Penn State Nittany Lions: Joe Paterno

Our all-time Big Ten coaches tournament has reached its conclusion, and a champion has been crowned.

The No. 4 seed in our 12-coach field, Penn State's Joe Paterno, emerged victorious in the title match against No. 3 seed Nebraska's Tom Osborne. With more than 31,000 votes cast, Paterno won with 63 percent of the vote.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Ned Dishman/Getty ImagesPenn State's Joe Paterno was the runaway winner in the Big Ten coaches tournament.
I was surprised that Paterno won this tournament, considering the way his tenure ended and considering the normal power of the Huskers fan base in these voting situations. Some of you noted some potential irregularities in our voting, as Paterno received vast support from international voters the past couple rounds (more than half the votes in the title game came from outside the U.S., according to SportsNation, and Paterno won 87 percent of those votes). Are there that many people around the world who are JoePa fans, or is there some funny business going on? We have no real way of checking that, and I'm not sure why anyone would go to the trouble of cheating to win a contest like this.

Regardless, Paterno is our champion. Congratulations to Penn State fans. Here are some of your comments on the title game matchup:

  • Tony M. from Harrisburg, Pa.: I think Joe Paterno is the top coach of all time. His 409 wins will not be passed or topped in Division I, nor can the NCAA take away something that already happened. He won every major bowl, two national championships and should have won a third when his team won the Rose Bowl, beating Oregon, and going undefeated the same year Nebraska won the national championship. Penn State finished No. 2 that year despite being the top scoring team in college football with 47 points a game. Joe Paterno also gave back to Penn State millions in donations and helped build a library. ... No single coach has ever had as long a tenure at a major university and contributed more to its success. He was Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1986 and is in the College Football Hall of Fame after 61 years at the same school.
  • Jim from Navarre, Fla.: As a native Nebraskan and lifelong Husker, I had to vote for Tom. He was and is the epitome of what college athletics should be about. However, in all fairness, if I was not a Husker I would have voted for JoePa, because despite the scandal at PSU and even though I'm still famous for throwing the rocker recliner across the living room in 1982, he was the greatest B1G coach in history.
  • Foster from Providence, R.I.: (Joe wins out because that's what he did in the majority of big games. His bowl record is second to none and I think that's what it comes down to. Penn State's victories over Hershel Walker-led Georgia and Vinny Testaverde-led Miami are great examples of Joe's ability to coach big games and win. If only the BCS had been around in 1994, Penn State would have had a shot at Nebraska and the answer would be more obvious... assuming Penn State would have won, which everyone in Happy Valley certainly believed would have been the case.
  • Phil T. from Hackettstown, N.J.: Not acknowledging Paterno as the all-time winningest coach is like not acknowledging Pete Rose as Hall of Fame worthy -- you can't erase history.
  • Rob from Ontario: Whenever it's Tom Osborne vs Joe Paterno, I will always think of the 1994 championship game that was never played. To me this is similar to the recent Super Bowl - offensive juggernaut (Denver/Penn State) vs. defense (Seattle/Nebraska). Well, we know what happened in the Super Bowl. I think Nebraska wins that game and I voted for Tom Osborne.
  • [+] EnlargeTom Osborne
    Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesTom Osborne finished in second in the reader voting as the greatest coach at a Big Ten school.
    Vance B from Lincoln: Dr. Tom was two plays away from five national titles, and he was the offensive coordinator for back-to-back national titles for Nebraska in 1970 and 1971. ... That's not only a lot of wins, but a lot of national championships. ... So, granted JoPa was the "face" at PSU for a very long time, which is why he's in the lead and he will probably win, but when it comes down to winning it all and/or playing for it all, which is what this game is all about, there's no other coach in the history of Big 8, Big Ten, Big 12 football like Dr. Tom, and there's a reason why he's called the Doctor. Since 1970, only Alabama can beat Nebraska for the crown of "title town."
  • Musky from Hamilton, Ontario: It's hard not to vote for TO. Team was very clean in the 20 years he ran the show. Win-lost record is outstanding. Then there is this big cloud hanging over Joe. I could not vote for him because of it.
  • William from N. Little Rock, Ark.: Growing up in Husker Nation, I looked forward to every fall Saturday. Tom Osborne made it even more special. No matter what team he put out there, you knew you were going to have a good team to a great team. When I moved out of Nebraska, I still had my Saturdays to look forward to. Winning three national titles in four years was the greatest feeling, and only Tom could take us there. I was greatly inspired when he ran out with the team and Bo Pelini for the last time. Heck, wouldn't be shocked if he could still coach and win.
  • Joel from Panama City Beach, Fla.: What's funny is that the two finalists for the Big Ten coaching title are from the last two teams to join the Big Ten... two outsiders defeated the best coaches with the best Big Ten legitimacy... Osborne never coached in the Big Ten and I love you, Joe, but in his years in the Big Ten were not even his best years. Woody Hayes should have won it. Where are all the true Big Ten fans?
It's finally time to settle our all-time Big Ten coaches tournament and declare a champion.

We began with 12 legends, and now we're down to the final two contenders. There's not much more left to say than to state the matchup:

SportsNation

Who wins this tournament championship game?

  •  
    63%
  •  
    37%

Discuss (Total votes: 32,116)

No. 3 seed Nebraska's Tom Osborne vs. No. 4 seed Penn State's Joe Paterno

Tournament résumés:
  • Paterno: For nearly half a century, JoePa was Penn State football. He won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986) and had four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national Coach of the Year five times. Yes, his career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA. You have to decide for yourself how much that affects his legacy.
  • Osborne: It's hard for any coach to gain near universal respect and admiration, but Osborne achieved it with his illustrious tenure at Nebraska. He went 255-49-3 in leading the Huskers to three national titles in a four-year span (1994, 1995 and 1997), and his teams never won fewer than nine games in a season. Sure, he didn't coach in the Big Ten, but Nebraska is a member school and he was instrumental in getting the school into the league.

