Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg will stop by to talk college football.
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago.
Send your questions now and join Rittenberg Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (4:00 PM)
Getting chatty on a Tuesday -- I l ike it. If at least 80 percent of your questions aren't about expansion, I'll be extremely disappointed. Fire away.
I couldn't get this one in last week so thought I'd start with it. 2 weeks ago you said if Appleton is done, it won't hurt Wisconsin. Although that might be true this year, what about next year when Anderson, Gilreath, Jefferson, and Kendricks graduate and Toon possibly turns pro? I think we might feel the effect of losing him when we lose at least 4 of our top pass catchers, if not all 5.
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
That's a good point, Justin, but keep in mind that no final decision has been made on Appleton or the other two players. No charges have been filed to my knowledge, so let's see how this plays out. But you're right. Appleton was Wisconsin's top recruit in 2009, and his loss could be felt next fall. Keep in mind, though, that other guys are going to have a chance to step up and contribute more beginning in spring ball.
Booko (Chi town)
It sounds foolish to give up a national networking deal and join a conference of "power football" teams, but, in your opinion, are we going to see the Fighting Irish play in the Big Ten in the coming years?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
What's foolish about doubling your annual TV revenue? This is the thing no one understands. Notre Dame would make substantially more money from TV by giving up its contract and joining the Big Ten's TV deal.
Chris (State College)
With a Clark leaving along with our whole starting linebacking core, do you think my Nittany Lions have a chance against any of our big opponents next year (i.e. Alabama, OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin...)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
Chris, I like their chances better later in the year. That Alabama game is going to be awfully tough, especially since it marks just the second career start for the new QB. Penn State doesn't play Wisconsin, so no need to worry there, and by the time the Nittany Lions head to Columbus, they'll be a pretty good team.
Rob (Ann Arbor)
Do you expect the linebacker play will improve with the return of Mouton and Fitzgerald, and the new guy Isiah Bell?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
It's got to get better, Rob, and in a hurry. As you point out, Michigan has enough experience at linebacker and didn't suffer a major loss like the defensive line (Brandon Graham) or the secondary (Donovan Warren). That group has to get better this fall, and it's interesting that Greg Robinson will take a more active role with them this spring.
Adam, Do you think all the talk about expansion with Rutgers Pitt, Mizzou, etc was just a a ploy to "force ND's hand?" Or, given that Swarbrick sees "seismic" shifts happening, that the B10 will go to not 12, not 14, but 16 teams to include the whole NE which would be the main factor for ND's decision to join?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
I'm not nearly as convinced as you folks that the Big Ten wants to expand beyond 12. Listen to what Jim Delany says about conference makeups and possibly losing the intimacy a league provides by getting greedy. Now I do believe that the Big Ten's entire plan from the get-go was to get Notre Dame's attention and possibly lead to another dialogue. Jim Delany isn't stupid. He knows Notre Dame makes the most sense. He also knows the Big Ten is a more attractive league for the Irish now than it was the last time the parties had discussions.
nagle-tastic (nyc 212 via FL)
Any chance that Newsome can really be beat out by a frosh qb?Is he really that slow to pick up the playbook?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
I haven't heard anything about him being slow to pick up the playbook. Penn State likely wanted to get Newsome more work in 2009, and both freshman QBs (Jones and Bolden) are pretty darn good. Newsome enters spring with an edge after playing last year. He might be pushed, but only because those other QBs are good.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Do you read Swarbrick's comments that "seismic" changes in realignment might force Notre Dame to join a conference as a hint that Notre Dame will join the Big Ten as part of an expansion to 14 or 16, but not as the lone 12th addition?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
I know some folks are interpreting it that way, but I don't think that's what he meant. Besides, why would Notre Dame want to join as team No. 15 or 16, when it would have to share the revenue three more ways. I really think if the Big Ten could add Notre Dame, there would be no need to add more and no desire from school presidents to share the revenue pie with anyone else.
Chris (Chicago, IL)
Any word on what Jim Phillips and Northwestern are doing to increase attendance? Fitz and the Cats deserve to be playing in front of full houses, given their performance lately...
Adam Rittenberg (4:12 PM)
Phillips has a lot on his plate right now, and one of the items is figuring out where to go with the athletic department's marketing efforts. There are a few possibilities out there, but this is a huge decision for Phillips as the attendance struggles are the only thing holding this program back. Northwestern has to find new ways to appeal to corporate groups and the Chicago market.
But, if the Big10 adds ND, we're essentially 'playing with house money'. Why not pick up Rutgers and Syracuse to full encompass the NY/NJ market? The point of expansion is to make money, why don't lock up the east coast and go for the jugular if the option's there?
