Big Ten mailblog

Very Penn State heavy, as you'd expect. Will try to have another mailblog Friday, but with Big Ten media days going on, no promises.

Let's get started ...

Dan from The Moon writes: Why doesn't the B1G do away with divisions this year? Just keep the schedules the way they are and the top 2 teams go to Indy for the championship game. It's not really fair that one conference is only a 4 (reality 3) team race to go to the Championship game. Why should everybody in the other division have to fight 2 more teams?And while they are at it they can do away with the division names. It's embarrassing to have 2 teams in the Leaders division ineligible due to LEADERSHIP violations.

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, my first letter from the moon. Very cool. Dan, while I see your point, Ohio State and Penn State still will impact the Leaders Division race by playing the other teams within the division. Ohio State will be a stronger team than it was in 2011. We'll have to see on Penn State, but the Lions still should be a tough team to beat, especially at home. My point is that Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana still have to contend with the other two squads to get to Lucas Oil Stadium. While it's entirely possible an average team could win the division at, say, 5-3 in Big Ten play, I don't think you can totally scrap the divisions, especially with the season rapidly approaching. It's not ideal by any means, and the Legends Division race should be much more compelling. I think if multiple teams were prohibited from postseason play for multiple seasons, the Big Ten would have to consider alternatives. But Ohio State is back in the mix next season.

Drew from St. Louis writes: Adam, in the wake of all this news regarding Penn State, can Penn State players now transfer to Big Ten schools with the same ease as transferring to other Div 1 schools outside of the Big Ten? If so, would Iowa have a decent chance in landing Redd for a RB this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Iowa president Sally Mason weren't quite as open as the NCAA folks in discussing Penn State player transfers Monday, but it doesn't sound as if the Big Ten will stand in the way of players wanting to switch teams within the league. Brian Bennett covered this well in a Monday post, in which Delany says, "The conference has some limitations in terms of internal transfers, but the students in this situation ... their interests need to be prioritized. We'll take a very close look at the NCAA declaration about freedom to transfer, and I think our first inclination is to allow those students to have the most freedom and flexibility if they choose to transfer. At first blush, our orientation would be to support as much freedom as possible for those students." So while that's not a complete acknowledgment that Penn State players can go where they want, it certainly appears the Big Ten is leaning in that direction. Iowa certainly could use a running back like Redd, although I think it's USC or Penn State for the Lions junior.

Joel from Panama City Beach, Fla., writes: You know Adam you sat down and had a very candid conversation with Ed Ray. You asked him directly "President Erickson was quoted today as saying that Penn State accepted that deal because if not, you would have decided to suspend play. Can you confirm that? " and he answered "But I can tell you categorically, there was never a threat made to anyone about suspension of play if the consent decree was not agreed to." You and I know that PSU would not of caved otherwise and here Mark Emmert even says so himself "Emmert told Y! Sports that a multi-year suspension of the football program was "vigorously discussed" with members of the Division I Board of Directors. Ultimately, Penn State's willingness to take its medicine ? commissioning, accepting and making public the damaging Freeh Commission report, and accepting massive NCAA penalties without due process ? helped save the school from a complete shutdown of football for a season or longer, Emmert said."So maybe you need to go back to Ed Ray and ask why such an ethical guy would lie?

Adam Rittenberg: Joel, someone isn't telling the truth here. Ray's statement and Erickson's statement totally contract one another. So whom do we believe? We know the NCAA executive committee and Mark Emmert discussed the "death penalty" extensively, but Ray said it didn't have as much support as the penalty package ultimately handed down to Penn State. Ray also said they wanted to hand down penalties that would elicit a consent decree from Penn State. He also categorically denies that threats were made. So is Erickson lying? He clearly was under a lot of pressure, and he's now taking criticism from his constituents for not fighting harder or standing up to the NCAA. By saying he had to take a deal or face a football shutdown, he strengthens his position with Penn State alumni/fans. I honestly don't know who to believe here. I just wonder why Ray would lie about a threat. Erickson, meanwhile, had to show Penn Staters why the school accepted everything without a fight. Still, it's entirely possible the NCAA pressured Penn State into accepting this deal, but whether the specific threat was made is a bit of a mystery.