Who gets the one shining moment as the winner of our tournament? Your votes decide, and the polling will be open through the weekend. Make sure to drop us a note saying why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results post.
The NCAA men's tournament is all over, but we've still got the title match in our all-time Big Ten coaches' tournament.

Like that other madness, we had some lower seeds advancing all the way to the championship, though the upsets weren't huge. In our second semifinal matchup, No. 4 seed Penn State's Joe Paterno edged No. 1 seed Ohio State's Woody Hayes by a 53-47 count in your voting, with more than 21,000 votes cast.

So Paterno advanced to face No. 3 seed Nebraska's Tom Osborne. An all-time Big Ten coaches tournament final with no Woody or Bo? It is surprisingly so, though the two finalists are no slouches either.

We'll open the tournament final on Thursday. For now, here are some of your comments on this matchup:
Brian from Smyrna: I voted for Joe Paterno over Woody Hayes. There's no arguing that Hayes has a better Big Ten résumé than JoePa. But Paterno has a better career than any other Division 1 coach ever. No one won more games than he did and even his 2 championships are short changing him (he went undefeated 4 other times without being awarded a championship). He won during all kinds of eras of the game. No one will ever top the greatest coach of all time.

Sean J. from Philadelphia: Yes, many coaches have won a plethora of games, fund-raised for their universities, and built the brand of their schools. However, none have had the same impact that Joe Paterno had both on and off the field. Not many fans can attribute their coach for the success of the team and their own personal success. Whether it's the national recognition your degree gets, the time spent in the library with his name on it, or the visit he made to your tent in Paternoville the night before a big game, Joe Pa impacted many of our lives. Despite accusations from the scandal, generations of alumni know they owe Joe a debt gratitude for the education they received at Penn State. That is why he deserves to win this tournament.

David S. from Virginia Beach: Quite simply, Joe Paterno coached and won 409 games regardless of the dumbest part of the NCAA sanctions Penn State had... NO ONE BETTER

Brian B. from Atlanta: I voted for Joe Paterno for two reasons: 1. Joe Pa was the greatest coach of all time. 2. I hate Ohio State and would vote for anything opposite them. Obviously a no-brainer.

Dave from Columbus: Great matchup here. Two towering figures of the B1G. Okay, so JoePa wasn't part of the B1G until the last 20 years of his career, but still. Both coaches' legacies were ended in disgusting tarnish. My favorite team being tOSU, Woody gets my vote. But it's deeper than that. Woody's been immortalized throughout campus, the B1G and beyond. I just don't see JoePa's legacy ever recovering from what happened there. I have a feeling a lot of folks are voting for JoePa out of their disdain for Woody.

James from Nashville: Many people are overlooking the fact that Paterno had the benefit and being independent and setting up a lot of cupcakes. Hayes was the better coach, and would have won more titles if not for facing off against Bo for a decade, and playing Rose Bowls against several exceptional USC teams. Even so, he still won more titles, more conference titles, and indeed a higher percentage of Big Ten games that Paterno. Anyone who votes Paterno is clearly someone who does not know much about the history of the Big Ten.

Larry P. from Mansfield, Ohio: Woody Hayes won 13 Big Ten titles and 5 national championships. Joe Paterno won 2 Big Ten titles and 2 national championships. Not a tough call.

Tom from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio: The Big Ten term 3 yards and a cloud of dust came because of Woody. Yes, when you think of Penn State, you think of Joe Pa. When you think of Ohio State, you think of Woody. The difference is when you think of the Big Ten, you also think of Woody. My vote goes to Woody Hayes.
Who is the greatest Big Ten coach of all time?

Our all-time Big Ten coaches tournament is attempting to answer that question, and we're down to our final four candidates. Our first semifinal opened yesterday with No. 3 seed Nebraska's Tom Osborne taking on No. 2 seed Michigan's Bo Schembechler.

Now it's time to take a look at our other Final Four showdown ...

No. 4 Penn State's Joe Paterno vs. No. 1 Ohio State's Woody Hayes

Tournament résumés:
  • Paterno: For nearly half a century, JoePa was Penn State football. He won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986) and had four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national Coach of the Year five times. Yes, his career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA. You have to decide for yourself how much that affects his legacy.
  • Hayes: He's the No. 1 seed in the tournament for a reason. Hayes won 205 games, the most of any coach while a member of the Big Ten, and a record 152 league games. He also captured 13 Big Ten championships, tying him for the most all time, and five national titles (1954, 1957, 1961, 1968 and 1970). He was irascible, unyielding and one of a kind, and some of those qualities led to his downfall. But he is virtually synonymous with Ohio State and the Big Ten.

Which coach moves on to the title game? Voting will be open through the weekend, and make sure to drop us a note saying why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results posts.
The Final Four field was determined this past weekend. Not just in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but in our own version of March Madness: the all-time Big Ten coaches tournament.

Our top four overall seeds were in action after receiving first-round byes. Our second-round opener saw No. 4 seed Joe Paterno face No. 5 seed Fielding Yost.

The Penn State legend bested the Michigan legend, as JoePa won 62 percent of the vote to Yost's 38 percent. Paterno advances to face the winner of Game 6, which we'll discuss later on Monday.

And now, some of your thoughts on this matchup:
Sandra C. from Lititz, Pa.: WE had the BEST!!! Joseph Vincent Paterno!!!WE ARE PENN STATE! JoePa IS Penn State!!

