9) and receiving yards (145), and scored two touchdowns against a strong South Carolina defense in the Outback Bowl. It was his third 100-yard receiving performance of the season.

WR: Derrick Engel, Minnesota -- Along with quarterback Philip Nelson, Engel provided some hope for Minnesota's future on offense with 108 receiving yards on four receptions in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. His 42-yard reception marked the third longest of Minnesota's season.

TE: Dan Vitale, Northwestern -- The freshman provided offensive balance Northwestern needed against a Mississippi State team that focused on taking away Venric Mark and the run game. Vitale recorded team highs in both receptions (7) and receiving yards (82) as Northwestern ended the nation's longest bowl losing streak in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.

OL: Taylor Lewan, Michigan -- Everyone remembers Jadeveon Clowney's near decapitation of Michigan's Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl -- which resulted from a miscommunication between Lewan and tight end Mike Kwiatkowski -- but the Wolverines' left tackle did a good job overall against college football's most dominant defensive lineman. Lewan anchored a line that helped Michigan put up decent numbers against an elite defense.

OL: Zac Epping, Minnesota -- Minnesota's offensive line showed flashes of the dominance it displayed for much of the Glen Mason era against Texas Tech. The Gophers racked up 222 rush yards and two touchdowns on 54 carries, as Epping and his linemates opened up holes for Donnell Kirkwood, Rodrick Williams and MarQueis Gray.

OL: Brian Mulroe, Northwestern -- Mulroe made his 40th career start and helped Northwestern finally get over the hump in a bowl game. The Wildcats had a balanced offensive attack, avoided the penalty flag and didn't allow a sack against Mississippi State.

OL: Cole Pensick, Nebraska -- Stepping in for the injured Justin Jackson at center, Pensick helped the Huskers find success running the ball against Georgia, especially up the middle. Nebraska had 239 rushing yards in the Capital One Bowl.

OL: Travis Frederick, Wisconsin: The Badgers rushed for 218 yards against Stanford, which came into the Rose Bowl with the nation's No. 3 rush defense. They also gave up only one sack to a defense which led the FBS in that category. Frederick played very well at center and announced he would skip his junior year to enter the NFL draft a few days later.

DEFENSE

DL: Quentin Williams, Northwestern -- Williams set the tone for Northwestern's win with an interception returned for a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. He also recorded two tackles for loss, including a sack, in the victory.

DL: William Gholston, Michigan State -- Another player who stood out in his final collegiate game, Gholston tied for the team lead with nine tackles, including a sack, and had a pass breakup in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl win against TCU. The freakishly athletic defensive end stepped up in a bowl game for the second straight season.

DL: Tyler Scott, Northwestern -- Scott and his fellow linemates made life tough for turnover-prone Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell in the Gator Bowl. The Wildcats junior defensive end recorded three tackles for loss, including two sacks, and added a quarterback hurry in the win.

DL: Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota -- The big man in the center of Minnesota's defensive line stood out against Texas Tech, recording six tackles, including a sack, and a pass breakup. Gophers fans should be fired up to have Hageman back in the fold for the 2013 season.

LB: Max Bullough, Michigan State -- Bullough once again triggered a strong defensive performance by Michigan State, which held TCU to just three points in the final two and a half quarters of the Wings bowl. The junior middle linebacker tied with Gholston for the team tackles lead (9) and assisted on a tackle for loss.

LB: Chris Borland, Wisconsin -- The Badgers' defense clamped down against Stanford after a slow start, and Borland once again stood out with his play at middle linebacker. The standout junior led Wisconsin with nine tackles as the defense kept the Badgers within striking distance in Pasadena.

LB: Jake Ryan, Michigan -- Ryan capped a breakout season with another strong performance in the bowl game, recording 1.5 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and half a sack. He'll enter 2013 as a top candidate for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.

CB: Michael Carter, Minnesota -- Carter finished off a strong senior year with two interceptions, a pass breakup and seven tackles in the 34-31 loss to Texas Tech.

CB: Nick VanHoose, Northwestern: The redshirt freshman picked off a Mississippi State pass and returned it 39 yard to set up the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.

S: Jared Carpenter, Northwestern: The senior was named MVP of the Gator Bowl win with a game-high 10 tackles and a near interception late in the game.

S: Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern: The Wildcats dominate our all-bowl team secondary for good reason. Campbell had an interception and a pass breakup against the Bulldogs.

