Most would agree New Year's Day bowl games don't mean what they used to. You could say the same thing about rushing for 1,000 yards. There are more games and more plays in the sport today, and it's hardly uncommon for a player to reach four digits on the ground, as 51 FBS players got there in 2013.

Still, the 1,000-yard rushing mark is no small feat, and it's a good gauge for assessing players, teams and leagues. The Big Ten had seven 1,000-yard rushers in 2013, one fewer than it had in 2012.

We begin a series of statistical projections for the 2014 season with 1,000 rush yards, and our analysis begins with the five men who got there last fall and who return to their teams this year.

[+] EnlargeAmeer Abdullah
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsNebraska's Ameer Abdullah is looking to post his third season of rushing for over 1,000 yards.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (1,690 rush yards in 2013): Abdullah was one of the most consistent backs in the country last fall, eclipsing 100 rush yards in 11 of 13 games, including a streak of eight consecutive 100-yard performances. He will try to become the first Husker with three seasons of 1,000 rush yards or more. Although it might be tough for Abdullah to match last year's overall rushing numbers, barring injury, he should have little trouble reaching the 1,000-yard mark.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (1,609 yards): Gordon surged out of the gate with 140 rush yards or more in each of his first four games last season, as he topped the FBS rushing chart. Despite sharing time with fellow 1,000-yard back James White and never logging more than 22 carries, Gordon had eight games with at least 140 rush yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry. He's arguably the nation's top big-play ball-carrying threat and should easily eclipse 1,000 rush yards as he steps into a bigger role.

Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State (1,422): It's impossible to quietly rush for 1,400 yards in a season, but Langford slipped under the radar as his teammates on defense and at quarterback received more attention. Still, his consistency should not be overlooked: He set a team record with eight consecutive 100-yard rushing performances and led the Big Ten with 18 rushing touchdowns. He did much of his damage late in games. Although Langford likely won't get 292 carries again, he should easily get to 1,000 rush yards.

David Cobb, RB, Minnesota (1,202) Arguably no Gophers player benefited more from the team's commitment to the power run on offense. Cobb logged 237 carries -- second in the Big Ten behind Langford and Abdullah -- and had five 100-yard rushing performances, the most by a Minnesota player since Marion Barber III in 2003. Cobb did much of his damage in Big Ten play, recording four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. Another 1,000-yard season is possible, but Cobb faces arguably more competition than any back on this list and will have to keep progressing.

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (1,068): Miller is poised to finish his career as one of the Big Ten's most productive offensive players. The league's reigning two-time offensive player of the year needs just 842 rush yards to move into second place on the Big Ten's all-time quarterback rushing list. More impressive, he needs 715 yards to claim second place on Ohio State's all-time rushing list (all players). Miller certainly is capable of a third 1,000-yard season, but a revamped line and his goal of improving as a passer could make it challenging.

Now let's take a look at eight other players who could challenge that 1,000-yard mark in 2013, in order of likelihood:

Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana (958 rush yards in 2013): Coleman finished ahead of Langford, Cobb and Miller in rushing average (106.4 ypg) and easily would have reached four digits had he played in more than nine games. A big-play threat who averaged a Gordon-like 7.3 yards per carry last season, Coleman should have no trouble surging past 1,000 yards this season.

[+] EnlargeMark Weisman
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIowa's Mark Weisman has just missed 1,000 yards in the past two years, but this could be the season he tops that magic number.
Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa (975): Weisman has been close to 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and should get there as a senior. He will be sharing carries with Jordan Canzeri and others, and Iowa likely will balance out Weisman's touches a bit more. But if Weisman can break off a few more big runs behind a good offensive line, he'll get to 1,000.

Zach Zwinak, RB, Penn State (989): Some would argue Zwinak isn't the best running back on his team (Bill Belton), but the fact remains he reached 1,000 yards in 2012 and nearly got there last season. The carries balanced between Zwinak and Belton could make it tougher for either back to reach the milestone, and the offensive line is a concern.

Paul James, RB, Rutgers (881): Know the name, Big Ten fans. James rushed for 881 yards on only 156 carries last season. His rushing total through the first four games (573 yards) trailed only Gordon for the FBS lead. Health is a concern here, but if James stays on the field, a 1,000-yard season is easily within reach.

Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern: Projecting Mark is tricky as he rushed for 1,371 yards in 2012 but missed most of last season with injuries and remains prone to more health issues. He's an excellent candidate to gash defenses for big yards if he remains on the field, and he should play behind an improved offensive line.

Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois (779): It all comes down to opportunities for Ferguson, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season but also finished second on the team in receptions with 50. A true big-play threat, Ferguson is capable of getting to 1,000 yards but likely needs at least 25 more carries.

Bill Belton, RB, Penn State (803): Like Zwinak, Belton faces some challenges: sharing carries and playing behind a potentially leaky line. But he has shown superstar potential at times and turned in a strong spring for the new coaching staff.

Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin (547): Like Gordon, Clement makes the most of his opportunities. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry as a freshman, and while he's Gordon's backup now, he could become a 1A player by midseason. Gordon and White set an NCAA record for single-season rush yards by teammates. Gordon and Clement could challenge it.

Who do you think reaches 1,000 rush yards this fall? Let us know.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 27, 2014
May 27
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Back to business.
James Franklin learned early on that he’s never off the clock-- even when he’s in a public restroom.

During one particular stop on his 17-city speaking tour -- dubbed Penn State’s “Coaches Caravan" -- the Nittany Lions’ coach felt a tap on his shoulder at an unexpected time.

“I was going to the bathroom and someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me for an autograph,” Franklin said with a laugh. “Literally, I was like, ‘Can I finish?’ And they took a step back six inches and waited until I finished. So that was unique.”

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicNew Penn State coach James Franklin wants to make some tweaks to the school's facilities.
Franklin washed his hands and gave the fan his autograph. Between laughs, Franklin said he meant it when he said the passion of the Penn State fan base has been unmistakable during his travels, even if that one interaction was a bit odd.

“That was probably the thing that stands out in my mind the most; that was probably the most unusual,” Franklin said, smiling. “I appreciate his passion.”

Franklin was joined on the tour by a rotating cast of Penn State coaches, who addressed crowds in school gymnasiums and hotel conference centers throughout the month of May. Here are some of the other – bathroom-free -- highlights from Franklin’s tour:

Penn State is already turning down commits: The Nittany Lions boast 16 pledges in the 2015 class and sit at No. 2 in ESPN’s class rankings Insider, and Franklin said he has been pleased with the results. The catch, he said, is that he has had to start turning down recruits who want to play under him.

“I’ll tell you this, I don’t like turning down good players,” Franklin said. “But you’d rather be in that situation than the opposite, that at the end of signing day, you’re scrambling to find guys to fill the amount of spots we have. We don’t ever want to be in that position.”

Perception is everything: During a stop at Franklin’s alma mater, East Stroudsburg, Franklin recalled how he and his coach would sit on the back porch, chat and eat Klondike bars. From that time at ESU, Franklin said two lessons stuck out -- the importance of consistency and the importance of perception. Take a look at the phrase “Opportunityisnowhere,” for example.

“You have your choice of reading it two different ways,” Franklin said. "'Opportunity is now here,' or 'Opportunity is nowhere.' That always kind of stuck with me: Life is about how you perceive it. You can look at things as opportunities, or you could look at them as challenges or difficulties.”

Franklin keeps a list of potential coaching candidates, should any assistant leave: He maintains a list of 15 coaches at each position and said he updates the names “constantly.” Sometimes, it’s a college coach who’s looking to take a step up. Other times, a candidate might be a high school coach who has had success.

Franklin said that’s, in part, how he settled on hiring cornerbacks coach Terry Smith, who made Franklin’s list back when Smith was coaching in high school at Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway. Smith coached one season at Temple before landing at Penn State.

“It’s not ranked; it’s like recruiting. It’s guys you’re interested in, that you think can bring something to the table to help,” Franklin said. “That list is constantly growing and, sometimes, people come off the list when they become head coaches or go to the NFL.”

Franklin wants facility upgrades: No, Franklin's not looking to tear down Beaver Stadium or rebuild the practice facility. He just wants to make some tweaks to the existing facilities. Maybe some new carpet here, a new coat of paint there -- and some technological upgrades, too. For example, Franklin would like some interactive exhibits placed around Beaver Stadium as opposed to just still photos. He’d also like each locker to have its own charging station for cell phones or iPads.

“Do we have one of the nicest, most impressive stadiums in the country? Yes,” Franklin said. “Do we have one of the nicest and most impressive weight rooms? Yes. Do I think there are other areas we’ve fallen behind? I do.”

His team will practice Sunday, be off Monday: Franklin wants his team to meet Sunday, watch film from Saturday and walk through corrections. He also wants to give an overview of the next opponent. Franklin tried this setup at Vanderbilt and said everyone seemed to prefer it -- since it helped with classes and allowed players to look ahead.

“Now, Monday, you’re not thinking about the last game at all,” Franklin said. “Monday clearly starts a new week, and you’re moving forward.”

Franklin is not a big fan of playing in Ireland: He has already sent a team of Penn State personnel to scout out the hotel, food and practice venues. But traveling overseas still brings its own challenges that Franklin would prefer to avoid. So, overall, would he say he’s a fan of playing in another country?

“No, no. I’m a big fan of the country and a big fan that our fans are excited about it. But, from a coaching perspective, no,” he said. “Everything we do is about eliminating distractions and consistency in your routine -- and I wouldn’t necessarily say flying to another country fits that.”

