NCF Nation: Tom Crean
"We all make the investments necessary in football," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said at the spring meetings.
Smith cited the higher salaries Big Ten programs like Ohio State and Michigan are now paying top assistant coaches, a push that accelerated at Ohio State when head coach Urban Meyer arrived. Still, the Big Ten on average pays assistants less than SEC programs. Many of the nation's highest-paid assistants are also in the ACC and Big 12.
But according to Smith, who oversees 36 varsity sports at Ohio State, money isn't holding back Big Ten football. He instead looks to the league's other major sport, men's basketball, as a road map for greater success on the gridiron.
While Big Ten football took a beating on the field and in public perception last fall, Big Ten basketball enjoyed the label of "nation's best conference" during the 2012-13 season.
"What we need in our football programs is really what we endured this past year in basketball," Smith said. "We had huge stability among our basketball coaches."
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo just completed his 18th year at the helm in East Lansing, while Wisconsin's Bo Ryan just finished his 12th campaign. Other coaches like Ohio State's Thad Matta, Purdue's Matt Painter, Michigan's John Beilein and Indiana's Tom Crean are no longer newbies at their schools.
Big Ten football, meanwhile, has only one coach -- Iowa's Kirk Ferentz -- who has been in his post longer than six seasons.
The second part of the football equation, according to Smith, is "strategic, high-level recruiting."
It's undeniable that more Big Ten basketball programs consistently recruit at a nationally elite level than Big Ten football programs. In basketball, it's not just the usual suspects -- Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State -- but others (Illinois, Purdue) that can rise up.
"Part of that is recruiting in geographies where, frankly, the people are," Smith said. "We do not enjoy the environment that we had in the '70s and the '80s in Michigan and even some parts of Ohio or Pennsylvania or Illinois. Families aren't there. We've got to go to where they are."
College football and college basketball are different sports with different challenges in recruiting, but comparisons are always made, as Smith did this week. If Big Ten football can regain greater coaching stability and spread out its recruiting reach, more success should come.
Kevin Wilson: Well, we'll start with our coordinator and structure, and I'm going to take some time to research and get the right person there, myself being much more offensive-oriented. So we'll take a little time and get the right one there and start with the structure standpoint. From there, I don't know because I've not really had the opportunity with our defense to know if there's physical limitations or concerns with certain position groups that aren't as talented, as strong, as big, as fast as we need.
So we'll start here with our defensive leadership, we'll start with our defensive structure. I've got a couple thoughts, but I'm going to wait until we get our defensive guy on staff and not square-peg or pigeonhole him and give him a chance to get it going. We're going to buy some time from the coaching and scheme standpoint, and I don't know a great deal about our actual personnel as we speak.
Is it a concern for you that the defense has been a problem for more than a decade? Indiana has had the offensive players -- Antwaan Randle El, Ben Chappell and those guys -- but the defense hasn't really caught up.
KW: I don't have a clue what their defensive stats have been. I just know for nine years, 15 spring practices, all preseason, every Tuesday and Wednesday going against coach [Bob] Stoops, with the attitude and the mind-set, I might be known as an offensive guy, but having come from the environment that I just came from, I have a great feel for what it looks like and how to structure, practice, recruit, coordinate, prepare, put a defense in great position.
Because I'm coming from one of the greatest defensive places there is with the coaching and the way that thing has been run with Bob, with Mike [Stoops], with Bo Pelini, with Brent Venables, that's been a pretty strong defensive place. Trust me, the hardest thing at Oklahoma isn't game day. The hardest thing at Oklahoma is Tuesday and Wednesday in practice.
There's a perception that Indiana is a basketball school. How do you deal with that? Was it a concern for you when you started talking about the job?
KW: It really wasn't. Coach [Tom] Crean is a great coach and we do have phenomenal tradition in basketball. He's going to be an extremely positive and avid supporter because this school is such a strong school, I don't think it should take a backseat or not be strong in any department. I don't think our school, the way president [Michael] McRobbie has it set up, he doesn't want to be average in anything.
From an athletic perspective, with our new administration with [athletic director] Fred Glass, with resources and dollars and Big Ten revenue and things we're generating and raising, I don't think we want to be just a member of a conference in any sport. We're pushing ourselves to get ourselves in position to play at an extremely high level, to play at a consistent winning level and start putting our teams in position to play for championships in all sports. It's great we're a basketball school, but what we really are at Indiana is we're a great school. We should be great at all things. We're looking forward to the challenge, and we're looking forward to the opportunity to build this thing and make it into a strong program.
