Chat with Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 4 p.m. ET!
Adam Rittenberg (4:01 PM)
In the words of Tone Loc, "Let's do it."
Ben (West lafayette)
Do you see purdue contending for the big ten title with several elite players like kerrigan, smith, and wiggs returning along with newcomer robert marve in the mix?
Adam Rittenberg (4:02 PM)
I don't know about contending for the league title, Ben, but the Boilers should be an improved team this fall. Still a few too many question marks on defense, and the running back situation is a bit iffy, but Purdue will have one of the league's best passing offenses and arguably its best pure pass rusher in Kerrigan. Should make a bowl at the very least.
Adam, if you had to put a percentage on it, what is the chance Nebraska gets an invitation to the Big 10?
Adam Rittenberg (4:03 PM)
It's at least 50-50 Seth, if not better. That's just my opinion, but the buzz at Big Ten spring meetings is that Nebraska would be a very good fit for the league.
Bryan (Baltimore, MD)
I am someone who is against expansion beyond 12 because I truly feel it will be to the detriment of college athletics. Has there been any talk about the NCAA stepping in and limiting football conferences to 12?
Adam Rittenberg (4:04 PM)
I don't think the NCAA could or would do it, because ultimately these are institutional decisions. Jim Delany made a point this week to say that it's not conference vs. conference as much as it is an individual school's desire to stay or go. Don't think the NCAA could do much about it.
Over/under on the word "expansion" appearing in this chat: 15?
Adam Rittenberg (4:05 PM)
I'll take the over. That's an easy one. A better over-under would be 50. Seriously.
Alan (Columbus, OH)
What kind of effect do you think expansion would have on the Ohio State-Michigan rivaly, particularly if the Big Ten were split into two divisions, one with each team?
Adam Rittenberg (4:07 PM)
They would have a protected crossover game, much like the SEC does with Tennessee and Florida, and others. The Big Ten recognizes the importance of Ohio State-Michigan and wouldn't throw it away. What could hurt the rivalry is playing two weeks in a row. You could solve that by putting them in the same division.
Vince (Lewis Center, Ohio)
Is Ohio State at a disadvantage with the number of sports it has (most in the NCAA)? The Buckeyes have the second-largest budget (behind Texas), but twice as many sports. Disadvantage?
Adam Rittenberg (4:08 PM)
Vince, you bring up a good point here. It can be a disadvantage to fund all of those sports, but no one is holding Gene Smith's feet to the fire. I will say on a larger scale, Big Ten teams face greater challenges than SEC teams because there are more sports to fund in the north.
Despite Delany's talk about avoiding some of the past problems with ACC expansion, if the Big 10 does expand to 16 teams, and then leads to the demise of multiple conferences, woudn't this expansion be viewed in an equally negative way?
Adam Rittenberg (4:10 PM)
Great point, Mac. It could. But in talking with Delany a bit yesterday, he really wants to reduce as much back-end damage as possible. Perhaps that means he won't go to 16 teams, but he does seem to care about what happens elsewhere. I can't see any 16-team Big Ten scenario that wouldn't be messy elsewhere and viewed negatively, as you put it.
How many wins will it take to save Rich-Rod's job at Michigan?
Adam Rittenberg (4:11 PM)
The multi-million dollar question. I think he can survive at 8-4, but it needs to be the right type of 8-4, with some signature wins mixed in there. And no more off-field problems. And still, 8-4 just doesn't sound good enough to me. Would be hard to fire him with nine or more wins.
Gene Smith at Ohio State has said that the Buckeyes will not bid for assistant coaches, in light of the salaries of assistant coaches in the SEC and at USC. Isn't that really bad for OSU and shouldn't the Buckeyes try to get the best possible coaches available (look at which conference won the last four BCS titles and how much they pay assistants)?