Adam Rittenberg (4:14 PM)
Uh, Chris, you honestly think Notre Dame wouldn't get you a huge chunk of the New York market? People in New York don't care much for college sports, but there's a HUGE Notre Dame following there. The two teams New Yorkers care about the most are Notre Dame and Penn State, and the Big Ten would have both of them. Rutgers and Syracuse don't come close to the appeal Notre Dame would bring. Not close at all.
Adam, in your spring superlatives you correctly pointed to the offensive line as the biggest concern for the Gophers going into the fall of 2010. However, when talking about the potential starters you failed to mention 2 RS freshmen who are widely reported to have dominated practice all last year. Brooks Michel And Ed Olson have built up their frames and stamina and are widely expected to start this year. Along with a slimmed down Jeff Wills these three could be the linchpin of an improved Gopher group.So, Rittenberg--homework check--are you familiar with these guys? What's your take on each guy's potential to contribute?
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
Bjorne, I am familiar with them, but I hear a lot of good things about players in practice. You could go through every Big Ten roster and find great practice players. Bottom line: Minnesota's offensive line hasn't consistently gotten it done in games, when it matters. Could those two players help turn things around this year? Certainly. But I'm not going to give Minnesota a pass after what I've seen on the field the last two years, which has been pretty soft O-line play in a system built on the power run.
I'm excited that Notre Dame is considering the Big Ten--but not because I want Notre Dame to join the Big Ten. Is there any chance the Big Ten would be clever enough to use Notre Dame's newfound interest to make a strong play for Texas? I believe the addition of Texas would bring a recruiting bounty that would catapult the Big Ten past every other conference recruiting wise (in both perception and reality).
Adam Rittenberg (4:17 PM)
I understand there's a greater desire for Texas than Notre Dame, but Texas has made it pretty clear that leaving the Big 12 is highly unlikely. Texas has a really good deal going for it in the Big 12, certainly better than those Big 12 North teams. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is out on its own, and in danger of getting left out of a changing college sports landscape. I agree Texas would be huge for recruiting, but the chances of UT joining the Big Ten have never been great.
I agree that they're not as big of a draw, but why leave potential money on the table? You honestly cannot tell me that Rutgers wouldn't draw more viewers if it was in the Big10 and playing ND every year. From there, they can start to grow
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
I agree with your last point, but the Big Ten isn't in the business of helping mediocre athletic programs grow. Especially when the league can add an athletics giant like Notre Dame. I really, really think the Big Ten would rather not add multiple teams if it doesn't need to. A Big Ten coach told me today that expansion only makes sense if it's a home run. Notre Dame, for what the Big Ten is looking for, is an absolute grand slam.
After RichRod falls on his face again this fall, do you think UM makes another run at Les Miles? At this point, I think Miles runs to UM. He sees the writing on the wall at LSU.
Adam Rittenberg (4:20 PM)
Todd, it would be interesting to see how much interest would come from Miles' end. Like you say, he might be wearing out his welcome in Baton Rouge, even with a national title to his credit. Jim Harbaugh likely would be Michigan's No. 1 choice (with a bullet), but Miles could be considered as well.
J.B. (San Francisco, CA)
Say Notre Dame does join the Big 10, do they keep their annual series with USC and Navy?
Adam Rittenberg (4:23 PM)
J.B., it would be interesting to see what Notre Dame does with its scheduling if it joined. The USC game has to stay, and Navy as well. That leaves two openings per year. Notre Dame has been scheduling more off-site games (San Antonio, Landover MD) lately, so it'd be interesting to see if that continues. I think ND keeps USC and Navy, plays one cupcake and maybe a rotation with schools like Boston College, Stanford, Georgia Tech.
Jeffrey (Marysville, Ohio)
Why isn't anybody talking about Boise State being in the Big Ten? They are probably a lot better than half the teams in the 11 and that would give the Big Ten a whole new region of viewers, plus a pipeline state. Does it make sense to you?
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
Sorry, Jeffrey, it makes no sense from the Big Ten's perspective. Boise State brings a fabulous football program but very little else. The academics don't come close to Big Ten standards. The athletic dept. as a whole couldn't compete. The stadium is small and the TV market isn't great. This will never happen.
Remember, though, Delany wants to leave a legacy. Yes, getting Notre Dame would be huge. But think of this situation: Rutgers joins as team 14. Because of rivalries with Penn State and ND (Big10 forced rivalries), Rutgers becomes a growing power. After about a decade, Rutgers now is a respected football power, and the Big10 has totally locked up NY/NJ. Adding ND gives Delany the power to let that unfold over time.
