NCF Nation: Hayden Fry
It's humbling for a fan base to see a coach voluntarily leave its program. It's especially humbling to see it happen twice in the past three years. It's especially, especially humbling when coaches leave a winning, established program that is coming off appearances in the Big Ten championship game.
Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen clearly didn't see Wisconsin as a destination job. Bielema wanted to chase a championship in the nation's toughest conference at a program flush with resources. Andersen became fed up with Wisconsin's admissions office and the difficulty of getting his targeted players into school. Their eyes wandered and they left town.
Chryst is coming home to Madison, where he spent most of his childhood, his college years and part of his adult life as a Badgers assistant in 2002 and again from 2005-11. He intends to stay for a while. Those close to him say Wisconsin is his dream college job and that he would only leave to lead an NFL team. Coincidentally, Chryst did the reverse Gary Andersen, leaving Oregon State's offensive coordinator post for Wisconsin's after the 2004 season.
Let's not be delusional about the Big Ten or modern-day coaches. The days of Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Barry Alvarez, Hayden Fry, Joe Paterno and others who saw Big Ten programs as career endpoints likely are over. Kirk Ferentz is completing his 16th season at Iowa, while Pat Fitzgerald just finished his ninth at Northwestern and Mark Dantonio wraps up his eighth at Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. None seems to be in a hurry to leave on their own accord, but they're more the exceptions in today's game.
Expecting any coach to spend 15-20 years in one place isn't realistic. But the Big Ten also can't have coaches voluntarily leaving every season. A Big Ten coach has chosen to depart in each of the past three seasons: Bielema (2012), Penn State's Bill O'Brien (2013) and now Andersen. Of the three, only O'Brien left for a definitive step up, the NFL's Houston Texans.
Look at Big Ten basketball, which boasts elite coaches -- Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, Ohio State's Thad Matta and Michigan's John Beilein -- who view their jobs as destinations. That's what Big Ten football needs.
Chryst puts a stop in the revolving door at Wisconsin, and several of the Big Ten's top programs could be entering a period of coaching stability:
Nebraska: Whether Cornhuskers fans like the Mike Riley hire or not, Riley isn't going anywhere. He sees Nebraska as a last stop, and despite his age (61), he still has great energy for the job. His predecessor, Bo Pelini, didn't voluntarily leave Nebraska, but there were incessant rumors during his tenure about him looking at other jobs. Some think if Nebraska had won the 2012 Big Ten title game instead of Wisconsin, Pelini would have landed at Arkansas instead of Bielema.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer quickly has rebuilt Ohio State into a national power and a playoff contender for years to come. There's always some concern about Meyer's longevity at a job, but he's not mentioned for NFL positions and seems completely settled in Columbus. He might not coach the Buckeyes for 10-15 years, but he's seemingly not on the verge of an exit, either.
Penn State: Amid the excitement of his arrival, James Franklin repeatedly noted that Penn State had work to do with its roster deficiencies, which showed up throughout the fall. Franklin likely will see this process through, and, like Meyer in Ohio, he has roots in Pennsylvania. He has plenty of job security, and unless he becomes frustrated with the post-sanctions effects, won't be looking to leave.
Michigan is the wild card here, but the Wolverines should be seeking some stability in its next coach. After having just three coaches between 1969 and 2007, Michigan will have its third in eight seasons next fall. Jim Harbaugh is the home run hire for the Wolverines, but not if he returns to the NFL in two or three years. Michigan needs an elite coach who wants to stick around, and it shouldn't compromise either criteria. Brady Hoke would have stayed in Ann Arbor forever, but he wasn't getting it done on the field.
Stability doesn't automatically equal success. After a very disappointing regular season, Iowa's Ferentz finds himself in a category of long-tenured, mostly successful coaches -- Georgia's Mark Richt, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy -- who some want to see move on. Stability can become stale, but cycling through coaches every few years almost guarantees struggle.
Amazingly, Wisconsin has avoided a downturn despite its coaching turnover. Now it has a coach who can keep things rolling without constantly looking for the next best thing.
Michigan's impending hire should calm the Big Ten coaching carousel for a while. And with relative stability at the top programs, the league could be on the verge of a step forward.
Everyone wants to know who will have the important and unenviable task of choosing the field of four for the Playoff each year. BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said the committee will consist of 14-20 members representing every conference in the sport. Hancock issued a statement following the recent meetings in California, saying that discussions about the selection committee's structure are ongoing, and that there's "no rush" to decide given the committee's importance to the process.
Tom Osborne once was a U.S. Congressman, but he also had a Hall of Fame coaching career at Nebraska and served as the school's athletic director from 2007-12. In my view, Osborne would be an excellent candidate for the Playoff selection committee. His football knowledge and experience in pressure situations -- as a coach, an athletic director and in Congress -- make him a great fit.
Osborne isn't one to promote himself for the committee, but he has thoughts on how it should be compiled, and shared them with the Lincoln Journal Star. Osborne told Hancock to consider members of college football's Legends Poll, a group of 17 former college coaches, 15 of whom are in the College Football Hall of Fame, who select a top 25 poll each week during the season. According to the Legends Poll Web site, the former coaches "review all of the relevant game film using a state of the art service called Hudl, discuss each team's performance during a weekly conference call and establish a ranking of the Top 25 teams."
Sounds a lot like what the Playoff selection committee will be doing.
Here's the current Legends Poll voting panel (along with the school with which they're most closely identified): Bobby Bowden (Florida State), Frank Broyles (Arkansas), John Cooper (Ohio State), Fisher DeBerry (Air Force), Vince Dooley (Georgia), Terry Donahue (UCLA), Pat Dye (Auburn), LaVell Edwards (BYU), Don James (Washington), Dick MacPherson (Syracuse), Bill Mallory (Indiana), Don Nehlen (West Virginia), John Robinson (USC), Bobby Ross (Georgia Tech), R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M), Gene Stallings (Alabama) and George Welsh (Virginia).
Osborne served three years on the Legends Poll panel, and former Iowa coach Hayden Fry also has been on it. Former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler was an active voter at the time of his death late in the 2006 season.
From the Journal Star:
"Each week, they would send us DVDs of the top games," he said. "So you'd get 8-10 DVDs. They sent you a video player. You could sit there and really study the games."
The coaches on Mondays would gather for a teleconference, which lasted up to two hours, Osborne said.
"Each coach would talk about the game he had gone to the previous Saturday, and also what he'd seen on video," Osborne said. "I was impressed by the fact they seemed to be objective. It wasn't like R.C. [Slocum] was pushing Texas A&M, or Gene Stallings was pushing Alabama. They were just talking about strengths and weaknesses of teams in their area, and teams they'd seen. It was a very informative discussion."
Weren't coaches biased toward former employers?
"I thought the discussions were pretty objective and pretty dispassionate," Osborne said. "I heard coaches say things about their former school that weren't highly complimentary. They might say, 'We just can't play defense this year.' Or, 'We're pretty good overall, but we don't have a quarterback.' I didn't hear anybody trying to pump up their school to the other coaches. They were pretty blank, pretty blunt."
It sounds like a good place for Hancock to start. Cooper, who coached Ohio State from 1988-2000, has said he'll serve on the committee if asked. Mallory, who coached Indiana from 1984-96, also would be a good choice.
I lean toward a mix of former coaches and current administrators, as a guy like Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez makes a lot of sense for the job. But the time commitment could be an issue for those still working in the sport -- Alvarez talks about it here -- and the retired coaches certainly have more flexibility in their schedules.
