The B1G Uglies: 3 Offseason Questions


Posted Mar 18, 2013


Each week during the offseason, Phil Harrison and Bart Doan discuss three topics on every Big Ten football fan’s mind. They may not always agree (or ever), but the goal always remains the same: To change the course of human history--or at least add some clarity to football being played in the Midwest. It’s the B1G Uglies.


The B1G Uglies: 3 Offseason Questions

(i) What coach or player needs the biggest spring?

Phil H:

Let’s go with a guy that is in the second year of a “re-shaping” project. It’s not often that a head coach in only his second year is put under the microscope, but Tim Beckman is a specimen in a big petri dish in Champaign. He was undoubtedly handed a bit of a mess when Ron Zook was banished at the end of the 2011 season, but who thought the team would struggle as much as it did in Beckman’s first year?

It’s not even a debate. The Illini were the worst football team in the entire league last year. The offense was morbid and inconsistent, and the defense was consistently bad. It was apparent just barely into conference season that the team had not bought into the Beckman way. And although that sometimes happens during the changing of the guard, going 0-8 in the league and having absolutely nothing to hang your hat on and build for the future has cut the honeymoon short.

Beckman needs to turn things around this year--at least modestly so--to be able to get the wolves off of the front stoop of his tenure. Another year like this one and the sands in the hourglass of patience are going to get very close to running out.

Bart D:

I hear you on Beckman, but I’m going with Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell. And I don’t think it’s very close when you really examine it. The reason is, Michigan State obviously has the talent to push for a B1G title on their roster. Maxwell, at times, was brutal last year in Green and White. Compounding that is the reality that Maxwell was shifty last year, plus he inherits a new offensive coordinator(s) that will mean needing to be sharp in a new system while missing some key cogs on offense.

Reality is, the loss of Le’Veon Bell will mean more of the offense shifts to Maxwell. There has been talk of an open QB competition in East Lansing, but it’s hard to figure Maxwell loses the job. He was caretaker at times last year, and then abysmal at others. Five games he was below a 50 percent completion rate. That’s abysmal. Not once did he eclipse 65 percent. That has to improve.

Jim Bollman’s hiring was met with mixed reaction at best, but it will be Dave Warner that’s charged with calling plays for Sparty. It’d behoove Maxwell to get comfortable with the playbook and focus on his accuracy. His job may count on it. As will the season potentially of prideful Spartan nation.


(ii) With rushing the court en vogue for college basketball, what are your feelings about storming the field in college football?

Bart:


I’m probably the wrong guy to ask this question to, since I count of my life experiences “hanging on a goalpost during a field rushing,” but I say let kids have fun. You grow up, you realize that old adage your parents told you about how much easier you had it when you were younger is amazingly true.

The drawback? To quote a line from Men in Black: a person is smart. People are stupid. You get a bunch of people together in a charged atmosphere, dumb things can happen. But there’s very little nefarious about court/field rushing. It’s more just the onset of a night-long campus party where everyone’s invited.

Not to get too deep, but life seldom gets much more simple than hanging out with a few thousand of your best friends and seeing a shocking win for your squad. Let college kids grab the brass ring and enjoy it. Players enjoy being around their peers. Yes, bad things can happen, and students should be mindful to not antagonize players (lest they be rightfully cold cocked in the kisser), but you can get hit by a car tomorrow going to get your mail. No event is 100 percent sure to not have a bad outcome. Let 20 somethings have fun before they’re whisked away into a shaky economy and hopeless job market.

Phil:

I’m with Bart partly on this. There have been many a great scenes, pictures, and memories of some timeless moments that have resulted in storming the field. It’s pure emotion, elation, and a celebratory atmosphere for a monumental achievement. That’s not hard to get the concept of.

What is hard to get, and where this thing goes off-track is when rushing the field becomes a lot like going to get your morning coffee. Ho-hum. There have been far too many times where simply doing something of a footnote has resulted in a student initiated sea of fans. The moment should be reserved for a program defining win, not a party defining, premeditated action like we have begun to see all too often.

I say don’t begin to police these moments too much, and it’s probably too much to ask of some fan bases to utilize a bit of restraint and unwritten rules, but let’s all quit planning these types of things and just let it happen.

Anyone seen my morning coffee?


(iii) If the deregulation of recruiting practices actually goes through the NCAA pipline to implementation, how will that impact the conference?

Phil:

Hmmmm, slippery-slope comes to mind. It would be a bad deal for the conference and college football as a whole. This is typical NCAA. Get a little criticism and try to run the opposite direction as far as you can. Wait, didn’t we just hear that the governing body of today’s college athletics was going to start being more consistent, transparent, and--gasp, reasonable with punishment?

So, how does taking the policing of recruiting fall into that newly forged mindset? Sure, the NCAA has been criticized for the violations that are harder to decipher than a hieroglyphic disclaimer, but how does simply throwing the whole thing away do anybody good? It would be similar to your local highway patrol taking all of the speed limit signs down, throwing the radar guns away, and focusing on scraping up road-kill. At least with some guidelines and the threat of getting caught, it does keep things between the guardrails a bit.

So, at least we’ve heard some chatter that this whole ball of wax might melt a little. Let’s all hope it does because otherwise we’re going to see skyrocketing budgets for recruiting which means even more money needed to make athletic departments survive. After all, you’ve got to keep up with the Joneses if the Joneses are going to throw money and resources at recruiting. And you know they will if the NCAA takes the guardrails down.

Bart:

Agreed. I have a hard time believing all of the measures will actually go through though. At first glance, it seems like an abomination of a decision, but it’s the one thing high school athletes, coaches, college athletes, and parents can agree on. It’s too overpowering and recruiting is convoluted enough as it is.

The issues abound. No restrictions on coach texting and use of social media? When can these kids get a contact break to...you know...be kids? You can debate the use of the “recruiting coordinator” position, but allowing anyone on staff to contact kids could be a total disaster. If you think savvy schools won’t be hiring attractive co-eds to help out with the recruiting process even further, you’re naive.

Then you look at the unlimited spending of printed materials. Who is the NCAA all of the sudden, the federal government? Spending run amok without any actual common sense regarding how that spending effects other entities and people? Just what we need, a green light for athletic departments to spend more loot. Eye roll.

These ideas are a total dumpster fire, with a gallon of gasoline tossed on and a match the size of Vermont thrown in. I’d like to say I have faith in the NCAA to not adopt these. To answer the question, they’d hurt the B1G. It will continue to operate on some ethereal “gentleman’s” agreement regarding things like this. But it’s not good for the game. It’s not good for amateur athletics. And if you’ve ever been recruited, you know it’s not good for you. Hopefully, come May 2, we’re talking about how these rulings didn’t go through.


Follow Phil on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN and Bart @Bart_CFN