Friday, May 29, 2009

Final Four Friday: Media Innovations

For today's Final Four Friday, I wanted to take a look at what we consider to be the biggest innovations in media coverage of Michigan State athletics over the past year.

And the nominees are... launches its Big Ten blog

About a year ago,, the nation's premier sports website, plucked a young sports reporter from the Arlington Heights Daily Herald in Illinois and gave him a blog. Now, Adam Rittenberg's Big Ten blog is an absolute must-read on MSU and Big Ten athletics. You might accuse me of hyperbole here, but it's probably the biggest thing for Big Ten coverage to happen since the launch of the Big Ten Network. Simply put, this amount of Big Ten news coverage had never before been available all in one place - now it is.

Facebook redesigns its status feed

Sure, we could talk about other microblogging websites - Twitter comes to mind - but the much-despised recent Facebook layout change has most changed how Spartan fans watch sports. I watched the national title game against North Carolina at home, laptop in front of me, putting out status updates on my reaction to the game as several friends did the same. It's like watching a game in one giant online living room.

Live blogging of MSU games

The Detroit Free Press is at the forefront of this, with Shawn Windsor tackling MSU games and Scott Bell taking on U of M. The two live blogged football and basketball, as well as the odd Lions, Pistons, Tigers and Red Wings games. Their analysis is on point and, best of all, they're knowledgeable enough about the teams to know, for example, if the third string tight end is primarily a run or pass blocker. It may be a bit too detailed for some, but I'd rather have Shawn and Scott doing in-game commentary than Brent Musberger. But that's just me, moving on...

Comcast caves on Big Ten Network

The nation's largest cable provider and the Big Ten Network announced last June that the two had come to an agreement for Comcast to carry BTN nationwide - and on expanded basic in most of the Big Ten footprint markets. And while the 2007-08 season saw fans grumbling about not being able to see games, 2008-09 saw every football game and all-but one basketball game live on television.

And the winner is...

I'm a big Rittenberg fan, but the whole point of the Big Ten Network was that more people would see Big Ten games. Now in Baltimore, I've been able to keep up with not just football and men's basketball, but women's basketball, wrestling and hockey too. Games that would never have been televised have been, and that exposure is great for the league.

Going Polling - Are You Mad Yet?

In a blatant snub to the results of our recent poll that accompanied this post, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) voted this week to further restrict the transparency of the USA Today Football Coaches Poll. USA Today has released the final regular season ballot for each voter for the last few years, after questions arose surrounding Texas making the Rose Bowl after the 2004 season. Since that change, there have been calls for each ballot to be released every week.

This weeks vote was to eliminate the release of any individual voter ballots, thereby revoking the change made after the 2004 season.

According to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, "This is yet another move to shield the public from pertinent information in a sport that does so more than any other. Making the final votes public can prevent lobbying and adds to the responsibility these men have in participating in these polls."

The rationale given for closing the poll is that secrecy was a recommendation from an assessment of the overall poll made by the Gallup Poll. While secrecy makes sense for that organization, and most polling methods in general, often millions of dollars are not at stake based on the results of a Gallup Poll. Additionally, those surveyed for a typical Gallup Poll don't stand to benefit from the results of the poll they take, financially or otherwise. Those two distinct differences make the change to more secrecy disappointing, especially given that public opinion seemed to favor an increase in transparency.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

MSU Revenues Even Despite Recession

The biggest news to come out of the Big Ten meetings might have surrounded the developments regarding a ninth league game (no movement) or 12th team (even less movement), but for me those two issues pale in comparison to the most important one.


Compared to the other BCS conferences, the Big Ten is absolutely swimming in cash. The Big Ten pulled in $154 million last year for revenue sharing among its 11 schools. The ACC and SEC came second and third, respectively, with a little over $135 million each, while the Big 12 pulled in $103 million.

It's a particularly great result considering the Big Ten's footprint is in some of the most recessed parts of our recession-hit country - especially in Michigan.

Michigan State, specifically, had a remarkable financial year. Athletic Director Mark Hollis told the Lansing State Journal that MSU will break even for the 2008/09 year. However, it's a bit too early to celebrate State's holding off the recession as football, basketball and hockey season tickets were mostly ordered before the September/October stock market crash.

The big question mark comes this football season, as the sport that bankrolls the entire athletic department has to convince spectators with 401Ks worth about half what they were a year ago to reinvest in fall football Saturdays.

