NCF Nation: Norwood Teague

After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we’re putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series -- the rest of which can be found here -- concludes with a look at recruiting expenses and why they've grown.

Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop can still remember sifting through thick stacks of manila recruiting folders in the mid-90s and reaching for a shelf of VHS tapes hanging above his desk.

There were no real recruiting support staffs to speak of. He'd pop a recruit's game tape into a VCR and then ready himself with a notepad. Fast forward, fast forward. There's the recruit. Fast forward, fast forward.

[+] EnlargeClayton Thorson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsDigital and online technologies are helping schools discover prospects like Clayton Thorson earlier and make more educated scholarship offers.
"Recruiting's changed a lot," Shoop told ESPN.com. "Our recruiting staff, they'll cut up tapes for me now. I don't have to sift through hours of recruiting tape anymore. Our interns will hand me 10 clips for a 2016 safety or something like that. You're investing to recruit good people."

As technology has evolved, so has recruiting -- and recruiting budgets. In just the past six seasons, according to a recent analysis from "Outside the Lines," recruiting budgets encompassing all sports have increased at 13 of 14 Big Ten schools and risen by at least 30 percent at eight of those. Higher gas prices, increased postage and other variables have undoubtedly played a role but several coaches and athletic directors also stressed how bigger staffs -- a result of newer technology -- have inflated those numbers.

At Penn State, Shoop can now rely on two full-time staff members, two graduate assistants and a team of 30 students/interns to help with recruiting. At Northwestern, the recruiting staff has tripled in just the last six to eight years. And, at Ohio State, one full-time position was recently added, in part, to help with recruiting presentations.

"Our technology has increased quite a bit," OSU athletic director Gene Smith said. "That's a big number for us."

That technology, such as online game film, has placed a bigger focus on immediacy. In an age where a top prospect's highlights can be filmed today and broken down by college coaches tomorrow, staffs can no longer wait until the offseason to evaluate players. And they can't drop everything on a Friday night in October, either, to give up game plan tweaks in favor of digesting film from a high school junior.

"Your coaches are doing this thing in the football season called coaching," said Chris Bowers, Northwestern's director of player personnel. "The time allocation a position coach would spend in March, he's not going to allocate that same amount of time in December or October. He can't. So, yes, there's been an increase in staff for sure.

"I would say at most universities -- I can't speak for everyone -- the recruiting staff is probably two to three times bigger than it was in '06."

In September of 2012, the Wildcats were able to jump early on the Clayton Thorson bandwagon because of that extra staff and technology. The ESPN 300 quarterback, who signed with Northwestern in February, hadn't started under center prior to 2012.

So, when he was due in Evanston, Ill., for a Saturday night game, Bowers noticed his high school coach uploaded his film to the Hudl website that Friday evening. Bowers contacted a GA, requested he cut-up some highlights -- and then forwarded the finished product to the coaching staff. Thorson received an offer that Saturday, partially based on something that was filmed less than 24 hours before.

And if this had all happened just a few years before, then how long would it have taken to make that same judgment call? Months?

"

You're investing to recruit good people.

" -- Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
"Yes!" Bowers said. "… Even if you were an aggressive recruiting staff, the high school coaches would still need to bring you a DVD or mail it to you -- and they might not do it until the end of the season."

Nationally, recruiting budgets have risen across the board, so it's hardly limited to the Big Ten. Still, the conference seems to be outpacing the competition. Between 2008 and 2012, Big Ten teams placed within the top-10 nationally in recruiting spending on just five occasions. In 2013, four conference teams (Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State) placed within the top 10 -- and Illinois wasn't far behind at No. 12.

But coaches and athletic directors were slow to label last season a turning point. After all, it's not as if the staffs had all doubled overnight. Instead, they cautioned, there were other variables that needed to be taken into account. At Wisconsin, for example, the budget is artificially low because the Badgers are provided a private plane and don't need to charter flights as much. At Iowa, a booster donation wasn't included in the recruiting numbers until a few years ago -- which could account for part of the jump. And at Minnesota, due to the campus location, increased flight and hotel expenses impacted the budget more than schools elsewhere.

"We can't drive as much as others," Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague added. "So we've got to keep building the budget and being aggressive."

Regardless, the trend of spending more on recruiting each season appears to be a difficult one to stop. Whether it's an increased staff or costs elsewhere, few universities take a step back in spending.

But, on the bright side, it could be worse -- at least the era of "Be kind; please rewind" is long gone.

"That required a significant amount of manpower hours," Shoop said with a laugh. "And in some ways, now, it's a pro model. It's not like you have an entire scouting department, but I'm sure we're getting closer to that model now than ever before now, as far as people whose sole responsibility is player evaluation. ... It's incredible how the process has accelerated."

After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we're putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series continues today with a look at the revenue generated through branding initiatives like licensing and sponsorships.

It's fitting that the University of Michigan's athletic director has the word "brand" in his last name. In the Big Ten, there's no bigger brand than Michigan.

Ticket sales, donations and television dollars are the biggest revenue-drivers for college programs. But one of the more revealing categories in the recent "Outside the Lines" database encompasses revenue from licensing, sponsorships, advertising and royalties. It all adds up to branding, and in the Big Ten, Michigan is king.