It would be a surprise if several members of the Legends Poll don't end up on the Playoff selection committee. Here's hoping they reserve a spot for Osborne, too.
CK from Seattle writes: I'm going to call it right now Adam. B1G has a good bowl season (or at least better than recent years -- not saying much I know). Reason being the B1G teams seem to often play higher ranked teams and teams playing close to home. With our poor rankings this year, I imagine we'll have some more even matchups. That said -- Wisconsin has looked terrible, Michigan isn't impressive, MSU struggled against mediocre ND and Nebraska had a laugher in Cali. Verdict is still out on OSU. Well -- after saying that, I feel less confident, but still think we'll get better matchups this year.
Adam Rittenberg: CK, you very well could be correct. It's hard to envision the Big Ten keeping its streak of multiple BCS berths alive. Then again, I've thought the streak would end in the past, and it hasn't, as Big Ten teams and their massive fan bases remain so attractive to the big bowls. The matchups undoubtedly would be better and potentially more appropriate if the Big Ten only sends a team to the Rose Bowl. And if the Big Ten does well, I think the league will get credit because difficulty of bowl lineup doesn't seem to matter much with how leagues are perceived. That said, the Big Ten has to start winning Rose Bowls again. One victory in the past nine is pretty bad.
Dan from Austin, Texas, writes: As a proud PSU alum, it's tough to see the conference in this state. I agree with the premise you are attributing this to, however to understand why the talent pool is low, you have to understand what QBs in other markets are doing all year round. Look at how many Texas QBs are leading D1 programs around the country and starting in the NFL. The reason 7-on-7 leagues that were started about 10 years ago. You now have a generation of Texas QBs who have been able to have 2x to 3x more reps than QBs in the North.
Adam Rittenberg: I think 7-on-7 leagues are a factor, Dan, but spring football in the south might be a bigger one. Former Purdue coach Joe Tiller told me that from a talent standpoint, the recruits he landed from Texas and other states weren't way above those from the Midwest. But the fact that the Midwest kids didn't have spring football in high school made them less prepared to play college ball right away. "The southern states are really getting the edge," Tiller told me. "Florida with their spring practices and Georgia with their spring practices and Texas with their spring practices, those kids, I know when we recruited them to Purdue, they were just advanced players over the guys we were getting out of the Midwest. They weren’t necessarily more gifted naturally, but they were just advanced in the sense that they played so much more football." Tiller also noted that some southern states (Texas) have longer regular seasons than those in the Midwest, so players are playing more games before they arrive at college.
Steve from San Francisco writes: I can't agree with Earle Bruce, and not just because I went to Michigan. I think the quarterbacks in the league are not the problem. Look at Alabama. Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron have led them to National Championships and they are not NFL caliber quarterbacks. Maybe they will be backups for a while, but they aren't carrying those teams, it is the top-down talent around them -- strong defenses, speedy, large, wide open receivers, and huge, yardage-churning running backs. Go back to UM-Bama to start the season, McCarron's and [Denard] Robinson's numbers were eerily similar, and how close was the final score? McCarron missed a bunch of receivers too, he just happened to also have 3 running backs tearing up the field. The question is: will the Big Ten ever be able to pull enough talent in all schools so that every class has the depth to match the SEC and I think the answer is no. I wanted to go to Michigan, but I grew up in the north. Most of the talent these days is in the south. Why would they ever go to a place that is frozen in the winter when they could be in the sun with girls in bikinis? Yes, you get your one-offs, but it is all positions talent and depth where the Big Ten has lost its prestige.
Adam Rittenberg: Some good points here, Steve. Bruce also told me the running back position is down in the Big Ten, and while I don't necessarily agree with him there, the number of elite QB-RB combinations might not be as high as it should be. The wide receiver spot certainly has been down in the league, and I would also look at cornerback as a weakness in recent years. Everyone points to defensive line play and says that's where the SEC has the advantage, but I look at the linemen the Big Ten has produced in recent years -- J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Heyward, Jared Odrick etc. -- and don't see a massive shortage. Maybe there's not as much depth in the Big Ten as there is in the SEC, but I don't think there's a dearth at defensive line. Your last point is spot on. The issues go beyond just one position, and it's hard for the Big Ten to recruit overall rosters that can match the best teams from the SEC.
Brutus from the Ninth Circle writes: Hey Adam, have a question about Penn State. With the departure of Paul Jones, I'm beginning to think that there are 2 key things going on. First, [coach Bill] O'Brien knows that he has to get the scholarships down to a certain level and he has to "trim the fat," if that's the right phrase. Second, every team has under-performers, so they would be the first to go. It seems to me that BOB is cleaning house to get to the levels that he needs to be at, protecting the core players, and lightening the load with players that are less critical. Jones was the 3rd string quarterback and way down the list on TE. Seems like a good call to let Jones go. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Brutus, I don't think O'Brien is running players off from Penn State. I think he's being honest with them about their futures, and he didn't see a future for Jones at quarterback for the Lions. I believe O'Brien when he said he saw Jones as a contributor at tight end, but ultimately Jones wanted to play quarterback, as he tweeted Wednesday night, and he couldn't do that at Penn State. It's probably too soon to how Jones would have fared as a tight end for PSU, and there are quite a few players ahead of him at that spot. While I don't think O'Brien will lie awake at night thinking about how he could have kept Jones in State College, I don't think he's thrilled to see Jones leave. As O'Brien said Thursday night, Jones just needed a fresh start.
Dylan from Nebraska writes: Adam, Is there a Big 10 team that could, with some help, still contend for a national title? Would a 1-loss Nebraska, or Michigan St team make it? Would an undefeated Minny or Northwestern make it?
Adam Rittenberg: It's very hard to envision any Big Ten team taking the field in Miami on Jan. 7. The problem is the Big Ten didn't do much of anything in the first four weeks to justify having a 1-loss team make the title game ahead of comparable squads from other conferences. Between Minnesota and Northwestern, I'd say Northwestern would have the better chance because it has a slightly stronger strength of schedule than the Gophers do. And while I've been impressed at what both teams have done, there's little to believe either squad will run the table, especially in the tougher division (Legends). UCLA, which beat Nebraska, already has a home loss to Oregon State, pretty much eliminating the Huskers. Maybe if Notre Dame runs the table and so does Michigan State, there would be a slight, slight chance. But it's hard to see a national title game without featuring a team from the SEC, which has won the past six championships.
Jesse from Lansing writes: Adam -- Coach Kill seems to be a great fit for Minnesota right now. He doesn't reek of that used car salesman attitude (all talk-no walk) that [Tim] Brewster brought to the U. I am really enjoying his matter-of-fact, tough-love gotcha style and the fact that he's more focused on developing his players than the previous regime. Points also for the consistency brought on by his loyal coaching staff. Say Kill is able to build back this program in the next 3-4 years, what are the chances another BCS program lures away him away? I would like to think he's happy here and would stick around for a while. The U administration has been more than generous in providing him the resources he needs to get the job done as well as the time (7-year contract, I believe). Still, Bill Snyder can't stay at Kansas State forever, and being a native Kansan, that would be another opportunity for him to say retire close to home.
Adam Rittenberg: Jerry Kill might not have been Minnesota's first or second choice, but the guy looks like the right choice for a long-suffering Gophers program. He has definitely paid his dues in coaching at the lower rankings, and he doesn't take this opportunity for granted. That said, he obviously has ties to the Kansas area. Ideally, Kill would build up Minnesota's program enough so a move to Kansas State would be more lateral than an obvious step up. I don't get the sense he's a guy who wants to keep moving around every few years, but I doubt you're the only Gophers fan who made the connection to the K-State situation. Kill won't make any move until he feels like he has built up the program sufficiently, which likely is still a few more years away.