Ry P. from Greensburg, Pa.: Joe Paterno is the greatest College Football Coach ever. The NCAA, B1G, and PSU [Board of Trustees] used his legacy as a scapegoat to their negligence. It is sad that a debate like this must occur. He won more games than anyone else but more importantly he graduated an unprecedent percentage of his players. Plus, how many football coaches are as well versed in literature as Joe Pa?

Joseph G. from Israel: I would say what puts Joe just a little better is his "grand experiment." It also influenced other schools to do the same.

David from St. Clair Shores, Mich.: No question Yost. He is the only coach to go undefeated in every game in a season and win the National Championship. He got a rough matchup to have to go against JoePa, who is loved and recent though.

Alex from Bloomington, Ill.: As a biased observer (a Michigan fan), my vote went to Yost. Much of the maize and blue history is owed in part to this man. Six national titles and he won eight of every nine games he coached in the B1G. That's consistently brilliant.

Just An Illini Guy from Illini Country: Although I'm sure Paterno will win, I voted for Yost. Paterno's involvement in the Sandusky scandal will forever tarnish his legacy and should eliminate him from these types of discussions.
The Elite Eight will be set in the NCAA tournament this weekend. We're already down to the elite eight in our Big Ten coaches tournament.

We started out with a 12-team field that has been narrowed to eight of the best coaches ever to carry a clipboard in the Big Ten (or for a current Big Ten school). Our top four seeds received byes but now have to square off against the first-round winners.

The second round opens with our No. 4 overall seed in action ...

No. 4 Penn State's Joe Paterno vs. No. 5 Michigan's Fielding Yost

Tournament résumés:
    SportsNation

    Which coach wins this second-round matchup?

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      62%
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      38%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,631)

  • Paterno: For nearly half a century, JoePa was Penn State football. He won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986), and had four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national coach of the year five times. Yes, his career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA. You have to decide for yourself how much that affects his legacy.
  • Yost: Michigan might not be Michigan without Yost. He led the Wolverines to six national titles (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918 and 1923) while winning 10 Big Ten championships. His career winning percentage of .888 while a Big Ten head coach is the best among those who spent at least a decade in the league.

Which coach advances? Voting is open through the weekend, and drop us a note as to why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results posts.
We're a 24/7/365 football blog around here, but it's impossible to not get caught up in the excitement of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

But while football will have its own, smaller version of March Madness with the College Football Playoff this season, we don't want to wait that long. Why let the basketball guys have all the fun when we can hold our own tournament?

In past years, we did this with the top players and championship teams of the past 15 years. This time around, we're going to pit the best coaches in Big Ten history against one another in a winner-take-all bracket.

The Big Ten has an incredible roster of accomplished coaches in its lore. (And, yes, we're including all current Big Ten member schools, regardless of how long they've been in the league. We're inclusive here. Deal with it.). Narrowing the field to our customary eight was difficult, if not downright unthinkable. So we've expanded the bracket to 12 this time, with the top four seeds getting byes and the others trying to play their way in. Be on standby, Dayton.

We're looking for coaches who have won Big Ten titles and national championships, those who stuck around long enough to pile up Hall of Fame résumés and build unmistakable legacies. No current coaches are involved, as we'll let them finish their careers before we start stacking them up against the all-timers.

The tournament will kick off Thursday with the first couple of matchups. But first, here is a look at the entire field, in alphabetical order:
  • Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: Alvarez revived the Badgers program during his 16 years at the helm in Madison, compiling 118 wins. He also earned three Rose Bowl victories and is the only league coach to ever win back-to-back Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
  • Bernie Bierman, Minnesota: The Gophers claimed five national titles under Bierman (1934, 1935, 1936, 1940 and 1941) and won seven Big Ten championships from 1932-41. He went 93-35-6 at Minnesota and also won a national title as a player with the Gophers.
  • Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State: Daugherty coached the Spartans from 1954 to 1972 and led them to back-to-back national titles in 1965 and 1966. The rest of his tenure didn't go as well, but Daugherty is tied for the sixth-most Big Ten wins ever.
  • Hayden Fry, Iowa: The Hawkeyes hadn't had a winning season in 17 years before Fry arrived before the 1979 season. He proceeded to go 143-89-6 in Iowa City, claiming three Big Ten titles. His 98 Big Ten wins are fourth-most ever.
  • Woody Hayes, Ohio State: Few coaches are as synonymous with a school as Hayes is with Ohio State. He won 205 games, the most of any coach while a member of the Big Ten, and a record 152 league games. Hayes also won 13 Big Ten championships, tying him for the most all time, and five national titles (1954, 1957, 1961, 1968 and 1970).
  • Tom Osborne, Nebraska: There aren't many coaches more beloved and universally respected than Osborne, who went 255-49-3 while leading the Huskers to three national titles in a four-year span (1994, 1995 and 1997). How about this: His teams never won fewer than nine games in a season, and this was before 12-, 13- and even 14-game seasons became the norm.
  • Joe Paterno, Penn State: JoePa won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986) and four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national coach of the year five times. His career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA.
  • Bo Schembechler, Michigan: Bo and Woody. Woody and Bo. Two coaches really defined the Big Ten for decades, and Schembechler was one of them. He is tied with Hayes for the most Big Ten titles ever (13) and his 143 Big Ten victories are the second-most all time. Schembechler has the highest conference winning percentage (.850) of any coach who competed in the Big Ten for at least 10 years. But he never won a national title.
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg, Chicago: Listen up, youngsters. The University of Chicago was a charter member of the Big Ten, and Stagg was its sports titan. He won 199 games, including 116 Big Ten victories, as well as two national championships (1905, 1913). Stagg is credited with innovating many plays and formations used in modern football, and he was also named to the Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to that sport.
  • Jim Tressel, Ohio State: Tressel coached exactly 10 years in the Big Ten before he was forced to resign, but what a decade it was. He has the second-highest winning percentage both overall and in league play for coaches who spent at least 10 years inside the conference, and he won or shared seven league titles (though the 2010 co-championship was later vacated). Tressel is the last Big Ten coach to win a national title, in 2002.
  • Fielding Yost, Michigan: The Wolverines won six national titles under Yost (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918 and 1923) and his 10 Big Ten titles trails only Hayes and Schembechler. His career winning percentage of .888 while a Big Ten head coach is the best all time among those who coached at least a decade in the league.
  • Bob Zuppke, Illinois: He was the Illini head coach from 1913 to 1941 and won four national titles (1914, 1919, 1923, and 1927). Zuppke is credited for inventing the huddle, which is kind of a big deal, and he also coached the legendary Red Grange. He is tied with Daugherty for the sixth-most Big Ten wins of all time, and he captured seven Big Ten titles.

