The Week Ahead: And so it begins

Everything in our lives these days seems to spread out and take as much room as it can find. College football is no different. The season preview magazines came out months ago. EA Sports released NCAA 2008 in the middle of July (How many national titles have you taken the Hoosiers to?).

But Tuesday, when all 11 of the Big Ten coaches take to a podium in Chicago, it truly commences: the new season of college football.

Media day in itself is a pretty mundane thing, staged and cliched and trite and all that. There are nuggets of truth that slip out — Joe Tiller once famously said, “The good news is we have 17 guys back. The bad news is they’re the same 17 guys who could only win six games last year.” — but for the most part it represents nothing more than the start of a conversation which will span months and dominate the hearts and minds of thousands and will flicker and fade or thrive and crescendo based on what happens each Saturday afternoon this fall.

First things first: Reporters were asked by the conference to rank the top three teams in order of finish and to name an offensive and defensive player of the year. I’d like you to do the same in the comment section.

The main “news” story in Chicago promises to be the recent revelation that the Big Ten is once again searching for a 12th member. This happens about as often as Lindsay Lohan falls off the wagon (who says the Scoop isn’t up on pop culture?). As you may have noticed, I tend to search for reasons behind anything anyone in power does, and this is no different. Why did Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, choose Des Moines, Iowa as the place he’d break out this juicy tidbit? And where does it fit in the conference’s ongoing dispute with Comcast and a gaggle of other cable providers who don’t see the new network as an expanded basic channel at a high price per customer in the eight Big Ten states?

The same old debates have already started raging. Who could it be? And the same names are being tossed around: Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt, West Virginia, Louisville, Missouri, Nebraska, a few MAC schools and Warren Central.

There’s no doubt that what the Big Ten wants is what it has wanted for decades: to welcome Notre Dame as the newest member. But the Fighting Irish already have a TV contract with NBC that is the envy of every sports team in the nation. If somehow Fox, which owns 49 percent of the Big Ten Network, were to lure Notre Dame away then this becomes a realistic scenario. Oh, and Notre Dame also has a sweet deal with the BCS that it would never leave voluntarily.

The other schools mentioned have merits, but also just as many reasons they wouldn’t fit or wouldn’t want to fit in the Big Ten. I see no reason to discuss them here.

Knowing that the Big Ten is very calculated and has people constantly scheming — besides employing its own PR team and utilizing the PR wings of every athletic department in the conference the Big Ten has hired a Chicago PR firm to help with the Big Ten Network — it seems that mention of a 12th team may be nothing but a ploy to generate some sort of positive reaction from the media and fans. They just wanted to change the story.

Delany and Mark Silverman have taken a tour to many of the newspapers that cover Big Ten schools — including this one — which was much appreciated. But they were unable to offer the sort of answers (or spin) that generated significant positive buzz. They all but admitted, while sitting in our dingy little conference room which until a few weeks ago had a leaky ceiling, that they were having trouble getting their arguments heard. They see this as evidence of Comcast’s superior PR swaying power; I see it as evidence of a weak argument.

I’ve offered a summation of this whole thing so many times, but really it comes down to determining a starting line. The Big Ten believes it should start one place while Comcast wants it to start a little further back. The cable companies want the Big Ten to prove this thing will be profitable and draw viewers; the Big Ten believes it has already earned the spot it craves.

Anyway, enough of that. Bill Lynch will be in Chicago and he’ll have three players — WR James Hardy, RB/KR Marcus Thigpen and CB Tracy Porter — there with him. Anything you guys want to know from those fellas?

How about D.J. White at the Pan Am Games? He dominated at tryouts but everyone kept saying it was Drew Neitzel and Roy Hibbert’s team. Then they actually start playing and White is the star.

How do you read it? Is White in better shape and therefore a better player? Or is this what happens when he’s surrounded by the appropriate talent and able to play power forward instead of center?

So I’ve babbled long enough. Doug and I will head up to Chicago tomorrow and begin updating you on what’s happening there.

18 comments

  1. I hope it is not that White is playing PF, because he’s going to spend a lot of time at the 5 for us this year.

  2. Chris, do you have any updates on the recruit game schedule? I know they start later this week and was wanting to see if they had decided to play somewhere in Indy. Thanks!