Based on last year's results, if anyone can pull this off, Hollis can.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memorial Day Vacation

We here at TOSSS are taking a short break in observance of Memorial Day. We'll be back to regular posting on Wednesday, May 27.

Enjoy the long weekend Spartan fans!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alumni Club Spotlight: Maryland

Today we're introducing an occasional feature spotlighting MSU alumni clubs around the nation. They're the first friends a Spartan has in a new town, folks who share a timeless bond even though they may have just met.

So with that in mind, we wanted to focus on some of MSU's alumni groups during the dog days of summer, so those of you outside mid-Michigan can get an idea of who you'll be watching football with this fall.

First in the series is the MSU Alumni Club of Maryland, my local chapter.

Geographic reach: All of Maryland north of the Washington D.C. Beltway, but particularly in the Baltimore area.

Home base: Greene Turtle restaurant, Towson, Md. Towson is an affluent suburb of Baltimore, located about 20 minutes north of the city. Think Birmingham, Mich., compared to Detroit, and you're not far off.

Active membership: Big-time football games and the Final Four drew between 30 and 50 people this past school year. Members' ages range from recent grads to retired, with no one age group dominating. The club's Facebook group has 42 members.

Activities: Viewing parties for every football game and the biggest basketball games, including the NCAA Tournament. The annual Detroit Tigers visit to Camden Yards to face the Baltimore Orioles is always a big draw.

Traditions: During football viewing parties, one member leads the club in the fight song after every MSU touchdown. Usually fairly loudly.

Fun fact: The Maryland alumni club of the University of Notre Dame also meets at the Greene Turtle in Towson. MSU had about 40 people there during the MSU-Notre Dame game. The Irish had four.

If you'd like us to feature your alumni club in a spotlight, just let us know.

Photo courtesy of Chris Hanley, MSU Alumni Club of Maryland

Monday, May 18, 2009

Time to Talk Polls!

A story recently in the Detroit News mentioned that Michigan football Coach Rich Rodriguez weighed in on the debate over the USA Today Coaches Poll. What debate you ask? Well, the debate over showing the public how each coach votes, of course!

The debate has raged in niche sports circles for a long time, and every once in a while it pops into mainstream media. Evidently this is one of those times again, because the off season is the perfect time to evaluate rules and procedures for all things college football, and that means that USA Today is considering changes to it's Coaches Poll procedures.

Currently, the poll releases the full ballots of each coach only for the final ballot of the regular season. All other ballots during the season are secret. Is this a big deal?

Well, remember that the Coaches Poll is one of the two human polls used to calculate the BCS Standings. And those determine which schools play in which bowl games, with millions of dollars at stake, not to mention the intangible benefits to recruiting, prestige, and even general enrollment.

According to Pollspeak, a great site that has championed this issue, making the ballots public "allows anybody – fans, universities and the voters themselves to see that the process is open and fair. Even if fans don’t agree with the voters, they at least know that the rankings really were their opinions and not some mythical cover-up or mistake."

Currently, any coach with a vote could attempt to artificially sink or inflate any other team, including conference opponents or others on their schedule. Why would a coach do this? Because of the millions of dollars involved. Because being a higher ranked team makes his team look better. Because having your rival unranked could help you land that recruit who's visiting next week. Any reason. Do coaches currently do this?

Coaches Poll representatives told Pollspeak that "We closely examine each ballot every Sunday. If we see something that seems the least bit out of whack, we contact the coach, with whom we can usually resolve the issue. Most of the time, it's over an inadvertent omission. If it cannot be resolved there, we will bring an AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) representative into the discussion."

So, the argument that the Coaches Poll makes is "Trust us." Evidently, that is not good enough. Pollspeak has a petition up urging the BCS to use only human polls that release every voter's ballot. And that is OK with
Rodriguez. "To me, it doesn't matter one way or the other," Rodriguez said to the Detroit News on Sunday. "I can understand why some coaches don't want to release it, but I can also understand why a lot of folks want it released for transparency or whatever."

So how did Coach Rodriguez final ballot look? Not much different than Coach Dantonio's, actually. He had Northwestern a little high (#16), and agreed with Dantonio about MSU's place in the poll (#18). Overall, voters put MSU anywhere from #13 (Bobby Bowden, Gary Pinkel) to unranked (Gene Chizik).

So, what do you think? Tell us in the comments or vote in the poll.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Final Four Friday: Victory Burrito

Many folks have time-honored MSU sports-watching tradition, and we here at TOSSS are no different. Ours may just be a bit more appetizing. See, whenever we go to or watch a significant MSU sports game, we've got to get a victory burrito ahead of time.