Nick from Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Hi Adam. I am a die-hard, but very realistic Iowa Fan. Its probably taboo to make comparisons between the last 4 years of Hayden Fry's dismal career and where Kirk's career currently is. The reality is Hayden Fry recruiting significantly diminished after the Tavian Banks/Tim Dwight era which led to more losses. Ferentz had to completely rebuild Iowa. Over the last few years the talent, development has reduced with the losses increasing. Ferentz use to personally coach special teams and it showed. Since he stopped coaching them they have gone down hill ... quickly. I see him now more as a figure-head like Hayden Fry's last years. Do you see these comparisons as well? The angst is growing in Florida among the Iowa fans.
Adam Rittenberg: Nick, I can understand your frustration, and I doubt you're the only one making that comparison. While Iowa's program undoubtedly has lost momentum since 2009, I don't know if there has been a huge drop in talent. Iowa never was talented enough to overcome mistakes like running away from an onside kick or committing a dumb personal foul penalty in the closing seconds of a 2-point game. Most of Ferentz's teams have played smart, fundamentally sound football and often played above their collective talent level to win a lot of games. I don't think the 2012 Hawkeyes fit this description. It's fair to wonder if players are being developed as well as they used to in Iowa's program, but aside from a handful of recruiting classes (i.e. 2005), I haven't seen major differences in the types of players Iowa signs. I'm sure the facilities upgrades will help in recruiting, and I also think Ferentz has a lot left as a coach. But it's definitely a rough situation right now in Hawkeye Country.
Charlie from Ames, Iowa, writes: Adam, Just listened to your "Game of the Week" talk and noticed you said that Le'Veon Bell is the Big Ten's best running back. I think that's a little presumptuous to proclaim this early in the season. Based on a larger time scale (last year) and his performance in limited time this year, I'd still take Rex Burkhead. Now, I know what you're going to say. You're going to pull out the Brian Bennett card and base everything you think, do, and say on "body of work." But, this isn't directly about body of work, it's who you think is best based on all past performances and projected future performances. Although Bell will unquestionably, unless he gets hurt, finish the year with more yards than Burkhead, don't you think Burkhead deserves just as much mention for the Big Ten's best running back?
Adam Rittenberg: Charlie, my comment pertained strictly to this season. No one would argue -- aside from a few Northwestern fans -- that Bell has been the Big Ten's best running back this season. We've barely seen Burkhead, and he could turn out to be the league's top back, but he hasn't been to date this season because of the knee injury. Burkhead's overall career has been more impressive than Bell's, but I think Bell has closed the gap -- more because of what he has done lately, not because of any shortcomings with Rex's game. I will say this: Le'Veon Bell projects better to the NFL than any back in the Big Ten, including Burkhead and Montee Ball. If he keeps this up, he could be a potential first-round pick in next year's draft if he chooses to forgo his senior season.
Dave from Denver writes: Does Schlabach get paid by the SEC too?
Adam Rittenberg: Only in joy.
The Gophers have brought home the bacon -- the Floyd of Rosedale trophy -- each of the past two seasons, thanks to upset wins against Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium. For a program that had an empty trophy case for years despite four Big Ten rivalry games, winning Floyd and keeping him has been a rallying cry.
Minnesota aims to claim its third straight little bronze pig Saturday when it visits Iowa.
"That'd be huge for our university."
Minnesota's last three-game win streak against Iowa took place from 1998-2000, as the Hawkeyes transitioned between coaches Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. The Gophers, eying their first 5-0 start since 2004, haven't won in Kinnick Stadium since 1999.
Another Minnesota victory would signal a potential shift for the two programs. Iowa has been the much more successful team in the past decade, while Minnesota has had three coaches since 2006 and plenty of on-field flux. Despite the past two seasons, most Iowa fans thumb their noses at Minnesota and look at the past two losses as fluky. But the Gophers come in at 4-0 behind second-year coach Jerry Kill, a program repair expert, while Iowa is sputtering at 2-2 following a horrible home loss against Central Michigan.
This much is clear: the Floyd series isn't what it used to be, which is good for Minnesota.
"I remember the first time I experienced it, even though I didn't play in the game because I was redshirting," said Gophers defensive end D.L. Wilhite, referring to the 2008 game at the Metrodome. "We got beat 55-0. It was one of the low moments in school history, to be honest with you. But ever since then, it's been really competitive."
The win streak doesn't matter much to Wilhite. He just wants to keep the pig.
"It doesn’t matter if it’s the third straight, 10th straight, or we've lost five straight," he said, "you want to beat Iowa any time you get a chance to, because we hate 'em. And they hate us, too. A game like that is always important."
Rabe grew up an Iowa fan and attended a Hawkeyes-Gophers game at Kinnick Stadium as a middle schooler. He has since cut ties with the Hawkeyes ("I'm over that stage in my life now," he joked), a team that didn't give him much attention during the high school recruiting process or at Ellsworth Community College. Rabe, who ranks second on the Gophers squad in both receptions (8) and touchdown catches (3), committed to play for Kill at Northern Illinois before following him to Minnesota.
The 6-foot-4, 258-pound senior will have at least 20 family members and friends in the stands Saturday, and they won't be wearing black and gold.
"If they are, I won't be talking to them afterward," Rabe said. "I've got them all converted. I've been looking forward to this game since last year. Just really excited to go back to the home state and play at Kinnick, and hopefully keep the pig."
Despite the 4-0 start, the Gophers have their skeptics, including the Vegas oddsmakers, who listed Minnesota as a touchdown underdog at Iowa. The Gophers didn't receive a single vote in this week's AP Poll.
Perhaps minds will change if Minnesota wins in Iowa City.
Kill and his staff spent portions of two-a-days in August educating their players about the history Minnesota's rivalry games and emphasizing their importance.
"It's been important for a long time," Kill said this week. "It's important for our state as well as it is for Iowa. And so I think that it helps us understand who we are and where we need to go."
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.
Paterno was affiliated with the Nittany Lions program for 62 years of its 125-year existence. He served as Nittany Lions coach for nearly 46 seasons before being fired in November. And his impact is particularly significant in the program's victories total.
ESPN.com is taking a closer look at coaches this week, and today's topic examines which programs are defined by one coach. Penn State fits the description because of Paterno's long and successful career. Penn State also is unique because its program has been around so long, and while there was success before JoePa -- eight undefeated seasons between 1894-1947, a Rose Bowl appearance in 1923 -- almost all of the program's significant achievements (two national titles, 24 bowl wins) occurred on Paterno's watch.
What about the other Big Ten teams?
In terms of winningest coaches, here's how they look:
Illinois: Robert Zuppke, 131 of program's 580 wins (22.6 percent)
Indiana: Bill Mallory, 69 of 449 (15.3 percent)
Iowa: Hayden Fry, 143 of 593 (24.1 percent)
Michigan: Bo Schembechler, 194 of 895 (21.7 percent)
Michigan State: Duffy Daugherty, 109 of 638 (17.1 percent)
Minnesota: Henry Williams, 136 of 646 (21.1 percent)
Nebraska: Tom Osborne, 255 of 846 (30.1 percent)
Northwestern: Lynn Waldorf, 49 of 488 (10.04 percent)
Ohio State: Woody Hayes, 205 of 837 (24.5 percent)
Purdue: Joe Tiller, 87 of 586 (14.8 percent)
Wisconsin: Barry Alvarez, 118 of 635 (18.6 percent)
As you can see, no coach comes close to Paterno in terms of percentage of his program's wins. But this ratio is just one gauge of a program-defining coach.