Paul from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Adam, I need clarification on the Penn State penalties handed by the NCAA. Who are they punishing with the existing penalties (bowl bans, fines, loss of victories)? Are they punishing anyone who did wrong -other than Paterno, who is dead- ? What about players like Adam Teliferro, nearby gameday restaurants, the students, and current players and coaches, and all of Pennsylvania? It sounds to me like the main people being punished are the innocent. Any of the guilty should be fired, fined, and convicted of assisting in a sick crime. However, the other penalties only punish the innocent who remain trying to recover in the aftermath, or take away from someone who is deceased(Whom I believe had quite a few things pointed at his head behind the scenes that we don't know about). Am I wrong? I understand that we must punish to prevent sick crimes like this in the future, but my theory of punishment will prevent anything as it tells any staff member in the NCAA that you do not do this, or else.

Adam Rittenberg: Paul, while I understand your points -- and you're not alone in this view -- the NCAA saw Penn State's failings as an institutional problem, not problems of a few individuals. The NCAA saw the leadership failures as an institutional/program failure. Therefore, the program gets punished. Whoever is in the program or around it also suffers, but the idea remains that the program/institution failed, so the program/institution suffers the consequences. The inherent problem with NCAA penalties is they almost always punish the present and future players/coaches more than the ones in the past, when the problems occur. The NCAA absolutely had to send a message here. Did they send the right message? There's a lot of debate over this issue. I'm just trying to explain their line of thinking.

Marty from Charlotte writes: The NCAA should not allow other institutions to contact these players. The players should decide if they want to leave or not. And if they do then it should be up to the players to make first contact. USC's act here is disgusting and if the NCAA is intending to change the culture of college athletic, then allowing such contact, and vulture-like mentality, is counter to that mandate. This is a low move by USC even considering Kiffin's seeming arrogance in the past.

Adam Rittenberg: Marty, my understanding is the player first has to notify Penn State of his possible intent to transfer, and then the other schools can contact Penn State about recruiting the player. Now obviously teams are going to find ways to contact players or those around them to gauge their interest, but that's the procedure. Are other programs vultures to a degree? For sure. But the Penn State players ultimately have the final say. They don't have to go anywhere. Yet if they want to leave Penn State, there are few obstacles in their way.

Matt from DC writes: Adam, Personally I have mixed feelings about the sanctions but I can attest to losing no sleep over them. But as certain writers have suggested (Stewart Mandel at SI and Mitch Albom at the Detroit Free Press) I am concerned with the NCAA going this route because they have clearly moved the narrative back to football. Other than the $60 million dollar fine the penalties do nothing for victims of child abuse. In addition, Mark Emmert and the NCAA will move forward with a billion dollar cash cow (college football) and many schools will still overemphasize college football. The NCAA did nothing more than turn a horrible, horrible situation and make it all about football again because the only thing people are talking about now is the football program and no longer the victims. I love college football and as an Ohio State fan my team will benefit from the PSU penalties but I now sit with shame for myself and embarrassment for the thousands of other fans who have had the thought cross their mind that these penalties will benefit their favorite football program. Penalties that were imposed because children were raped.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, some excellent points here. Did the NCAA keep the victims in mind enough with the punishments leveled? While $60 million is a significant sum -- along with Penn State's bowl revenue share that the Big Ten will donate (estimated at $13 million) -- it can get lost in the shuffle with the other penalties. The NCAA felt the program needed to suffer the consequences because the program, because of its incredible leadership failures, allowed these horrible crimes to be committed year after year. I think it's fair to question the balance of the penalties and whether the NCAA should have kept the victims more in mind. But I also think the Penn State program had to be held accountable, even though it's tough for the current players and coaches.

Kay from Germantown, Md., writes: Adam, your article notes the devastating impact on Penn State football scholarships, but I was wondering what the $60 million fine will mean to Penn State's non-football scholarships. Since most other teams at the school rely heavily football revenue to fund their scholarships, will this fine result in the death penalty for some of the other teams? Will those athletes be permitted to transfer and immediately play on a new team like the football players? I haven't seen these issues addressed in any articles yet.

Adam Rittenberg: Kay, the NCAA made it clear that the $60 million must not come at the expense of Penn State's other sports programs. The NCAA will use a third party (still unknown) to monitor the payments, which will take place during the next five years. While you can argue that any money coming out of Penn State could harm other sports programs, these payments are not supposed to come out of funds specifically delegated for non-football programs.