Specialists

P: Mike Sadler, Michigan State -- The punters took center stage in Tempe as both offenses struggled, and Sadler provided MSU with a huge lift in the field-position game. He set Spartans bowl records for punts (11) and punting yards (481), averaging 43.7 yards per punt with three inside the 20-yard line. His booming punt inside the TCU 5 helped lead to a game-turning fumble by the Horned Frogs' Skye Dawson.

K: Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile, Michigan -- Both kickers share the honors after combining to go 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts in the Outback Bowl. Gibbons, the hero of last year's Sugar Bowl, connected from 39 yards and 40 yards in the first half. Wile hit a career-long 52-yard attempt in the third quarter, setting an Outback Bowl record.

Returner: Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota -- It took a bit longer than expected, but Stoudermire finally set the NCAA record for career kick return yards with a 26-yard runback on the opening kickoff against Texas Tech. The senior cornerback finished the game with 111 return yards, including a 37-yard runback, on four attempts.

B1G coach turnover most in two decades

December, 18, 2012
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The Big Ten used to be the league of coaching stability.

Rewind to the 2005 season, and the Big Ten featured seven coaches -- Penn State's Joe Paterno, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, Michigan's Lloyd Carr, Minnesota's Glen Mason, Purdue's Joe Tiller, Northwestern's Randy Walker and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz -- who had been in their jobs for at least seven seasons. Paterno obviously had been at Penn State for a lot longer than that, but Alvarez was in his 16th and final season with the Badgers and Carr was in his 11th with the Wolverines.

Look at the Big Ten coaching landscape right now. Only one of those coaches, Ferentz, remains. The next longest-tenured is Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, who took over following Walker's death in 2006. Indiana's Kevin Wilson, who just completed his second season, will be the longest-tenured coach in the Leaders Division in 2013. Eight of the Big Ten's 12 coaches will be in their first, second or third seasons next fall.

When was the last time the Big Ten had this type of coach turnover?

You have to look to the early 1990s to find similar results. Six Big Ten teams made coaching changes between 1989-92: Illinois (after 1991 season), Michigan (after 1989 season), Minnesota (after 1991 season), Northwestern (after 1991 season), Purdue (after 1990 season) and Wisconsin (after 1989 season). The league had 10 teams until 1993, so the 60 percent turnover rate in a three-year stretch certainly was significant.

The bad news is the Big Ten's national profile struggled during that time, much like it is now. The league went 4-9-1 in bowl games between 1990-92 and had just two teams in the final rankings in both 1991 and 1992. The good news is things improved the next few seasons, as the Big Ten posted winning bowl marks in 1993 and 1994 and won three consecutive Rose Bowls. Several coaching hires made between 1989-92 worked out well, namely Alvarez at Wisconsin and Gary Barnett at Northwestern.

The Big Ten hopes history repeats itself in the coming years.
The Big Ten used to be the league of longevity. Good coaches almost always stuck around, often for more than a decade. No wonder the league's most famous bosses went by first names only: Woody, Bo, Joe, Hayden.

The longevity label didn't only apply in 1970 or 1980. Simply go back to December 2006.

At that point, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz was finishing up his eighth season in the job, making him the Big Ten's fifth-longest-tenured coach. Penn State's Joe Paterno, Michigan's Lloyd Carr, Purdue's Joe Tiller and Minnesota's Glen Mason all had been in their jobs longer than Ferentz.

As the 2012 season beckons, Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in the league. By far. The second-longest tenured? Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. Bielema, a 42-year-old newlywed, and Fitzgerald, who turned 37 in December, both landed their first head-coaching positions before the 2006 season.

Since January 2007, the Big Ten has said goodbye to 11 head coaches, including three -- Paterno, Carr and Ohio State's Jim Tressel -- who won national championships. Michigan, which has had six head coaches serve for 10 or more years, has made two changes during the span. So has Ohio State.

Several factors play into the league’s historic turnover at the top. Carr and Tiller retired, in part because of their teams' performances. Minnesota got fed up with Mason's middling results and then took a bigger step backward with Tim Brewster before firing him midway through the 2010 season. Indiana and Illinois made understandable changes after subpar results on the field.

The most shocking changes stemmed from scandal and involved two men with solid reputations: Tressel and Paterno. Tressel had led Ohio State to six consecutive Big Ten titles, seven consecutive wins against Michigan and back-to-back BCS bowl wins before being pink-slipped for knowingly playing ineligible players and not coming forward about NCAA violations. Paterno guided Penn State to a 9-1 mark before being fired by the school's trustees days after the child sex abuse scandal broke.