Another important factor is a team's history both before and after a coach took the job. Look at Wisconsin before Alvarez arrived in 1990. The program had endured five consecutive losing seasons and had just six winning seasons since 1963. Wisconsin's previous two coaches, Don Morton and Jim Hilles, had gone a combined 9-36 at the helm.
Alvarez transformed Wisconsin into an upper-tier Big Ten program, leading the Badgers to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowl championships. His hand-picked successor, Bret Bielema, has carried on Wisconsin's momentum, but Alvarez fostered the change. He is Wisconsin football, period.
Two iconic coaches regarded by many the faces of their respective programs are Ohio State's Hayes and Michigan's Schembechler. They tied for the most Big Ten championships with 13. Hayes won the most Big Ten games (152 to Schembechler's 143), while Schembechler owns the record for best winning percentage in conference games (.850).
But both men led programs that had success under other coaches. Michigan was a national superpower under the likes of Fielding Yost (.888 career win percentage), Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler and Bennie Oosterbaan, while Schembechler never won a consensus national title. The Wolverines boast six coaches who have served 10 or more years, most recently Lloyd Carr (1995-2007).
Ohio State carved a place among the nation's elite under shorter-tenured coaches like Francis Schmidt and Paul Brown, while Jim Tressel won a national title and more than 81 percent of his games during his 10 years in Columbus.
Are Michigan and Ohio State defined by Schembechler and Hayes, respectively? Depends on your perspective. My take: both are iconic, but Hayes is more defining.
Iowa's Fry fills a similar role to Alvarez. He took over a program on the downturn for several decades and put it in the Big Ten's top half. Fry is the coach people think of when Iowa comes to mind, although his successor, Kirk Ferentz, has put his own stamp with a solid run since 1999.
Other Big Ten programs seem to fit into different categories.
Programs with two great coaches:
- Nebraska -- Osborne (255-49-3) and Bob Devaney (101-20-2)
- Purdue -- Tiller (87-62) and Jack Mollenkopf (84-39-9)
- Illinois -- Zuppke (131-81-13 from 1913-41); Arthur Hall (27-10-3 from 1907-12)
- Minnesota -- Williams (136-33-11 from 1900-21; Bernie Bierman (93-35-6 from 1932-41 and 1945-50)
- Michigan State -- Daugherty (109-69-5 from 1954-72); Biggie Munn (54-9-2 from 1947-53); Charles Bachman (70-34-10 from 1933-46); Chester Brewer (58-23-7 from 1903-10, 1917, 1919)
- Indiana -- No coach with career winning record since Bo McMillin (1934-47), no coach with 70 or more wins at school
- Northwestern -- No coach with 50 or more wins at school, only one coach with tenure longer than 10 years
You could argue Zuppke remains Illinois' defining coach, even though he hasn't coached in more than 70 years. Osborne is undoubtedly the face of Nebraska's program, but is he the Huskers' defining coach? Tough to say that after looking at what Devaney did (two national titles, eight Big Eight titles).
Could any current Big Ten coach end up being a program-defining figure? None will occupy his job as long as Paterno did at Penn State. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald is just nine wins shy of Waldorf's victories mark, and he turned 37 in December. Fitzgerald's strong ties to the program, plus Northwestern's poor history and absence of coaching greats, create an opportunity should Fitzgerald have success for a long period.
What are your thoughts? Which Big Ten programs are defined by a coach, and which are not? Share them here.
Now to wrap up Hate Week -- and we promise it's only going to be love from now on in this space (ahem) -- here are some of your comments on that topic. Let's conclude the Haters' Ball with a bang.
Philip from Iowa writes: No question it's Jim Tressel. First, he wins a lot of Big Ten Championships so naturally everyone else hates him for that. Second, he lost twice in a row in the National Championship, embarrassing the conference on the national stage -- and it hasn't yet been rebuilt. To make matters worse, the 2 games were 1 where OSU was the overwhelming favorite (against FL) and the other was to a 2 loss team (LSU)! Finally, there is the Terrell Pryor saga that happens while Tressel puts out a book called "The Winners Manual for the Game of Life" There is no contest, every school in the Big Ten, including many OSU alums and fans, hate Jim Tressel. Not many coaches can manage that.
Bert from Portland, Ore., writes: Most hated Big Ten Coach.Bo Schembechler. I attended Northwestern during 1975-79 and the football program won five games during that time (with an infamous 0-0 tie agaisnt Illinois). Woody Hayes would bring his team to town and in the post-game conference at least say that Northwestern played hard. Schembechler would complain that Northwestern did not belong in the Big Ten and that Michigan did not make enough money when it played in Evanston. He was a jerk of the worst kind. I remember watching the Homecoming game in 1978 when, during a rout, Northwestern managed to score a touchdown on a trick play embodiment of a fake punt fairly late in the game. Schembechler started screaming at his players and looked like he was on the verge of having a heart attack. The Northwestern fans started chanting "Rose Bowl! Rose Bowl!" In fact, Schembechler was probably the only man in the world who could make me root for USC in the Rose Bowl (which beat Michigan that season). Woody could be gracious in victory and even humble in own way. Schembechler could accomplish neither.
Logan D. from Saginaw, Mich., writes: The most hated coach in the B1G, or who should be the most hated coach, is without a doubt Bret Bielema. The guy just radiates egotism. All you need to do is type his name into Google followed by "is" and you will know exactly what he's like from the suggested words. As a Michigan State fan, I'm not sure if I have ever been angrier with a coach than I was at the end of last year's Big Ten Championship game. After Wisconsin's punter made his Oscar-worthy dive to seal the game, I don't know if I've ever seen a coach as outwardly exuberant as Bret was in that moment. You would have thought his team just scored a touchdown on the most miraculous play in history. I don't know another coach that would be as excited over seeing a yellow flag in the backfield. Plus, not that the guy is in need of an ego-boost whatsoever, but what compels you to put up 70 on Austin Peay and 83 on Indiana? We get it. You can score a lot of points against bad teams.
Brad W. from Philadelphia writes: Most hated coach? Hayden Fry. Unsportsmanlike, completely ungracious, score-runner-upper, never giving the opposition any credit, moronic 3rd-grade stuff like the pink locker room ... just an unpleasant, vicious old man. Could never beat his butt often enough. Runners-up: Earle Bruce, Mike White.
Rich H. from Wayne, N.J., writes: Most hated coach ever? Woody Hayes without a doubt. Surly, unprofessional, a hick, temper tantrums and unpolished. Dial up an automatic loss in almost every bowl game he coached. Track record of more NFL busts than any program sans Nebraska. Unimaginative offense; never changed with the times either. Never scheduled a tough out of conference game regular season without a 2-1/3-1 deal. His famous bout with Ref Jerry Markbreit on the sideline circa 1971? Should have been fired right then and there. Of course 1978 vs Clemson and Mr. Baumann will live in infamy and is the most embarrassing complete breakdown of any major head-coach EVER and televised on national TV to boot. Good thing he wasn't around in today's day and age - that dooming episode would have gone virile in 20 seconds. Yet alums adore this basic jackwagon, go figure. Did I mention his graduation rate? Less than 70%. Should I continue? Nah, jury rests...