Only Texas generates more money from licensing, sponsorships, advertising and royalties than Michigan, which has ranked second among public schools in the category for the past five fiscal years (2008-09 through 2012-13). Michigan's reported intake spiked from $11,087,101 in fiscal year 2007-08 to $22,473,192 in 2012-13. Although there's a substantial gap between Texas ($33,421518) and Michigan, there's also a financial canyon between Michigan and third-place Oklahoma ($12,805,600), Ohio State ($12,714,758) and Nebraska ($11,895,378).

"We really think of ourselves as a global brand," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told ESPN.com. "In my previous life, I ran a company [Domino's Pizza] that at the time was doing business in about 65 countries. I never visited a country where I didn't see at least one symbol of the University of Michigan. There was at least one kid wearing a jersey, some guy wearing a hat, some Michigan shirt, some 'Go Blue' thing.

"It's remarkable how our brand is way beyond a domestic brand. I'm not sure if other programs necessarily enjoy that recognition."

Many Big Ten schools have massive alumni bases. But Michigan's alumni distribution, combined with the school's academic reputation and athletic tradition, has created a branding giant.

Brandon attributes the revenue differential mainly to the makeup of Michigan's alumni. Another driver is the way Michigan markets its athletes.

"You could even trace it back to the early '90s and the Fab Five, you could trace it to Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson," said Manish Tripathy, a marketing professor at Emory University who helps manage the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics project. "Some of these large figures and personalities have contributed to people who are not alumni still identifying with the Michigan brand."

The revenue from licensing, sponsorships, advertising and royalties accounts for a small percentage of Michigan's overall athletic revenue, which Brandon pegs at about $150 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year. It's the same for other Big Ten schools.

But Brandon sees potential in these areas, especially licensing, which he thinks can grow "much faster" than the rate of inflation.

"I'd like to build that more," Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague said of licensing. "I know we're going to do an aggressive job. Part of that also is winning at a higher level in football and basketball. When I was at [North] Carolina, we were No. 1 [in licensing] my whole entire six years working there, and I was the liaison, so I saw how we built it. But it wasn't built overnight."

Minnesota has excelled in revenue through licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties, ranking fourth among Big Ten schools for the past six fiscal years and in the top 15 nationally each year. Minnesota associate athletic director Chris Werle said the school's long-term agreements with Coca-Cola, Dairy Queen and Learfield Sports, its media rights holder, bring in escalating revenues.

Like Minnesota, Iowa has been in the top 20 in licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties since 2007-08. Associate athletic director Rick Klatt said Iowa has tremendous local support and national brand recognition with its Tiger Hawk logo, but must push to broaden its reach.

"It's gaining shelf space in nontraditional markets," Klatt said. "When we can gain some kind of marketing presence in a sports store in San Antonio when you're down there for the Alamo Bowl, if we can find a little niche for the Iowa Hawkeyes to be next to Michigan, Texas and USC, we'e making some headway. That's a victory."

Klatt knows Iowa can't become Michigan overnight, but with the right success on the field and strategies off of it, the brand can expand.

"It's a quantity thing, a history thing, a tradition thing," Klatt said. "Michigan, Penn State -- they have some numbers that work in their favor. But that doesn't mean we can't compete."

Most Big Ten schools have seen gradual revenue increases in licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties, and most have been fairly steady in the national rankings. But there are some exceptions: Ohio State went from 24th in 2007-08 to fourth in 2012-13. Illinois' revenue has flat-lined, and the school has gone from 25th in 2007-08 to 36th in 2012-13.

Penn State saw a significant drop from fiscal year 2010-11 ($5,984,967) to 2011-12 ($4,444,416) -- the year of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal -- before rebounding in 2012-13 ($5,086,773).

"Locally, the support is still there; people are still paying to go watch the team," Tripathi said, "but on a national level, there has been a bit of a hit on the brand. That's manifesting in the decline in sales of merchandise."

[+] EnlargeDave Brandon and Gene Smith
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMichigan athletic director Dave Brandon and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith preside over marquee brands in the national scope.
Schools approach licensing and sponsorships in different ways, but consolidation is a common trait. All but four Big Ten members use the Collegiate Licensing Company, a division of IMG, to represent them in licensing agreements.

About a decade ago, Michigan significantly reduced the number of licenses it awarded to produce products. Kristen Ablauf, the school's director of trademark licensing, said Michigan used to have about 70 licensees for headwear, some of which weren't producing merchandise. Now there are only five national licensees -- LIDS and Dick's Sporting Goods among them -- as well as 12 local licensees.

"That has really helped increase revenues because we're targeting specific categories and channels as opposed to just licensing anybody," Ablauf said. "Along with our licensing agency, we work to put specific retailer programs together to make sure Michigan does maintain its status as a national school."

The Big Ten wants to become a more national conference as it expands to the East Coast with Rutgers and Maryland. The move should help Rutgers, which has generated the lowest revenues in licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties.

It also creates new branding opportunities for existing league members.

"The retail industry will take a look at and say, 'We need to have a presence in our store to satisfy the Big Ten consumer,'" Klatt said. "Our challenge will be, when they start choosing which schools to give presence to, they're clearly going to give some to Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State. But that next tier, we have to make sure we're in that."
After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we're putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series continues today with a look at the money Big Ten teams have paid to opponents over the years.

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

He jokingly offered a possible reason for his escape.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of them is cost.

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

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

The problem: inventory.

