Big Ten mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Craig from Northville, Mich., writes: Adam, A quick note about minority hiring (which, please note, your premise, as a whole, is sound and well written.) Coach Rod does not consider himself Hispanic. His paternal grandfather was born in Spain and immigrated to West Virginia. It was all in John U. Bacon's article in Michigan Today back in November. In as much as this is the case, while Coach Rod may fit the definition of a minority coach, he does not self-identify as Hispanic, which I think is an important distinction. Keep up the great work.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the note, Craig. There has been some debate about Rich Rodriguez's ethnic background. The Black Coaches and Administrators doesn't consider him a minority, and like you said, he doesn't identify himself as Hispanic. But his boss definitely considers him a minority coach. How do I know? When I asked Michigan athletic director Bill Martin about the lack of minority coaches in the Big Ten last month, he specifically pointed out that Rodriguez qualifies because he's Hispanic. So if Martin considers Rodriguez as Hispanic, it's good enough for me. The general point of my post wasn't about Rodriguez as much as that the Big Ten doesn't have many minority coaches in key positions. Though the number is steadily increasing, it would be nice to see more of these men in important roles.

Adam from Pittsburgh writes: Adam, love your blog and congrats again on the wedding! Going back to the whole Notre Dame/Big 10 expansion issue; what would be UND's stance to joining the Big 10 if the BCS did indeed disband [through congressional ruling]? They might not have guaranteed clauses in bowl contracts for getting a bid anymore. What do you think? (Would this spur Army/Navy to join conferences too?)

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Adam. First off, it would be hard to envision any playoff/bowl system without some pretty solid guarantees for Notre Dame to appear in those games. Like it or not, Notre Dame has an enormous fan base that is willing to travel and spend money, and those things always go a long way in college football. The new rules for Notre Dame would need to be pretty restrictive for the school to cave and join a league. It probably would also take the termination of the NBC television contract for Notre Dame to look elsewhere. Here's a good breakdown of why it doesn't make sense for Notre Dame to join any league right now.

Ron Burgundy from San Diego writes: All the talk about Big Ten expansion has given me a dream that lives deep within my loins, like a flaming golden hawk... That one day soon, Penn State will secede from the Union of Tradition and re-join the ranks of the Independents. The Big 10 can then have ten teams, and have a championship game if they wish, or not (against the wishes of every fan I have ever talked to). They could even more easily schedule round-robins if they wanted to, with less teams in the Big 10. The fact is that PSU used to consistently play the likes of ND, USC, BC, WVU, Maryland, Miami and our rivals PITT, Syracuse year in and year out. Recruits WANT to play in these games, not against Akron, Coastal Carolina, FIU, etc. Our OOC schedule has become horrendous, and it is only since we have joined the Big 10. It seems the mantra these days is schedule 3 cupcakes, win some conference games, make a bowl game... zzzzZZZZ. You stay classy.

Adam Rittenberg: How's the hair today, Ron? Agree with you on the round-robin schedule being a stronger possibility for the Big Ten with 10 teams, but the league couldn't hold a championship game unless it added a team to have 12 total with two divisions. Those are the NCAA rules. It really seems like Penn State fans miss the more localized rivalries with Pitt, Maryland, West Virginia, etc. What I would suggest, given that it's highly unlikely Penn State will leave the Big Ten, is to get more excited about the Ohio State rivalry, the Iowa rivalry and even the Michigan State rivalry. I know they aren't as geographically convenient as some of those other games, but Penn State isn't about to leave the richest conference in the country and become an independent again, especially without a sweet TV deal like Notre Dame has. Just isn't going to happen. As for the nonconference schedule, I agree that it needs to get better, and Penn State will add Alabama and Rutgers in the coming years. You should also see the Miami series start up again. Be patient with the scheduling, though I understand your frustration. And, as always, you stay classy.

Ernest from Virginia writes: Adam, in your Friday mailbag you give OSU fans a free pass on the lack of atmosphere at last year's PSU-OSU game because there was only 19 points scored. Are you serious? Any true fan knows that in a low scoring, Big 10 game, between two top 10 teams with outstanding defenses, the crowd noise is going to be that much more important. I usually like your stuff, but you didn't think this one through.

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up a great point, Ernest, and perhaps I was a little too lenient on the Buckeyes fans. But as someone who sat through the first three quarters in the press box, there really wasn't much to yell about. It was snooze central for most of that game. Granted, I'm part of the Me Generation that craves offense and quarterbacks and vertical passes, but it was tough to really get into that game until the Terrelle Pryor fumble in the fourth quarter.

Bryce from Texas writes: So after reading the Express Times article on who would be a good fit for Big Ten expansion, there was a mention that Texas would be the longshot school for expansion due to their supposed interest in the ACC. So my hamster wheel got turning and I had a thought, why doesn't Penn State leave for the ACC? The Big Ten has never been a natural fit for the Lions and everyone seems to know that. If the ACC wants 14 teams, why not bring in PSU and (Rutgers, Pitt, WVU, Cuse, Texas, etc.)? Let the Pac10 and Big10 sit on their 10 team pillars of tradition while the JoePa-Bowden bowl could be an annual event which could continue long after both are buried under the 50 yard line. Not to mention the ability to rekindle some of the good'ol PSU rivalries like Miami, Maryland, and BC. Adam, as the expert, why wouldn't this work?

Adam Rittenberg: I agree that Penn State might not be the most natural fit for the Big Ten, but I'm really shocked how many Nittany Lions fans want to leave for the ACC or the Big East. From bowl tie-ins to media exposure to just revenue alone, the Big Ten still brings a lot to the table for Penn State football and the rest of the athletic program. Like I told Ron Burgundy, it's time for Penn State fans to embrace the Big Ten rivalries a little more. The Ohio State rivalry is gaining momentum, and so is the one with Iowa. If you're a good team year after year in the Big Ten, you can get much more out of it than being good year after year in the Big East or the ACC. There's simply more national attention on this league, even in so-called down years. And Texas won't be leaving the Big 12 any time soon, so I wouldn't seriously consider the Longhorns in any of your realignment scenarios.

Corey from Chicago writes: Adam, I really enjoy your big ten blog. It seems you are constantly updating it every day, all y
ear long. I don't know how you do it, but your wife must be very, very understanding. I just wanted to comment on the big ten player rankings you are currently working on. It seems to me you have opened yourself up for criticism because these rankings are purely subjective in certain ways. To say someone is a couple slots higher on the list than another player means nothing because we really have no idea who is the better player right now. You can argue that Greg Jones from Michigan State is just as good, if not a better linebacker as Sean Lee from Penn State. But your opinion put Sean Lee higher based on your opinions. How can you justify these things? It is really tough to do these rankings, because everyone's opinions are different based on who they see play. I know you see them more than anyone else, but it is very tough to distinguish between such outstanding athletes. Just my 2 cents. Thanks Adam!

Adam Rittenberg: Corey gets my e-mailer of the day award for actually recognizing the top 30 rankings for what they are. It's a subjective assessment of the league's best players, based on both past performance and future potential. It creates a lot of fun (and sometimes nasty) debate between fans. I fully expect the top 30 to look completely different at the end of the season than it looks now. That's just how these things go. As for distinguishing players, there are a number of factors -- statistics, NFL draft projections, physical development, leadership/intangibles -- but at times it's very hard to separate two guys.