After relative quiet in 2008 and 2009, the Big Ten has had three head-coaching changes in each of the past two offseasons.

Will longevity ever become a Big Ten hallmark again? There won't be another like Paterno, but several coaches could stay in their positions for a while. Ferentz has turned down multiple opportunities in the NFL to remain with Iowa, which pays him handsomely. He could easily finish his career in Iowa City. The Iowa job is somewhat of a novelty in today’s college football, as only two men (Ferentz and Hayden Fry) have led the Hawkeyes since 1979.

Brady Hoke openly admits Michigan is his dream job. He'll be in Ann Arbor as long as they'll have him.

Mark Dantonio also finds himself in a stable situation at Michigan State, which has upgraded its program in recent years. It's not a stretch to see Dantonio finish his career in East Lansing.

Bielema and Fitzgerald also find themselves in good situations. Although Fitzgerald's name often surfaces for other jobs, he has deep roots at Northwestern in the Chicago area and intends to stay with the Wildcats for many years. Bielema played for Iowa but finds himself in a great situation at Wisconsin, and his recent success suggests he'll be in Madison for the long haul.

Bo Pelini several times has shot down rumors of his departure from Nebraska. Although Pelini faces pressure to take the Huskers to the next level, Nebraska had a great track record of stability with Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne -- and paid the price for diverting from it.

It’s too soon to tell if coaches like Danny Hope, Tim Beckman, Jerry Kill, Kevin Wilson and Bill O’Brien are keepers.

The Big Ten's most intriguing debate about longevity concerns its highest-paid and most successful coach -- Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. Although Meyer owns two national championships and has roots in Ohio, he also has hopped around and had a health scare in 2009. While Buckeyes fans celebrated Meyer's arrival, many also did so with the understanding he might not be in the job that long.

Perhaps in 2020 the Big Ten will be the league of Captain Kirk, BB, Fitz, Coach D, Brady, Bo and Urban.

More than likely, we'll be playing the name game all over again.
Most Big Ten coaches label their jobs with a capital D for destination. When a head coach arrives on a Big Ten campus, he usually isn't looking for his next stop. Big Ten fans take pride in this.

The league has been largely immune from the wandering-eye coaches who leave programs at inopportune times for the next big thing. Even the Big Ten programs that could be classified as stepping stones haven't been left in the lurch very often in recent years. While it's not shocking that a Big Ten coach hasn't jumped to a different college job, it's a bit of a surprise that the NFL hasn't plucked one away.

[+] EnlargeTressel
Icon SMIJim Tressel resigned after his involvement in the Ohio State tattoo/memorabilia scandal.
The last Big Ten coach to voluntarily leave his team at a less-than ideal time was Nick Saban, who ditched Michigan State for LSU on Nov. 30, 1999. Saban had led the Spartans to a 9-2 record, a No. 10 national ranking and berth in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Although then-Michigan State athletic director Clarence Underwood praised Saban for putting the program "back on solid ground," Saban's departure put the school in a tough situation. Less than a week after Saban's departure, Michigan State promoted longtime assistant Bobby Williams to head coach, a decision that didn't turn out well.

After flirting with several bigger-name programs during his time at Northwestern, Gary Barnett finally left to take the Colorado job on Jan. 20, 1999, just weeks before national signing day. Although Northwestern immediately named Barnett's replacement, Randy Walker, the drawn-out saga wasn't much fun, given what Barnett had meant to the school.

But since Saban and Barnett, the Big Ten hasn't had any coaches voluntarily leave at bad times. There have been some midseason firings (Tim Brewster at Minnesota, Williams at Michigan State) and some late firings (Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, Glen Mason at Minnesota), but in those cases the schools, not the coaches, made decisions that put themselves in tough situations.

The most recent instances of coaches leaving Big Ten programs in tough spots involved two men who certainly didn't walk away on their own terms.

After months of scrutiny stemming from the tattoo/memorabilia scandal and his attempted cover-up, Jim Tressel resigned his post as Ohio State's coach on Memorial Day of 2011. Tressel stepped down just three months before the season and with spring practice all wrapped up. Ohio State knew it would be without Tressel for the first five games of the 2011 season, but his resignation under pressure left the program scrambling.

