NCF Nation: Red Grange
2. Bob Stoops complained to the Daily Oklahoman on Monday that the Sooners play more night games (18 in 2010-11) than any team in the Big 12. The Sooners’ opener at UTEP will kick off at 9:30 p.m. CT. As someone who applauds marquee schools that take road trips to play lesser lights, I’m not going to say that’s what Oklahoma gets for going to El Paso. The Sooners could always start losing -- Kansas played only 10 night games in 2010-11. But that solution may not be palatable, either.
3. Former Michigan All-American and 1947 Heisman runner-up Bob Chappuis died Thursday at age 89. Chappuis achieved something more rare than winning the Heisman. He made the cover of Time, one of only 17 college football-related covers in the magazine’s 89 years. Red Grange graced the first, in 1925, and Alabama coach Bear Bryant the most recent, back in 1980. In fact, Bryant has been the only college football cover subject in the past 46 years. Odd, don’t you think?
Judging by most reaction to the league's announcement of division names, a new logo and 18 new football trophies, Delany might benefit from skipping town for a while.
I kid, I kid.
Here's the first half of my conversation with the commish (just as a heads up, any reference Delany makes to a "mark" means a logo):
You settled on Legends and Leaders for the division names. What other possibilities did you strongly consider?
Jim Delany: We had one from Teddy [Greenstein], Stars and Stripes. We had Traditions and Legends. We had all of the Prairies, Lakes, and cities and countries. We had lots of names of people. Not much geography. People think [the choices are] generic. Well, everybody in the Midwest, in the country, had an opportunity to submit [suggestions].
Were there any people under consideration for division names, past commissioners and such?
JD: No. We thought about it a little bit, but not a lot. We pretty much dismissed the notion of naming it after people simply because the big ones were the coaches. There was a little commissioner talk, but not much. We just felt there was a much better way to get at that through the trophy process.
What about more generic geographical names: Plains, Great Lakes, Prairies, and so on?
JD: Well, we thought that those were not compelling. Like Coastal and Atlantic [in the ACC], you've got people in the mountains that are coastal. We've got schools and how do you tie them in? We've got people who are near cities and near prairies. When you really started doing it and testing it, you're going to run into anomalies of schools not necessarily being in prairies or on lakes. We really examined the lakes concept and we really examined the prairies concept, what I would call the geological concepts.
Do you think the response would be different if you had been more specific with the name choices?
JD: First of all, I take a little bit with the grain of salt any reaction that comes up in the first 10-20 seconds. The reality is any mark [logo] or any divisional name is a vessel, and it will be filled over time with experiences and memories. I don't care whether it's the mark or a name, it'll take on status, structure and meaning over time. It's not going to happen in the first hour.
Between the logo and the names, which process took longer?
JD: They're different kinds of processes. The mark is more a function of people reacting to professional [logos], being creative and then trying to tie it in to a little bit of history and a little bit of other marks and a little bit of usage. So it's a very different process than selecting the names, which I think is more tied to deciding which categories you're not going to go to and deciding which categories you will go to. If somebody thinks Mountains and Plains or Plains and Lakes are better, that's a value judgment. We think that we have a pretty good idea of who we are.
We think that there is connection to the Red Granges and the Gerald Fords and the Joe Paternos. We think that there's direct tie-ins, and it allows us to speak about our past. We think the leadership issue is a powerful issue, whether it's Tony Dungy or whether it's Pat Fitzgerald or whether it's [former Big Ten commissioner] Wayne Duke, whoever it is. We think that those things resonate and carry meaning that's tied to who we are, who we want to be. In the case of leadership, that's an awful lot about it, if you've ever been in a locker room or if you've ever been on a team. That's probably the No. 1 experience that people take away.
I resist the temptation to judge the judges because we're the creators. But I would say we've seen significant connection to who we are. Not to say others don't have it, but in terms of the 115 years and in terms of the kinds of people that have been turned out, whether it's the guy who runs Google or whether it's the person who ran the country or somebody like a Tony Dungy, we think that those leadership qualities are powerful.
We're not running away from them. We're trying to run toward them.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Jeff Gross/Getty Images|
|Brit Miller is looking forward to playing in front of former Illini greats on Saturday.|
The 2008 Rose Bowl was still several days away, and former Illinois great Dick Butkus tried to stay calm as he talked football with a group of Fighting Illini players.
