By Dave Bruning
Things have gotten pretty bad in the Big 10, or as I like to call it, the Little 10. This proud football conference has rapidly become the forgotten step child of college football. The SEC, the Big 12 and the Pac 12 have all surpassed the Big 10 in terms of college football relevance. That statement would be considered blasphemy when I was growing up. It’s time to shake up the Little 10.
This conference needs fresh blood; literally speaking, a coaching transfusion. The process began a couple years ago with the hiring of Urban Meyer at Ohio State and needs to continue. Nebraska and Michigan just fired their respective coaches. Change is on the way and is overdue.
Nebraska hired Oregon State head coach Mike Riley as I worked on this blog. The man they should have hired was former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. The Vest would have brought organization and attention to detail to the Huskers. This doesn’t even address the excitement and buzz that would surround every game between Nebraska and Ohio State. Excitement and buzz is in direct contrast to the current state of dull and stodgy that describes the Little 10.
Tressel was dismissed by Ohio State because of his involvement in a scandal involving his players trading paraphernalia for tattoos. His bigger error was lying. I don’t condone what he did, but I do believe he has been punished long enough. Bobby Petrino was rehired by Louisville after crashing on his motorcycle with his mistress, and then lying about it. Petrino also gave the woman a job. Sex for hire anyone? I think the time has come for Tressel to put on a coaching headset again. Nebraska, you fumbled the football.
Michigan can recover that fumble. Hire Jim Harbaugh as your head coach. The current head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and former Michigan quarterback needs to return to the Big House. Tensions are high in San Francisco and I believe the 49ers and Harbaugh need to part ways. The demanding and controlling Harbaugh is just what the doctor ordered to restore the Wolverines football program. The 49ers could use a less dictatorial approach.
Once again, the buzz these hires would create is the tonic needed to re-energize the Little 10. Imagine Tressel returning to Columbus to battle Ohio State, and then Meyer taking the Buckeyes into Ann Arbor the following weekend. Big 10 football would once again command the national spotlight. The University of Iowa is another school with a stale football taste. The buzz in the Little 10 this year is how good Minnesota is; once again, blasphemy.
In fairness to the Little 10, half their games are played in much colder weather than most other conferences. This dictates an emphasis on running the football and good defense. It is not the style of play many young athletes like to play, and therefore creates a recruiting disadvantage. Coaching prestige and acumen can overcome these obstacles.
Coaching changes are a way of life in college football. Just ask Colorado State. I think these Little 10 coaching changes would go a long way towards restoring the luster to football in the heartland. College football needs the Big 10, not the Little 10.