The school named 37-year-old assistant Luke Fickell, who had never been a head coach before, to the top job. After six consecutive seasons of Big Ten titles (won or shared), Ohio State went 6-7 under Fickell last fall, its first losing season since 1988 and its first seven-loss season since 1897. Ouch.

But the ugliest and most untimely departure was yet to come. Five days after former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child sex abuse charges, Penn State's board of trustees voted to fire longtime coach Joe Paterno. The date: Nov. 9. Penn State was 8-1 at the time, and 11 days earlier Paterno had recorded his 409th coaching victory, moving him past Eddie Robinson for the most wins in college football history. Hours before the board's decision, Paterno had announced he would retire following the season, his 46th as head coach. Instead, he was informed via telephone that his tenure was over, which triggered a backlash from Penn State students and fans.

The school promoted longtime assistant Tom Bradley to interim head coach. Bradley led the team during a hellish eight weeks that featured, among other things: a 1-3 record that knocked Penn State out of the Big Ten race; snubs by several bowl games who didn't want to deal with a p.r. nightmare; the announcement that Paterno had been diagnosed with lung cancer; a locker-room fight that left starting quarterback Matthew McGloin concussed and unable to play in the bowl; and a seemingly rudderless coaching search that took too long and put Bradley in an awkward situation.

In six months, two iconic Big Ten programs lost incredibly successful coaches under extremely messy circumstances.

A Big Ten coach bolting for an NFL job suddenly doesn't sound so bad.
There will be new leadership in Minnesota's athletic department at the start of the 2012-13 sports season as Joel Maturi announced Thursday he will retire June 30.

Maturi's retirement isn't a major surprise, as many projected the 67-year-old to step down in the next year or so. Minnesota president Eric Kaler said Thursday that Maturi will work with him on fundraising and special projects following his retirement. Kaler said he and Maturi reached a mutual decision that Maturi would step down at the end of June.

Kaler said Minnesota will look both nationally an internally for Maturi's replacement, which Kaler expects to have in place by July 1.

How should Maturi's tenure as Minnesota's AD be viewed? The athletic program had no major scandals under his watch, which hadn't been the case in previous decades. He also helped bring football back to campus with the construction of TCF Bank Stadium, one of the best new facilities in college football. Maturi also made a splash with the hiring of men's basketball coach Tubby Smith in 2007.

But if ADs are ultimately judged by the success of their high-profile programs, Maturi fell short. His hiring of football coach Tim Brewster turned out very badly, and the prolonged search for Brewster's successor last year didn't look good, either. Maturi made some candid, eyebrow-raising comments after firing Brewster and during the process of hiring Jerry Kill.

From the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press:
Last season, his football team, his men's and women's basketball teams, and his men's hockey team all failed to make a national postseason appearance. The last time all four teams did not make a bowl or NCAA tournament was the 1997-98 season. The last time there was no bowl, NCAA tournament or NIT or WNIT appearance was the 1983-84 season.

Maturi also was criticized for buyouts paid to fired coaches like Brewster, former football coach Glen Mason and former basketball coach Dan Monson.

He seemed to have respect throughout Big Ten circles, and he was always forthright in our interactions.

"I know the job," Maturi said Thursday. "Many base my success on wins and losses. I'm not worried about Joel Maturi's legacy. I leave ... feeling good."

Maturi's departure doesn't significantly impact Kill, because it always seemed likely Maturi would step down before any decision on Kill's future would be made. Kill took the job knowing he'd likely have a new boss in the near future.

Then again, new athletic directors usually like to have their guys in place, and Kill will have to prove himself to Maturi's successor. It'll be interesting to see where Minnesota goes with the hire.
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LOS ANGELES -- When the time came for J.J. Watt to provide a senior quote for his high school yearbook, he started to search for the perfect words.

Watt studied several possibilities, including famous quotes from legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. But the most meaningful words had to come from within.

"I came up with dream big, work hard," Watt said.

Anyone who has followed Watt's career at Wisconsin knows the phrase well. The Badgers' All-American junior defensive end ends many posts on his popular Twitter page with those four words or the acronym DBWH.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's J.J. Watt
AP Photo/Nick Ut"Dream big, work hard" is the motto of Wisconsin's J.J. Watt, who is projected to be an early-round NFL draft pick as a defensive end just a few years removed from playing tight end in the MAC.
The motto carries Watt through everything he does.

"It really exemplifies what I am as a person," he said. "I want to get the message out that if you dream big, you can do anything you want in the world. But that's only half of it. If you're not willing to work hard, put in the time and the effort that it takes, you're just going to be dreaming."