As you can see, this is an impressive field. We couldn't even include all the amazing coaches from history, including Michigan's Fritz Crisler, Nebraska's Bob Devaney or Minnesota's Henry Williams, to name just a few. (Sorry, Huskers fans, but while Osborne has a tenuous connection to the Big Ten as the athletic director who ushered the school into the league, Devaney's great career had no Big Ten ties. Don't worry. You can simply throw all your considerable voting power behind Osborne if you desire.)

Stay tuned for the opening matchups. "The ball is tipped ..."

Mike McQueary's last stand

March, 4, 2014
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video
Former Penn State quarterback and later assistant coach Mike McQueary was the key whistleblower in the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal that brought down Joe Paterno and several school leaders.

McQueary will once again be an important figure in the criminal trials of Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz and in his own lawsuit against Penn State. ESPN The Magazine takes a closer look at McQueary in this gripping story.

One of the bombshells from the story is that McQueary told Penn State players in 2011 that he could relate to Sandusky's victim in the shower incident he witnessed because he, too, had been sexually abused as a child.

Don Van Natta Jr. writes that McQueary's life has been difficult since his allegations came to light. He still lives in State College at his parents' house but is unemployed and broke:
Approaching 40, McQueary fills his days hunting for distractions, scouring the web for employment -- he's failed to land several sales jobs -- and visiting his lawyer's office at a strip shopping center. On some days, he pays his respects at Joe Paterno's final resting place.

Van Natta also reports that McQueary developed a compulsive gambling problem while he was a player at Penn State and that he even bet on Nittany Lions games:
One former teammate specifically recalls that Big Red bet and lost on his own team in a November 1996 game against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. With McQueary serving as a backup on the sideline, favorite PSU won on a late field goal 32-29 but didn't cover the eight-point spread.

As his losses mounted, McQueary owed thousands of dollars to a bookie, a debt that was eventually erased by his father, several people say. A college friend recalls urging McQueary to slow down. "It got pretty bad," the friend says, "and it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive."

Whether Paterno or his assistants were aware of McQueary's gambling isn't known, but several teammates and former coaches say they doubt it. By all accounts, McQueary was fooling fans across Happy Valley -- and pulling the wool over on Paterno. "I love Joe to death," says a woman who worked for years in the football office. "But in a lot of ways, he was clueless."

There have been inconsistencies in McQueary's account of what he saw in the Lasch Building showers on Feb. 9, 2001, and those statements and his memory will thoroughly be dissected in the forthcoming trials.
1. West Virginia hired Tom Bradley as assistant head coach, and for the first time since the Penn State scandal erupted, a majority of Joe Paterno’s assistants are working again. Has it been the taint of the scandal or a commentary on Paterno’s staff? The two assistants Bill O’Brien kept -- Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden -- have moved to Ohio State and Air Force, respectively. Galen Hall and Dick Anderson retired. Jay Paterno is running for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania. Mike McQueary, a big witness in the Jerry Sandusky trial, has yet to resurface.

2. Speaking of Penn State, new head coach James Franklin might be the first sitting SEC head coach to leave the conference for a Big Ten school since the SEC began playing football in 1933. I say “may” because I haven’t found one in my research, but I am not positive I have run down every single lead. In recent years, two prominent head coaches, Nick Saban (Michigan State to LSU) and Bret Bielema (Wisconsin to Arkansas), have left the Big Ten for an SEC school.

3. Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys 25 years ago today, catapulting his University of Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson out of college football after a three-year run in which Johnson’s Miami Hurricanes went 34-2, winning one national championship (1987) and losing to the eventual No. 1 team in the other two years (Penn State, 1986; Notre Dame, 1988). Another of Jones’ Razorbacks teammates, Barry Switzer, came out of retirement and joined Johnson as the only head coaches to win a college football national championship and a Super Bowl (until Pete Carroll joined them earlier this month).
As the coach hiring season nears an end, we're examining the Big Ten coaching landscape and some recent trends. We wrap up the series today with a look at the importance of coaching continuity in the Big Ten going forward.

It's no coincidence that a historic downturn in Big Ten football has coincided with a historic stretch of instability among the league's coaches.

[+] EnlargeKirk Ferentz
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesIowa's Kirk Ferentz has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach.
Think back to 2005, a season that ended with two BCS bowl wins and teams ranked No. 3 (Penn State) and No. 4 (Ohio State) in the final polls. Seven of the league's 11 coaches had been at their schools for six or more seasons. Ohio State's Jim Tressel, three years removed from a national title, logged his fifth season in Columbus. Three coaches -- Penn State's Joe Paterno, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez and Michigan's Lloyd Carr -- all had held their jobs for more than a decade (in Paterno's case, four decades).