Adam Rittenberg (4:13 PM)
Kelly, Ohio State's staff is remarkably understated, especially for a powerhouse program. You never hear much about Jim Tressel's assistants, aside from complaints about Jim Bollman or Nick Siciliano. Most of those guys would never get recognized outside of Columbus. But if you keep winning the Big Ten, why change a good thing? It's an interesting debate for sure.
Steve (East Lansing)
Adam, I think if MSU doesn't get 9 wins this season with that schedule then Dantonio should be on the hot seat for next year. He's had such a pass so far and I'm not satisfied.
Adam Rittenberg (4:15 PM)
I would bring you down a notch to eight wins, but that's a fair statement. I would also tell you that Mark Hollis is extremely pleased with Dantonio and likely would give him more leash that that. But Michigan State should be a very solid team this year and needs to build the consistency it has lacked for decades.
What is IU's best case scenario as far as the upcoming season is concerned? Are we looking at another sub .500 year, or is a bowl game a possibility?
Adam Rittenberg (4:16 PM)
A bowl game is always possible, Eric, especially with the Big Ten's new bowl lineup, which features an extra guaranteed spot. Six wins gets you to a bowl, and that's certainly a realistic goal for Bill Lynch's team. All four nonconference games are extremely winnable, and two or three wins in Big Ten play isn't asking too much at all.
Matt (State College)
Ok, everyone seems to want to shoot down a 14 team conference because they claim it would cause some teams to not play each other for 5 years. My question is what is so bad about expanding to play 9 conference games? You play all 6 in your division and 3 in the other. That way only one team will fall off your schedule for that time period. 9 conference games has done the Pac Ten well. Why not the Big Ten, I mean wouldn't you rather watch Penn State-Indiana than Penn State-Akron and Indiana-Western Michigan??
Adam Rittenberg (4:18 PM)
I would, Matt, but those games make money for Big Ten schools, money that sustains their entire athletic programs. And I would strongly disagree with you about nine conference games serving the Pac-10 well. It's just the opposite. The Pac-10 never gets multiple BCS entries, and a big reason why is the league has nine extra guaranteed losses than everyone else. I understand why Big Ten fans want to see this, but you have to look at it from the schools' point of view.
Kiper and McShay both have Adrian Clayborn as a top five pick in the 2011 draft. What type of numbers does he have to put up this year to sustain that status?
Adam Rittenberg (4:19 PM)
Hmmm, good question, Jeremiah. The thing about Clayborn isn't necessarily the numbers, but the big plays he always tends to make. Whether it was the punt block at Penn State or the big sacks in the Orange Bowl, the guy is a stud playmaker. So he needs to keep doing that and he'll be just fine.
Do you see the visit from Ohio State to Camp Randall as the possible de facto Big Ten championship game?
Adam Rittenberg (4:21 PM)
Could be, Elliott, although I think Iowa and possibly some other schools could factor into the title race. Both Wisconsin and Ohio State must travel to Iowa City, so those games matter, too. But the game in Madison happens first and will largely shape the Big Ten title race for the final six weeks of the season.
Adam, Did you read Forde's article on Delany, the Big 10, and expansion? Does the Big 10 hatred ever end?
Adam Rittenberg (4:22 PM)
I read everything Pat writes, and I would advise you to look closer at his column and what he proposes (adding Nebraska for a 12-team league). Makes a lot of sense. Pat's just having fun with the Big Ten. He had a great time at media days last year in Chicago, where we saw Rich Rodriguez, Brian Urlacher and Jamie Foxx during dinner one night. Good times.
Katie (Gahanna, OH)
Should Ohio State fans read into Darrell Hazell sent to the Big Ten meetings over Luke Fickell, or is it the fact that Hazell is the associate head coach (or assistant head coach)? This is in reference to the coach Tressel's successor.
Adam Rittenberg (4:24 PM)
I wouldn't read into it too much, Katie, although Hazell is a guy who clearly has earned Tressel's trust. He was also more involved in play-calling duties last year. The more I think about it, the more I think Ohio State will open up the job to the outside when Tressel steps down. Don't you have to? So many great candidates out there.