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

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

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

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

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

"Some of us aren't traditional thinkers," he said. "You can come up with some creative ways that make sense for student-athletes, fans and … that you can meet your financial challenges."
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Big Ten athletic directors began their annual spring meetings Tuesday and discussed the proposed NCAA governance changes, scheduling, athlete welfare and other items.

Here are some notes from Day 1:

[+] EnlargeBig Ten Logo
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesThe Big Ten athletic directors will wrap up their annual spring meetings on Wednesday.
ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS

Although increasing athletic scholarships to federal cost of attendance figures isn't a new topic in the Big Ten -- the league first proposed it three years ago -- it generated plenty of discussion Tuesday as change is finally on the horizon. There are details that must be worked out concerning Title IX and how overall athletic budgets will be affected.

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said a full cost-of-attendance plan for all Illini athletes would cost approximately $1 million per year. But the numbers vary by institution.

"You're going to have to have a standard formula all schools are going to have to adhere to," Thomas said, "knowing that the numbers might still look different."

Added Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst: "Over time, each institution is sharing how financial aid works on their campus and how they see a possible opportunity to put more resources in the system to cover the gap."

The ADs also discussed how to improve travel for players, whether it's getting them home or getting their families to events.

"Is it two trips? Is it three? Is it just going home a certain time of the year? Or is it bowls? Or families visiting?" Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said. "Those details are yet to be worked out I think, and how does that factor into the full cost of attendance?"

FOOTBALL SCHEDULING

Despite a move to nine league games in 2016, non-league scheduling remains a challenge for the ADs, especially with the Big Ten prohibiting contests with FCS opponents. Thomas admits the inventory of opponents is smaller, which can increase costs of bringing in opponents that don't require return games. He added that a nine-game league schedule makes it harder to play neutral-site games because of the demand for seven home games every year.

"It's hard for us to move off campus and take a game away from our stadium, that's my biggest issue," Minnesota AD Norwood Teague said. "That was built for a purpose, and $150 million of that stadium was paid for by taxpayer dollars. You've got to serve the people."

[+] EnlargeDave Joyner, James Franklin, Rodney Erickson
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesPenn State athletic director Dave Joyner (left) praised new football coach James Franklin (center) on Tuesday.
Joyner said there has been some talk about Big Ten teams scheduling other league opponents in non-league games, something former Michigan athletic director Bill Martin brought up years ago. "That's a unique concept we could talk about more," Joyner said. "That's a possibility."

Despite the SEC and ACC announcing recently that they would keep an eight-game league schedule, the Big Ten has no plans to ditch its move to nine.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Joyner said new Penn State coach James Franklin has been "everything I thought he was an more, in a positive way," during his first four months on the job. "He's high energy, he's high ethics, he's high competitiveness," Joyner said.
  • Eichorst said he has had nothing to do with the improving public image of coach Bo Pelini, who has boosted his popularity since his blowups both during and after last season's loss to Iowa. "Bo's the same guy that I met when I arrived on campus," Eichorst said. "I see those sort of qualities from him on a day-to-day basis. What's out there in the community and the perception and all that other sort of stuff is certainly hard to control. He's a good ball coach, a good person. He's serious about his craft and very disciplined in his approach and we're lucky to have him at Nebraska."
  • Teague said the upcoming College Football Playoff generated little to no discussion Tuesday. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez, a member of the selection committee, likely will address the group before the meetings end Wednesday.

More to come Wednesday as the meetings finish. Delany will address the media around 3 p.m. ET.
With just one week to go before championship week, we know exactly which Big Ten teams are going bowling and which ones are staying home. And we've got some big changes in our bowl projections.

For the first time, we are now projecting the conference to get an at-large bid. Our thinking goes like this: Oregon's loss to Arizona (thanks, RichRod!) means the Pac-12 could be limited to one bid. If Clemson loses to South Carolina this week, the Tigers might not get an at-large bid coming off a loss. And Orange Bowl officials, who are desperate to fill seats after some undesirable matchups in recent years, would rather bet on a Big Ten team and its huge fan base than on Baylor, a program that has trouble filling its own stadium.

So which Big Ten team do we see heading to Miami? Right now, it's Wisconsin. We think the Badgers, who should end the year on a seven-game winning streak, get the slight nod over Michigan State, which will be an underdog to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. But check back with us on that in a week.

That keeps Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl for now. We have a potential 9-3 Nebraska going back to Florida in the Outback Bowl, while Iowa -- which could finish two wins behind the Huskers unless it pulls off the victory in Lincoln on Friday -- heads back to familiar territory in Phoenix.

The Gator Bowl would choose between Minnesota and Michigan, two squads likely ending the season on losing streaks. Although Gator Bowl officials have been known for going with the big name (see: a 6-6 Ohio State team in 2011), there's way more enthusiasm around Minnesota than Michigan right now. Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague has some selling to do, but we think he'll get the job done and get the Gophers to Jacksonville. That puts Michigan in the Texas Bowl.

The full projections:

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, Jan. 1: Ohio State
Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3: Wisconsin
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan State
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 28: Iowa
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Minnesota
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27: Michigan
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Not filled
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Not filled
Minnesota football players Moses Alipate and Victor Keise have had undistinguished careers to date. But they could turn out to be two vitally important figures in the pay-for-play debate.

Alipate, a senior tight end, and Keise, a senior wide receiver, are among six current FBS players to join a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA, originally filed in 2009 by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon. The O'Bannon plaintiffs claim the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading trademark and licensing firm, violated antitrust laws by preventing players from receiving compensation from video games and other products that use their names, likenesses and images. The lawsuit was amended last year to include current players.