"He didn't want to get his jazz up too much in front of us," Illinois linebacker Brit Miller recalled. "It was like a Wednesday or something, so it was still a little early to get really excited."
But it didn't take long for Butkus to have a Butkus moment.
"He kind of raised his head up and stared at the guys on the team and said, 'That's when you take 'em and you break 'em,'" Miller said.
"That was giving me chills right there. When a guy like Dick Butkus says that, you know you're part of a tradition when he's talking to you and he wants the best for you."
Butkus wants to see Miller and the other Illini linebackers at their best Saturday when he watches Illinois take on Eastern Illinois at the renovated Memorial Stadium.
To celebrate the completion of a $121 million face-lift to the 85-year-old stadium, Illinois will have dozens of past players on hand as the team honors the 10 greatest players in Memorial Stadium history at each position. The team will wear throwback jerseys from the Butkus era (1962-64) in another attempt to blend past and present.
As of Thursday afternoon, Illinois expected 42 former players to attend Saturday's celebration. The list includes Butkus and his nephew, Mark, linebackers Kevin Hardy and Dana Howard, quarterbacks Jack Trudeau and Jeff George, running backs Jim Grabowski and Howard Griffith, defensive lineman Ed O'Bradovich and tight end Ken Dilger.
Who knows, maybe Red Grange will show up. He's called the Galloping Ghost for a reason.
"We seem to believe he's always around," Miller said.
The reunion holds special meaning for Miller, who grew up watching Hardy, Howard and Simeon Rice and heard about Butkus from his father. Miller has sensed similar excitement from sophomore linebacker Martez Wilson, who he describes as "a laid-back fellow" but someone who could one day hold similar legend status at Illinois.
Even players like defensive end Will Davis, who don't hail from the state, look forward to performing in front of Butkus.
"Since I've been here as a freshman, he's the main person you hear about," Davis said. "That's a name that rings far."
Illini defenders have added motivation this week after a sloppy performance in a 52-42 loss against Missouri. Miller said he missed at least four tackles in the game, three of which turned into big plays.
"We've got to represent," he said. "We let too many yards go this past weekend. These guys that are coming back, they used to run shop. They don't want to come back and see people get ran over. Those are guys I really look up to because that was Illinois football at its peak right there. We're still trying to get back to that."
|AP Photo/Tony Ding|
|Michigan's Rich Rodriguez is one of the new faces in the Big Ten.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
As the Big Ten season kicks off Saturday afternoon -- or morning, depending on the time zone -- here are 25 things I can't wait to see this fall.
1. Terrelle Pryor lead an offensive drive -- He might be a Tim Tebow-like weapon near the goal line, but I'm more interested in how the Ohio State freshman quarterback handles a real offensive series. Pryor's athleticism is undeniable, but it will be important to monitor his passing accuracy and the way he leads older teammates.
2. Michigan's quarterbacks -- Rich Rodriguez has ushered in a new era in Ann Arbor and will turn to unproven players like Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan and possibly Justin Feagin to lead his spread offense. There will undoubtedly be growing pains, but if one of those three takes control, the Wolverines will surge.
3. Jump Around at night -- Camp Randall Stadium is intimidating enough during daylight hours, but the electricity will reach new levels this fall with back-to-back night games against Ohio State and Penn State. The Badgers haven't lost at home under coach Bret Bielema, and they should have a tremendous home-field edge this fall.
4. The Spread HD -- Penn State's new offense remains somewhat of a mystery, but the Lions will try to utilize their many weapons at wide receiver, running back and quarterback. "Hopefully HD will stand for high def, highly diverse," quarterback Daryll Clark said, "and hopefully it doesn't turn out to be huge dud."
5. Jim Tressel vs. Pete Carroll -- Two of the sport's elite coaches couldn't be more different in personality or style (can't exactly picture Carroll in a sweater vest), but they will match wits when Ohio State visits USC in Week 3.
6. Little brother in the Big House -- The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is growing, thanks to Mark Dantonio, but the Spartans need to win one of these games sooner or later. After six straight losses, Sparty heads to Ann Arbor on Oct. 25 determined to show they're nobody's little brother.
7. New quarterbacks -- Three teams will start new quarterbacks this fall, and Iowa's situation under center is far from settled. Wisconsin needs Allan Evridge to effectively manage games, while a greater load will be placed on Penn State's Clark and Michigan's new signal callers.