Can you give an idea of the weight given to issues such as football, academics and research when it comes to expansion? I know those of us in Big 10 country are a little snobby when it comes to the perceived value of our degrees, but it does matter to us. Not sure if anyone you've spoken to at the meetings has spoken about this but most people in my field attended one Big Ten school for under grad and another for grad school, it really gave a sense of how important academics are at these great schools and i would hate to have them diminished for the sake of cable fees
Adam Rittenberg (4:27 PM)
Phil, academics matter to the key figures in the Big Ten, including Jim Delany. This decision will not be made solely with football or money or TV markets in mind. It's why I didn't understand the uproar about Delany's Sun Belt comment. Look in the Sun Belt and find me some schools that fit in with the Big Ten academically. Vanderbilt isn't coming, so forget that rumor. Aside from Texas, I don't see any schools that fit everything the Big Ten wants.
I know everyone keeps putting up # of wins that RR needs to win. However, Brandon is a smart guy and has done a great job since coming in. Even with a 6-6 record, I don't see RR going anywhere. Brandon knows that another job vacancy at the head coach will delay Michigan's come back to challenge the Big Ten tile on a yearly basis. Agree or disagree? Also, will Gardner redshirt or not?
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
I agree that a coaching change could extend Michigan's period of irrelevancy for another two or three years. Now is Michigan willing to see things through until the end with Rodriguez or decide that no matter what, a change is coming, so why not make it immediately? That's the question Dave Brandon might be asking himself in November.
Adam Rittenberg (4:29 PM)
Oh, forgot about Devin Gardner. I have a feeling he won't redshirt, but they would like to keep him on the sidelines if at all possible.
If a team or two leaves the Big 12 to the Big Ten and/or the Pac Ten, would the Big Twelve stay at 10 teams or add two more to stay at 12? Who would they add? BYU? TCU? Cincinnati? Louisville? Others?
Adam Rittenberg (4:31 PM)
This might be a better question for David Ubben, our Big 12 blogger, but I think it depends on whether the Big 12 and Pac-10 form some sort of partnership. Maybe the Big 12 becomes the Big 10 and you'd have two 10-team leagues working together. Now if the Big 12 is looking to add, TCU and maybe Utah make some sense.
Shaun (Washington, D.C.)
You say Vandy isn't coming (I agree) but what about GT? They fit academically and have a fairly solid athletic program including football (definitely moreso than Vandy)
Adam Rittenberg (4:32 PM)
Georgia Tech is an interesting case study. Good school, tradition in football, located in a major media market (Atlanta). I just think if the Big Ten is willing to stretch its borders significantly, it had better be worth it. In other words, it had better be for Texas.
Why do you think the Michigan AD picked to today to talk about the ND Michigan series not set in stone? Is he firing a warning shot at the Irish?
Adam Rittenberg (4:34 PM)
No, he didn't pick a day. I asked him about whether he wants to continue the Notre Dame series and Dave Birkett of annarbor.com followed up about the contract situation. All indications are that the contract will get done very soon. Michigan wants to play ND for the foreseeable future, so no warning shots are being fired.
I don't understand the love for the SEC. Please tell me what Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississipi, Mississipi State and Kentucky done in football. Mississipi, Kentucky were good in the 60's have not squat since. When matched up in bowl games against other BCS teams they have lost SC to Uconn, LSU to Penn State, mighty Northwestern should have beat Auburn last year and Tennesee loses to UCLA each year. The media makes a SEC schedule tougher than the Bataan Death March. What gives?
Adam Rittenberg (4:35 PM)
Bill, it comes down to one thing: the BCS championship game. That one game does more to break or break a league's reputation than anything else. People see the SEC winning the BCS title game in four consecutive years, and provide the love for the league. They don't see the Outback Bowl or the Cap One Bowl. This is the world we live in, so for the Big Ten to truly regain national respect, it needs to win a national title again.