The Big Ten coaches that year had combined for four national championships, five Rose Bowl titles and seven BCS bowl victories.

Since 2005, the Big Ten has gone through 17 coaching changes (not counting Nebraska's after the 2007 season). Seven teams have made multiple changes, including Penn State, which introduced new coaches earlier this month and in January 2011 after not doing so since February 1966. Last season, Indiana's Kevin Wilson was the longest-tenured coach in the Leaders division. He was hired in December 2010.

As the Big Ten invests more in its coaches, it also must ensure it has the right leaders in place for the long haul.

"If you believe strongly in the person you have," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told ESPN.com, "continuity is invaluable."

Few programs value continuity more than Iowa, which has had two coaches (Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry) since the 1978 season. Ferentz, who just completed his 15th year at the school, has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach. He's one of only four FBS coaches to start before the 2000 season (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Troy's Larry Blakeney are the others).

Iowa awarded Ferentz with contract extensions both in 2009 and 2010, the latter a whopping 10-year deal with a salary of $3,675,000. The Big Ten hasn't set the pace nationally in coach compensation, but Iowa's pledge to Ferentz, often the subject of NFL rumors, jumps out. Ferentz's salary is frequently debated and scrutinized, especially when Iowa struggles like it did in 2012, but Barta's loyalty to him hasn't wavered. Iowa rebounded to win eight games last season.

"Because of that commitment, we made our statement," Barta said. "We're going to fight through this with the person in whom we have great confidence and trust. There's no guarantees in life, but because of Kirk's past performance, because of his long-standing approach at Iowa and his proven success, it was a risk I was willing to take. Knock on wood, so far it has worked out terrific."

Barta sees a similar approach from Big Ten schools like Michigan State, which won Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles in Mark Dantonio's seventh season as coach. Dantonio in 2011 received a contract designed to keep him a "Spartan for life," and his newest deal is expected to more than double his salary from $1.9 million in 2013.

"Continuity breeds success," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said, "and that's the hardest part sometimes on the institutional side, to keep that commitment, keep that contract whether it's an assistant or a head coach. … It requires a high level of confidence and a high level of trust."

The day of playing musical chairs with coaches, of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon
There have been similar long-term commitments at other Big Ten schools. Northwestern awarded coach Pat Fitzgerald a 10-year contract in 2011. When Indiana hired Wilson, it gave him a seven-year contract, longer than the initial deals new coaches typically receive. Athletic director Fred Glass links Indiana's lack of continuity -- the school has had five coaches since 1996 -- with its on-field struggles (only one bowl appearance since 1993) and knows the school needs a more patient approach.

"Stability is an important thing in our league," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who applauded recent moves like MSU retaining Dantonio and Penn State hiring James Franklin. "The best example I'll use is men’s basketball where we're having tremendous success, in large part, because of the stability we have in a number of our programs. I think we need to get that in football."

While Big Ten football has struggled in recent years, the league is surging on the hardwood, in large part because of veteran coaches like Michigan State's Tom Izzo (19th year), Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (13th year) and Ohio State's Thad Matta (10th year). Six of the league's 12 basketball coaches have been in their jobs for at least five seasons.

Continuity doesn't guarantee success, but it often correlates. Barta has tried to create "an environment of longevity and long-term commitment" at Iowa, while also recognizing the pressure to win and, in some cases, the need to part ways with a coach.

"The day of playing musical chairs with coaches," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said, "of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right."

After several years of transition, the Big Ten hopes it has the right men at the top -- and the ability to keep them there.

PSU staff aims high with expectations

January, 24, 2014
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- As Penn State's assistants tell it, the Nittany Lions' return to national prominence is inevitable.

During separate interviews, each assistant on Friday afternoon echoed the same sentiment. Most of the staff -- seven of nine who came straight from Vanderbilt -- explained how they turned a have-not program into a good SEC team. So, they said, it stands to reason they can do even more with a university that boasts more tradition, renown and finances than their last stop.

"There are 'haves' and there are 'have-nots' in college football, that's the truth," said offensive line coach Herb Hand, adding that maybe 15 'haves' exist in the FBS. "And this is one of the 'haves' -- and I'm excited about that."

[+] EnlargePenn State/Purdue
AP Photo/Gene J PuskarThe new staff understands it has advantages that it didn't have at its last stop.
At Vanderbilt, Hand couldn't wander into a high school and ask to speak with all the blue-chip prospects. Most wouldn't even consider the Commodores. (Christian Hackenberg certainly wouldn't, for example.) Penn State is just different.

During a visit to La Salle in Philadelphia last season, teachers left their classrooms and walked down a flight of stairs to catch a glimpse of Bill O'Brien. An army of students manned their cellphones and hoped for a picture. And, for a day, the targeted recruit -- linebacker Zaire Franklin -- felt like the most popular kid there and fielded dozens of questions at lunch about his experience. ("Does he have big hands?" was one of the odder questions.)

James Franklin didn't have that at Vanderbilt. Far from it. He took over a program that struggled in every facet of football. And, even during its success, he stopped at fraternities and tried to increase attendance at every opportunity. During his first day on the job at Penn State, he joked that he would blow up birthday balloons in backyards if people asked him.

"That was a mistake, obviously," Franklin said with a smile Friday, as he has received quite a few offers to do exactly that.

A largely intact staff that performed wonders at Vanderbilt certainly boasts a higher ceiling at a program like Penn State. The competition in the Big Ten isn't as fierce as the SEC. The Nittany Lions have already pulled off back-to-back winning seasons under the sanctions, and they basically have a head-start over what the staff started with at Vanderbilt.