From ESPN's Tom Farrey:
By adding their names to a highly contentious lawsuit originally filed in 2009 by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, the players -- all from college football's largest conferences -- enhance the chances that damages in the suit could reach into the billions of dollars.

Keise has played in 14 career games, recording one catch, while Alipate, a decorated quarterback recruit, has yet to play for the Gophers. They are the only current players in the suit who don't have avatars in the NCAA Football 2014 video game.

From SI.com:
In the amended complaint, plaintiffs' attorneys point out Alipate and Keise signed "one or more release forms." So the inclusion of the two Minnesota players may serve to challenge the name and likeness release forms Big Ten athletes are required to sign.

The NCAA this week cut ties with EA Sports, the manufacturer of the yearly "NCAA Football" video game. EA Sports will continue to produce college football video games that feature individual schools, which have their own trademarks.

It will be interesting to see how Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague and others react to Alipate and Keise joining what could be a historic lawsuit.
When the Big Ten in February decided to gradually eliminate all FCS games from future schedules, I labeled it a victory for the league's fans.

Fans get only 6-8 chances per season to see their team play at home, and it's unfortunate when one of those games comes against a vastly overmatched foe from a lower division with fewer scholarship players. The elimination of FCS teams, part of a larger Big Ten initiative to beef up non-league schedules, benefits players, fans, television partners and the league's national perception.

But not everyone is thrilled about the Big Ten's FCS ban. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and Minnesota AD Norwood Teague are somewhat reluctant about the league's new policy. And they have understandable reasons to be a bit resistant. They're called Northern Iowa and North Dakota State.

[+] EnlargeNorwood Teague
AP Photo/Paul BattagliaMinnesota AD Norwood Teague attributed the ban on playing FCS teams to having to appease the Big Ten's TV partners.
One problem with league-wide scheduling policies is that they can be countered with specific examples. Most FCS teams can't compete with Big Ten opponents, and the recent results back this up. But a handful of FCS teams, many located in or near the Big Ten's footprint, can hold their own. They provide early season challenges equal to or better than those from lower-level FBS opponents.

North Dakota State certainly qualifies. The Bison have won the past two FCS national championships. They have beaten an FBS team in each of the past three seasons, including Minnesota in 2011. They're 6-3 against the FBS since 2006.

Northern Iowa hasn't had as much FBS success -- just one win since 2001 -- but the Panthers gave Wisconsin all it could handle in the 2012 opener and nearly knocked off Iowa, the eventual Orange Bowl champion, in the 2009 opener. UNI has won 10 or more games in seven of the past eight seasons.

There are other examples like North Dakota State and Northern Iowa, including many in the Midwest. North Dakota State is No. 1 in Lindy's magazine's preseason FCS poll, while South Dakota State (No. 4), Northern Iowa (No. 13), Eastern Illinois (No. 18), Youngstown State (No. 19) and Illinois State (No. 22) also made the Top 25. These are good teams despite their FCS designation. Michigan fans still shudder when FCS Appalachian State is mentioned, but the Appy State team that upset Michigan in 2007 was much, much better than the FBS Toledo squad Michigan inexplicably lost to in 2008.

Minnesota's Teague recently told Chris Murphy of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead that he would like to keep playing North Dakota State, but he has to be a good Big Ten soldier.
"It is primarily television pressuring and wanting the Big Ten to provide games that are [Football Bowl Subdivision] versus FBS teams," Teague said earlier this week in Moorhead, Minn. "That’s understandable. They pay us a lot of money, and it’s just the desire of television that they want us to do that. That was their message to the Big Ten."

He continues.
"We operate in a world now in college athletics where we have to balance a budget. [Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany] needs to go out and redo our television contracts with ABC, ESPN, Big Ten Network, and we've got to be a very good partner with them or we aren't going to get the revenue we need to compete."

And here's more.
"I know it sounds money-oriented, but it is what it is," Teague said. "Balancing our budget is tough. We generate 95 percent of what we balance. We get very little from the university. We have to really fight and claw to do that. We are competing in a league that is very tough with competitors that are way ahead of us with facilities and things like that."

Yes, it's all about the money, and Teague's candor here is refreshing. I understand the FCS-TV argument from a macro level: more attractive matchups get better ratings, and most Big Ten-FCS matchups aren't very attractive. But when you look at specifics, is Minnesota-North Dakota State less appealing to TV than Minnesota-New Mexico State, an FBS vs. FBS game that takes place Sept. 7 at TCF Bank Stadium? Is Iowa-Northern Iowa less appealing to TV than Iowa-North Texas, a game scheduled to take place in 2015 at Kinnick Stadium? That's a hard argument to make.

I'd rather see a fun regional matchup, even if it's against an FCS team, than a snoozer like Minnesota-New Mexico State or Iowa-North Texas. And while Big Ten teams are adding more major-conference foes to their future schedules, which is great to see and long overdue, the guarantee games against lower-level FBS teams aren't going away. Couldn't a good FCS team be substituted for a really bad FBS one?

If there was a way to ensure Big Ten teams would only schedule top-level FCS opponents, I'd be in favor of lifting the ban. But there's no way to effectively regulate it, and as we know with future scheduling, seemingly good matchups can turn lousy by the time they actually take place. Big Ten teams would still find tomato cans, and we'd still see too many blowouts that don't benefit anyone.