Wardrobe choices: Franklin said he now understands that blue is the only acceptable color to wear in Happy Valley. He donned a tie with some gold in it during one day on the job -- a tie which, of course, came from his time at Vanderbilt -- and that move apparently didn’t go over so well. Since then, he has purchased a blue tie every time he has seen one. He has 35 to 40 in all. And he hasn’t made that same mistake twice.

“It’s almost sacrilegious to wear anything but blue when it’s a work function,” he said.

His two daughters seem to take after their dad, too. Both have “Dominate the State” and “Pennsylvania kid with a Penn State heart” T-shirts. “They’re wearing that in Nashville right now,” Franklin said. “And I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing.”

Big Ten Friday mailblog

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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Wishing you a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend. Barring breaking news -- fingers crossed -- we'll be back with you bright and early Tuesday.

Follow the Twitter brick road.

Mail call ...

Rajiv from Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Do you think that there are any programs in the B1G that would automatically get or deserve a spot in the playoff if they ran the table in any given year? Secondly, suppose a team like Northwestern or Minnesota ran the table and then beat a 12-0 Michigan State team in the BIG Championship. Should one of those teams get an automatic bid? Don't think that situation would happen, but certainly an undefeated Ohio State would garner more recognition than Northwestern.

Adam Rittenberg: Rajiv, it's my belief that any major-conference team that runs the table and wins a league title game to go 13-0 would make the field of four. Why else would you expand the field from two to four? Most Big Ten teams are playing at least one marquee non-league opponent, so even if their league schedule is a little soft like Iowa's or Wisconsin's this year, a perfect mark would be enough to get them in, regardless of their reputation. It would be incredibly disappointing if the committee functions like poll voters and gives preferences to historically strong teams. There would have to be odd circumstances -- two or more undefeated teams from major conferences -- for a 13-0 Big Ten team to be left out.




 
Jason from Tampa writes: What are your thoughts around Penn State and its stance on the Paterno lawsuit? On one hand, Penn State is a defendant in the lawsuit, has made great strides, and a majority of the severe sanctions are behind them. On the other hand, Penn State might get temporary or full relief of all sanctions. Do you believe their stance is a calculated move to avoid bad publicity and not disrupt the relationship with the NCAA in regards to further sanction reductions?

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, I think your first point about Penn State making strides and moving past some of the more severe sanctions is a motivator for the school's position. There's no full relief from the sanctions, since Penn State has had two bowl-eligible teams stay home and continues to operate with reduced scholarships. But the school clearly feels that cooperation with the NCAA is the best route. Penn State also has aligned itself with the Freeh Report, which the Paterno family claims isn't credible. Ultimately, PSU seems too far down the road in lockstep with the NCAA to dramatically change its position.



 

Paul from Lincoln, Neb., writes: I heard Ed Cunningham say on "College Football Live" that from what he observed in the Big Ten last year that the QB play is very poor compared to other conferences. My question(s) to you is: 1) Do you really believe the QB play is that bad in the conference? 2) Who are the QBs in the BIG that could go and start for other major college football programs in other conferences? (You can pull names from last year as well).

Adam Rittenberg: Paul, quarterback play in the Big Ten has been down for some time. The league hasn't had a quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL draft since Penn State's Kerry Collins in 1995. That's stunning. Although quarterbacks such as Drew Brees (Purdue), Tom Brady (Michigan) and Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) have gone on to win Super Bowls, the league isn't mass-producing elite signal-callers. Something needs to shift, and it could be the quality of quarterback coaches in the Big Ten. Besides Indiana's Kevin Wilson, are there any true QB gurus in the B1G?

Your second question is a bit tricky because there are some major-conference teams elsewhere with dire QB situations. But Braxton Miller, Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg could start for any FBS squad.



 

Moss from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: The Big Ten is starting to resemble a very wealthy yet dysfunctional family. Consumed by more wealth and shiny toys but not paying attention to their children (teams) as they grossly underperform. Is the BIG more interested in the brand than the actual product? The conference has all the advantages but can't seem to get its proverbial act together.

Adam Rittenberg: Moss, it just doesn't seem to add up. A league should be able to build its brand, generate revenue for its schools and win championships on the field. What do you mean by not paying attention? What do you want the Big Ten to do for its underperforming teams? That's the hard part. Commissioner Jim Delany gets criticized a lot, but he has significantly increased the resources for Big Ten programs, which can pay coaches more and invest in their facilities. Ultimately, the Big Ten can move its campuses to the south and west, where more of the elite players are. But I don't agree the league is neglecting its programs by trying to expand its brand.



 

@roberthendricks via Twitter writes: Do you think OSU has a long-term solution going forward in J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones or Stephen Collier? I know taking a hot QB in this class is essential, but what if they don't? Post-Braxton fear is setting in.