Watt is living the dream this week in California as he and his Wisconsin teammates prepare to face TCU in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Watt blossomed for the Badgers this season, earning consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors and appearing on several All-America squads. He ranks third nationally in tackles for loss with 21 and is arguably the Big Ten's most versatile defender, recording every defensive statistic except safety this fall, and blocking three kicks on special teams.

College football fans know J.J. Watt, the finished product. He's a 6-6, 292-pound force projected to be an early-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft if he chooses to forgo his senior season.

It's hard to believe the same guy was a tight end in the MAC in 2007.

"I've never heard of it before," Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said. "His journey, it's unreal. To think that he was 6-4, 210 in high school and nobody recruited him, and now he's 6-6, 290, and everyone is telling him he should leave college early.

"What he's done is tremendous."

Badgers linebacker Blake Sorensen remembers the first time he saw Watt.

Both attended a football camp at the University of Minnesota as high school players. Sorensen was "Mr. Football" in Minnesota; a two-time all-state selection who led his team to back-to-back state championships.

And Watt?

"He's was this lanky, awkward-looking, random kid," Sorensen said.

Doeren, who served as Wisconsin's recruiting coordinator at the time, remembers discussing Watt. But Wisconsin didn't offer a scholarship.

Watt initially committed to Central Michigan, switched to Minnesota when Brian Kelly left CMU and then switched back to the Chippewas after Minnesota fired Glen Mason.

Although Watt appeared in every game for Central Michigan in 2007, he didn't feel right there. He returned home for six months, delivered pizzas and took classes at a local community college before transferring to Wisconsin and walking onto the team.

"Obviously, we didn't look very good when he transferred back and became our best player," Doeren said. "But it all worked out in the end."

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's J.J. Watt
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioJ.J. Watt, seen here returning an interception, recorded every defensive statistic except for safety this season. He had 21 tackles for loss.
The coaches didn't have high expectations for their new walk-on transfer, and Watt had to ask head coach Bret Bielema if he could try out at defensive end.

"I don't know if they really thought I was going to be much of a football player when I came here," he said. "I tried to make the most of it."

He began by transforming his body.

"It took a lot of hard work in the weight room, a lot of hard work in the kitchen, eating," Watt said. "It was tough to put on as much weight as I put on."

Watt left high school at 228 pounds. When he started his first game at Wisconsin in 2009, he weighed 286 pounds.

"It'd be like telling you," Sorensen said, looking at me, "that you'll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger."

In addition to super-sizing himself, Watt also faced the mental challenge of mastering a new position at the college level. After earning Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year honors in 2008, Watt started all 13 games last season and finished second on team in tackles for loss (15.5), pass breakups (5) and fumble recoveries (2) and third in sacks (4.5).

He ended the season strong, recording five tackles for loss, three sacks and two quarterback hurries in the final two games.

"If you look up a quote from last season, someone asked me who is going to be the unnamed guy who is going to be a good player, and I said J.J.," Badgers star left tackle Gabe Carimi said. "He's the one that I said. So it's not surprising. He's big, strong, powerful.

"There was no question that he was going to be a good player here."

Watt took his game to another level this fall, especially in Big Ten play. He recorded multiple tackles for loss in six of eight conference games and made more game-changing plays than any defender in the league.

Despite his size and ability to play both line positions -- there was some talk Watt would play defensive tackle this season-- he grew his pass-rushing repertoire.

"I've seen more finesse out of him than anything," said TCU tackle Marcus Cannon, who will oppose Watt in the Rose Bowl. "He has some really nice moves. I think power would be probably second to his speed."

The combination could prompt Watt to enter the NFL draft in April. He boasts an impressive college résumé, both on and off the field.

Watt this year established the Justin J. Watt Foundation, which raises money for local elementary and middle schools that lack funding for athletics. Like several of his teammates, he's a regular visitor at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

Few were surprised when Watt won the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which recognizes both on-field performance and personal character.

It has been a long and unusual journey to Pasadena, but Watt wouldn't change a thing.

"I wouldn't have the work ethic I have," he said. "I wouldn't have the outlook on life that I have right now if it wasn't for everything that I had to go through to get here. So being in the Rose Bowl right now means that much more to me. ...