Sam (Indianapolis, IN)
This is almost just an insane thought, but is it possible a team could actually leave the Big Ten to become more relevant in another league (Minnesota) if their school does not like the expansion plans or the teams that are coming in?
Adam Rittenberg (4:37 PM)
Sam, I guess anything is possible, but you'd have to be financially brain dead to leave the Big Ten and its sweet TV deal. Minnesota might be more relevant elsewhere, but it wouldn't be as rich, and that's important for a program that doesn't get the same state funding as it used to and must sustain a lot of sports teams.
Steve (Charlotte, NC)
Let's face it, the expansion talk is the direct result of poor play on the national stage in the last couple of years. How about the Big Ten shifts its focus towards better conference marketing? Drawing up bigger network contracts for The Game, Iowa-PSU, etc. I think adding teams for the sole purpose of money and market expansion will dilute what makes the Big 10 great: Tradition and rivalries. Not a question, as much as it is my two cents on the issue.
Adam Rittenberg (4:40 PM)
Those are some interesting thoughts, Steve. Would the Big Ten even be considering expansion if it had won four consecutive national titles like the SEC? Or what if Ohio State and Penn State had won their BCS bowls in 2008, making it two pretty decent bowl seasons in a row? I don't know what you mean about "better conference marketing," because I don't think that's the problem, but your larger point is a good one.
This may seem a stretch, but I think UNC is a good fit for the Big 10. They match up academically with the best of the Big 10, they are strong in just about every NCAA sport, they seem to have made a significant commitment to their football program, and they are in a growing media market. Any thoughts? Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg (4:41 PM)
Brian, I agree with you except for the growing media market part. I'd still need to be convinced of that. Not saying you're wrong, but I'm skeptical there. The bigger point is I don't see North Carolina ever leaving the ACC and the rivalries it has there, especially in its flagship sport of men's basketball.
Sam (Indianapolis, IN)
Any update on Big Ten free agents in the pros?
Adam Rittenberg (4:44 PM)
Sam, thanks for reminding me. Let me put together a list of free-agents who signed and are still part of NFL teams. Will try to post it sometime next week.
I've read several views on the re-seating plan at Beaver Stadium and, while I agree that economic reality means people ultimately need to pay more, doesn't the school owe it to the fans to try harder at scheduling compelling non-conference games? I know you can't get Alabama every year, but you gotta be able to do better than directional U 3 times every September
Adam Rittenberg (4:45 PM)
Gary, I think that's a fair point. But it all goes hand in hand. Penn State doesn't want to give up home games to it can reap the benefits of the re-seating plan/higher prices. And to keep home games, you often don't schedule better opponents because they want home-and-homes. I would love to see Penn State beef up its nonconference schedule. Alabama is a nice start.
Michael (Omaha, NE)
Most of the stuff coming out of South Bend right now suggests that Notre Dame is currently content with their independant status. Is this just a smokescreen or are the Irish really not interested? What are the odds that ND joins the Big Ten?
Adam Rittenberg (4:47 PM)
Not great, Michael. I've always felt Notre Dame needs to be forced into joining a league. If there's a voluntary component to it, ND will stay put. So unless the Big East forces them out, which doesn't seem overly likely, they'll probably remain where they are. But this won't stop the Big Ten from trying to add ND. Several league officials I spoke to this week emphasized the obvious: Notre Dame fits very well in the Big Ten.
Pete (Chicago )
I think you're biased against Illinois. I can't believe you didn't get any questions about them.
Adam Rittenberg (4:49 PM)
Believe it, Pete. I didn't get one single question. Why don't you ask one? Actually, I'll give you a little Illini nugget. Ron Zook says offensive tackle Corey Lewis is recovering well from ACL surgery. He probably won't be back this fall, but there's a chance.
