Big Ten mailblog

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Ankur from Baltimore writes: With all the buzz about the practice of oversigning, what is being missed is the impact on other conferences. Conventional wisdom suggests that the stronger recruiting classes get stronger by the allure of playing for a national championship. The best players want to play together to win together. Doesn't oversigning have an additive effect here? By being able to sign an extra 10 players a season, that is denying 10 players to other teams. If the SEC and Big 12 could not oversign, some of the top recruits would be headed elsewhere (say the Big 10??). So isnt recruiting then largely a zero-sum game in which the victors of the oversigning battle deal a double blow to the conferences which do not engage in such practices?

Adam Rittenberg: In some cases, you might be right, Ankur. But you have to look at things on an individual basis. Would the recruit victimized by oversigning be able to qualify academically for a Big Ten school? Would the recruit even be interested in a Big Ten program? In some cases, I'm sure the answers are yes. In the big picture, it would be a lot easier if every league operated under the same signing rules.

Brett from West Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam, got a couple questions I'm really, really hoping you could address as I've always valued your professional insight, honesty, and viewpoints. Do you believe Ferentz' and/or Iowa's reputation will be changed in anyway when the dust settles? Is Ferentz really deserving of the negative publicity when his track record at IA is so reputable? I've just heard many people of high importance talk so well of him and respect him so greatly and would hope that should bear more weight than mudslinging...

Adam Rittenberg: When a program is in the news for several things unrelated to winning football games, people tend to group things together. I don't think Iowa's recent off-field problems involving players should be grouped with the workout/hospitalization situation, because the two are totally different. But everything that happens in a program ultimately falls on the head coach, and that's why I think you're seeing the criticism for Ferentz. Iowa had a bad off-field stretch in 2006-08, a disappointing season in 2010, and now these incidents. People look for a common thread even when sometimes they should not. What shouldn't be questioned is how Ferentz feels about his players. Should he have returned to Iowa City sooner? I think so, but it doesn't mean he doesn't care about the players and their well-being. While I don't think Ferentz's reputation is permanently scarred, it's important for Iowa to stay out of the news and get back to winning like it did in 2009.

Joe from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hi Adam, I'm a big fan of your blog, and I was wondering if you could give us your opinion on Brady Hoke's statement that recruiting has to begin and end in the Midwest and the state of Michigan has to be our first priority. I agree that recruiting in the midwest is important, but to say that the state of Michigan is important is not exactly true. In the past almost all of Michigan's stars have been from Ohio, and while we do snag the best from Michigan, there aren't too many elite high school players from the state. Maybe I'm taking Brady's statement too seriously, what's your take?

Adam Rittenberg: I think Hoke's general message is similar to what you hear from coaches around the country: recruiting must start locally and then branch out. Colleague Tom Luginbill recently talked about the need for Hoke to mend some relationships between Michigan and local high school coaches, and this is a step toward doing so. But he won't neglect fertile recruiting states like Ohio. The big question is how much recruiting energy Hoke and his staff will focus in the regions that seem to be producing the most talent (southeast, south, west). You can't ignore all the talent in states like Florida.

Mike from Council Bluffs, Iowa, writes: Adam -- In general, I have respected your insights and comments on the Big 10 Conference and its players and coaches. You appear to be one who does his homework and as such, your opinions carry a good deal of weight with your readers. However, I was deeply disappointed in your lack of comments on the pure hatchet job that your collegue, Pat Forde, did on Kirk Ferentz in recent days. To state -- not suggest -- that Ferentz does not care about his players, and to suggest a general lack of character on his part, is simply outrageous. He is entitled to his opinion, but you of all people know better. Ferentz and others involved may well be up for some well deserved criticism in this ugly incident. But to suggest that this shows a lack of character and that parents shouldn't send there kids to Iowa is just silly.I would have hoped that someone like you, who knows Ferentz and the Iowa program very well, would have stepped up and said something. Shame on you.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, our policy is to explicitly avoid media criticism. That applies to what my ESPN colleagues write or what is written elsewhere. My job is to evaluate the Big Ten, produce my own opinions and share content that I feel is relevant for you folks to read. If you have a comment about something I've written, I'd be happy to address it here.

Eli from New York writes: Playing Alabama and Air Force back to back is going to be tough given how the teams performed this past year (we won't know how good they'll be come 2012 [ask 2010 Texas for proof]). However, I'm not going to classify Notre Dame as anything more than a mediocre at best football team until they prove they can win more than six games in the regular season. That's all.P.S.: Don't forget Penn State plays Alabama and @Temple in 2011.

Adam Rittenberg: I think that's a fair take on Notre Dame. Until the Irish consistently beat top-level teams, the return to glory is on hold. But you can't deny that Notre Dame generated some nice momentum at the end of the season and seems to be recruiting very well under Brian Kelly. If the Irish can ever regain their defensive swagger, they'll be a tough team to beat. It will be interesting to see what type of Temple team Penn State encounters this fall after the Owls lost coach Al Golden.

Chris from Las Vegas writes: Adam, I want you to defend this closing statement from from Joe Shad's article on the expected return of 13 Hawkeye players:"Several of the players' families have been contacted by attorneys interested in filing negligence suits, the source said."Name the sources and make me believe this was something necessary to write. The only thing you and your fellow sensationalists are attempting to do is insinuate that there was misguided and deliberate abuse committed against these young athlete's. You have no proof and your bias is revealed. Please stop manipulating what little facts you have to bring down my beloved Black and Gold. I wish you had to compete for your position at ESPN. You've clearly lost your imagination and drive to uncover the facts and have replaced them with conjecture and wild speculation. Today, this blog has lost a follower.

Adam Rittenberg: Sorry to hear that, Chris. The sources you've heard from are family members of Iowa players who had been hospitalized last week. Several parents of players spoke to media members, but most didn't want to have their names publicized for fear of retribution from the program. I've written that it's fair to let the school's investigation run its course and, to quote Iowa officials, find the "root cause" of why this happened. Ultimately, the only people who really know if someone crossed the lines are the players and the strength trainers who attended these workouts. As for the line about possible legal action, what did you expect? You have 13 separate cases of players going to the hospital in a case that has generated a lot of attention because it involves a major program. It's a little naïve to think lawyers wouldn't try and get in touch with some of the families. I guarantee you Iowa wouldn't be blindsided if legal action was taken. The school has to be prepared in a situation like this one.