Paul from Johnstown, Pa., writes: Love the Hate! I nominate two coaches, one current and one former. First, Bret Bielema...a totally spineless, classless jerk. Runs up the score. Goes for 2 late in the 4th Qtr with games in hand. Whines, whines, whines, whines like a 5 year old. Loses to TCU with a completely loaded team. Makes tacky comments about how great it is to be a Badger fan when questioned about the situations at PSU, OSU and UM. Sprints across the field like a tool to shake hands quickly with opposing coach in total disprespectful fashion .Second, Bo Scumbechler ... yes, "Scumbechler." As a PSU fan, I have an obligation to hate this man for the lack of class he showed when PSU was brought into the B1G. His comments and efforts to exclude PSU and/or to make PSU's admission into the conference unwelcoming still boils my blood.
Danny from Davenport, Iowa, writes: Adam, as a Hawkeye fan it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep from hating Pat Fitzgerald. He may not be on the radar much outside of Iowa City and his body of work may leave some to question this hatred for PF. But, look at this from an Iowa fan standpoint. PF is a whiner and a coward. Take last year, for instance. PF hid behind one of his own players while that player took heat for admitting to the world that Pat Fitz hated Iowa with a passion. One cannot help but think that this is hostility boiling over from the injury incurred during a game when PF was still in pads. Grow up and get over it. Then, there was PFs whole twitter controversy, or should I say the "director of football operations" twitter controversy while he was "accidentally" logged into PFs account. SURE, man up.
Mark from Oklahoma City writes: John Cooper. I was born in Ohio in 1986. Growing up and watching the pain and anguish that John Cooper put on my father's face Saturday afternoons in late November during the 90s was enough to make me despise him. Interestingly, it's during the same period I grew to despise Lloyd Carr. I hated him more at one point until I went to Ohio State during the Jimmy T era which he spent a good amount of time of beating the same Lloyd Carr into "retirement" which cemented Cooper as my most hated coach. Go back to Arizona State, take Gene Smith with you. Give me a coach from Ohio.
Shawn from Minneapolis writes: You gotta admire talent, so I'm not picking on anyone who won, not even those [REDACTED] coaches from Michigan. Most hated B1G coach: Tim Brewster, with a pathetic record of (*googles* ... cripes it didn't feel like that many wins) 15-30 in FOUR LONG YEARS. Long live Coach Kill!
Zach from Lincoln, Neb., writes: In regards to your most hated coach ever...Can the worst coach not have ever coached in the B1G? I think universally, Bill Callahan (excuse my french) is the dirtiest word that can be spoken in 'sker country.
Joe P. from Chicago writes: My most hated Big Ten coach ever is John L. Smith. As a Spartan fan, it was bad enough getting regularly slaughtered by our rivals (and inferior programs like Indiana), but he made our program into a punchline. God Bless Dantonio.
Chris from Wisconsin writes: As soon as Urban Meyer entered the B1G he instantly became the most hated coach of all time. As a Badger fan, I didn't even really hate any coaches in the Big Ten over the years but wow do I hate Urban Meyer and I can't even figure out what it is. I can't stand the guy and he has yet to coach a game at OSU hoping Bielema runs up the score on him for many years to come "and for Urban many is about 3 which is how long I expect him to stay at OSU.
Robert V. from West Bloomfield, Meechigan, writes: Most Hated Big Ten Coach:Wayne Woodrow Hayes.
Travis form Midland, Mich., writes: As a Michigan fan, I would have to say I hate Jim Tressel the most. I was not alive during the 10-year war between Woody and Bo, so I don't hate Woody as much as some other Michigan fans. The biggest reason I hate Tressel the most would be the violations. Before "tattoogate" broke, I hated him, but I respected him for running an honest program. After the NCAA violations, I hated him and I lost most of my respect for him. Personally (and this might be my Michigan fan bias), I believe Ohio State went beyond just the tattoos. I believe that there were rule infractions as early as Maurice Clarett. To sum it up, I hate Jim Tressel because, 1. He coached at Ohio State, 2. He was extremely successful against Michigan, 3. He turned his back to NCAA violations and is labeled a cheater in my mind because of this. My second least favorite coach might just be Jerry Sandusky, for obvious reasons.
John from New Hampshire writes: Easy question: Lloyd Carr hands down without a doubt. His sideline ranting made it even easier to just despise Meeechigan. His BS screaming for more time on the clock won him a miracle game about five years ago when Penn State was in the Big House and winning till Lloyd's crying got the refs to make a historically insipient call, giving undue time on the clock and giving those hideously clad (...that bright yellow....) chumps the game - and costing my beloved Nittany Lions perhaps a perfect season.
Fry turned out to be right, but it was a statement from one of Long's other coaches that foreshadowed his long-term future in the sport.
Long was midway through his record-setting career at Iowa when he returned to his high school, Wheaton North in suburban Chicago, to assist with the school's summer football camp. Jim Rexilius, Wheaton North's Hall of Fame coach, noted the way Long taught and interacted with the players.
"After one camp, [Rexilius] said, 'You know, you oughta think about getting into coaching when you're done playing,'" Long recalled. "He knew I still had some years of playing, but he must have seen something in me.
"That’s when the first bug was put in my ear."
Rexilius might have planted the coaching seed in Long, but the quarterback didn't give it much thought as he proceeded to set Iowa, Big Ten and NCAA records during a spectacular career in Iowa City. It was only toward the end of an unremarkable NFL career that Long considered a future in coaching.
"The decision was which level to stay at, and I always enjoyed the collegiate level," Long said. "I wanted that. You make more of an impression at the collegiate level than you do at the professional level."
Long made a lasting impression at Iowa.
He still holds team records for passing, completions, touchdown passes and total offense for a game, a season and a career. His Big Ten records for both passing yards (10,461) and total offense (10,254) lasted 15 years, and he recorded 27 games of 200 passing yards or more. Long won the Maxwell Award (player of the year) in 1985 and finished second and seventh in Heisman Trophy voting in his final two seasons as a Hawkeye.
The former Iowa star is part of ESPN.com's Simply Saturday series, a weeklong look at 50 players who achieved record heights in college but didn't necessarily flourish at the NFL level.
Long recently took some time to discuss his playing and coaching career.
How much did college coaching have to do with your time as a player at Iowa?
Chuck Long: It definitely did. We had a great staff, and it was one of the best times in my life, being a collegiate football player and a student. The times we had at Iowa, the way we turned it around and were part of the building blocks at that school, the coaches made such an impression on me during that time, and I wanted to turn around and give that back. And I've enjoyed it ever since.
Were you putting feelers out there at the end of your NFL career about getting into coaching?
CL: Not really. I was ready to go through the entire year without being in football at all. This was springtime of 1995. I was prepared to go all the way through until January, until the [AFCA] convention. I started to research a little bit and ask people I knew all about coaching, but not real heavily at that point. I always had in the back of my mind that I was going to get picked up again in the NFL [laughs], but what happened was Hayden Fry had an opening in the middle of the summer, which is rare.
We had a mutual interest. I wanted to get into coaching and he wanted to get me into coaching at some point. And in the middle of the summer, it was hard for him to hire somebody else off another staff. So he broke me in. He hired me as the secondary coach. I coached the defensive backs for my first three years. I really admired him for doing that. He took a chance on me, hired me in the middle of the summer, and we had some good teams, good success.
What was it like coaching defensive backs after playing quarterback your whole career?
CL: If there's a defensive position that's more natural to me, it's that one. I learned a lot being on that side of the football. I just wanted to get in. Some of the advice I'd received was, 'Hey, don't worry about what you coach, just get in.' So I had that in the back of my head. That was an avenue to get in.