Joe (Mechanicsburg, PA)
What do you think the chances Pitt gets added if they add multiple teams?
Adam Rittenberg (4:50 PM)
I only see Pitt added if the Big Ten goes to 16 and the league needs an extra team or two. Can't see Pitt as the 12th team, and Nebraska, Missouri and Rutgers seem more likely as the 12th, 13th and 14th teams.
Out of all the self-imposed penalties Michigan will punish themselves with, which penalty wouldn't surprise you and which one WOULD surprise you to see on the list and do you believe that they will do enough that the NCAA won't hit them with more penaties?
Adam Rittenberg (4:52 PM)
Great question, Will. I won't be surprised if Michigan imposes scholarship losses on itself. It has to show it takes the allegations seriously and no one likes to lose scholarships. I will be surprised if Michigan takes a coach or two off the road for recruiting. It could happen, but Michigan needs all the talent it can find right now. ... Will Michigan do enough to satisfy the NCAA? Very tough to tell, but I'm very impressed with new athletics director Dave Brandon. I think he'll do the right thing here.
Tom (Los Angeles)
Adam, is there any chance in all of the conference expansion scenarios that Notre Dame joins the BT as an everything but Football member like its arrangement with the Big East?
Adam Rittenberg (4:53 PM)
Nope, zero chance. The Big Ten simply doesn't have to do that, and it would look weak and bad if it did. Any new addition to the Big Ten will be an all-sports addition.
Chad (Iowa City)
Assuming a healthy Jewell Hampton wins the RB spot, how do the Hawkeyes keep Robinson & Wegher involved? Do you foresee a scenario where they don't really have a "feature" back, and try to split the work-load? There seems to be an abundance of young, talented players at this position for Iowa.
Adam Rittenberg (4:55 PM)
Kirk Ferentz said this spring that he wouldn't be surprised if each back got one-third of the carries. I would imagine they'd use Wegher and Robinson as receivers out of the backfield or maybe third-down backs. They can't waste those two on the bench, even if Hampton emerges as The Guy.
What are Terrelle Pryor's chances of winning the Heisman? And what does he need to do to improve those chances?
Adam Rittenberg (4:58 PM)
He's got a shot based on talent and, more important, name recognition. If there's one Big Ten offensive player known around the country, it's Terrelle Pryor. But to really be a legit candidate, he needs to perform more consistently, make smart decisions, spread the ball around to receivers and maintain his effectiveness as a runner. He needs to be a reason why Ohio State wins some of its games this fall, just like he was a reason why the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl. They don't give Heismans to guys on teams that win games in spite of their play.
If the Big 10 expanded, Wouldn't putting MI and OSU in the same division be loading up one division, especially if PSU was throne in there? I support seperating the two schools but have them play in a crossover game. I would rather have them place twice then have to play another game to win the championship.
Adam Rittenberg (4:59 PM)
I'm with you on this one, Hussein. The Big Ten would do a great disservice by putting Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in the same division. One of them needs to be separated. I'm OK if it's Penn State, as I don't care about geography as much as others. But you can definitely split up OSU and Michigan and maintain a protected crossover.
Adam Rittenberg (5:00 PM)
Last one for the day ...
Why doesn't anyone talk about Iowa State for the big Ten. Perfect geographically. It is an AAU member, and would bring an in state rivalry for Iowa. Also as a Big 12 fan, I really wouldn't miss them. I would miss Nebraska
Adam Rittenberg (5:01 PM)
Peter, you make my point for me. You wouldn't miss Iowa State, so what would they truly bring to the Big Ten? It's not a program that moves the needle in football. It's not in a major media market or even a new market. Iowa State brings very little to the table outside of the Iowa rivalry and its academic rep/AAU membership.
Adam Rittenberg (5:01 PM)
OK, guys, that's it. Good chat. Talk to you down the road. Ready, break ...