  3. Wow, so much to discuss. Lets begin in order.

    Presason Top 3 in the Big Ten for Football, in order of how they will finish the Season:
    Wisconsin
    Penn State
    Michigan

    Offensive player of the year: James Hardy (most will pick Mike Hart from Michigan)
    Defensive Player of the year: Dan Connor – LB, Penn State (even though I hate to agree with scout.com)

    The 12th team in the Big Ten. I have no clue who we could draw that would be a good fit. Louisville is the school that comes to mind, a solid school, with good athletics in more than just football and basketball. Notre Dame is a pipe dream for the Big Ten (a nightmare for Big Ten fans). Not only does ND have a deal with the BCS, and thier deal with ABC is better than anything the Big Ten network can work out with Fox, but they are already pulling away from the Big Ten. After the 2011 game, ND and Michigan are no longer scheduled to play each other. After 30 years ND wants out. (According to ESPN.com).

    Big Ten Network vs. Comcast – I am torn on this. I want the Big Ten Network, I want the IU Basketball and Football games shown on them. On the other hand, the BTN is out of their minds. They can’t tell us what games they will have, what other programing they will have, except for a daily Sportscenter type show based on the Big Ten, then throw on top they want almost the same money ESPN gets per subscriber(BTN – $1.10, ESPN = $1.25)?

    Question for James Hardy: How is the timeing between you and Kellen? Have you regained that step you seemed to miss last year?

    Question for Marcus Thigpen: Were you able to put on any size to make you a more effective North to South runner, or are we still going to see you trying to use your speed to the outside?

    Question for Tracy Porter: Who do you expect to step up this year on defense and be the playmaker to take all the pressure off your shoulders?

    Question for Lynch: Will Thigpen be the main running back, or will we see more of Sears and his power running?

    Will Kellen stay in the pocket more this year and allow the passing routes to open up?

    DJ White – He was a stud in the Pan Am games. He showed what happens when you have to play him 1 on 1. He becomes a dominate palyer in the PF slot when not double teamed. Hopefully Big Dre can play lots of time in the 5 spot, allowing DJ to play as a PF, and get some 1 on 1 coverage more often. If not, DJ will have to see the open guy and really master the inside out game.

    That is my take guys. Looking forward to your articles.

  4. One more question for Lynch, will there be any open practice that fans can come watch leading up to the first game?

  5. Jeff,

    Let me put a call in and try to figure out the final details of the recruit tour.

    Mike P,

    Thanks, as always, for your detailed response.

    Chris

  6. Mike P, about the Big Ten adding a team. Louisville has very little chance of joining the conference. Their academics are WAY below Big Ten standards.

  7. IUJimmy – Last I heard their acedemics for the school was on pace with other Big Ten schools. Now the acedemic standards of their sports teams may be below Big Ten standards, that I would have to check on. Thanks for the heads up!

  8. We have been discussing potential additions over at Peegs. Louisville is often suggested. I do know that US News has all Big Ten schools ranked in the top 70 (first tier), while UofL is considered a third-tier school. Also, all Big Ten schools are in the Association of American Universities, while Louisville is not. Louisville has good athletics, but their current overall academics doesn’t make them a good fit for the Big Ten. It will be interesting to see who the Big Ten goes after.

  9. IUJimmy – Who is your pick for a 12th team? I have heard before Missouri wanted to come to the Big Ten, and that was from a friend who attended Missouri at the time?

  10. Honestly, I’m happy with 11 teams. Plus, I don’t know enough about all the schools being mentioned (except UofL, since I live 5 minutes from Louisville). I would be OK with Mizzou and I think that the Rutgers/Syracuse talk is interesting as well.

  11. The top 3 teams in the conference will be Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. The offensive player of the year will be Mike Hart from Michigan while James Laurinaitis from Ohio State will be the defensive player of the year. Regarding the 12th team, I think that Missouri could fit the bill. It’s a land-grant school like most Big 10 schools plus it has a fine academic reputation. It would not bring in much new television exposure (St. Louis market), but it could help set up 2 divisions: West (Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Northwestern) and East (Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State). The Louisville C-J had a semi-mock article in which they suggested Kentucky be #12. UK would certainly make things interesting during b-ball season and it would force IU and the Cats to resume playing against one another in football. I would still prefer Missouri, though.

  12. JRD – I agree with Wisconsin and Michigan. I think Ohio State lost to many this year.

    Eric T. – Thanks for the update, little advice from your uncle, don’t get on here and get owned. 😛

    IUJimmy – Guess the 12th team no longer matters. According to Delany, the Big Ten is going to expand.

Comments are closed.