It's unfortunate for the good FCS programs, especially from a financial standpoint, as they make great coin for visiting Big Ten stadiums. But if the FCS ban is necessary for the Big Ten's larger push to beef up scheduling, I'm for it.
CHICAGO -- The Big Ten is steeped in history and tradition, but the conference needs something more to connect with the target audience of football recruits and regular students.

It needs to be cooler, especially on game days. And whether it's perception or reality, many don't view Big Ten football as very cool at the moment. Legends and Leaders certainly didn't help. Neither does the continued absence of November night games. The league still boasts amazing venues and plenty of pageantry, and programs have seemed more open to new marketing tactics, whether it's alternate jerseys (hated by some traditionalist fans, incredibly popular with recruits) or more prime-time games.

But something is lacking. Coaches, such as Ohio State's Urban Meyer, have noticed it. So have Big Ten athletic directors.

Whether it's more night games, night games in November, larger scoreboards, better Wi-Fi service, stronger acoustics or broader concessions, the Big Ten has to do more.

"Part of that is to make the league be perceived in reality what it is, and that's a little bit more hip, a little bit more cool," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told ESPN.com. "I have three kids that are age 14, 18 and 20, and they're a great resource for me to bounce ideas off from a Michigan State perspective. But I think we need to take that as a league a little bit as well.

"It's not your grandfather's conference any more. There's so much greatness and so much tradition that needs to be continued and talked about, but also try to add a little unique freshness that's unique to young kids."

[+] EnlargeTCF Bank Stadium
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsEven Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, the Big Ten's newest football arena, isn't the gem planners intended when students don't show up.
Hollis is one of the most innovative athletic directors in the country, masterminding events such as outdoor hockey at Spartan Stadium and a basketball game on an aircraft carrier. Last winter, he proposed playing four simultaneous basketball games at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Veterans Day.

And yet even Hollis has seen recent examples of young people tuning out on game day, such as last fall when Michigan State hosted Iowa on a dreary day in East Lansing.

"One of our biggest no-show rates in football was the Iowa game," Hollis said. "And I'd go out and walk the streets and start talking to kids, 'Why didn't you go?' And they said, 'We couldn't text because it was raining.' They couldn't have their phones out.

"That kind of hit me pretty hard."

Michigan State put in new massive video scoreboards at Spartan Stadium last year, but Hollis knows he needs to do more. Part of a $20 million renovation to the stadium will include some new restrooms and concession stands at the north end of the stadium. The addition also will include a recruiting room.

"We need to make sure we continue to deliver in our venues what's being delivered, and then some, on television," Hollis said. "What's that going to look like? A more comfortable place. It shouldn't be a hassle. … We're putting in more bathrooms, we're looking at a $2 million Wi-Fi system that allows more interaction. We're going to have to deliver wider seats, more comfortable seats. It's making our concession stands more presentable."

Student attendance for early kickoffs has been a problem at places such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Michigan AD Dave Brandon this week called student turnout "unacceptable," and coach Brady Hoke is offering free doughnuts to all students who show up before noon kickoffs this fall.

Minnesota has the Big Ten's newest stadium but still struggles to get students to show up in droves.

"They're the centerpiece of the fan experience," Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague told ESPN.com, "so getting them there changes everything that goes on. We're a new stadium, so we have an unbelievable video board. A lot of the problems that plague other stadiums, we don't have. Our [public-address system] is perfect.

"We've got to do more and more, but our top priority right now is student attendance."

Teague had a group from Minnesota's Carlson School of Management study student attendance at the school. They found that students want a gathering place before games, so the school is providing an entire parking lot near the stadium, Teague said, which will be monitored.

The recruiting component also can't be ignored.

While many interpreted Meyer's post-signing day comments to a Columbus radio station as a direct shot at the recruiting efforts of other Big Ten programs, his fellow league coaches viewed it more as a call to upgrade the game-day experience during the fall.

"It was more, how can we continue to further our brand? How can we make our in-game experiences improve? How can we make our pregame experiences improve?" Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the coaches met in February. "All those things in the vein for our fans, the game-day experience of Big Ten arenas and for recruiting."

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass has made football game days a priority since his arrival, adding more night games, a kids' area in the south end of the stadium and other features. Attendance is on the rise, but Glass is still seeking ways to make upgrades.

He turned down Adidas' offer of new uniforms for IU's men's basketball team in the NCAA tournament, but would be more open to a wardrobe shakeup for the football squad.

"More highlights, more scores, more fun, coloring outside the lines a little bit," Glass said. "We'll play to our strengths -- the band, the cheerleaders, the pageantry of college football, flags and color, engagement of students -- and spent a lot of time really trying to enhance that. That's not only a great thing for our fan experience, it translates into the cool factor for recruits who come in."
CHICAGO -- Indiana athletic director Fred Glass oversees a football program that has made one bowl appearance in the past 19 seasons.

The Hoosiers soon will take up residence in the Big Ten's East Division, which includes traditional powers Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, as well as Michigan State. Like every other Big Ten team, Indiana also will begin playing nine conference games instead of eight beginning in 2016.

Although Indiana took a step last fall in Year 2 under coach Kevin Wilson, it has won six or more games just 11 times since 1967, when it shared the Big Ten championship and went to the Rose Bowl.