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
Chris, again, you might be right, but don't you think getting the storied Notre Dame football program to join your conference does enough for your legacy as commish? Plus the Big Ten Network? Plus the bowl agreements? No disrespect to Rutgers, but helping RU into a football powerhouse isn't going to be in Delany's obituary.
Mole (los angeles, ca)
It is not all that complicated, if Notre Dame joins, the Big Ten Network becomes a lot more powerful and all the teams will get more revenue. Adding Notre Dame would be much better than bringing in two or three of the other teams mentioned. It is not even close. The Big Ten is only adding team(s) to make more money for the Big Ten Network.
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
Courtney (New York)
Why has NU, which used to be Running-Back U., fallen on hard times lately when it comes to running the ball? Can Arby Fields or the new recruit from Northern California be the answer?
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
I wouldn't give up on Arby Fields. He did some nice things as a true freshman and should get better as Fitz challenges him. I'm also interested to see Mike Trumpy, who was hurt last year and will be out there this spring. Adonis Smith will have every opportunity to earn carries right away. It's important for NU to identify two capable backs, which it couldn't do all of last season .
Btw, I'm a big fan of playing the Devil's Advocate ;) I don't mean to be abrasive
Adam Rittenberg (4:30 PM)
No, I enjoy a good, clean debate. You have some good thoughts to share.
Brian (Richmond, Ky.)
Could NBC's deal with ND for football throw a wrench into any potential plan to join the Big Ten? And does ND join as a full member, or football-only?
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
The NBC contract certainly could be a stumbling block, but I doubt it's a deal-breaker for Notre Dame, which has already talked with the Big Ten twice about joining. As to your second question, the Big Ten would only accept a full membership from Notre Dame or any other school.
Adam, several coaches in the Big Ten are on the hot seat in 2010. How well do you think RichRod, Ron Zook, Tim Brewster, and Bill Lynch have to do respectively to keep their jobs in 2011?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
Great question, Sven. RichRod: Must make bowl game, probably needs winning regular season and no off-field problems. Zook: at least six wins and a bowl game, obvious evidence of player development taking place. Brewster: Must start winning in November, needs a bowl berth, wouldn't hurt to beat a rival. Lynch: Hard to tell, but at least five wins and preferably six/bowl berth would keep him in Bloomington for 2011.
Do you think John Clay has gotten all his inconsistencies out of the way and can make a real run for the Heisman this year?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
I do, Renee. Clay needs to stay healthy, which isn't easy because of his chronic ankle problems. But he certainly became a more complete running back in 2009, and he'll have his entire offensive line back for 2010, which is absolutely huge. He should be on the Heisman radar entering the year.
G.W. (Denver, CO)
As an outsider looking in, I think if Notre Dame joins the BT it will lose its national mystique and just become another Illinois/Indiana. Don't you think a few bad seasons in the BT would do this?
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
G.W., some would argue Notre Dame already has lost its mystique. It doesn't seem that way in recruiting, as the Irish continue to bring in good classes. But none of these players remember The Four Horsemen or Rockne. Barely any players were alive the last time ND won a national title.
Has anyone ever thought of what would happen if the Big 10 made a poor choice while expanding? A rushed decision could lead to less money in the pockets of the Big 10, damaged reputation in sports, etc
Adam Rittenberg (4:38 PM)
Another great point, Christian. A lot of fans are so excited/greedy when it comes to expansion. The Big Ten isn't going to make a decision that will backfire in two or three years. And the league doesn't have to expand. It's very healthy at 11.
If Notre Dame refuses to join the Big 10, why don't the Big 10 Schools just stop playing Notre Dame? Is Notre Dame really that important to the Big 10 w/out being a part of the conference?
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
Michigan probably can afford not to play Notre Dame, but for Michigan State and Purdue, the annual game is way too valuable. The Spartans and Boilermakers receive national attention against ND that they simply don't get against other opponents. And if all three of those teams dropped ND, other Big Ten programs would love to add games with the Irish.
Adam , First , Do you think Terrelle Pryor can the Heisman trophy ? and Second , Can the Buckeyes win the National title in 2010-11 season ? Go Bucks
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
Yes and Yes. The second question seems more likely to me, as Pryor still needs to make strides as a passer to become an elite player. But it's possible. Ohio State certainly will enter the fall as one of the favorites to win a national title, or at least reach the title game.
Adam, do you think Dan Persa is ready to take over the reins at NU? I know he showed some good things on the field, especially against a tough Iowa defense, but does he fit as well into our offense? Who else could step up if not him?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
I've heard some good things about the way Persa has approached the offseason. He's definitely comfortable in a leadership role. And in some ways, he fits the offense better than some of his predecessors (C.J. Bacher, Brett Basanez). Keep in mind this offense came directly from Rich Rodriguez, who likes his quarterbacks to be extremely mobile. Rodriguez recruited Persa while at West Virginia and really liked him. Now Persa will need to improve as a passer because Northwestern has become more of a passing team the last few years, but his mobility seems to fit very well.