8. Beanie vs. P.J. -- Forget about the spread offense when Wisconsin and Ohio State meet Oct. 4 in Madison. The Big Ten's rushing roots will be on display as Heisman contender Beanie Wells goes up against P.J. Hill and the Badgers.
9. Juice in the pocket -- Juice Williams came on strong at the end of last season, and the Illinois quarterback continued to make strides in the spring and summer. He takes over an offense without Rashard Mendenhall and looks to pass more this fall.
10. Ferentz under fire -- Iowa's Kirk Ferentz still might be one of the league's top coaches, but he has to prove it this fall. With his reputation suffering on and off the field, Ferentz needs a strong season from a squad that has major questions on offense.
11. Tiller's farewell tour -- Joe Tiller revolutionized offense in the country's premier cold-weather conference, and the Purdue coach should be celebrated as he goes through his final season. The regular-season finale against Indiana will surely be emotional for Tiller and the Boilers fans.
12. Rejus Benn in the backfield -- The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year is fully healthy following shoulder surgery, and that means more touches this fall. Defensive coordinators will shudder at the thought of Juice Williams and Benn running the option in the same backfield.
13. Grande Dos -- That's the self-appointed nickname of Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson, who was named to the Butkus Award watch list despite no career starts in college. Wilson will get every opportunity this fall to show why he could be the next Simeon Rice.
14. RichRod vs. Charlie Weis -- Both have been lauded as offensive innovators, though Weis' honeymoon ended when Notre Dame went 3-9 last year. Michigan is dealing with some eerily similar personnel losses, and Rodriguez's coaching ability will be tested when the Wolverines visit South Bend on Sept. 13.
15. Brian Hoyer in crunch time -- The Michigan State quarterback has taken heat for his fourth-quarter shortcomings, but he'll have plenty of chances to redeem himself this fall. Hoyer's poise under pressure will largely determine whether the Spartans back up their preseason hype.
16. Stephfon Green in the open field -- The Penn State running back enters the fall with tons of hype despite never playing a collegiate game. If the reports prove true, Green will torch defenses if he gets any room to run.
17. The renovated Memorial Stadium -- Illinois is bringing in so many great players for its reopening of Memorial Stadium on Sept. 6 that I expect Red Grange to miraculously turn up. The 1923 relic has been spruced up big time, and it should give coach Ron Zook another recruiting tool.
18. Lewis and the no-huddle -- Indiana coaches had Kellen Lewis in mind when they installed the no-huddle offense in the offseason. Lewis got a late start with the system after being suspended for spring ball, but the junior quarterback should catch up fast.
19. Painter's pursuit -- Purdue senior quarterback Curtis Painter is on pace to set a bevy of Big Ten career passing records this fall. The underrated Painter has a new group of receivers to
work with but consistently puts up big numbers.
20. Gilreath on the move -- Wisconsin sophomore David Gilreath is quickly developing into the league's most dangerous return man. He might not merit the Devin Hester treatment quite yet, but expect Gilreath to break some electrifying runs this fall.
21. Mike Hankwitz's impact -- Northwestern hasn't fielded a decent defense since adopting the spread offense in 2000. Hankwitz, the league's most experienced coordinator, steps in this fall and tries to change the script in Evanston.
22. Michigan Stadium makeover -- The team on the field isn't the only thing getting overhauled in Ann Arbor this season. Fans will enter a construction site every Saturday at Michigan Stadium, setting up an unusual game day experience.
23. Ringer returning kickoffs -- Michigan State star running back Javon Ringer will showcase his speed on kickoff returns this fall. How long the arrangement lasts isn't known -- I'm not sure how wise it is to put your best player on such a dangerous play -- but Ringer is sure to produce a highlight or two.
24. Minnesota's JUCOs -- Gophers coach Tim Brewster needed some immediate help on defense and got it with junior-college transfers like Tramaine Brock, Traye Simmons, Cedric McKinley and Rex Sharpe. How quickly those players blend in will determine whether Minnesota makes a jump this fall.
25. Finch on the field -- Indiana's Jerimy Finch has been cleared to play this fall, and the Florida transfer gives a big boost to the secondary. Considered arguably the nation's top safety coming out of high school, Finch will make his presence known right away.