Adam Rittenberg: That fear is real, Robert, as Ohio State's quarterback situation beyond 2014 seems cloudy. Miller's injury this spring allowed Jones and Barrett both to get some significant work in practice. While both struggled in the spring game, Jones enters the summer as Miller's primary backup. Ohio State would be wise to get at least one, if not both, into games this season, even in mop-up time. Collier seems like more of a project, and all three men need some time to develop. I don't think it's realistic to expect Ohio State's next quarterback to match Miller's big-play ability.

Big Ten's lunch links

May, 23, 2014
May 23
12:00
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Looking for a stylish addition to your home? Consider this.




The 2014 class of inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame has been announced, and it includes two former stars from Big Ten schools.

Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan and Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz were voted in among the 13 new inductees. Here are their bios from the Hall of Fame:
  • Butz: 1972 consensus first team All-American. Finalist for the Lombardi Award in 1972 and named first team all-conference. Named Defensive MVP of the Senior Bowl.
  • Conlan: 1986 consensus first team All-American and Butkus Award finalist. Led Nittany Lions to back-to-back national title appearances, winning championship in 1986. Led team in tackles twice and finished career ranked second in career tackles (274) at PSU.

There were 21 former players from Big Ten schools on the Hall of Fame ballot this year, along with coaches Darryl Rogers (Michigan State) and Jim Tressel (Ohio State). Some big names who failed to make the cut this year included Nebraska's Trev Alberts and Eric Crouch, Michigan's Jumbo Elliott and Mark Messner, Illinois' Simeon Rice and Michigan State's Lorenzo White. They'll have to wait for their chance next year.

Conlan made it in his first year on the ballot, understandably so, as he epitomized Penn State's "Linebacker U" tradition. Butz joins former Purdue teammate Otis Armstrong in the Hall of Fame. Armstrong was voted into the Hall in 2012.

Congrats to the newest Hall of Famers.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 22, 2014
May 22
12:00
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Quiet days of May...
  • Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the Pac-12’s Larry Scott discuss the NCAA’s autonomy model for five major conferences.
  • Charting the dream recruits for every Big Ten program in the class of 2015, according to Bleacher Report.
  • Three former Michigan greats are set to receive word on their candidacies for the College Football Hall of Fame. Ex-Illinois stars are waiting, too.
  • A new system allows Nebraska season-ticket holders to pick their seats at Memorial Stadium. Washington receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow is still considering a transfer to Nebraska.
  • Michigan State wants to capitalize on its success to open new doors in recruiting. Ex-Spartan Micajah Reynolds looks to get a shot on defense with the Dolphins.
  • James Franklin touts the Penn State brand.
  • Pondering the quality of Ohio State’s defensive line, which features three possible future first-round NFL picks.
  • Fifteen observations from a documentary on Rutgers’ spring practice.
  • Wisconsin lands a defensive line recruit from a high school that produced two NFL draft picks this month at the same group of positions.

After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we’re putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series -- the rest of which can be found here -- concludes with a look at recruiting expenses and why they've grown.

Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop can still remember sifting through thick stacks of manila recruiting folders in the mid-90s and reaching for a shelf of VHS tapes hanging above his desk.

There were no real recruiting support staffs to speak of. He'd pop a recruit's game tape into a VCR and then ready himself with a notepad. Fast forward, fast forward. There's the recruit. Fast forward, fast forward.

[+] EnlargeClayton Thorson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsDigital and online technologies are helping schools discover prospects like Clayton Thorson earlier and make more educated scholarship offers.
"Recruiting's changed a lot," Shoop told ESPN.com. "Our recruiting staff, they'll cut up tapes for me now. I don't have to sift through hours of recruiting tape anymore. Our interns will hand me 10 clips for a 2016 safety or something like that. You're investing to recruit good people."

As technology has evolved, so has recruiting -- and recruiting budgets. In just the past six seasons, according to a recent analysis from "Outside the Lines," recruiting budgets encompassing all sports have increased at 13 of 14 Big Ten schools and risen by at least 30 percent at eight of those. Higher gas prices, increased postage and other variables have undoubtedly played a role but several coaches and athletic directors also stressed how bigger staffs -- a result of newer technology -- have inflated those numbers.

At Penn State, Shoop can now rely on two full-time staff members, two graduate assistants and a team of 30 students/interns to help with recruiting. At Northwestern, the recruiting staff has tripled in just the last six to eight years. And, at Ohio State, one full-time position was recently added, in part, to help with recruiting presentations.

"Our technology has increased quite a bit," OSU athletic director Gene Smith said. "That's a big number for us."

That technology, such as online game film, has placed a bigger focus on immediacy. In an age where a top prospect's highlights can be filmed today and broken down by college coaches tomorrow, staffs can no longer wait until the offseason to evaluate players. And they can't drop everything on a Friday night in October, either, to give up game plan tweaks in favor of digesting film from a high school junior.