Before MSU's 2001 victory over Michigan, it was Panchero's in East Lansing. Before the 2007 basketball home win over then-number one Wisconsin, it was Qdoba. And before I watched MSU cruise past Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen, the victory burrito craving was satisfied by the great folks at Chipotle in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington D.C.

But which victory burrito provider is best? Well, there's only one venue to solve the great questions in life like that one. And that's why we have Final Four Fridays. Here's your top four:


The pluses on Chipotle are numerous. Start with their lime-infused rice, and go on to the marinades for their meats, and finish at the amazingly good (but never runny) salsa. The best thing about Chipotle is that every now and then (about once a year) they'll give the burritos away for free. That's exactly what they did when the Chipotle opened on Grand River a few years ago. Some of us put down four of them that day. We're not proud of that, we're just sayin...

Moe's Southwest Grill

Those who haven't ventured outside of Michigan might not know of Moe's, but it's famous in other parts, particularly in the South. The emphasis here is on personality - each burrito has its own name (mine is the Joey Bag O' Donuts, still no clue why). The sauces are spectacular, and this is probably the only hot sauce where I don't dare ask for extra. Extra bonus: Tortilla chips are on the house.


This is where I let my fiancee's preferences show. She's a big fan of the veggies, and Qdoba's probably tops in that market. Their queso cheese is also top class, though it can make for a very soggy burrito if you're a meat-cheese-beans-no veg kind of person. On the down side, the salsas can be oily, and the pre-made tortillas won't soak that up.


These tortillas will, however, and not just that but they're about the best you'll get around. They're pressed fresh, rather than steamed as you get there, which gets very high marks in our book. The meats are solid, though generally not spectacular. But their hot salsa, oh my word, it's amazing. And that secret "Diablo" sauce that used to be under the counter was the stuff of legends. Add some extra points for Panchero's in that it's the only big chain where you can get the "El Gordo", for when the half pound of burrito just won't cut it.

And the winner is...

I can't pick Moe's because, well, there's not one in East Lansing. There is one in Ann Arbor, but on this blog that counts against you. Panchero's has the edge on Qdoba and Chipotle because of its fresh-pressed tortillas, which is no doubt enough to win. However, it's also the only burrito location inside Spartan Stadium itself, and that's exactly the sort of dedication a true Spartan victory burrito maker needs. This challenge isn't close. Easy win for Panchero's, the true victory burrito.

Photo: Panchero's "El Gordo."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Billboard Phenomenon

Well, it looks like we're not the only blog that has been slow lately... While I'll use this as justification to not feel so bad, it probably means things are horrible for the average reader, as the MSU sports news must be slow... Sorry...

A story about the University of Michigan caught my eye today...

Ohio State fans put up a billboard Thursday to gently remind UM fans that it has been 2,000 days since UM last beat The Ohio State University in football. Michigan seems to be a common target of this, as MSU fans have done this same basic thing several times, most notably after MSU defeated Michigan in football last year.

I've heard a range of opinions on the "Billboard Phenomenon." Some fans think it's entertaining and funny. Others think it's poor sportsmanship. I've heard that it's too "small time," only reaching a small group of people who pass by. And a Michigan "friend" made the point that UM doesn't need to take out a billboard when they beat MSU, because it's normal. MSU has to do it cause "the rare win is a big deal."

That last point struck home with me, cause honestly it is true. The wins over Michigan have been rare, and they are a big deal. But are they "billboard-worthy?" A football coach of mine, after my team won its first game in about 18 tries, told us at the end of the game to "act like you've been here before." That advice always stuck with me. Something about those billboards, to me, goes against that advice.

But then today came along. Ohio State has certainly "been here before." They are on the other side of the situation, the longtime winning side, and they seem to be enjoying it just like we did. Does this change the argument? Is it still "small time?" Is it obvious even more now that it is poor sportsmanship? Or is it just the new norm, something that should be expected and enjoyed.

If we're going to enjoy it, lets just remember that it can go both ways when UM puts up a sign on Grand River Avenue.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Too Big to Fail

For the past decade, the Michigan State-Michigan basketball rivalry has been, well, not much of a rivalry. It's getting a little better - I mean, Crisler Arena isn't Breslin Center East anymore - but the Wolverines still aren't where they were before the Ed Martin scandal.