I know you haven't been there too long, but from talking to the players or seeing any tape from last year, how close is Indiana to getting over that hump?
KW: I haven't really studied it. I know we're not playing horseshoes, so I don't want to be close. From what I've gathered, there is a strong nucleus of some talent coming back, sounds like a great recruiting class. I know we've done a very nice job in our scheduling and what we've got nonconference. I know the Big Ten league, I know it's going to be competitive. But I also feel we're going to put a plan in place, a process in place, to win.
We're not trying to win three, five years down the road. In fairness to our seniors, our alumni and our fans, we need to win right now. That's not trying to be arrogant or boastful or making statements that can't come true, but we're going to try and build something. It's a process, it's going to take time, but in fairness to our seniors, we're going to do everything we can to be as good as we can as fast as we can.
When you look at scores and you look at the talent, yeah, they're not far off. But being close is not winning. Being close doesn't excite me. But it does make me feel like there are the resources here where we feel like we have a chance. We tried to start [Tuesday] with a change of mind-set, a change of body language, a change of how we act and carry ourselves to see if we can get this thing going in a positive direction and build something that's going to be special here for our school and these players and for the fans and for the state of Indiana.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Coaching changes are cropping up around the country, but the Big Ten figures to be a nonfactor in what we around here like to call the silly season.
No Big Ten coach is in imminent danger of being fired. There's definitely some heat on Indiana's Bill Lynch, but with a lame-duck athletic director (Rick Greenspan), new AD Fred Glass not taking over until Jan. 2 (after hiring season) and beaucoup bucks owed to two basketball coaches (Kelvin Sampson and Tom Crean), a change isn't likely. Obviously, Purdue will have a change with Danny Hope taking over for Joe Tiller, but we've known that for months.
The big news in the Big Ten likely will involve contracts for existing coaches, some of whom have been mentioned as candidates for vacancies in other conferences. Here are some of the men who figure to get rewarded after strong seasons.
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio
Dantonio has been mentioned as a fringe candidate at places like Tennessee, but there's no panic in East Lansing that he'll jump ship like Nick Saban or George Perles did. Still, the school would be crazy not to sweeten Dantonio's deal. And athletic director Mark Hollis seems like a smart guy.
Expect a raise and a contract extension for Dantonio, whose salary ($1.1 million) ranks near the bottom of the league. This guy has Michigan State bound for its first New Year's Day bowl since 2000. The program's once-troubled culture has changed, and in-state recruiting is booming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's less than a week from the start of preseason practice and coaches are hoping for players in good health, in uniform and out of the blotter. Ohio State's Jim Tressel didn't get his wish last weekend.
Let's see what's going on around the league:
- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is looking for a game manager under center, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here's a breakdown of the Badgers' quarterback candidates.
- More on the DUI arrest of Ohio State defensive tackle Doug Worthington from The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises. As a first-time offender, Worthington won't be automatically suspended from the team but could have his playing time docked. He had been projected to start.
- Cincinnati Reds draft pick Andrew Means will be back playing wide receiver for Indiana this fall. With James Hardy gone, the Hoosiers need as many proven targets as they can find.
- Ohio State fans should thank former 49ers running back Roger Craig for helping to keep linebacker James Laurinaitis in Columbus, Steve Batterson writes in the Quad-City Times.
- The Iowa state Board of Regents is looking to an outside firm to handle the second investigation into the university's handling of the sexual assault case involving two former Hawkeyes football players, the Des Moines Register reports.
- Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror takes Joe Paterno to task for getting defensive about Penn State's off-field problems on ESPN's Outside the Lines.
- In case you missed it, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean has even more time to turn around the Hoosiers program. I'm never big on contract extensions early in a guy's career (read: Charlie Weis), much less before he has even coached a game at the school.
- After taking a look at Michigan's projected starters in photo form, the Detroit Free Press examines Michigan State's first-team. Redshirt freshman B.J. Cunningham gets the nod at one wide receiver spot.
- The Charleston Daily Mail thinks Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez should say what he needs to say about his tense departure from West Virginia.
- Missed this one from the Iowa City Press-Citizen's Pat Harty, who learned the Hawkeyes aren't too popular with the two Big Ten teams from across the Illinois border.
- Bleacher Report came out with its Big Ten predictions, which have Ohio State returning to the BCS title game and Wisconsin heading to the Rose Bowl. Michigan State will be the league's surprise team at 9-3, while Michigan doesn't even make a bowl. I doubt that last pick will hold true.