"We've been at some places where you kind of never had the resources you had here," defensive line coach Sean Spencer said. " It's going to be very exciting to know the playing field is going to get a little more level.

"Whatever we did at Vanderbilt was unbelievable, right? You know that playing field was getting to the point where it was level with the rest of the SEC. Well, now, [Penn State] is already pretty level. So now what are we going to do? The sky is the limit."

It wasn't just the implication of Big Ten titles during Friday's news conference and sit-down talks with the assistants. Some didn't shy away from saying that's exactly what the goal is -- and exactly what this program is capable of.

That's something Penn State fans haven't heard for quite awhile. Joe Paterno wasn't one to make promises, and O'Brien tended to temper expectations. Franklin's staff not only has embraced those lofty expectations, it has taken them to another level.

Again, right now, it's all talk without actions. But Franklin and his staff have certainly caught this fan base's attention -- and they're aiming high. Penn State has shared one Big Ten title in the last eight seasons, and it was vacated because of the sanctions.

"We came here to build a Big Ten championship -- and a national championship-caliber defense," defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said, reiterating that very point three minutes after he initially made it. "That's the only thing we know."

Added offensive coordinator John Donovan: "I'm excited to recruit for this school and bring a championship to Penn State."
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Penn State's last coaching search went at a slow, seemingly wayward pace and left plenty of questions, especially about the man being introduced to lead the program on Jan. 6, 2012.

There will be no Bill O'Who moments when James Franklin, officially hired today as Penn State coach, steps to the lectern this afternoon inside Beaver Stadium. Franklin is a known name and a big name in the coaching profession. He has accomplished what few believed possible: He made Vanderbilt not merely relevant in football, but pretty darn good with three consecutive bowl appearances and a 24-15 record. The 41-year-old has been mentioned for seemingly every college and NFL coaching vacancy this year. If Penn State fans weren't familiar with his work before the past few weeks, they certainly are now.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesNew Penn State coach James Franklin led Vanderbilt to a 24-15 record.
Franklin isn't a mystery man like Bill O'Brien was two years ago. Penn State is getting a sharp, dynamic coach who can compete with Ohio State and Michigan on the recruiting trail and, despite the lingering NCAA sanctions, should soon make Penn State a contender in a tough Big Ten East division. Some felt sorry for Penn State when O'Brien bolted for the NFL just two seasons after the NCAA imposed unprecedented sanctions on the program, including a four-year postseason ban.

No one is feeling sorry for Penn State now. The only pity party being thrown might be by new Big Ten member Maryland, which tapped Franklin as its coach-in-waiting in 2009 but couldn't keep him in town.

This is a move that carries potential high rewards for Penn State, and also some risks.

Franklin signed the nation's No. 22 recruiting class in 2013, and Vanderbilt's 2014 class currently ranks 29th. He's an exceptional recruiter with national reach, as well as ties both in the state -- he's from Langhorne, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, and played quarterback at East Strousburg University -- and in the Mid-Atlantic. Franklin's time in the SEC should put Penn State in play for more prospects in a region they rarely have entered.

Vanderbilt's current roster includes players from 21 states, including the big three (Texas, Florida and California), but also Big Ten states Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

There has been a lot of talk about Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shaking up the Big Ten with his "SEC-style" recruiting approach. Well, Meyer has company with Franklin. That's not a bad thing for a league that for the most part lags behind in recruiting at the highest levels.

Franklin will fire up Penn State fans, players and recruits when he speaks. He oozes confidence -- some see it as arrogance -- and won't flinch at the NCAA sanctions, the administrative instability and the pro-Joe Paterno section of Penn State's fan base, which frustrated O'Brien at the end of his tenure (but wasn't the primary reason he left). Penn State is an old-school program and Franklin is undoubtedly a new-school coach, but the marriage can be successful.

His hiring also brings some potential red flags.

1. Franklin has had six coaching jobs since 1999 and hasn't remained in one place for longer than five years. Although many believe he's suited for the college game, NFL teams could come calling if he continues to succeed. When top SEC vacancies become available, his name likely will be mentioned. For all his talk of "anchor down" at Vanderbilt, it's debatable whether Franklin will ever truly drop anchor, even if he's back in his native Pennsylvania. The buyouts in his contract will be very telling, as Penn State can't afford to be a steppingstone job.

2. A Penn State program embroiled in a child sex-abuse scandal in 2011 is hiring a coach who had four players accused of raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in June. A November court filing by defense lawyers requested text messages sent by Vanderbilt coaches that could shed light on what took place. Franklin immediately dismissed the players and hasn't been implicated in any potential cover-up, but Penn State simply can't afford any character issues with its new coach. PSU's vetting of Franklin had better be foolproof or the school will suffer.

3. There's a lot of hype around Franklin, some of which might be overkill. Coaches who win at places like Vanderbilt or Duke or Northwestern tend to get additional credit when it's not always merited. Of Franklin's 11 SEC wins at Vanderbilt, only two came against teams that finished with winning records. He still must show he can beat top teams like Ohio State, Michigan State and possibly Michigan, all three of which he'll see annually in the East division. Vanderbilt's offense ranked no higher than 55th nationally in scoring under Franklin, who has overseen only one truly explosive offense (Kansas State in 2007, when he served as coordinator).

Al Golden would have been the safe choice, but Penn State swung for the fences with Franklin, who will earn up to $4.5 million per season, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Franklin mint, indeed.

There are more potential rewards than risks here, and the fact Penn State could land such a coveted coach under the cloud of sanctions illustrates how the job has improved in two years. Franklin enhances the Big Ten coaching fraternity. That two of the league's past three coaching hires are African-American is an excellent sign after a lengthy drought.