"I've seen everything," Watt continued. "I've seen the bottom, I've seen being out of college football, and now I'm seeing the top of college football. I was talking to my high school coach the other day. He told me, 'You've reached the Mecca of college football.' That's essentially what it is. The Rose Bowl is the biggest thing you can really do in the Big Ten.

"I'm just taking it all in and having a blast."
Indiana has been down this road before.

The school is no stranger to hiring offensive-minded coaches.

Cam Cameron came to Indiana in 1997 after coaching quarterbacks at Michigan and then with the Washington Redskins. He was succeeded in 2002 by Gerry DiNardo, who won a national title as Colorado's offensive coordinator before becoming a head coach at Vanderbilt and LSU. Indiana broke the mold in 2005 with Terry Hoeppner, a longtime defensive assistant at Miami (Ohio) before taking the top job in Oxford. But when Hoeppner died tragically in 2007, Indiana handed the head-coaching duties to Bill Lynch, the team's offensive coordinator.

After firing Lynch on Sunday, Indiana once again is looking for a coach to lead its football program.

It might be time for the Hoosiers to look to the other side of the ball.

Indiana's defense has dragged down the program for more than a decade. The Hoosiers have scored points and produced offensive standouts like Antwaan Randle El, Kellen Lewis, James Hardy and Ben Chappell, but their repeated inability to field adequate defenses has kept them out of bowl games. It still baffles me how IU couldn't make a single bowl game during Randle El's four years as the starting quarterback.

Defense was a large part of Lynch's downfall. His offenses fared well, but Indiana couldn't stop the opposition on a consistent basis.

Here's where Indiana's defense has ranked nationally in the 11 years:

2010: 89th (410.2 ypg)
2009: 88th (401 ypg)
2008: 107th (432.2 ypg)
2007: 71st (403.4 ypg)
2006: 109th (402.3 ypg)
2005: 93rd (417.7 ypg)
2004: 110th (453.2 ypg)
2003: 94th (429.7 ypg)
2002: 101st (428.4 ypg)
2001: 72nd (393.8 ypg)
2000: 112th (457.3 ypg)

Just dreadful.

I've been told most of the candidates for the Indiana job come from the offensive side, guys like Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill and former Minnesota coach Glen Mason.

Not saying these guys wouldn't work well at IU, but given the deficiencies on defense in Bloomington, the Hoosiers might be better off with a defense-oriented head coach.

Here are a few suggestions:

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren: Doeren has the charisma, the recruiting skills and the track record to succeed as a head coach. His defense ranks in the top four of the Big Ten in all the key categories, including second in takeaways and third in yards allowed, despite losing star linebacker Chris Borland in September. Doeren has helped mold standout players like Borland, defensive end J.J. Watt and defensive end O'Brien Schofield.

San Diego State coach Brady Hoke: I doubt Indiana could lure Hoke away from the West Coast, but he would qualify as a very good hire for the Hoosiers. He knows the area as the former Ball State coach, and he has a background in defense as the former defensive line coach at Michigan, among other spots. Hoke coached three All-American defensive linemen at Michigan.

Toledo coach Tim Beckman: Beckman led Toledo to an 8-4 mark in his second season at the school. He previously served as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, cornerbacks coach at Ohio State and defensive coordinator at Bowling Green. Beckman coached six All-Big Ten defensive backs in Columbus, including Donte Whitner.

Offense sells these days. I get that. But Indiana might be wise to hire a guy who knows a thing or two about defense.
In a perfect world, college football's classiest coaches could also be the best ones.

If so, Bill Lynch might be hoisting a crystal football in early January.

Instead, Lynch's Indiana Hoosiers players hoisted the Old Oaken Bucket on Saturday at Purdue. Indiana had ended a 12-game Big Ten losing streak and beaten its archrival on the road for the first time since 1996.

[+] EnlargeBill Lynch
Jim Brown/US PresswireThe Hoosiers had a 6-26 conference record after Bill Lynch took over as head coach in 2007.
It was a great moment for Lynch and the Hoosiers, but that's all it was. A moment. Reality set in Sunday, as Indiana athletic director Fred Glass looked at the football program under Lynch's leadership through a wide-angle lens.

For all the good things that Glass saw -- and that so many of us see in Lynch -- the AD couldn't turn a blind eye to the number three.

As in, three Big Ten wins in the past three seasons.

Glass proceeded to make a bottom-line decision in a bottom-line business and fired Lynch on Sunday after the Hoosiers finished 5-7. It was the first major personnel move for Glass, and it likely will be one of the toughest choices of his career.

