Big Ten Friday mailblog

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
3:00
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Final weekend of Big Ten spring football. Soak it up.

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Greg from Boulder, Colo., writes: I don't understand why so many major conference coaches are against a nine-game conference schedule plus one non-conference "BCS" opponent and two home cupcakes. Seven home games every year unless on occasion you choose to move a game to a neutral site. This model doesn't hurt anyone aside from mid-major programs like Temple who will never get a "home" game against Penn State again. Truth be told my first choice would be a balanced eight-game conference schedule, but get the major conferences to agree to play TWO major non-conference games every year.

Adam Rittenberg: Greg, I'd be in favor of your plan, although it would mean a smaller rotation of cross-division games in the Big Ten. Why do coaches favor easier schedules? Because they want to keep their jobs. It's not a coincidence that Nick Saban favors a model with nine league games and one marquee non-league game per year. He's an elite coach with an elite program. He's not worried about squeaking into bowl games at 6-6 like some of his colleagues are, both in the SEC and elsewhere. The home games are going to happen no matter what, and some coaches would rather see them against lower-level teams than league members or top non-league competitors.

 




 

Erik from Bethlehem, Pa., writes: Adam, I have a question regarding the Northwestern vote on whether to unionize. In the Q&A that Coach Fitzgerald had, he said the players should vote no if they wanted to remain students and not employees. I read a separate article where it was stated that the football players would be employees regardless of how they vote on the union because of the court ruling. I really haven't heard that point talked about at all, so would it be the case that players would be considered employees regardless of how the union vote pans out?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Erik. If the national NLRB board upholds the Chicago regional director's ruling, the players are classified as employees, union or no union. Now if they're employees without a union, it remains to be seen what, if anything, would change for them. Unionizing would bring in a third party, the College Athletes Players Association, to attempt to collectively bargain on behalf of the players with Northwestern. But they are employees right now, and only a national NLRB overturn would change things.

Dan from Dublin, Ohio, writes: Do you understand the detail of the NLRB ruling to understand why walk-ons don't get a vote? They have the same obligations as walk-on players and already receive fewer benefits. This seems like an illogical part of the ruling. Thanks for your thoughts.

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, while it seems illogical for those who know what walk-ons go through to be part of these teams, the Chicago regional director spelled it out pretty clearly. If you don't receive compensation -- in the form of a scholarship -- for your athletic services, you cannot be considered an employee. One of Northwestern's arguments against the union is that it could create a wedge between walk-ons and scholarship players.

 




 

Austin from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I realize Iowa's schedule is considered soft at this point, and that the toughness of the schedule doesn't come until late November, but why did the BTN not consider the Northwestern-Iowa game on Nov. 1? In years past this matchup has been a great one, especially under the lights inside Kinnick Stadium. Who doesn't like seeing the black and gold stripes under the lights?

Adam Rittenberg: Austin, the stripes are awesome. I've heard that Iowa expressed interest in playing the Northwestern game at night, but the Big Ten Network didn't want to compete with ABC/ESPN in prime time. The Illinois-Ohio State game kicks off the same night on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. Check out this Q&A with Michael Calderon, the BTN's vice president of programming and digital media. Calderon says, "We've learned over the years that the audience becomes fragmented when we schedule prime-time games that compete directly with Big Ten games on ABC or ESPN." There's only one Saturday where both groups have prime time games.

 




 

Justin from Denver writes: I am wondering your opinion on the potential for a new JoePa statue. I know an entire university can't be held responsible for the horrific actions of a few, but at what point do we acknowledge a statue is being seriously considered to honor a man who covered up, or at the very least turned his back on years of child molestation? I have no problem with the school, I realize this is not in any way a PSU project, and have enjoyed our first three bouts as B1G members, but is it just me, or do people seem to not be as turned off by this idea as they should be?

Adam Rittenberg: Justin, there are a lot of people turned off by the idea. There's also a portion of people who feel Paterno's on-campus statue never should have been removed, that he was unfairly characterized in the Freeh Report, that the school threw him under the bus despite sketchy information and that he acted appropriately regarding the Jerry Sandusky situation. There are strong feelings on both sides. I think colleague Josh Moyer makes some good points about how Penn State should address Paterno's legacy at some point soon. I understand why the school has remained silent to this point, but you have to respond to your constituents sooner or later.

My issue with the proposed statue is whether it truly reflects the views of everyone in State College, or only a portion of staunch Paterno supporters who live there. Maybe there should be a series of town meetings to gauge how people feel. Organizers can say the statue represents the town, but how do they know?

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