"Your coaches are doing this thing in the football season called coaching," said Chris Bowers, Northwestern's director of player personnel. "The time allocation a position coach would spend in March, he's not going to allocate that same amount of time in December or October. He can't. So, yes, there's been an increase in staff for sure.

"I would say at most universities -- I can't speak for everyone -- the recruiting staff is probably two to three times bigger than it was in '06."

In September of 2012, the Wildcats were able to jump early on the Clayton Thorson bandwagon because of that extra staff and technology. The ESPN 300 quarterback, who signed with Northwestern in February, hadn't started under center prior to 2012.

So, when he was due in Evanston, Ill., for a Saturday night game, Bowers noticed his high school coach uploaded his film to the Hudl website that Friday evening. Bowers contacted a GA, requested he cut-up some highlights -- and then forwarded the finished product to the coaching staff. Thorson received an offer that Saturday, partially based on something that was filmed less than 24 hours before.

And if this had all happened just a few years before, then how long would it have taken to make that same judgment call? Months?

"

You're investing to recruit good people.

" -- Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
"Yes!" Bowers said. "… Even if you were an aggressive recruiting staff, the high school coaches would still need to bring you a DVD or mail it to you -- and they might not do it until the end of the season."

Nationally, recruiting budgets have risen across the board, so it's hardly limited to the Big Ten. Still, the conference seems to be outpacing the competition. Between 2008 and 2012, Big Ten teams placed within the top-10 nationally in recruiting spending on just five occasions. In 2013, four conference teams (Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State) placed within the top 10 -- and Illinois wasn't far behind at No. 12.

But coaches and athletic directors were slow to label last season a turning point. After all, it's not as if the staffs had all doubled overnight. Instead, they cautioned, there were other variables that needed to be taken into account. At Wisconsin, for example, the budget is artificially low because the Badgers are provided a private plane and don't need to charter flights as much. At Iowa, a booster donation wasn't included in the recruiting numbers until a few years ago -- which could account for part of the jump. And at Minnesota, due to the campus location, increased flight and hotel expenses impacted the budget more than schools elsewhere.

"We can't drive as much as others," Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague added. "So we've got to keep building the budget and being aggressive."

Regardless, the trend of spending more on recruiting each season appears to be a difficult one to stop. Whether it's an increased staff or costs elsewhere, few universities take a step back in spending.

But, on the bright side, it could be worse -- at least the era of "Be kind; please rewind" is long gone.

"That required a significant amount of manpower hours," Shoop said with a laugh. "And in some ways, now, it's a pro model. It's not like you have an entire scouting department, but I'm sure we're getting closer to that model now than ever before now, as far as people whose sole responsibility is player evaluation. ... It's incredible how the process has accelerated."

Big Ten lunch links

May, 21, 2014
May 21
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Only 99 days left.

Top five recruiting jobs: Big Ten 

May, 21, 2014
May 21
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The Big Ten has some excellent individual recruiters within the conference, but individual efforts are only as good as the program as a whole. So which are the top five best recruiting jobs in the Big Ten?

Here is a look at the list, and why each team ranks where they do.

1. Ohio State

Proximity to out-of-state talent: Geographically, Ohio State is in a good spot. It’s only a few hours from Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. It also isn’t too far from Illinois, so the campus is easily accessible for most Midwest prospects. That doesn’t always matter with Ohio State, though, as the Buckeyes typically have a lot of in-state talent and are recruiting the South heavily.

video

Brett McMurphy and Ed Cunningham debate which football team has the better one-year stock: Penn State, Texas or USC.
After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we're putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series continues today with a look at the revenue generated through branding initiatives like licensing and sponsorships.

It's fitting that the University of Michigan's athletic director has the word "brand" in his last name. In the Big Ten, there's no bigger brand than Michigan.

Ticket sales, donations and television dollars are the biggest revenue-drivers for college programs. But one of the more revealing categories in the recent "Outside the Lines" database encompasses revenue from licensing, sponsorships, advertising and royalties. It all adds up to branding, and in the Big Ten, Michigan is king.

Only Texas generates more money from licensing, sponsorships, advertising and royalties than Michigan, which has ranked second among public schools in the category for the past five fiscal years (2008-09 through 2012-13). Michigan's reported intake spiked from $11,087,101 in fiscal year 2007-08 to $22,473,192 in 2012-13. Although there's a substantial gap between Texas ($33,421518) and Michigan, there's also a financial canyon between Michigan and third-place Oklahoma ($12,805,600), Ohio State ($12,714,758) and Nebraska ($11,895,378).

"We really think of ourselves as a global brand," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told ESPN.com. "In my previous life, I ran a company [Domino's Pizza] that at the time was doing business in about 65 countries. I never visited a country where I didn't see at least one symbol of the University of Michigan. There was at least one kid wearing a jersey, some guy wearing a hat, some Michigan shirt, some 'Go Blue' thing.