You remember Ed Martin. The guy who paid members of Michigan's Fab Five to go to school. You remember the federal indictments, the humiliation and the Final Four banners coming down. All that. 

Perhaps the only team in recent memory that can feel the Wolverines' pain are the football folks at Southern Methodist, a formerly great program until recruiting violations brought the NCAA's first death penalty against a D-1 football program.

Which brings me to the University of Southern California. The scourge of the Big Ten, the team most responsible for the craptastic reputation of the entire conference. Yet another scandal has engulfed USC, this one in basketball where coach Tim Floyd allegedly paid folks to ensure he landed star recruit O.J. Mayo.

That's bad and all, but what's worse is that this isn't the first time. Reggie Bush, one of the best running backs in college football history, and his family were given about $300,000 in cash and favors while Bush was at the school. It's not really worthy of the "allegedly" tag anymore, as the allegations have been pretty thoroughly vetted over the last three years.

That, by the way, is the length of time the NCAA has been "investigating" this case. Investigating goes in quotes, because that's what they call it. I call it a joke.

The simple fact of the matter is that USC is the biggest team in college football right now. And the last massive team to get in deep, deep trouble was Alabama, which was accused of worse stuff than Southern Methodist but got off with a two-year bowl ban and scholarship reductions. The thought at the time was that if they screwed up during their five-year probation, they too would get the death penalty. Well, sure enough, five years later we hear about new coach Nick Saban's trouble with recruiting. And guess what? Nothing happened.

It's unfortunate for folks like Michigan and Southern Methodist. They get caught cheating, they get penalized, hard. And you know that if something came up at MSU (and thank God and Mark Hollis that it hasn't) that State would get slaughtered by the NCAA.

USC, however, is another story. Because Ed Martin paying Chris Webber $100,000 means Michigan has to forfeit its Final Fours. But apparently USC boosters handing Reggie Bush $300,000 is A-OK. 

The lesson here folks, if you're going to break the rules in the NCAA, make sure you're a massive school with a huge history, big donor base and excellent current programs. Oh, and make sure you break the rules with a reckless abandon - the bigger the better. Because at some point, and USC has reached this level so far, you'll just become too big to fail.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pay for Virtual Play

The issue of payment for college athletes is one of those that simmers under the surface, never really going away year after year after year. But never mind what those athletes do on the field, what about what they do in living rooms across America?

I'm talking about video games, most prominently the NCAA football lineup of games made by Electronic Arts. NCAA rules prohibit people from making money off the likenesses of current athletes. 

That's why when you purchase the game, it comes without names attached. But the guy under center for MSU in NCAA '09 was Brian Hoyer's height, weight and threw just like him. His backup, who is not listed as Kirk Cousins, is a bit faster but not as accurate.

Of course, EA does have a downloadable list of names that magically fit certain players that one can get separately, thus allowing me and everyone else to know (shocker of shockers) that the super fast RB for State was Javon Ringer.

Now a court will have to decide just how close of a similarity that is, as a former Nebraska quarterback is suing, saying EA is using likenesses without compensating players, and the NCAA is turning a blind eye. A lack of compensation for likeness is a serious offense, and can be extremely expensive to settle, especially considering how lucrative that franchise is and how many years this has been going on.

The general argument that is made by proponents of not paying student athletes is that they're already being paid. Tuition, room and board for in-state students at MSU was $17,240 last year, and athletes get extras like books, tutoring, scheduling preferences, MSU apparel, etc.

But that's not counting their virtual performance, as all those things have been given to student athletes since way before the world discovered the wonders of a fat plumber named Mario. Now the courts will have to decide if they're due a little extra on the side.

Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts.

Spirit Of Detroit

First off, sorry about no Final Four Friday. It should return next week.

This week the Wayne County Commission suggested that a $25,000 fee to dress the Spirit of Detroit statue in a jersey to celebrate the success of local sports teams be dropped after everyone was balking at paying such a high price for showing a little bit of team pride. The outrage was brought on by the success of both the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings, and the fact that the statue couldn't join in the fun. Fans of Detroit teams have grown accustomed to seeing the statue wearing their favorite colors come playoff time, and suddenly ending that tradition pissed many people off.

Thing is, I could honestly care less. It's not that I don't want the statue dressed up, cause I do. It's more that my outrage came and went back around the 1st of April.

It was back then that the question of putting a Spartan jersey on the statue was considered because of their success getting to the Final Four, also in Detroit. MSU was told "Sure, that will be $25,000 please" and they rightfully said "eh... no thanks."