CL: It's been great for me. I've really welcomed being a position coach again after being a head coach. There's so much on that head coach's plate that doesn't deal with X's and O's, probably 80 percent of it. That part, I don't miss. I'm glad to be back to play calling, to game planning, to coaching quarterbacks full time in terms of the football aspect. So I welcomed it again. I do aspire to be a head coach again at some point in time, but I'm not in a hurry.
When you're a head coach, you just don't get around those players as much, like you want to. There's times where you feel alone out there. I like being the mentor again. That's my strength and I'm glad I'm playing to it right now.
Are there lessons you can take from that first head-coaching stint?
CL: Having gone through it, I would ask some different questions initially before I take a job. That's going to be really important to me. There's some things I know what to look for in taking the next job. You learn from any situation, whether it's negative or positive. I certainly learned from that, but again, I'm excited to be back as an assistant. I'm in no hurry. The right job has to come along; I'm not going to just take any job.
How often do people come up to you and ask you about your playing career at Iowa?
CL: Ever since I've been at Kansas, I've been asked about it a lot more; I'm getting a lot more letters about it. I think because there's a lot more Iowa fans in the Kansas City area, being a little bit closer to Iowa. And I'm able to go back there because I'm not very far away, and that's been good. And as you know, the stories grow [laughs]. It goes from four touchdowns to five touchdowns. I think I'm up to six or seven touchdowns in one game.
You're not correcting them, right?
CL: Yeah, I don't stop them. I just let it grow.
What stands out most about your time in Iowa City?
CL: The first thing was just being part of the building blocks of that program, turning something around that had been dormant for 20 years prior. That was a special time. Going to all the bowl games, beating Texas in the first Freedom Bowl in 1984. It stands out basically because of Hayden Fry. Hayden's from Texas, and that was one of his great victories. We felt it when we won, and we did it for him.
And my senior year, we won a Big Ten championship and we went to the Rose Bowl. That was always a dream of ours when we were freshmen together. And then we beat Michigan, we were No. 1, they were No. 2, on a last-second field goal in Kinnick Stadium. That was really for the fans, as loud as they were the whole game. What it was like afterward, I'll never forget. And then going to the Rose Bowl that year. Those were the big moments.
When you talk to your players now, do you talk more about your time at Iowa or your time in the NFL?
CL: I mix it up and tell them certain stories, certain examples I had in those times. Experience is a great teacher, and so I use those experiences to tell them, "Hey, even though things have changed over time, some things remain the same." You've still got to be disciplined in the things you do. It all gets back to fundamentals. We all hear that word and teach that word, but it always gets back to that.
Was it really different for you coming to Iowa as a lightly recruited player versus the NFL, when you were a No. 1 pick?
CL: Oh, sure. I've always lived for the moment. I set goals, but I just try to take each day and make the best of it. Coming out of high school, I was not highly recruited, and I worked hard at it. I worked hard at teaching myself the game of football when I went to Iowa, and I tried to do it with humility. And when you do it with humility, you work harder. As soon as you get cocky and think you know it all, then so-and-so creeps up on you and beats you out. So I always went with that approach.
But the numbers suggest Ohio State and the Big Ten lost one of the nation's most accomplished coaches when Tressel resigned under pressure last week. Tressel went 66-14 in Big Ten play, led Ohio State to at least a share of the past six Big Ten titles, made BCS bowls in eight of his 10 years as coach and went 9-1 against Michigan.
You can make a case that the Big Ten has lost its MVC (Most Valuable Coach).
Which Big Ten coach deserves the title heading into 2011? Here's your chance to weigh in (as a reminder, I'm limited to five options with poll questions).
In putting together the poll, I tried to identity the coaches who programs truly would struggle to live without. Four men emerged from the pack: Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Nebraska's Bo Pelini.
All have elevated their programs' profiles and fostered consistent success after taking over at difficult times.
Under Ferentz the Hawkeyes have become consistent bowl participants (bowl champions, for that matter), and a squad that can compete for Big Ten championships. Ferentz and his staff consistently churn out NFL players despite rarely signing heralded recruiting classes. After a rough stretch at the end of the Hayden Fry era, the Hawkeyes have become a upper-tier Big Ten program.
Michigan State has reached bowl games in all four of Dantonio's seasons as coach. The Spartans claimed a share of the Big Ten title in 2010, their first championship in 20 years. Dantonio and his staff upgraded Michigan State's recruiting and seem to have the program poised to finally reach its potential.
Fitzgerald is the face of Northwestern football, and he has the Wildcats enjoying the most consistent stretch of success in team history. Northwestern has made three consecutive bowl games for the first time. Recruiting is gradually improving, and Fitzgerald has been a big part of the school's first major marketing initiative for football.
Pelini took over a Nebraska program that had lost its prestige under Bill Callahan. He has led the Huskers to 29 victories in his first three seasons and back-to-back Big 12 North division championships. His defensive background has restored the Blackshirts to glory, and Nebraska once again seems to be on the cusp of competing at a national level.
I know I'll take some heat for not having Penn State's Joe Paterno as a defined option (you can vote for him as "other"). While Paterno is the face of Penn State football and always will be, his decreased involvement in areas like off-campus recruiting lessen his value to the program. Could Penn State's program reach its current level -- or perhaps a higher one -- without JoePa? If the right replacement is selected, I believe it could.
Wisconsin's Bret Bielema is another intriguing possibility. He certainly took over a program built to succeed and had a ton of success his first season. But Bielema also had to find himself as a head coach after the disappointing 2008 campaign. He has shown impressive growth the past two seasons and didn't miss the top four by much.
You can make cases for other Big Ten bosses, and I'll be happy to hear them.
The school announced that tickets to the April 23 game will cost $5 and proceeds will benefit a campaign to build a new School of Nursing. Wisconsin's spring game previously had been free of charge.
What do we make of this? Most important, how do you, the fans, feel about paying to attend spring games?
Make no mistake: spring games aren't what they used to be. Many have corporate sponsors and some are part of spring weekend extravaganzas.
I remember being amazed when more than 95,000 fans showed up for Ohio State's spring game in 2009. Buckeyes fans paid $5 per seat to sit in the sun two Aprils ago.
New Big Ten member Nebraska charges $10 for reserved seats to its Red/White Game, which is very well attended.
Schools clearly see the benefits from capitalizing on college football's immense popularity and on one of few showcase days for the sport between January and September.
Last year, Penn State held the "Blue-White Weekend presented by AAA," which included the Blue-White Game. All the Penn State events are free, and the game has drawn more than 40,000 fans in 12 of the past 15 seasons, including a record turnout of 76,500 in 2009.
Spring games also bring more than pageantry. Fans get a glimpse of how the team will look in the following season, which players have emerged in position battles, and so on.
But these are also just spruced-up scrimmages. Are they worth a ticket fee?
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told the Wisconsin State Journal that when he served as an Iowa assistant, coach Hayden Fry saw incentive in charging for admission to the spring game.
"I can remember Hayden saying, 'If it's free, people think there's no value in it,'" Alvarez said. "'If you just charge $2, we'll increase the crowd.' Sure enough, that's what happened."
Hayden Fry, football coach and economic whiz.
Iowa, by the way, no longer charges for its spring game.
The other side to this is that Wisconsin's spring game revenue will go to a good campus initiative -- the nursing school needs a new home to accommodate more students.
Proceeds from future spring games will go to other areas on campus, and Alvarez and coach Bret Bielema will determine the beneficiaries.
From the State Journal:
"I think this is one idea, or one way we can have a different group of people [at the game]," Alvarez said. "If we have those in the nursing school promote and sell tickets, there's someone else who may be interested [in the game] for another reason. I know that time of year there are a lot of things going on, but I see spring games all over the country where stadiums are nearly sold out. So, hopefully, this will be another incentive."