"It's remarkable how our brand is way beyond a domestic brand. I'm not sure if other programs necessarily enjoy that recognition."

Many Big Ten schools have massive alumni bases. But Michigan's alumni distribution, combined with the school's academic reputation and athletic tradition, has created a branding giant.

Brandon attributes the revenue differential mainly to the makeup of Michigan's alumni. Another driver is the way Michigan markets its athletes.

"You could even trace it back to the early '90s and the Fab Five, you could trace it to Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson," said Manish Tripathy, a marketing professor at Emory University who helps manage the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics project. "Some of these large figures and personalities have contributed to people who are not alumni still identifying with the Michigan brand."

The revenue from licensing, sponsorships, advertising and royalties accounts for a small percentage of Michigan's overall athletic revenue, which Brandon pegs at about $150 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year. It's the same for other Big Ten schools.

But Brandon sees potential in these areas, especially licensing, which he thinks can grow "much faster" than the rate of inflation.

"I'd like to build that more," Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague said of licensing. "I know we're going to do an aggressive job. Part of that also is winning at a higher level in football and basketball. When I was at [North] Carolina, we were No. 1 [in licensing] my whole entire six years working there, and I was the liaison, so I saw how we built it. But it wasn't built overnight."

Minnesota has excelled in revenue through licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties, ranking fourth among Big Ten schools for the past six fiscal years and in the top 15 nationally each year. Minnesota associate athletic director Chris Werle said the school's long-term agreements with Coca-Cola, Dairy Queen and Learfield Sports, its media rights holder, bring in escalating revenues.

Like Minnesota, Iowa has been in the top 20 in licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties since 2007-08. Associate athletic director Rick Klatt said Iowa has tremendous local support and national brand recognition with its Tiger Hawk logo, but must push to broaden its reach.

"It's gaining shelf space in nontraditional markets," Klatt said. "When we can gain some kind of marketing presence in a sports store in San Antonio when you're down there for the Alamo Bowl, if we can find a little niche for the Iowa Hawkeyes to be next to Michigan, Texas and USC, we'e making some headway. That's a victory."

Klatt knows Iowa can't become Michigan overnight, but with the right success on the field and strategies off of it, the brand can expand.

"It's a quantity thing, a history thing, a tradition thing," Klatt said. "Michigan, Penn State -- they have some numbers that work in their favor. But that doesn't mean we can't compete."

Most Big Ten schools have seen gradual revenue increases in licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties, and most have been fairly steady in the national rankings. But there are some exceptions: Ohio State went from 24th in 2007-08 to fourth in 2012-13. Illinois' revenue has flat-lined, and the school has gone from 25th in 2007-08 to 36th in 2012-13.

Penn State saw a significant drop from fiscal year 2010-11 ($5,984,967) to 2011-12 ($4,444,416) -- the year of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal -- before rebounding in 2012-13 ($5,086,773).

"Locally, the support is still there; people are still paying to go watch the team," Tripathi said, "but on a national level, there has been a bit of a hit on the brand. That's manifesting in the decline in sales of merchandise."

[+] EnlargeDave Brandon and Gene Smith
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMichigan athletic director Dave Brandon and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith preside over marquee brands in the national scope.
Schools approach licensing and sponsorships in different ways, but consolidation is a common trait. All but four Big Ten members use the Collegiate Licensing Company, a division of IMG, to represent them in licensing agreements.

About a decade ago, Michigan significantly reduced the number of licenses it awarded to produce products. Kristen Ablauf, the school's director of trademark licensing, said Michigan used to have about 70 licensees for headwear, some of which weren't producing merchandise. Now there are only five national licensees -- LIDS and Dick's Sporting Goods among them -- as well as 12 local licensees.

"That has really helped increase revenues because we're targeting specific categories and channels as opposed to just licensing anybody," Ablauf said. "Along with our licensing agency, we work to put specific retailer programs together to make sure Michigan does maintain its status as a national school."

The Big Ten wants to become a more national conference as it expands to the East Coast with Rutgers and Maryland. The move should help Rutgers, which has generated the lowest revenues in licensing/sponsorships/advertising/royalties.

It also creates new branding opportunities for existing league members.

"The retail industry will take a look at and say, 'We need to have a presence in our store to satisfy the Big Ten consumer,'" Klatt said. "Our challenge will be, when they start choosing which schools to give presence to, they're clearly going to give some to Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State. But that next tier, we have to make sure we're in that."

Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

May, 20, 2014
May 20
5:00
PM ET
It's finally warming up outside, but the Big Ten mailblog is always on fire.