If given the choice between keeping the minimum wins requirement for bowls at six versus increasing it to seven, Glass seemingly has an easy decision.

"Perhaps the surprising answer is I'd probably favor going to seven [wins]," Glass told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We're a program that's trying to build, and you might say it's in our best interest to stay at six, but there's something about enthusing your fan base with a winning season, being 7-5. Maybe that might help limit the number of bowls out there, too, so it's a real positive experience."

At last year's spring meetings, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany came out in strong support of increasing the bowl requirement from six wins to seven.

"For us, it means redefining a successful year at 7-5 from the standpoint of a bowl season," Delany said last May. "We argued for 6-6. We've experienced 6-6. Now we're suggesting that it's in our best interest, the bowls' best interest as well as the other conferences that might benefit by these open slots to look at a 7-5 standard."

Ultimately, other major conferences weren't on board with the push to increase the requirement. The Big Ten had three 6-6 teams -- Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota -- make bowl games in 2012 and four 6-6 teams (Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern) go in 2011.

"We think the bowl system would be better off with a 7-5 situation," Delany said Wednesday. "We thought for a while we were heading in that direction, but it's obvious that we're not."

The Big Ten's move to nine league games means a team would have to win at least three conference contests to reach the six-win minimum, giving it a little more credibility. Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague said many coaches, especially "those building programs," are in favor of keeping the requirement at six victories.

But ADs still hope that seven can be the magic number some day.

"Seven wins is what you should have; always felt that," Ohio State AD Gene Smith said. "I still think we have too many bowls. I just think 6-6 is not the level, but I know that's not something that appears to be reversing at this time. I just don't want to be there again."
Minnesota is getting with the Big Ten's scheduling program. Hallelujah.

After buying its way out of a series against North Carolina and revealing a wholly uninspiring slate of future non-conference games last fall, Minnesota took a big step in the right direction Tuesday by announcing a home-and-home series against TCU for 2014 and 2015. The Gophers will visit TCU on Sept. 13, 2014, and play host to the Horned Frogs on Sept. 3, 2015.

The 2014 game fills a vacancy on Minnesota's schedule, and the 2015 game replaces FCS opponent South Dakota State on the Gophers' slate. As you know, the Big Ten wants to remove all games with FCS opponents by the 2016 season or shortly thereafter, and Minnesota had been one of the worst at piling up games against lower-division foes.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com that he wants every team playing one marquee non-league game per season against a team from another major conference. TCU makes perfect sense for Minnesota, which recruits a lot in Texas. Gophers coach Jerry Kill and Frogs coach Gary Patterson are very close friends.

The teams have met just once previously, in 1974, when Minnesota beat TCU in a 9-7 thriller (cough, cough).

Kudos to Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague for getting this done, and to Kill for understanding the need to beef up the schedule and give fans an appealing series to watch.

Minnesota's 2014 and 2015 non-league schedules are complete. The Gophers play TCU (road), Eastern Illinois (home), Middle Tennessee (home), and San Jose State (home) in 2014; and TCU (home), Colorado State (road), Kent State (home), and Ohio (home) in 2015.

The Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.

Here's hoping Minnesota makes similar schedule upgrades for 2016 and beyond.
Shawn Eichorst isn't the highest-profile athletic director in the Big Ten. While Nebraska fans are a pretty sharp bunch, I bet some would have a hard time picking out Eichorst in a crowd. The fact Eichorst succeeded Nebraska legend Tom Osborne as AD also makes him fly under the radar.

But there's little doubt Nebraska considers Eichorst a rising star in the AD ranks. Either that, or Eichorst is a brilliant contract negotiator. Perhaps it's both.

When USA Today came out with its new survey of athletic director salaries, which not surprisingly are on the rise nationally, Eichorst's compensation at Nebraska certainly stands out. His base salary of $973,000 ranks highest in the Big Ten, and his total compensation of $1,123,000 ranks second in the league behind only Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($1,230,000). Eichorst served as Alvarez's deputy AD from 2009-11 before taking the top job at Miami.

Here are 11 of the 12 Big Ten athletic director salaries (as a private school, Northwestern doesn't disclose AD Jim Phillips' salary), sorted from highest to lowest:
  • Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: $1,230,000 ($1,143,500 from university, $86,500 in outside pay)
  • Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska: $1,123,000
  • Gene Smith, Ohio State: $1,099,030
  • Dave Brandon, Michigan:$900,000
  • Mark Hollis, Michigan State: $700,000
  • Mike Thomas, Illinois: $589,250
  • Norwood Teague, Minnesota: $500,000
  • Gary Barta, Iowa: $490,842 ($487,842 from university, $3,000 in outside pay)
  • Morgan Burke, Purdue:$464,437
  • Fred Glass, Indiana: $430,746
  • Dave Joyner, Penn State: $396,000

Eichorst received a one-time payment of $150,000 for moving expenses from Miami. Alvarez received a one-time payment of $118,500 for coaching the football team in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. He would have received a $50,000 bonus if Wisconsin had won the game.

Ohio State's Smith has the highest maximum bonus in the league ($250,000), followed by Michigan's Brandon and Illinois' Thomas, both at $200,000.

Alvarez and Eichorst rank fourth and fifth nationally, respectively, in total compensation. They trail Vanderbilt vice chancellor/general counsel David Williams (who oversees athletics and seemingly everything else at the school), Louisville AD Tom Jurich and Florida AD Jeremy Foley. Smith ranks seventh nationally, and Brandon is tied for 12th with Iowa State's Jamie Pollard.

