We had the Leap Day version of the Big Ten chat earlier today, and it was a mostly constructive one. Here's a full transcript.
Not surprisingly, there were several questions about my story on the Big Ten's limited history of African-American football coaches.
While I expected a lot of criticism for this piece, I think most folks are missing the point and not reading the entire story. I don't think the Big Ten is racist. I think the athletic directors look for the best candidates and, for the most part, consider African-American coaches, who have, no matter what you think you know, faced an uphill climb to get these high-profile, highly visible jobs. I think the league's participation in the minority coaches forum is terrific.
It's noteworthy, however, that as the numbers of African-American football coaches increase nationally -- because they're qualified, not because they fill a quota -- we haven't seen any in the Big Ten. That doesn't mean we won't soon, as the story points out. But one African-American coach has been hired in the Big Ten in the past 20 years. That's unusual, given the recent surge.
To say Big Ten teams are always hiring the best coaches is absurd. While some teams have landed their first choices, others have not. And there have been several bad hires in this league. Minnesota AD Joel Maturi practically admitted to me he should have hired Charlie Strong rather than Tim Brewster -- not because Strong is African-American, but because he has turned out to be a better coach. And for those of you who think African-American coaches don't face resistance because of their skin color, look at Strong. He should have had an FBS job at least two years earlier than he did.
It's also absurd to ignore the pool of qualified African-American coaching candidates has grown substantially in recent years. Why else would we see the hiring numbers increase nationally?
Many of you are appalled or disgusted with my story. That's fine. But it's an issue worth raising because of the national trend, and it's one I'll continue to monitor going forward.
Some highlights from the chat:
Dan from Springfield, Ohio: Adam, Who do you see making the biggest splash as a freshman in the B1G this coming year? Also who do you think will be named preseason Offensive and Defensive POY?
Adam Rittenberg: Dan, I think Noah Spence has a chance to help Ohio State immediately. Spence and Adolphus Washington should get playing time right away as freshmen. Montee Ball is a lock for preseason Offensive Player of the Year. The preseason Defensive POY will be more interesting because of all the player departures around the conference. Ohio State's John Simon would be a candidate. So would Penn State's Gerald Hodges. And I think Michigan State's Will Gholston deserves consideration.
Frank from Galveston: After saying he wasn't leaving, Nebraska secondary coach Corey Raymond goes to LSU which leaves Bo Pelini with a huge hole to fill. How will coach Raymond's departure affect Nebraska?
Adam Rittenberg: Frank, the timing is unfortunate, and there could be an impact in recruiting, but the long-term effects should be minimal. Bo Pelini knows how to coach defensive backs, and he'll find a good replacement for Raymond. Pelini's track record of producing NFL-quality DBs should be enough of a selling point for Nebraska to overcome Raymond's departure rather easily.
Randy from Michigan: Adam, do you think that Junior Hemmingway can make an impact in the NFL? I personally thought that he carried the team on his shoulders when they needed him the most (look at the Sugar Bowl). He has the ability to make catches in traffic, even when he is well defended. Does this counteract the 0.2 or whatever, that he is behind some other good receivers in the 40 yard dash?
Adam Rittenberg: Randy, I absolutely think Hemingway can be a good pro receiver. Look at how he produced when healthy at Michigan. Look at how he finished his career at the Sugar Bowl. And look at how he performed at the combine. The guy has momentum right now, and he's showing just how effective he can be. While he likely won't be picked that high, I think a team can get a great value in Hemingway.
Matt from DC: To follow up: Obviously you are dead right about the SEC being the biggest obstacle because of their proximity to the bowl sites but I just don?t see how any school?s fan base, unless a blue blood like UT, OU, UM, OSU, USC, PSU, could travel to neutral sites two times in a couple of weeks. What conference would agree to let their team in a four team playoff play at neutral sites where the breakdown is 70-30 against them in the first semi?
Adam Rittenberg: Good points here, Matt. The hard part is that the regional sites would have to be assigned well in advance because of planning purposes. It would be impossible to decide to play a neutral site game in Indianapolis or Atlanta or Detroit two weeks before the game. The commissioners could assign these sites in advance and then have the higher-seeded teams play closer to home, but like you say, it would still be tough for fans.
Thanks again for the questions. I'll be on vacation in early March, so our next chat takes place March 21.