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Kurt from Shawano, Wis., writes: With the likelihood that the "buy games" for Big Ten Conference teams will cost around or over $1 million, will the conference rethink the "no FCS" game policy? A few points: 1. FCS are cheaper, helping athletic budgets 2. No other "major 5" conference has stated that they will also not play FCS games. 3. Many FCS teams in the Big Ten footprint are ACTUALLY BETTER than low- level FBS teams. North Dakota State and South Dakota State come to mind. 4. Using the threat of playing FCS teams would help to reduce the cost of those FBS buy games. Could this policy change?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Kurt, and I addressed this Tuesday in my B1G numbers piece about the high cost of home games. The short answer is no, I don't see the league reconsidering its policy. Commissioner Jim Delany has been firm on the fact that while some FCS teams are excellent, he doesn't like the idea of Big Ten teams with 85 scholarship players playing teams with only 62 or 63. Financially and logistically, the FCS games make sense. But for the most part, they do not make sense competitively.

The Big Ten must do all it can to help its members with non-league scheduling. If things reach a desperate point and we start seeing Big Ten teams scheduling each other in non-league games, perhaps then we could see the policy reconsidered.




 

Mike from State College, Pa., writes: Have you been following the NCAA/PSU hearing today? There's some good stuff in the information coming from the trial. Most importantly: NCAA admits to threatening the Death Penalty unless the Consent Decree was signed for the first time, which is in direct conflict with what Mark Emmert & Ed Ray said after the Consent Decree was signed. Someone lied. Good story, no?

Adam Rittenberg: It's an interesting story, Mark, but it's not a new one. The conflicting statements from Emmert and Ray have been out there practically since the beginning. In fact, here's what Ray told me the day the sanctions were handed down:
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?

Ray: I've known Rod for a long time. I didn't hear what he said. I was on a plane flying back to Oregon. 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.

And yet that's exactly what happened, which is not surprising at all. The NCAA had to at least broach the possibility of no games/no season to get Penn State to sign.




 

Rudytbone from Spring, Texas, writes: I'm surprised that neither you nor Brian has commented on the B1G's snub of Philly with the new league offices in New York. Philly is the obvious geographical location, about equidistant from Rutgers, Penn State, and Maryland. But, they chose NYC. Or is it not a snub, because the plan was to get to NYC any way they could? (Rutgers and the Twerps were just a convenient excuse.)

Adam Rittenberg: It's not a snub because New York is a much bigger business hub than Philadelphia. The Big Ten can access everyone it needs in New York to grow its brand on the East Coast, and it also has office space in Washington, D.C., for meetings. Rutgers, PSU and Maryland all can easily access the New York office, and more Big Ten officials go through NYC on a regular basis than Philadelphia. Putting full-time staff in NYC was a fairly easy decision for the B1G.




 

DJ from Minneapolis writes: It seems odd that a conference like the Big Ten that's trying to enhance its image and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs and a national championship game schedules the way it does. Why would a legitimate power like Wisconsin draw both Rutgers and Maryland for crossover games vs. either Ohio State or Michigan while an up-and-coming team like Minnesota gets both? Doesn't this damage Wisconsin's strength of schedule when it comes to the rankings and also potentially cost the B1G a bowl spot by putting a fringe bowl team like Minnesota in danger of not getting to the six-win mark?

Adam Rittenberg: DJ, that's one way of looking at it, and your point about Minnesota possibly having to scrape for bowl eligibility this season is understandable. But as I've told others, I wouldn't read too much into the crossover schedules for 2014 and 2015. When parity-based scheduling takes effect along with the nine-game league slate, Wisconsin won't have years where it misses all the big boys in the East Division.

Could strength of schedule hurt Wisconsin's playoff chances this year? Maybe, but Wisconsin opens with LSU. A win there puts Wisconsin in the playoff mix. Could the Badgers afford a loss in Big Ten play and remain alive for the playoff? That's tough to see, but few Big Ten teams are going to be able to afford a loss and make the top four this season.




 

Drew from Austin, Texas, writes: What is the new name of the collection of the best college football teams (Formerly Division 1-A, formerly FBS.)? Certainly it cannot still be referred to as Football Bowl Subdivision considering there is now a playoff?

Adam Rittenberg: No, the FBS/FCS designations are still around because those divisions are still in place. The term you'll hear more of in the coming years is the Group of Five, which signifies the five major conferences (B1G, SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12). Technically, all FBS teams are eligible for the upcoming playoff. But a lot of the upcoming NCAA governance changes based around autonomy are linked to the Group of Five.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 20, 2014
May 20
12:00
PM ET
You cannot give up on the gravy.
After taking a look at the most recent database of revenues and expenses in college sports, we're putting the Big Ten under the microscope. Our four-part series continues today with a look at the money Big Ten teams have paid to opponents over the years.

[+] EnlargeOhio Stadium
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images Ohio State is the league's largest athletic program with 36 varsity sports and a massive, often sold-out football stadium.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis was scheduled to meet with reporters during the lunch break of Wednesday's Big Ten administrators' meetings, but he showed up earlier than expected.