It will be interesting to see how this goes over among Wisconsin fans. Unlike Nebraska and Ohio State, Wisconsin has drawn only about 20,000 fans for its recent spring games. Last year's game drew 23,567.
Will charging admission boost attendance? If so, I might need to call coach Fry for some financial advice.
2. Army’s 16-14 victory over SMU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl means the Black Knights finished with a 7-6 record. You could talk all day about the rebuilding job that Rich Ellerson is performing at West Point. But let’s all salute Army, Navy (9-4) and Air Force (9-4) for having winning records in the same season for the first time since 1996. That is, unless there’s a Big Ten officiating crew lurking around.
3. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema sounded a genuine note of remorse that he couldn’t see his college coach, Hayden Fry of Iowa, be inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame on Thursday. “He's the first man that believed in me in coaching,” Bielema said. “I walked on and I earned his respect right away. He didn't know my name. He called me 86. That was my jersey. At least he knew my jersey. But I began to work and he'd see me do things every day.”
His plans were simple: head to Sun Devil Stadium for the Insight Bowl, where he'll cheer on his alma mater Iowa, when it takes on Missouri in nearby Tempe later tonight.
"I got my Hawkeye gear ready to go," Stoops said. "Sorry, I know Missouri's in the Big 12, but I'm a Hawkeye, so I gotta go cheer for my Hawks. We walk around all Saturday in the fall yelling, 'Go Hawks!' at home. My wife gets the kids yelling it, so we get to say it for real tonight and mean it."
Stoops, known for his trademark visor, doesn't have a black and gold version with the Hawkeye logo, but he's got a pullover ready for the Iowa season finale.
The whole Stoops family planned to be in attendance, but Stoops wasn't sure if he'd be in the stands or in a suite come kickoff.
"I'm going to get out early before the traffic, but we'll stay for a good part of it," he said.
Stoops was a defensive back at Iowa from 1979-82 before becoming a graduate assistant under famed coach Hayden Fry.
"I was there 10 years, all my brothers went there," he said. "Nobody can blame me for [rooting for the Hawkeyes]. Surely, Gary Pinkel will understand. He won't care, actually."
The Hawkeyes have won eight of their last nine meetings against Penn State, including each of the past three contests. Iowa derailed Penn State's national title hopes in 2008, reshuffled the Big Ten race with a win in Happy Valley last fall and held Penn State without a touchdown in a dominating win Oct. 2.
Joe Paterno has lost more games to Iowa (11) than any other team in his head-coaching career except for Ohio State (13).
"I really couldn't tell you why we've had so much success against Penn State and not so much against Northwestern," Iowa senior guard Julian Vandervelde said this week. "I really do think it comes down to the little details, the mistakes, the fundamentals and the basics. Year in and year out, we're able to execute against Penn State and not so much against Northwestern."
Iowa needs a polished performance Saturday as it visits Northwestern. The 13th-ranked Hawkeyes remain very much in the Big Ten title race, but they can't afford to slip up, especially as next week's home showdown against No. 9 Ohio State looms.
By most accounts, Saturday's game is one Iowa should win. The Hawkeyes are more experienced on both sides of the ball. Iowa's biggest strengths (the play-action pass and a pressuring defensive line) match up well against two of Northwestern's weaknesses (the secondary and the offensive line). Iowa has more at stake and should have no trouble getting motivated after the struggles.
But the Hawkeyes know what should happen and what does happen are two different things, especially in this series.
Many have tried to explain Northwestern's recent success, even pointing to the Hayden Fry-Gary Barnett exchange after the 1994 Iowa beatdown of Northwestern as the start of a shift (Northwestern is 8-5 against Iowa since 1995).
Iowa has dealt with key injuries in the last two losses -- running back Shonn Greene in 2008 and quarterback Ricky Stanzi in 2009 -- but Northwestern also played most of last year's game without star quarterback Mike Kafka. Northwestern running back Adonis Smith was quoted this week as saying coach Pat Fitzgerald "hates Iowa," but does that matter on the field?
The real explanation, according to Ferentz, is pretty simple.
"They have done a good job of playing the way you're supposed to play and we haven't," he said. "I think we have had nine turnovers and they have had two in two years. ... On top of that, we screwed up on special teams, several times, a couple years ago. To me, that's been the story of it. You've got two even teams. One team played clean, played really well and the other team didn't and it's pretty academic who is going to win or lose."
Iowa has looked uncharacteristically sloppy against NU, but Vandervelde says there's no mental block against playing the Wildcats.
"People don't expect them, for some reason, to come out and swing as much as they do and hit as hard as they do," he said. "Sometimes it catches people by surprise, I think. They're smart guys, they're going to watch tape and figure out what you do, so you really can't make mistakes. You have to be ready for everything they're going to bring.
"Having played them for a couple of years now, I'm well versed in their style of play and I won't be surprised by anything, hopefully."
The players and coaches could save a lot of time, though, and simply look in the mirror.
"They're a smash-mouth football program, we're a smash-mouth football program," Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt said.
Saturday's game won't be won with sleight of hand or exotic play calling. It's a pretty good bet that the team that blocks and tackles better will claim victory.
This is exactly how No. 15 Iowa and No. 13 Wisconsin like it.
While Michigan has gone to a full-blown spread offense and both Ohio State and Penn State have incorporated spread elements, the Hawkeyes and Badgers run pro-style systems build around the power run and the play-action pass. Boise State against Oregon, this is not.
The two defenses also are similar. Iowa's defense has some baseline rules each player must follow and few elaborate disguises. If each man does his job, the play should be stopped. Wisconsin's system is similar, in large part because Badgers head coach Bret Bielema cut his teeth at Iowa under veteran Hawkyes defensive coordinator Norm Parker.
If you like power defensive ends like Clayborn and Watt and burly running backs like Wisconsin junior John Clay and former Iowa star Shonn Greene, this is the game for you.
"They're just looking to run the ball, and we're looking to stop the run," Iowa defensive tackle Karl Klug said. "We match up pretty well."
The spotlight Saturday afternoon undoubtedly will be on the line of scrimmage. Wisconsin's offensive line comes off of a dominant performance last week against Ohio State, in which it overpowered a formidable Buckeyes defensive front in a 31-18 victory. Iowa's defense ranks sixth nationally in points allowed (13.2 ppg) and seventh against the run (83.8 ypg).
Some have billed the Badgers' front five as the nation's best offensive line. The same has been said about Iowa's defensive line. Two likely first-round draft picks match up Saturday as Clayborn goes against Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi.
"We run similar schemes," Bielema said of his Badgers and the Hawkeyes. "We had a couple of [general managers] in during the course of the week last week, GMs of NFL teams. And they basically [say] 'It's so relieving to watch, come in and watch film and watch you run the football like they want to run it at the next level.'"
He played defensive line for Iowa under Hayden Fry from 1989-92 and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Hawkeyes in 1994. Bielema was elevated to linebackers coach in 1996 and spent six seasons in the role, the last three under current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Bielema "thinks the world" of Ferentz and called Parker one of his biggest influences in coaching.
He's also linked to Iowa through body art: a Tiger Hawk tattoo remains on his calf, and Iowa coaches don't hesitate to bring it up during their frequent recruiting battles with Wisconsin.
"Every time [a recruit] goes to visit there, the first thing, I can write it down to a tee, they're going to come back and say, 'Coach, can we see your tattoo?'" Bielema said. "Every Iowa coach says that to him, so I know their routine, and it's nothing surprising."