Some of us were outraged. More people were not. And so the statue didn't dress up, and on went life. Now, just a month later, Detroit citizens are up in arms over the issue. What does this say about MSU's relationship with Detroit?

During the Final Four, MSU proudly adopted Detroit as it's second home, and they seemed embraced by a city that has fallen on hard times. Kalin Lucas went as far as lying to the NCAA (Just a little white lie) and had his hometown announced as Detroit, to show solidarity with the city (and perhaps to get a loud cheer during pregame).

MSU has also made Detroit area recruiting a top priority, scheduling basketball games at the Palace of Auburn Hills and Ford Field and scheduling (and then canceling) a football game for Ford Field.

In recruiting, there have been commitments recently that suggest this strategy is paying off. But, what is MSU's standing and status with the average Detroit sports fan? If measuring the fan outrage over the statue incident is any indicator, then the Spartans still have a long way to go to truly capture the hearts of those in Detroit.

Photo Courtesy of

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Izzo's Championship Performance

We've had a poll up on the right side of this blog for a few days now, asking whether Izzo Goes to Broadway will be terrible, tolerable or Tony-worthy. Unlike most of them, which are a matter of opinion, this one has a right answer.


I say that not knowing how Tom Izzo's performance went. He can't dance. Lord knows the man can't sing - especially with how hoarse he gets after a season of yelling at MSU's basketball team. But that's not the point. Quite frankly, I don't care if he fell on his ass while doing the chorus line kick step.

Izzo, according to some folks who went to the show, sold out the Wharton Center's Cobb Great Hall in the name of charity,with most tickets going for between $55 and $150. Final figures aren't in, but the show figures to pull in at least $135,000 for Izzo's favorite charity, Coaches vs. Cancer.

And that, folks, is a championship level performance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wedding Survival Guide: Scheduling

Folks, it's that season of the year. The time when lovebirds unite, vows are exchanged and all that lovey-dovey mushy stuff.

Granted, it's a wonderful experience, or so I'm told. You see, I won't actually find out until June 7, when I get hitched myself (to someone who is, admittedly, WAY out of my league). But that's another story.

So I decided to run through a series of "how to" articles - call it a Spartan fan's guide to planning a wedding.

I'm here today to talk to you about how not to be a complete and total jackass at your own wedding. There are many things that go into this: Not getting shamelessly blasted at your reception, toeing the line between "funny" and "wildly inappropriate" during a toast, avoiding hitting on the hot bridesmaid, and, for that matter, the ugly ones too.

But those are all things one can deal with the day of. Unfortunately, the biggest misstep most Spartan brides and grooms make is caving on the wedding date, figuring your guests will "understand".

Folks, there are four simple rules for wedding scheduling:
  1. Do not schedule your wedding opposite an MSU home football game.
  2. Do not schedule your wedding opposite the unscheduled date of an even remotely possible major MSU sporting event (such as the Final Four or on New Years Day).
  3. Avoid other major sporting event dates your friends are likely to care about. The Kentucky Derby. The Masters. The Super Bowl. No, no and hell no.
  4. If you absolutely must book it opposite an MSU away game, block out time to watch the game. Wedding, then block of time to watch the game, Reception. Just like that.
Now, full disclosure time: My soon-to-be wife disagrees vehemently on what I'm about to say. She thinks it's tantamount to treachery and blasphemy. So I see there are differences of opinion on this point from otherwise-rational people.

But folks, if you break rules 1-4 - especially rule one - you're basically asking your friends not to come. It's a giant slap in the face. Sure, from your beloved's point of view it might be a perfect date, good weather, the chapel is free and whatnot. But look at it from your buddy's point of view. Here's what he/she hears:

"Hey buddy, I know we went to school for four/five years and never missed a State game, but my wife/husband really wants the wedding in (insert venue here), and it's the only day (insert venue here) is available. I know it's the Michigan game, at home, a chance to shove another Javon Ringer-sized butt whooping down Rich Rodriguez's maize-and-blue throat, but she/he really likes the venue. I'm sure you understand that I'm whipped and I'm going to roll over on this, just like everything else for the rest of my born days."

That's why my fiancee and I picked the not-at-all happening date of Sunday, June 7. There is precisely nothing interesting happening then. I think there's a NASCAR race at Pocono, but no one but me really gets into NASCAR. NHL and NBA games, if they're still going on, won't be begin at 2 p.m. when the ceremony starts. And if the schedule gods screw me and the Wings are playing in the Stanley Cup finals (which should be over by then), then there are big-screen TVs near the reception hall where we'll all go watch. See? Everybody wins.