Greg P (Staten Island,NY)
Adam, love all the expansion talk of RU,Pitt,Syracuse leaving but when is the Big East going to address the fact that 7 conf games is not enough for a BCS conf? When and who will be most likely to join? Can they find 4 quality teams to expand? Is another raid of CONF USA on the horizon?
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
Interesting question, Greg. Memphis would join tomorrow if given the opportunity. The Big East would also have to consider some other options, and possibly restructure the basketball side of things.
Chances the Big 10 take Nebraska???
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
Not great at this point, Scott. I'm sure the Big Ten will consider Nebraska. I'm intrigued by the Huskers because they bring so much tradition in football, and because Nebraska is a very good academic school. But the TV market you'd add isn't great, and trust me, TV will be a huge factor, perhaps the No. 1 factor, in all of this.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Which College Football Players that played at Michigan in 2009 will play in the NFL in 2010?
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
Defensive end Brandon Graham is a likely first-round pick. Cornerback Donovan Warren also will be drafted fairly high. Those are the two guys to watch from the Wolverines.
Adam, have you read one of the stories you linked about Rutgers' television ratings on a normal basis? Please say that the Big Ten realizes that one game isn't the norm (the Louisville game)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
Bobby, I can assure you the Big Ten will look beyond the TV ratings for one game in deciding whether to add a school. Rutgers-Louisville was awesome. I loved every minute of it. But it was just one game.
Cosmo (Anytown, USA)
How much longer can Notre Dame hang on to the legacy that was established 50 or 60 years ago? They haven't been good for 15 years. Why are they even relevant?
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
I've wondered the same thing myself, Cosmo, but Notre Dame still appeals nationally, certainly through the school's religious connection. You look at any of the major cities in the Midwest -- Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati -- and there are tons of Notre Dame fans who have little to no connection to the school. Could that begin to die out as the program fades from the national stage? Possibly, but I don't see it happening.
Chase (Austin, TX)
Adam, will you please ask Big Ten basketball coaches how they feel about a very, very, very bad basketball school joining the conference like Rutgers or Nebraska? It doesn't help their RPI.
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
I'll be at the Big Ten tournament this week in Indy, so I'll try to follow up with them. I'm guessing there will be mixed reactions, but it's not up to them. And while basketball will be a factor, football will be the primary sport being considered for expansion. Too much $$$ comes from football.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear AdamCould you see Ron Turner returing to college coaching?
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
Ha, well he did for about a week at Stanford. Turner's personality is best suited for the NFL, and I think that's where he'll stay for the rest of his career.
Through all this expansion discussion, I think a good side effect is that generally the Big10 has been discussed in a good light across the country. People are seeing how we have loyal fans and tradition rich teams. Do you think that this helps offset even more the last couple of bowl post-seasons for the Big10 (excluding last season's bowls)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:56 PM)
I agree to an extent, as any time the league is in the spotlight, it helps the image. But bowl performance shapes a league's image more than any other factor, so the Big Ten's 4-3 record in December and January carries a lot more weight nationally than the expansion study. If the Big Ten can follow it up with another strong bowl performance, the reputation should continue to improve.
Who is looking better at running back for the up coming season in East Lansing? Baker or Caper?
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
Jared, good question, and I'll let you know after I visit East Lansing in early April. New RBs coach Brad Salem recognizes that both players are good, and both bring different styles to the table. I also like hearing about how they compete but remain friends (and roommates, too). Caper did a lot more during the season, but I was really impressed with Baker in the Alamo Bowl.
Enough about expansion! The way I see it many teams will be thrown into the mix and it will al be hearsay. What I care about is what is the Big Ten chances of gaining more respect nationally? They won the two BCS games and Wisconson and Penn State won theirs , so what will it take for the Big Ten to change the national perception and bring us back into dominance? Is Ohio State the key to that equation by winning the National Title this year?
Adam Rittenberg (5:00 PM)
The only way for the Big Ten to truly enhance its national profile is to win the national title game. It's the one factor that shapes national perception of a league more than any other. No one talks about the SEC's bowl losses this year or last year. The fact that the SEC won the national title really keeps the critics at bay. The Big Ten proved in this bowl season that it can compete with good teams. The league now must prove it can compete with the nation's best.
Adam Rittenberg (5:00 PM)
OK, guys, time's up. Great chat! Maybe I'll move to Tuesdays permanently.