The schools share other connections as well.
When Ferentz joined Fry's staff as an assistant in 1981, Barry Alvarez served as the team's linebackers coach. Ferentz and Alvarez worked together for six years before Alvarez left for a position at Notre Dame. Three years later, both men took head-coaching jobs, Alvarez at Wisconsin and Ferentz at Maine.
Wisconsin had gone 9-36 in the four seasons before Alvarez's arrival and were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and an 18-game winless streak against Iowa.
"When I left here in '89, it’s not that I didn't respect them, but they had really fallen on hard times," Ferentz said. "And as I was leaving here, that’s when Barry was going up there. I get back nine years later and they were clearly one of the best programs in the country.
"They’ve just done a fantastic job there. They’ve been very consistent with their efforts."
The same can be said for Iowa, which rebounded from its own lull (1998-2001) to restore itself among the Big Ten's elite.
How close are the two programs? Iowa leads the all-time series 42-41-2 after claiming the last two matchups. When the Big Ten began determining divisions for 2011 and beyond, it examined data since 1993, the year Penn State joined the league. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State led the league in Big Ten wins during the span, but Wisconsin (79-54-3) and Iowa (71-64-1) are in the next tier.
"There are four teams in our new conference coming next year that have won national championships," Bielema said, referring to Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska. "And then the next two teams, probably by record, are us and Iowa."
Added Ferentz: "It’s nice to be involved in the party, if you can get in there. But it doesn't just happen."
Iowa and Wisconsin are so close that it contributed to them being placed in opposite divisions to achieve competitive balance. The two teams don't meet in 2011 and 2012, so Saturday's winner gets to keep the Heartland Trophy a little longer, not to mention take a step closer to the Big Ten title.
"There’s a great deal of respect, but we all want the same thing," Bielema said. "That’s what this week will be about, getting the W."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's the player, school or coach that "done you wrong" once upon a time -- or maybe even repeatedly.
These figures resonate through the years for rival schools, providing an enemy that serves as a unifying element for hatred from fans of a rival school.
Here's a list of Big 12 villains over the years, both historic and present. Take a good look at the grouping and see if you have any recommendations of players or coaches I might have missed.
I'd be curious to see if any coaches or players spark greater antagonism than the ones I've selected.
Current villain: Texas coach Mack Brown, who's gone 11-0 against them with no signs of stopping.
All-time villain: Former Baylor coach Kevin Steele. His decision to try to ram in a statement touchdown against UNLV in 1999 blew up in his face like an exploding cigar when Darrell Bush fumbled and Kevin Thomas raced 99 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game. That play snatched a sure victory from the Bears, making Steele and the Bears the laughingstock of college football. His program never recovered from that moment.
Current villain: Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, who piled up 106 straight points against the Buffaloes in the last two seasons while offensive coordinator at Missouri, beating them by a combined 113-10 margin. The Buffaloes will have a chance for payback this season when Christensen brings a less-talented Wyoming team to Boulder.
All-time villain: Nebraska coach Tom Osborne directed the Cornhuskers to a career record of 21-3-1 against the Buffaloes during his coaching stint from 1973-97.
Iowa State Cyclones
Current villain: Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has thrown seven career TDs against the Cyclones and beaten them twice, including last season's dramatic 35-33 comeback victory.
All-time villain: Iowa coach Hayden Fry, whose homespun witticisms weren't that funny for Cyclone fans when he was winning 15 straight against them from 1983-97.
Current villain: Nebraska DT/FB Ndamukong Suh who beat the Jayhawks with a memorable offensive and defensive performance last season and is back for more in 2009.
All-time villain: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder beat the Jayhawks 12 of his last 13 seasons in his first coaching run, including a nine-season streak where he rolled up 41, 38, 48, 54, 50, 52, 40, 64 and 42 points in consecutive blowout victories.
Kansas State Wildcats
Current villain: Kansas running back Jake Sharp grew up only 61 miles from Manhattan in nearby Salina, but has abused them since arriving at college. He's tormented them with five career touchdowns, including four last season.
All-time villain: Texas A&M running back Sirr Parker, whose dramatic game-winning touchdown in overtime snuffed out the Wildcats' national-title hopes in 1998.
Current villain: Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has beaten the Tigers in the Big 12 title game each of the last two seasons, ruining their hopes for a first Big 12 title.
All-time villain: Colorado coach and former Missouri grad and assistant Bill McCartney should have been magnanimous after getting a gift victory over the Tigers en route to a shared 1990 national title. Instead, he sparked hostility among his old friends by ripping Faurot Field's "treacherous" playing field.
Current villain: Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel talked a lot of smack and then backed it up by beating the Cornhuskers in each of the last two seasons. And after orchestrating a 52-17 victory in Lincoln last season, he raised the hackles of Cornhusker fans by complaining about Nebraska players spitting on him. He'll be gone this season, but definitely not forgotten among Cornhusker fans.
All-time villain: Oklahoma. Even though the rivalry was marked by immense respect on both sides -- imagine Barry Switzer doing Nebraska television commercials and endorsing Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Tom Osborne -- the Sooners' domination was a constant source of irritation for the Cornhuskers. Oklahoma claimed 16 straight from 1943-59 and beat Osborne in eight of his first nine games against them.
Current villain: Those pesky BCS bowls. The Sooners have lost five-straight BCS games, stripping coach Bob Stoops of much of his national stature that should have been gleaned from an unprecedented three-straight Big 12 titles.
All-time villain: Darrell Royal represented the ultimate turncoat to Sooner fans after starring at the school from 1946-49 as a record-setting quarterback and defensive back. His 12-7-1 career record against the Sooners included eight straight victories and 12 of his 14 games against them that made his old friends despise him.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Current villain: Texas coach Mack Brown, who has run off an 11-0 record against them. Worse, four of those victories were by four points or less, including the last two games.
All-time villain: Oklahoma. The cross-state rivals have turned the "Bedlam Series" into a one-sided affair with a 74-16-7 edge. Since Josh Fields orchestrated back-to-back upsets in 2001-02, Stoops hasn't called off the dogs in six-straight victories, exploding for 52, 38, 42, 27, 49 and 61 points.
Current villain: The Big 12's tiebreaker rules. Texas fans are still lamenting the national-title shot that got away last season, despite beating Big 12 title game participants Oklahoma and Missouri.
All-time villain: Jackie Sherrill. He beat them regularly at Texas A&M and continued his success at Mississippi State. Even worse, he fired up his team before that 1991 victory by castrating a steer and then crowed about it after his Texas-taming success. Even more than Barry Switzer, Longhorn fans hate Sherrill.
Texas A&M Aggies
Current villain: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. He's beaten them seven of nine games, including four straight. And he's gigged them by mocking their traditions, their coaching, their quarterbacks, everything but "The Dixie Chicken."
All-time villain: Texas. All things burnt orange set off Aggie fans -- with good reason. Their team has been dominated by the Longhorns in the school's longest rivalry. And how much of a Texas fixation do the Aggies have? The second verse of the Aggie War Hymn is essentially all about Texas.
Current villain: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. Nobody in the conference does a better job of rolling up points or handcuffing Tech's offense than his Tigers, who have averaged 47 points and won by an average of 26.3 points per game during recent three-game winning streak in the series.
All-time villain: Texas A&M. Aggie fans chap Red Raider followers by claiming the game isn't a rivalry. Mike Leach has made it seem one-sided in recent seasons. But look closely enough and you'll find it's not unusual to see the A&M logo
adorning urinals in several bars in Lubbock. Isn't that the best sign of antipathy there is?