Thanks for bearing with me as I catch up on things following my vacation. The Jim Tressel mess wasn't the only bit of Big Ten news to break during my absence.
Here are my thoughts on several other items:
IOWA-NEBRASKA TO PLAY ON FRIDAY
Love it, love it, love it. The Big Ten has largely missed the boat on weekday games, preferring to maintain its traditional presence on Saturdays. But there's real value in schedule flexibility for the league, its teams and its fans. Putting the Iowa-Nebraska game on Black Friday is a great way to kick off rivalry weekend. Although there are other big games that day, Iowa-Nebraska has the potential to move the needle both regionally and nationally. It also isolates one of the Big Ten's rivalries rather than cramming all the games into two time slots on the final regular-season Saturday (noon ET and 3:30 p.m. ET, as the Big Ten doesn't play night games after Nov. 1).
Although Iowa and Nebraska haven't played since 2000, the potential for the rivalry is immense. The Friday kickoff only will add to the hype surrounding the game.
Here's hoping the Big Ten will consider more weekday games in the future.
TWO SPARTANS PLAYERS ARRESTED
Some tough news for Michigan State as two projected starters -- tight end Brian Linthicum and linebacker Max Bullough -- were arrested last week in Aspen, Colo., after an incident in a bar. Both were charged with eluding police, while Linthicum also faces a third-degree assault charge.
Michigan State initially declined to comment, and coach Mark Dantonio released a brief statement earlier this week saying that the players have been disciplined internally. We'll soon find out whether the discipline impacts spring ball, which kicks off Tuesday.
Both players loom large in the plan for 2011, especially Bullough, as Michigan State must replace standout linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon. The Spartans have avoided legal issues since the Rather Hall situation, but this case is troubling, especially the part about eluding police. The players are scheduled to appear in an Aspen court April 19 -- location could be moved -- so we'll have to see how this plays out.
BIG TEN OPEN TO SAME CHAMPIONSHIP LOCATION
The Big Ten will determine the future sites for football championship games sometime this summer, but some cities are bidding for the right to host championships in the three major sports: football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Indianapolis wants to keep all three events in Naptown, but other cities like Chicago also present attractive options for the league.
"I think we'd be open to it," Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia said, referring to playing all three in the same locale. "It would be interesting to see if a city or cities would be interested in the three marquee events. It would be interesting to see what we'd do with that, but we want to be creative."
If the Big Ten wants to keep one location, Indianapolis and Chicago would seem to be the leading candidates. The basketball tournament in Indianapolis hasn't been as successful as initially projected, although attendance is on the rise, and the United Center in Chicago has hosted the event before. On the flip side, Indianapolis boasts a terrific indoor football facility, while a championship in Chicago would be played outside at Soldier Field.
Other cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Minneapolis also have basketball venues that could accommodate the league tournament.
I'd prefer to see a rotation in football championship sites during the first few years of the event, but don't be surprised if the league goes with a single site for all three events.
Indiana is in no hurry to name a starting quarterback, and that's the right approach. The Hoosiers' signal-callers are still adjusting to a new system and a new staff, and they need some time to be thoroughly evaluated. Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith knows what he's doing, and he'll be patient in evaluating all of his options, particularly Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker.
Smith gave an interesting quote to The (Bloomington) Herald-Times about Indiana's QBs:
“I was fortunate enough to have guys like Denard Robinson and Pat White. They don’t have to be Denard Robinson and Pat White to play this game. I told Ed, I told Dusty, ‘You’re not going to be Pat. You’re not going to be Denard. Be Ed. Be Dusty. Be Adam. Be who you are. Find your own scheme. Be strong on your own scheme. Know what you do well. Know what you don’t do well, and let’s make sure we stay away from what you don’t do well, or get it fixed.’ I think that’s the great thing about coach Wilson’s system is we can mold or be a lot more flexible to the quarterback than we did with Pat and Denard.”
Colleague Ivan Maisel had an interesting blog post talking with Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno about the upcoming competition in State College. JayPa took the blame for Rob Bolden not playing much down the stretch and shed some light on the postseason conversation between an understandably unhappy Bolden and the Penn State coaches.
Bolden simply wants a fair shot at the starting job and should get one this spring. The interesting thing will be how he handles adversity in the competition, especially because the Paternos want to see greater leadership from the quarterback position.