Big Ten's Mount Rushmore

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I'm putting a bow on the Big Ten's Mount Rushmore series with the league-wide version. Before getting to the final four choices, here are the links to each football team's Rushmore.

In many ways, the Big Ten's Rushmore was the easiest list to compile. The league has so much history that it's really hard to go wrong. At least that's what I'm telling myself before I see your e-mails.

You can quibble all you want about guys like Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, Nile Kinnick, Fielding Yost, Archie Griffin and Dick Butkus, but all those guys are legends in this league. And trust me, there were a few very tough choices here.

I wanted to find a mix of players and coaches that truly represented the Big Ten's rich history, so I tended to look more at players and coaches from the distant past. I also wanted to have representatives from four different schools, even though Michigan and Ohio State had multiple candidates for selection. I realize that might not be the popular approach, but I think it's good to get a broad representation of the league.

You won't find any Penn State players or coaches on the list, but that's solely because the football team fully joined the league only 16 years ago.

OK, enough babbling. The envelope, please ...

Ohio State coach Woody Hayes -- A Big Ten and college football icon, Hayes won five national titles and 13 league championships in 28 years at Ohio State. His battles against archrival Michigan and Bo Schembechler in the "Ten Year War" will always remain a huge part of the sport's fabric. Hayes won more Big Ten games (152) than any other coach.

Michigan coach Bo Schembechler -- If Woody's on Mount Rushmore, Bo should be, too. I'll tell the engraver to put them at opposite ends of the mountain. Schembechler coached Michigan to 13 Big Ten titles and ranks second to Hayes in all-time conference victories (143). He won 194 games at Michigan and later served as the school's athletic director. Though Fielding Yost made a greater impact on the national stage with six championships, Schembechler has a deeper connection to the Big Ten.

Illinois halfback Red Grange -- ESPN's pick as the greatest player in college football history certainly deserves a spot in this esteemed group. Grange put the Big Ten and college football on the sporting map with a dominant career in the early 1920s. He was the first recipient of the Big Ten MVP award and earned All-America honors in each of his three seasons at Illinois.

Minnesota fullback and defensive lineman Bronko Nagurski -- Considered one of the greatest football players of all-time, Nagurski was the first player to earn consensus All-America honors at two different positions in the same year. He helped build Minnesota into a national powerhouse and has his name on the trophy given annually to college football's top defensive player. He was a charter member of both the college and pro football Halls of Fame.

Others considered for the Big Ten's Rushmore: Fielding Yost, Archie Griffin, Nile Kinnick, Duffy Daugherty, Dick Butkus, Charles Woodson, Hayden Fry, Joe Paterno, Bubba Smith and Barry Alvarez.