We've got a big week coming up, as the Big Ten coaches and athletics directors meet Monday-Wednesday in Chicago. I'll be on hand for all of it.
All of us had better rest up.
Drew from Lafayette, Ind., writes: I know the expansion rumors about Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers, and ND were squashed by the Big Ten. However, the more I think about it the more it seems legit. Big Ten has 11 teams, adding four would bring it to 15 teams, still off balance right? Well the wild card in the group is ND. If ND says no and sticks with tradition that would be only three teams joining but bring the total schools to 14, aka balanced. But if ND does say yes, then all the Big Ten needs to do is go after one more school (Pitt, Syracuse, Maryland, Vandy), which would be a lot easier after they have already had those four sign on the dotted line, to become the 16 conference super league I know many have said they want to be. Am I thinking about this wrong?
Adam Rittenberg: Drew, what isn't legit is the report that offers have been made from the Big Ten to these schools. Now I'm sure informal discussions have taken place with all four, but the Big Ten hasn't reached the offer stage, or, to be accurate, the stage where a school(s) would apply for admission to the league. What might be correct is that some or all of these teams could join the Big Ten. We can throw 10 different expansion scenarios out there and it's likely one will be ultimately correct. It certainly wouldn't shock anyone if Nebraska, Missouri and Rutgers applied to join the Big Ten. Notre Dame's situation is a bit different, as we all know. So could the report ultimately be true? Sure. But it's not legit right now because a lot could still change.
Stacy from Orlando writes: Adam, you don't think that the Big Ten would be dumb enough to give Notre Dame a favorable offer giving the Irish a benefit not currently enjoyed by the current Big Ten member schools, right? There's too much power/pressure from Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and the like and that would never get approved, right?
Adam Rittenberg: Stacy, I highly doubt any expansion candidate, including Notre Dame, would get a sweetened deals. The Big Ten is in a strong enough position that it doesn't have to provide extra benefits for anyone. If anything, a new member might not enjoy the same privileges as existing members, but I doubt this as well. The Big Ten has prided itself on all of its members being as equal as possible (i.e. TV revenue sharing). This puts the Big Ten in a stronger place than, say, the Big 12. I also go back to the last time the Big Ten and Notre Dame talked. The Big Ten was in a weaker position (no Big Ten Network, weaker overall TV deal), while Notre Dame was in a stronger position (full BCS share). Things have changed since then.
Phillip from Palo Alto, Calif., writes: In Tuesday's mailblog you said that Vanderbilt's football success has been extremely limited, which isn't in question. However isn't that basically describing Rutgers, outside of being close to New York? And wouldn't it be a stronger argument that Vanderbilt's entire athletic department and school are substantially stronger than Rutgers (just look at every year-end Director's Cup rankings)? What makes Rutgers so appealing other than New York, which is not a guarantee, Adam?
Adam Rittenberg: Phillip, a couple of points. Rutgers has had more recent success in football than Vanderbilt, and RU has made a strong investment in the program to elevate its profile. Vanderbilt is in a very tough situation in the SEC, but other schools in big conferences with similar profiles -- Northwestern, Stanford -- have found ways to succeed more often. You're right that Vanderbilt has a stronger overall athletic program than Rutgers, and the Directors' Cup stats back it up. As for academics, Vandy has an edge, but Rutgers is a solid academic school, too, and certainly fits into the parameters of what the Big Ten will accept. The big difference here is the New York market and the potential, not the guarantee, that it provides. Will Big Ten football make a splash in the New York market? Tough to tell, but it's possible. And if it works, the rewards are immense. Nashville doesn't provide the same potential, especially in a state with another dominant college program (University of Tennessee).
Josh from Parma, Mich., writes: Why is it that you can be so lenient with the things that Michigan State players do, such as crimes and other forms of trouble for which they have become so closely associated with and yet be so hard on players like Demar Dorsey who plan on going to Michigan? and also see Michigan State as a team on the rise and Michigan struggling again this year? I think your a little biased in some aspects of your assessments and I also think that Michigan has an excellent year going around 8-4 as Rodriguez truly begins to rebuild this program with his players. Now thats said I see Michigan State as a legit threat in the Big Ten, but not to some schools such as Ohio State and Wisconsin. I also believe that Michigan losing its last two games to Sparty aren't going to let a third happen at home.
Adam Rittenberg: Oh. My. Goodness. Go back and read the blog, Josh. First off, I posted every bit of news about Michigan State's messy offseason and shelled out criticism when it was due. Had Mark Dantonio allowed Oren Wilson back on the team, I would have ripped him. But he didn't. I actually got a ton of e-mails from Michigan State fans telling me to lay off the incident, which I didn't. Regarding Demar Dorsey, I took a wait-and-see approach and didn't criticize Michigan nearly as much as most media outlets. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote about Dorsey in February:
Lloyd Carr gave players second chances, too. He assumed the risk of them messing up again. Every college football coach does. Like it or not, it's part of this sport.
Michigan shouldn't have to stay away from every promising recruit with a checkered past because it's Michigan. Rodriguez has given second chances before, and some have blown up in his face. But he shouldn't stop doing it entirely.
If Rodriguez and his staff are satisfied that Dorsey's troubles are behind him, they have the right to bring him on board. They also have the right to be criticized if he messes up again.
As to your final few points, I agree. Michigan can go 8-4. Michigan State should be a solid team, but likely not an elite one in the Big Ten. and Michigan certainly could end the losing streak to the Spartans. Have a nice day!
Jacob from Cresco, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam if missouri/nebraska/notre dame were to join the big ten would iowa have some new rivalary games? (missou-iowa gold and black rivalary), (nebraska-iowa border rivalary) (notre-iowa, didnt they use to have a rivalary for 37 years?)
Adam Rittenberg: Absolutely, Jacob. The Nebraska-Iowa rivalry would be huge, in my opinion. The Missouri-Iowa series would be very intriguing, as the two programs haven't played since 1910 after playing 12 times in a 19-year span. I think emotions would be running pretty high on both sides. Iowa and Notre Dame have played 24 times, the last in 1968. The Hawkeyes and Fighting Irish played every year between 1945-61. Notre Dame obviously has many other rivals, so I don't know if the potential is really there with Iowa, but the games likely would be entertaining. But the bottom line is Big Ten expansion certainly should add rivals for the Hawkeyes.