Your questions, my answers ...
CardFanDan from Louisville, Ky., writes: The BIG's (10+4) proposal to move to 10 league games only serves to make the conference more insular and gives the playoff committee little by which to evaluate a team other than the highly subjective strength of conference measure. Can you present ANY argument that having 10 league games in a 12 game season is good for college football?
Adam Rittenberg: Dan, sorry I couldn't spell Bennett's hometown the way you did in your email, or I'd incur his wrath. You make a really good point about a 10-game schedule providing the committee little to evaluate teams outside of league play. The Big Ten has to keep its own interests in mind, and more conference games does please fans and TV folks. But the league cannot lose sight of what it takes to win the national championship in the playoff environment. If a 10-game conference slate hinders Big Ten teams from getting into the playoff -- for any reason -- it should not be adopted, period. No one cares if your champion makes it through a gauntlet but doesn't crack the field of four. The Big Ten will be irrelevant in January, much like it is now. So the Big Ten has to balance the branding elements with the desire to win national titles. Ultimately, I think a nine-game league schedule is more appropriate. The other thing to consider: will college football eventually increase the schedule to 13 games?
Rob from Morristown, N.J., writes: Adam, as a PSU alum and season ticket holder I'm very happy to hear about the B1G moving to a 9 (more likely) or 10 game conference schedule, it hopefully means one less cupcake opponent I have to pay high ticket prices for (not to mention the 7 hour round trip drive). I just do not buy this arguement that Athletic Departments base their budget on 7 Home games, what happened only a few years ago when most programs were only playing 11 games per year? The "7th home game" has only allowed these programs to increase coaches salaries to insane levels over the past 10 years, plus I'm sure there is a very large disparity between home game income that PSU, Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska bring in as opposed to everyone else. What I'm saying is, if its really important to have that "7th home game income" couldn't the league decide on further revenue sharing so that all programs could benefit from the fact that half the conference teams could be playing one more home (conference game). Maybe each of the schools that play the extra home game (in a 9 game conference schedule) pool one of their "cross-over" game's income and all schools share this income evenly? Or maybe less likely, every program plays a cross-over neutral site game every year and splits the revenue?
Adam Rittenberg: Rob, the athletic directors are discussing ways to meet their budget demands if their home games total decreases over time (which it will with more league games). The salaries are what they are, and funding sports is more expensive now than it used to be. You have to remain competitive both within the league and also outside of it, especially against leagues that fund fewer sports (i.e. SEC) and can devote more funds to football. One element to watch is the Big Ten's upcoming TV deal in 2017. The revenue distribution from this deal could be done in a way so schools can be "made whole" financially, as Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith puts it. The financial component can be managed so that schools like Penn State and Ohio State can, from time to time, have only six home games. But it will take some creativity.
Jed from Purdue/Indiana writes: Adam, do you see Coach Hazell at Purdue being able to pull in a good class at next season with a full year to his name and being able to sell a different approach to the program? He was able to get some quality kids late with the additions of Dan Monteroso and Dalyn Dawkins but has already got Purdue's name in with some top talent out of Mansfield, Texas. What is your perception of Hazell at this point as an overall leader of the program?
Adam Rittenberg: Jed, I really liked the Hazell hire at Purdue, in large part because of his potential as a recruiter. The East Coast and the Mid-Atlantic regions will become an increasingly more important recruiting area for Big Ten teams in the future because of the new additions (Rutgers and Maryland). Hazell is a New Jersey native who has recruited that area extensively in his previous coaching stops. He coached at Rutgers before Ohio State, and also has made stops at West Virginia, Army, Western Michigan and Penn. So he knows the area really well, and it should pay off for Purdue down the road. Hazell is a dynamic personality who connects well with recruits' families. It'll be interesting to see what types of players he brings in to Purdue, but I'd expect good results on the trail.
Wilson from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Could the BIG play the crossover games early (weeks 2 - 4) especially if they don't have a major impact on divisonal standings?
Adam Rittenberg: Wilson, don't tell Brian from Atlanta that crossover games don't impact the division race (kidding, Brian). Yes, the Big Ten could schedule most of the crossover games earlier in the season and make the month of November more about division games than it is now. It'll be interesting to watch what the league does with protected crossover games, especially if they're traditional late-season rivalry games like Ohio State-Michigan and Indiana-Purdue. I think it's likely we see a time-zone split with the divisions, as Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips discussed Monday. This means it's likely one of four teams -- Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan -- would have to move to the Central time zone division. Each pair of teams has a rivalry that almost certainly would be protected (Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-MSU). If Indiana or Purdue move, I'd expect their crossover game to take place on the final regular-season Saturday. If Michigan State or Michigan move, their annual game could take place earlier, as it has traditionally. But for the most part, I'd like to see the schedule front-loaded with crossover games.
DW from Wooster, Ohio, writes: With 5 of the 17 PSU commits enrolling early and counting towards the 2012 class, that drops them down to 12 for the 2013 class. Are they still allowed to fill those last 3 spots of the 15 with late signees?
Adam Rittenberg: DW, I consulted ESPN Recruiting's Jared Shanker for help with this question, and he mentioned that Penn State can in theory count back scholarships as long as it has them available. But the issue is that Penn State eventually has to get to 65 total scholarships. The 65 total number is more important than the 15 per year because that's the ultimate destination for Penn State under the sanctions. Bill O'Brien and his staff have to recruit more than anything else with the 65 total in mind.
Joel from Omaha writes: If Nebraska continues to win 9 and 10 games a season, and limit the blowouts, will they return to the glory days, or is having osu and mich too much like having Oklahoma and Texas in your conference? I think Bo can develop talent (eg see Suh, Ndamukong), but can he match their recruiting prowess?
Adam Rittenberg: That's the big question surrounding Bo Pelini and the Nebraska program right now, Joel. Can Bo Pelini get Big Red over the hump? He'll have to do so in a league where Ohio State and Michigan both are on the rise, and it's fair to ask whether Nebraska missed its window to win a league title, especially last year, when it entered the league title game as a clear-cut favorite. You bring up the blowouts and I think that's important. Nebraska has endured too many of them for a team with so much talent. Mental toughness comes into question when a team gets torched in big games as often as Nebraska has. Can Nebraska compete with Ohio State and Michigan in the coming years? No doubt. But the Huskers have to show they can rise to the occasion on the biggest stages.
Michael from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Just a suggestion for the "Links" that you guys use for the Big Ten Blog ... Several of them end up going to pages that are subscriber only. Very disappointing when you have something that I would like to check out on a team, person, or topic and it is not available for viewing. I hope that bringing this to your attention will result in a comment or note informing readers that this is the case. Other than this problem, LOVE the Blog!!!
Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Michael. We'll try to do a better job of notifying you when a link goes to a subscription-only page, although many more newspapers are using pay walls now than a year ago. If we only linked sites that didn't require some type of subscription -- even after a certain number of free articles viewed -- the links would be pretty light on many days. Just the way it is.