Now I get it. If MSU is playing someone like Montana State, you as a guest might be inclined to suck it up and go anyways. Gripe a bit, but go none the less.

But quite frankly, if your buddy wants to have his or her wedding opposite the Michigan or Notre Dame game, you've a perfect right to tell the happy couple to shove their bouquet and roses where the sun don't shine.

So you see my point. Don't be "that guy".

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spartan Sports Network Website

So I was browsing the other day, and came across the new Spartan Sports Network website. If you have not yet checked it out, take 10 minutes now (and set aside about 2 hours this weekend) to do so.

This site is absolutely a one stop shop for fans of the Spartan Radio Network and related media. And it now goes above and beyond what you would expect from the typical sports radio broadcasters.

They have the radio broadcasts up for you to listen to. Not just highlights, but the entire game. You want to listen to the pregame coverage of the Wisconsin football game? No problem! Plus they have all of the other sound clips you would expect, from the coaches shows to the player interviews and web only content for Football, Basketball, Hockey and more.

They go a step further with having blogs that are actually quite interesting, dealing with several of the sports they broadcast. They also have a good coverage map and biographies of some of the familiar on-air personalities. Did you know that Will Tieman was once the voice of Grambling State University Football? I didn't...

Now as I do with any website, as soon as I get a taste for the possible, I am left always wanting more. I would love to see more bios of some of the other personalities, such as the behind the scenes workers or the on-air personalities who are only on the internet broadcasts. I would love it if the coverage map linked to each affiliate stations' website (they have started this, but only have a couple linked so far). I would like to see all of the podcasts available on iTunes (more are up now than the last time I checked, so this is happening). I would also like to see RSS feeds available for the blogs.

That said, this is a great website that helps the spartan fan survive the doldrums of summer. There is nothing like a lazy 4th of July gathering of friends and family, all listening to George Blaha call the final seconds of the MSU Football victory over Michigan.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Final Four Friday: 12th Team

Penn State Coach Joe Paterno told ESPN Thursday that he wants a 12th team to enter the Big Ten. He also wants to explore the idea of playing later in the season, possibly a championship game in December.

Paterno suggested three schools: Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers. I'm with him on one of those, Pitt, but to me, Syracuse and Rutgers are just not within the Big Ten footprint. So who, if the Big Ten does add one squad, should it be? The answer to that is today's Final Four Friday.


Cincy isn't often mentioned in the Big Ten conversation, but they should be. First off, the school sits in a natural market for the conference. It's central, so most teams wouldn't have to travel as far to play them, which is a big concern for schools like Indiana and Illinois that don't make much money off football. Plus, the Big East is probably the easiest BCS conference to leave. I mean heck, if Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College could do it, Cincy could too.

Iowa State

The Cyclones are the natural rival of the Iowa Hawkeyes and, as an added bonus, aren't really a natural fit for the Big 12. They're just sort of out there randomly, well out of the way. This switch would be a bit trickier than Cincy, in that you'd basically have to convince the Big 12 to pick up another squad they'd be equally happy with (Texas Christian and SMU are options). On the down side, Iowa State is smack dab in the middle of ain't nowhere, and their TV stations are already in the Big Ten market, so you don't really get much added value.

Notre Dame

It's the 800-pound gorilla in any talk about Big Ten expansion, simply because Notre Dame brings so much to the table. They're the only school in college football to have its own network deal. There's a massive alumni base, with a ton of donors and a big endowment. The school has national appeal, and any number of games (Michigan, MSU, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin) would be must-see TV every time. The only difficulty: The Irish have had a chance to join many times before and balked at every turn.


There's a lot to like about Pitt. Start with the fact that Penn State gets a natural rival to play every year. Add to it a great basketball program and you've got a pretty good athletic program that would instantly impact the conference. Not only that, but the academics are pretty darn solid as well.

And the winner is...

It's a tough choice this week. Even getting to a Final Four was tough, as schools like Missouri, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse and West Virginia all have great arguments for getting in.

As for the winnner, I'd usually go with Notre Dame, but I'm just so tired of dealing with all that, well, crap about ND joining. First they want in, then not. Then they might do it, but not for football. Or maybe they will as long as they can keep their TV deal. You know what? Enough. They don't want in, so that's that. Let's take someone who might.

Congrats to the Pitt Panthers, the (should-be) newest members of the Big Ten Conference!