A Penn State program not known for glitz under Paterno has made a flashy, fascinating hire in Franklin.

Buckle up, Nittany Nation. This will be a wild ride.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
4:00
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Eventful week in the Big Ten so far, and bowl season wraps up tonight in South Florida.

Time to check the mail ...

Dave from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam -It was great to see Coach Dantonio finish out the season with a Rose Bowl win. His team's effort reminded me a lot of OSU's defense the year they won the NC game. I also like seeing him getting a huge raise. But what does it say, 1) to Texas, and 2) to MSU, their fan base, and the players that Dantonio turned down overtures there? Granted, I'm sure he isn't the only coach being contacted, but the fact that he'd just plain turn down interest in the role has to say something significant.

Adam Rittenberg: The most significant development is that Michigan State will pay Dantonio like the top-tier coach that he is. Not enough Big Ten programs are willing to invest the ridiculous sums of money they earn every year into winning football championships. I know money isn't everything, but it shows the commitment to head coaches and top assistants like Pat Narduzzi, who also should get a big raise after another superb season. Dantonio's loyalty to MSU has never really been in doubt. He told me years ago the only job he'd leave for is Ohio State -- when Jim Tressel was still there. But I didn't know if MSU would make the necessary financial commitment, and it appears as though it will.

Joe from South Bend, Ind., writes: Adam,Maybe I am biased. But I can't help but feel that the notion of "JoeBots" caused O'Brien to leave, a bit disingenuous. Why aren't the fans allowed to be upset when, Ron Vanderlinden, the recruiter and developer of All-American, All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebackers - Bowman, Lee, Poz, Connor, etc - was fired? Also, wouldn't Alabama fans, despite the amazing record of Saban, react harshly if Saban tried to change Alabama's historic uniforms? This narrative seems so forced to me. Most Penn State fans are more than supportive of O'Brien. Even the great coaches can be the subject of legitimate criticisms.

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, the Joe Paterno supporters weren't the reason O'Brien took the Texans job. He came to Penn State as a coach likely to jump to the NFL and jumped after two years. I'm not surprised and most Penn State fans shouldn't be, either. Fans absolutely have the right to question decisions like dismissing Vanderlinden, which left several Big Ten coaches puzzled. Being upset about the uniforms thing is a little less understandable, as O'Brien made changes with good intentions in mind. I agree that the large majority of PSU fans supported O'Brien, but he also was in a stressful situation after the way things ended with Paterno. But his exit had much more to do with the allure of the NFL.

Steve M. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hey Adam, which loss on Ohio State's D is more crippling...Bradley Roby or Noah Spence?

Adam Rittenberg: It's sort of a chicken-and-egg question because if Spence pressures Clemson's Tajh Boyd, he has less time to attack a Roby-less secondary. Then again, Roby is capable of matching up against Clemson's talented wide receivers. You can replace good pass rushers, and I wouldn't say Spence is an elite one just yet. It's very hard to replace standout corners like Roby.

Matt from Plymouth, Minn.: Hey Adam,With Jeff Jones getting even more exposure from winning the MVP honors at the Under Armour All-America Game, is there any way he will actually end up signing a letter of intent with the Gophers, especially given that he's already softened his commitment? It would be huge for the program if they could convince him to stay in his home state.

Adam Rittenberg: It's going to be tough, Matt, as the higher-profile programs are swarming now. Michigan offered today, and Jones will take an official visit to Florida later this month. Minnesota can sell staying local and helping the Gophers reach new heights, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jones signed elsewhere. He would be a great get for Minnesota, which loses too many of its elite prep prospects (James Onwualu, Seantrel Henderson, Michael Floyd) to other programs.

Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: When people question how tough the B1G bowl lineup is, you should point out that we were the only one of the 5 power conferences to play nothing but power conference teams in bowls. A few MWC, AAC, C-USA, or MAC matchups would definitely help the record!Also, I hope you plan to make some mention in the blog about Gordon/White breaking the record for rushing yards by teammates in a season, and also the first ever pair of 1,400 yard rushers on the same team. Quite an achievement! That said, I wouldn't be shocked if Gordon/Clement do just as well next year.

Adam Rittenberg: Lance, I've argued for years that the Big Ten's bowl lineup is way too difficult given the league's current state and the locations of games. I don't think you need to face a bunch of teams from non-power conferences, but a little more ACC wouldn't hurt. The new lineup is much better overall. I admire commissioner Jim Delany's desire to play the best, but perception is based more on wins, not who you play. Thanks for bringing up James White and Melvin Gordon, who had excellent seasons and worked well together. I agree that the Gordon-Corey Clement combination next year will be very good.

Will from Walcott, Iowa, writes: Big Hawkeye fan. Disappointed in the outcome in the Outback Bowl, a game we could have won. However, the thing that bothered me the most in this game was the flagrant fake injuries the LSU players were displaying late in the game. I counted at least 3 times an LSU player was on the ground in "agony" only to to be back in one play later jumping and hopping around like nothing happened. I think Les Miles should be reprimanded for allowing this un-sportsman like conduct to go on. I see this happening more and more in college football. Is there anything that can be done to stop it?

Adam Rittenberg: There's not much that can be done, as it's hard to conclusively prove that the injuries, however benign they might be, are conclusively fake. I know Iowa fans aren't laughing, but isn't it a bit funny that we're talking about a defense faking injuries to slow down the Hawkeyes' offense? I couldn't believe it when they made the defensive substitution ruling. Against an Iowa offense? Somewhere, Chip Kelly was chuckling. But the fake injuries are an unfortunate part of the game today. It's on officials' radar, but I'm not sure how they'll go about stopping it. I agree that Iowa could have won that game.