Michigan State's Hollis, named 2012 athletic director of the year at the Sports Business Awards, last summer received a significant raise -- the highest bump among any incumbent AD from a public school since October 2011. Purdue's Burke is the Big Ten's longest-serving AD (started Jan. 1, 1993) but ranks near the bottom in salary. Joyner began his term as Penn State's acting AD in November 2011 after Tim Curley took leave. He had the tag removed in January and will remain in the role through the term of university president Rodney Erickson.

Looking ahead to the future Big Ten, Maryland AD Kevin Anderson earns $499,490 (max bonus of $50,000), while Rutgers' AD Tim Pernetti earns $410,000 (max bonus of $50,000).
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has had epilepsy for nine years, and it hasn't slowed him down too much. He has continued to coach and continued to win, taking Minnesota from three victories to six victories in his second season.

But Kill has been forced to take a closer look at his health following three game-day seizures in his first two seasons at Minnesota. The most recent took place at halftime of Minnesota's regular-season finale against Michigan State. Although Kill walked out of TCF Bank Stadium and has recovered, he didn't coach during the second half.

Athletic director Norwood Teague recently told ESPN.com that he has full confidence that Kill will return in 2013. Although Teague isn't concerned about Kill's health hurting Minnesota's recruiting efforts, he admits there is a perception issue. Teague also noted that Kill must try to get the seizures under control before next season.

Kill appears to be on his way.

From the Star Tribune:
"I'm very fortunate," Kill said. "I'm working with somebody [medically], I'm not going to mention who it is until they feel comfortable that they want to be mentioned. And if they do I'll mention it, but I'm working with one of the best people in the world. We're convinced together that I can be seizure-free in a year."

Kill said he is being monitored on a daily basis, mostly to ensure his medication is properly balanced. He also knows his high-profile job makes people more aware of his condition, while the same disease goes unnoticed or unreported in many corporate leaders.

Kill, a cancer survivor, calls epilepsy "a very complicated disease," one that has various causes. He tells Sid Hartman that he has been more devoted to coaching than to getting his condition under control. Although his overall health remains strong, he was "more down in the dumps than I've ever been in my life" after missing the second half of the Michigan State game.
"I've missed maybe three or two days of work or something like that," he said. "There's a lot of people that miss a lot more work than that. It just happened at a bad time and it's bad, but I told my guys that it can't happen ever again and there's some things we can do before games and different things so it won't happen. I have to have confidence in the guy I'm working with, I do. And we'll move forward."

Best of luck to Coach Kill in his pursuit for a seizure-free life.
Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague knows the numbers.

Jerry Kill has coached 14 home games with the Golden Gophers. He has gotten through only 11 of them seizure-free.

Kill suffered a seizure of halftime of last Saturday's game against Michigan State and didn't return to the sideline. He also had a seizure following an Oct. 13 game against Northwestern. His most severe -- and, unfortunately, public -- seizure came during the fourth quarter of his home debut as Gophers coach last September against New Mexico State.

"I'd be lying if I said it doesn't concern me with it being involved around a game," Teague told ESPN.com on Monday. "And it concerns Jerry."

But Teague isn't concerned about Kill's ability to remain Gophers coach. Although the 51-year-old will seek more opinions on his seizure disorder and why the seizures seem to be occurring on game days, he's expected to be on the sideline at Minnesota's upcoming bowl game and when the Gophers open the 2013 season at TCF Bank Stadium. His latest seizure wasn't severe, and he walked out of the stadium Saturday.

[+] EnlargeJerry Kill
AP Photo/Tom OlmscheidJerry Kill's latest seizure wasn't severe, and he walked out of the stadium.
"I'm 100 percent confident he'll be back," Teague said, "and I'm glad he's going to have a chance to look deeper into this. He'll have some time to do that in the offseason. It's like anything else with a medical condition, you really have to go and get second opinions.

"We all believe and hope that with time he's going to get it under wraps a little bit better."

Kill, a cancer survivor, has had epilepsy for years. The seizures didn't appear to be an issue at his previous coaching stop at Northern Illinois, although he was briefly hospitalized in September 2010. He had two seizures during games while serving as Southern Illinois' coach, but as with Minnesota, he never missed an entire contest.

Factors like stress or lack of sleep could be contributing to Kill's more frequent seizures, but as Teague notes, "No one really knows." Kill's overall health is strong, according to Teague.

"I personally think it probably does have to do with stress, and that's OK," Teague said. "He's got to drill down and explore it more from a medical standpoint."

Like many of his coaching peers, Kill is extremely intense during practices and games. He and Teague had discussed a stress-management approach, but Teague wants to take things a step further in the wake of Kill's latest episode.

"Jerry Kill, he'll take everything on himself," Teague said. "Part of it is our job to help build more support around him. He needs more out of me, he needs more out of our athletic staff and others to be managing things he doesn't need to be managing."

Kill's longtime staff of assistants understand how to manage the team without their boss and did so again during the second half against Michigan State. Teague said he spoke with some players who didn't even know Kill wasn't on the sideline after halftime.

For the players, "it’s not something that causes them a lot of pause," Teague said.

But what about recruits?