"I take no joy in this at all," Glass said at a news conference Sunday afternoon, "but I'm confident that it's the right thing to do."

Glass had three options with Lynch following Indiana's third consecutive bowl-less season:

  • Extend Lynch's contract
  • Allow Lynch to coach in the final year of his deal
  • Make a change

"Three Big Ten wins in three years isn't the basis for an extension," Glass said.

You might remember Glass, after being hired, talked a lot about how contracts needed to be honored and needed to mean something again at Indiana. Some might view Sunday's decision as hypocritical because Lynch still had a year left on the extension he received in November 2007 after leading Indiana to its first bowl appearance in 14 seasons.

But in today's college football, a coach with one year left on his deal might as well have no years left. A coach can't recruit without some semblance of security, and going through a season as a potential lame duck would be tortuous.

"That wouldn't serve Bill or Indiana University very well," Glass said.

Glass made the right call Sunday, even though it was a tough one.

Lynch is the consummate gentleman, a total class act and an excellent representative for Indiana and its football program. His players stayed out of trouble for the most part, and he and his staff upgraded recruiting in recent years.

Lynch viewed Indiana like few coaches do -- as a destination job. He grew up in the state, starred as a player at Butler and coached at three in-state schools (Butler, Ball State and Depauw) before taking over at Indiana in 2007 following Terry Hoeppner's death.

But he didn't win enough, plain and simple. Especially in the Big Ten, where he went 6-26 with two last-place finishes in his four seasons. Indiana came so close so many times in league play, especially last season and also this year, but the Hoosiers couldn't get over the hump.

The Big Ten is a tough league that is about to get tougher in 2011 with the addition of Nebraska. Indiana needs a coach who can help the program take the next step. It will take time.

"Any change often results in one or two steps back," Glass said.

Glass called Lynch "a fabulous guy" and "a great teacher" and said several times how hard the decision was to make.

"It’s been really hard on me," he said. "But boo hoo for me. It’s part of being an athletic director. It’s my decision."

The next coach also will be Glass' decision, and he's willing to take his time to find the right man. Indiana won't use a search committee, although Glass will consult many people, including Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, former Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chuck Neinas, who runs the Neinas Sports Services consulting firm.

Dungy, for the record, now is being used as a consultant for both Big Ten vacancies (Indiana and Minnesota).

Glass declined to outline the specifics he's looking for in Indiana's next coach but mentioned several times that he'll reach out to the Black Coaches Association. I'd be surprised if Indiana doesn't strongly consider some minority candidates in its search.

Some early possibilities for IU: San Diego State coach Brady Hoke, former Minnesota coach Glen Mason, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell.

Glass might not find many coaches who view Indiana as a dream job, as both Lynch and Hoeppner did. But Indiana certainly is a better job than it was several years ago, as the school has upgraded its stadium, its football training facilities and, perhaps most important, its home attendance.

“I think it's a fantastic job," Glass said. "Properly understood, it will be highly sought after. Indiana University is clearly committed to the football program."

Indiana can show its commitment by paying its next coach appropriately. Lynch made $650,000 this season, well below the bar for a coach from a major conference.

"We’re prepared to make the resources available to get the group that we want," Glass said, "and understand that it's probably going to be significantly more expensive than what we're spending now."

It takes tough decisions to become a better program. Indiana made one today.

3-point stance: SEC runs up the score

October, 19, 2010
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1. Half the teams in the Southeastern Conference are averaging more than 30 points per game, which just may be against league bylaws. Alabama coach Nick Saban said that offensive schemes are so varied now that nobody gets to play base defense anymore. “Lots of people do lots of different things,” Saban said. “Every week we think we’re going to get to play regular defense and every week we seem to play six or eight snaps of what amounts to regular defense and the rest of it is some sort of spread."

2. Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer told me Monday he is concerned about competitive balance in the Big 12 Conference once Nebraska leaves. “Bo (Pelini) and his brother (Carl) are doing a good job,” Switzer said. “They don’t have the players Tom (Osborne) had. They’re not back to that level.” Beyond the Huskers, Switzer added, “Texas and Oklahoma are three touchdowns better” than the rest of the league.