Nick from Sparta writes: Adam, Alright, since it hasn't been discussed enough the last few years. Any chance, that with the recent, and now reasonably prolonged Spartan success, that the divisions will be realigned? Looking at the last few years, the divisions seem incredibly unbalanced, with HUGE schedule favoritism to Wisc and Neb. Any chance?

Adam Rittenberg: No chance, Nick. The Big Ten based the original alignment on long-term results and the most recent one on geography. The East certainly looks loaded, but only if Michigan improves substantially and Penn State gets back on track. That looks like a two-team race -- Michigan State and Ohio State -- in 2014.

Speculation of O'Brien to NFL is premature

December, 17, 2013
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien is probably heading to the Houston Texans. Wait, no -- the Vikings. Actually, Washington is intriguing because of its young quarterbacks. Scratch that, the Giants have location on their side.

It's another cold December in Happy Valley, which means the season for O'Brien coaching rumors -- and the accompanying panicky fan base -- is in full swing.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Mike McGinnis/Getty ImagesWith Bill O'Brien in high demand from the NFL, Penn State fans will have to get used to coaching carousel rumors being the norm.
Chatter in local bars and on message boards tends to focus on the latest O'Brien rumors, but it's difficult to blame the fans. The college football norm is unique to Penn State, and fans just don't know how to react. O'Brien is going everywhere and nowhere at once.

CBS' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that both the Texans and Vikings have already approached O'Brien. That's not surprising; Penn State's dimple-chinned coach is in high demand for developing quarterbacks and showing tremendous leadership during a dark time in Happy Valley. Why wouldn't teams be interested?

No reports have emerged yet about interviews or potential contracts. Heck, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier hasn't even been fired yet.

"When you're a team that has four wins," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "[reports like that are] going to happen. That's the NFL, the business we're in. It happens."

And when you're a college coach who's guided a rookie quarterback and a roster of just 60 other scholarship players to a winning season, new opportunities are going to happen. It's the same situation and same question as last season: Will O'Brien leave for the NFL?

And the answer is likely the same this time around: Eventually, yes -- but just not this season.

Penn State fans are a jittery bunch these days, in part because they've never had to deal with these offseason rumors in the past. Joe Paterno became a PSU assistant coach in 1950, a year before sales of a commercial computer that weighed 13 tons. (Seriously.) He was named head coach in 1966, three years before man walked on the moon.

And before the age of Twitter and the Internet, Paterno thought about leaving Happy Valley just three times -- in 1969, 1973 and 1982. Alumni celebrating their five-year college reunions weren't even alive the last time a head coach other than O'Brien thought about leaving for another gig.

So, maybe understandably, the same fans who pack Beaver Stadium every Saturday are worried they won't see O'Brien again next season. The panic button has already been hit -- but it's been hit much too prematurely.

If O'Brien chooses to stay another decade, his name could pop up on coaching lists every offseason. Even before the confirmed reports, some media outlets floated O'Brien's name as a potential candidate. This is the new normal. But it's just not normal to fans who still drive around with "409" bumper stickers or who have lived through the tenures of nine U.S. presidents and just two Penn State head coaches.

All these reports, and accompanying speculation, revolve around the same storyline as last year: O'Brien is an attractive choice because he's a good college coach.

So, maybe, it's fitting to look back at what O'Brien had to say when the dust cleared around this time last year. It likely still applies.

"I have a lot of respect for that league," O'Brien said on Jan. 7, referring to the NFL. "I love that league. Again, this is my profession. I'm a coach. And that's the highest level, and so -- but at the same time, like I've said, I really, really, I can't be more clear about this: I love coaching these kids.

"I enjoy being the head football coach at Penn State, and I enjoy working here. I enjoy the people I work for, the people I work with, all the people I've met, the student body is incredible here, and I enjoy being here. And I plan to be here."

History tends to repeat itself. Last year, O'Brien garnered interest and worried fans before staying put at Penn State. This year, it's likely more of the same -- even if PSU fans aren't yet used to it.

3-point stance: Scoreboard watching

September, 5, 2013
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1. You probably knew this already, but inflation has struck the scoreboard. Of the 10 longest scoring streaks in the history of the game, four are current: Michigan, which has scored in 353 consecutive games, is eight short of the record set by BYU (1975-2003). There’s also No. 3 Florida (309 games), No. 9 TCU (255) and No. 10 Air Force (247). The Wolverines were last shut out, 26-0, by Iowa in 1984, one of only two shutouts that Hall of Fame coach Bo Schembechler suffered in 21 seasons in Ann Arbor.

2. Frank Fina, one of the prosecutors in the Jerry Sandusky case, told 60 Minutes Sports that he found no evidence that the late Joe Paterno took part in any effort to conceal Sandusky’s child sexual abuse. “I’m viewing this strictly on the evidence,” Fina said, “not any kind of fealty to anybody. I did not find that evidence.” Fina agreed, using Paterno’s own words, that the coach should have done more. That’s a long way from the Freeh Report. So someone with subpoenas exonerated Paterno. Maybe now NCAA president Mark Emmert will realize that he overreached. Probably not.

3. With the commitment of West Monroe, La., offensive tackle Cameron Robinson to Alabama, the Crimson Tide has 14 players in the 2014 ESPN 300, including 10 in the top 120. However, only two of those prospects are from the state of Alabama. Head coach Nick Saban has commitments from players as far away as California, Oklahoma, and Iowa. That’s a long way from 2008, when Saban found three future first-round draft picks in Alabama alone: Julio Jones, Mark Barron, and Marcell Dareus.


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