Gophers freshman wide receiver Jamel Harbison, one of the team's top recruits in the 2012 class, took his recruiting visit to Minnesota when Kill had his sideline seizure against New Mexico State. Harbison was struck by how Gophers fans responded to the scary situation, chanting Kill's name.

Harbison and his father researched Kill's health history before he committed to Minnesota, and Kill called Harbison after he had returned home from the visit.

"Coach Kill gave me a call saying don't worry about it," Harbison told ESPN.com. "He's going to fight back like he always does. Coach Kill, he's a great man. He knows how to push those things and keep the team's head right."

Harbison has talked with Gophers' 2013 recruits who are aware of Kill's health situation. Although opposing teams could use Kill's seizure issues against Minnesota, Teague isn't concerned.

"Recruiting is about the relationship between the recruit and the assistant and Coach Kill," Teague said. "You get in a room with Jerry Kill, he'll ease any recruit’s fears or parent's fears about a condition like this. Those relationships are strong.

"If I felt in my gut that it was going to hurt recruiting, I'd be a whole lot more worried than I am now."

Kill has orchestrated an impressive turnaround at Minnesota, which won as many games this fall (six) as it has in the previous two seasons. Few pegged the Gophers for a bowl game this season.

He's extremely well-respected in the coaching ranks as a program fixer. Kill recorded 10 wins in his third season of each of his last two stops -- Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois -- so good things could be ahead for the Gophers.

But the recurring seizures are "a perception issue," Teague said, and it'll be an important offseason for Kill to get some answers.

"It's hard to drag Coach Kill away from the game," Harbison said. "He loves it. Every day, he's ready to work. If he could come back right after he had the seizure, I’m sure he would."
A bizarre and troubling story emerged Sunday afternoon out of Minneapolis, and it's not good for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Barker
Brad Rempel/Icon SMIA.J. Barker, who had 577 yards and seven touchdowns, has left the Gophers team.
Junior wide receiver A.J. Barker, one of the team's best stories this season, announced on Twitter that he's quitting the team and made strong allegations of mistreatment by head coach Jerry Kill. Barker, the Gophers' top wideout with 30 catches for 577 yards and seven touchdowns, tweeted Sunday afternoon: "Well, its official. I am done playing football for the University of Minnesota and I will be looking to transfer next season for my final yr." He then directed his followers to a newly created tumblr page, where he posted an extensive letter to Kill detailing why he's quitting (warning: the letter contains profanity).

As a walk-on, Barker can transfer to another school without having to sit out before his final season of eligibility.

Barker alleges that Kill confronted him at a recent practice and questioned his attitude and work ethic in his recovery from an ankle injury. Barker sustained the injury Oct. 27 against Purdue and aggravated it in pregame warmups Nov. 5 before the Gophers hosted Michigan. He writes that the training staff didn't inform him immediately that he had suffered a high ankle sprain. Barker also accuses tight ends coach Rob Reeves of calling him a slur because of his religious views.

But Barker's criticism is directed mainly at Kill. He writes, "You took the one thing you had a say in (my football playing career and my future) and you held it against me in an attempt to break me, going as far as to tell me I'll never get a scholarship or see the field again."

He adds:
You revealed the extent to which you are a manipulator. You assured me that you could save me, that you’ve had problematic players in the past (calling out by name: Bart Scott, Brandon Jacobs, and even my teammate Michael Carter), and that you knew how to deal with people like me. You did everything you could to connect with me and at times you did so well that I essentially blacked out in hypnosis as you praised me like you never had before. You had hitched yourself to my wagon. You had driven a wedge into my character and filled it with your praise and support. You had beaten me down and brought me back up by your "grace". It was textbook manipulation and I saw through it the whole time.

Barker signs the letter, "your former player," but adds that he's willing to meet with Kill if his parents and athletic director Norwood Teague are present.

UPDATE: Teague issued a statement about Barker on Sunday night.

It reads:
"Coach Kill received an email from A.J. Barker today notifying the Coach that he has quit the team. Coach Kill tried reaching out to A.J. after receiving the email, but was unable to connect with him. We understand A.J.'s frustration with his injury, and we regret that he has chosen to leave the team on these terms. Our concern first and foremost is student athletes and we wish A.J. well."

Barker is scheduled to appear on ESPN Radio 1500 on Monday morning.

We'll have more on this as it becomes available, so stay tuned ...
Minnesota on Sunday named VCU athletic director Norwood Teague as the lone finalist for its vacant athletic director position.

Teague, who has led VCU's athletic department since 2006, will visit Minnesota's campus Monday and interview with university president Eric Kaler and the search advisory committee, and meet with coaches, faculty members and others. Given these tributes, his visit seems like a formality as he's clearly Minnesota's choice for the position.

Minnesota is looking to replace Joel Maturi, who announced in February he will retire from his post June 30.

Minnesota says Teague is one of approximately 40 candidates to apply for the position. The pool included women, people of color and non-traditional candidates.

Teague is best known for both hiring and retaining Shaka Smart, considered the nation's top young college basketball coach. Smart guided VCU to its first-ever Final Four appearance in 2011. Smart received opportunities to leave VCU after the Final Four run and after this past season, but he chose to remain.

Teague also has held positions at North Carolina, Arizona State and Virginia, including director of basketball operations for Virginia. Here's his VCU bio.

He has extensive basketball experience, but he hasn't led an athletic department with a varsity football program. Minnesota is certainly looking for a boost on the gridiron, where it hasn't captured a Big Ten title since 1967.

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