He jokingly offered a possible reason for his escape.

"It seems like every vote we take," Hollis said, "costs us $100,000."

Expenses are rising for major-conference schools, especially with the welfare of college athletes in the national spotlight. One area that continues to get more expensive is the cost of home games, and the prices will continue to rise.

While Big Ten schools make millions from football games in their campus stadiums, they also are paying large guarantees for opponents to show up and play. According to recent analysis from "Outside the Lines," Big Ten teams paid nearly $42 million to visiting teams in all sports during the 2012-13 season (this includes Rutgers and Maryland, but not Northwestern, a private institution that doesn't report figures). The Big Ten, with its big football stadiums and broad-based athletic programs, paid more to opponents than any other conference. It's not a surprise considering many Big Ten teams make more than $3 million per football home game.

In 2012-13, Ohio State led the nation in money paid to opponents ($7,999,881), followed by Minnesota ($4,799,383) and Wisconsin ($3,987,864). Two other Big Ten teams -- Michigan State ($3,650,864) and Indiana ($3,375,562) -- finished in the top 10, and 10 schools finished in the top 25.

Ohio State has spent more on visiting teams in each of the past six years, averaging $7.4 million per year. Its total spent since 2007-08 ($44,418,002) is more than double that of the next Big Ten school, Indiana ($21,576,798). The simple explanation for the disparity: Ohio State is the league's largest athletic program with 36 varsity sports, and with a massive, often sold-out football stadium, it spends because it can.

"We’ll net north of about $7 million off of each [home football] game," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told ESPN.com. "That's why we can afford to pay that guarantee. If you're over 100,000 seats -- you look at Michigan, us, Penn State, Tennessee -- you have to look at their average ticket price, which is typically north of $75. Then, you're probably looking at $5-7 million that those stadiums are netting individually.

"So when you take out a $1-million, $1.2-million, $1.3-million guarantee, you can handle it."

According to the Associated Press, Ohio State will pay more than $2 million in guarantee money to its three home nonconference opponents this season (Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Kent State). The Buckeyes also will receive an $850,000 guarantee for playing Navy in Baltimore.

These fees aren't new to college football. Many major-conference schools with big stadiums have been spending $800,000 or more on guarantees since the latter part of the last decade. In 2008, both Ohio State and Michigan State paid more than $5.5 million to road teams, finishing first and second nationally, respectively.

"We're in the market, we're part of that market because we’re a large stadium," Smith said. "It's just what you have to do today to get the mix."

The problem going forward is inventory, a word used by several Big Ten athletic directors at last week's meetings. Although the Big Ten moves to a nine-game league schedule in 2016, which reduces the number of nonconference games to schedule, the demand for nonleague home games remains high, if not higher. Big Ten teams will have five conference road games every other year, so to get the seven home games most need to meet budgets, all three nonleague games must be at home.

The Big Ten also has placed a moratorium on scheduling FCS opponents, a route many Big Ten teams have taken because FCS schools don't require return games and have relatively lower guarantee fees. So Big Ten teams in many cases must find FBS teams willing to play on the road without requiring a return.

"The issue with nine is inventory," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "You're trying to schedule all [FBS] schools. The inventory becomes questionable. People don't want to go home-and-home. You try to stay at seven games at home, it's very difficult to do that in the year that you have four Big Ten games at home. So there are some issues."

One of them is cost.

"As the supply shrinks," Hollis said, "those that are in the window of who you want to play have the ability to ask for more."

Like many college football observers, Smith had hoped both the SEC and ACC would join the Pac-12, Big 12 and, soon, the Big Ten in adopting nine-game league schedules. But he didn't see it as a competitive balance issue.

The problem: inventory.

"If they'd gone to nine, obviously there's a lot more inventory out there because they would only schedule three [nonleague games]," Smith said. "Everyone is trying to schedule the same types of nonconference games in the same window of time, September. It's challenging."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, while reiterating the need to avoid scheduling FCS opponents, says he will assist member schools with the scheduling dilemma. Some schools are exploring neutral-site games, which are lucrative and have gained greater popularity in recent years. Penn State AD Dave Joyner, who will watch the Nittany Lions open the 2014 season in Ireland, said, "It's almost like having a home game."

But Big Ten ADs also have been resistant to move games -- and the money they generate -- away from local markets.

"I don't know about the neutral-site thing," Minnesota AD Norwood Teague said. "We just built a stadium on campus, a beautiful new 50,000-seat facility. That was built for a purpose, and $150 million of that stadium was paid for by taxpayer dollars."

Hollis also has stiff-armed the neutral-site trend, but he acknowledged last week that MSU and longtime rival Notre Dame are discussing a neutral-site contest, possibly in Chicago.

"Some of us aren't traditional thinkers," he said. "You can come up with some creative ways that make sense for student-athletes, fans and … that you can meet your financial challenges."

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