3. Glen Mason won 64 games in 10 years at Minnesota, took the Gophers to seven bowl games in his last eight seasons and got fired after the 2006 season. Athletic director Joel Maturi bowed to pressure from boosters who didn’t think Mason could take Minnesota to the next level. On Sunday, Maturi fired Tim Brewster, who had a 15-30 record, 6-21 in the Big Ten. Unlike Maturi, who bailed on Mason, the university administration believes in its people. Minnesota is letting Maturi hire another head coach.
Tim Brewster came to Minnesota talking big and dreaming bigger.

I can't remember how many times I heard Brewster mention Minnesota's 18 Big Ten championships and six national championships, never mind the fact that neither event had happened since 1967.

Brewster knew the bar needed to be raised in Minneapolis. You couldn't blame him for aiming high. Why else would the school fire a coach (Glen Mason) who consistently made bowl games?

[+] EnlargeBrewster
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireTim Brewster went 15-30 as Minnesota's head coach.
But Brewster couldn't make Minnesota into a championship program. In fact, he couldn't get the Gophers to the level Mason had them at the time of his termination following the 2006 Insight Bowl. Brewster never won a trophy game and went 1-9 in November games, with his lone win coming against FCS South Dakota State. His teams have been outscored 67-0 in their past two meetings with rival Iowa.

When he stopped winning in September and October this season, his days became numbered. And after Minnesota lost its sixth consecutive game Saturday at Purdue, dropping to 1-6 on the season, the school pulled the plug on the Brewster era.

Brewster went 15-30 at Minnesota and 7-18 since November 2008.
"While I appreciate the passion and commitment that Coach Brewster has shown, it is clear that a change in the leadership of Gopher football is necessary," athletic director Joel Maturi said in a prepared statement. "We have high aspirations for our football program and we are not satisfied with its current direction. The results so far this season have been unacceptable and the program has simply not shown enough improvement over the past three and a half years to continue with the status quo."

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Horton will take over for Brewster on an interim basis. I hate to see lame-duck coaches in college sports, so this seems like the right move.

Firing Brewster only cost Minnesota $600,000, a buyout lowered in his recent contract extension.

Brewster never lacked passion, and his recruiting abilities as a former Mack Brown assistant showed at Minnesota. I loved the way he upgraded Minnesota's schedule, which had been a joke during the Mason era, and added showcase nonconference games against teams like USC.

But he also showed too many signs of a first-time college head coach.

His decision to replace veteran offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar and switch from the spread to a pro-style offense didn't pay off. He replaced Dunbar with an NFL assistant in Jedd Fisch whose complex concepts flew over the players' heads. Brewster kept shuffling his staff, a formula that rarely works in a sport where sticking to your guns usually is the way to go.

Minnesota is the first FBS program to make a coaching change in 2010, and the school now begins what could be an extensive coaching search. There are some dream candidates Minnesota can pursue (alum Tony Dungy, former assistant Kevin Sumlin, Mike Leach) and some more realistic ones (Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney).

It will be interesting to see how much control Maturi has in the search since he was the one who hired Brewster.

Minnesota is a challenging job, but it's a better job now with a beautiful on-campus stadium to sell.

There are no excuses why Minnesota shouldn't be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, building toward the high bar Brewster set but never could reach.
This is all you need to know about where the Minnesota football program stands right now.

Twice the Golden Gophers faced fourth-and-1 in the second half against a MAC defense on Saturday night, and twice they came up short. That's simply unacceptable for a program priding itself on a "Pound the Rock" mantra and a pro-style offense that still leaves many scratching their heads. If you want to be a tough football team, you convert those plays. End of story.

Not only did Minnesota struggle to run the ball, but the Gophers couldn't stop Chad Spann and the Northern Illinois rushing attack in a 34-23 Huskies victory. Spann racked up 223 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, including a 61-yard scoring burst to put away the game midway through the fourth quarter. I know Minnesota is young on defense, but the breakdowns just can't happen.

You have to feel for Gophers quarterback Adam Weber, who had another big passing performance (373 yards, 2 TDs). Weber deserves a better situation than he's got right now in Minneapolis. A lack of discipline hurt the Gophers, who were flagged nine times for 59 yards.

Under Glen Mason, Minnesota was the program that beefed up on nonconference wins and eeked its way into bowl games. Things are worse now, as the Gophers have dropped three consecutive nonconference home games for the first time since 1898. The calls for Tim Brewster's head are increasing, and the fourth-year coach needs a major turnaround to make them go away.

Big Ten play beckons, and it doesn't get any easier for Minnesota, which has the league's toughest home slate (Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Northwestern).

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