Rittenberg Feature on Bo, Woody and the New Big Ten

Submitted by Geaux_Blue on August 22nd, 2011 at 12:35 PM

Available here:


In the six years since the meeting, the Big Ten began to change, too. Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes might have a tough time recognizing the league these days.

If those iconic coaches, who shaped the Big Ten brand during decades at Michigan and Ohio State, were still alive, they'd see a very different conference.

They'd wonder if Nebraska had gotten lost. They'd be shocked to see their teams, archrivals Michigan and Ohio State, placed in different six-team divisions. While they probably would enjoy the division names, Legends and Leaders, more than most folks, they might struggle to figure out which teams go where.

They'd have to get used to a Big Ten championship game, the first in the league's 116 years of football. Playing the title game indoors might irk Bo and Woody, but probably not as much as playing the Ohio State-Michigan game after Thanksgiving.

The piece appears to be tied to an overview of the Big Ten by multiple voices at ESPN. In other content, Pat Forde discusses how tradition can limit the talent needed to win (sounds SO 2008), an overview of Nebraska's entrance into the Big Ten, and Insider looks over Wisconsin

While merely a link-dump for the WWL, we all know it would have posted anyways. At least it's pretty this way.



August 22nd, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^

I think Forde's piece is over-simplistic.  Are the recruits from the South really better than Midwest recruits like the ESPN150 suggests?  He doesn't account for their own ranking bias and the fact that a lot of recruits want to stay close to home so the SEC would naturally have more of their top 150.  I get tired of the bad weather B1G vs sunny SEC argument.  Good players want to play for winning programs and that's why Coach Hoke seems to be turning things around at Michigan.

Blue in Yarmouth

August 22nd, 2011 at 1:10 PM ^

I agree that good players want to play for winning programs, but there are winning programs all over the country. When you are a kid from the south who is used to the climate there and have equal interest in everything football in two schools (one in a warmer climate and one where you actually get a winter) I don't think it is that far fetched to think climate plays a roll.

You bring up Hoke as an example of why this isn't true, but how many players from the south have committed to UM this year? If anything RR would have been a better example of proving this theory wrong, but in his case all things weren't equal either, as he was putting together a different offensive system than many other programs were.

I guess my point is I agree that climate isn't likely the biggest factor in a kids recruitment (in most cases), but could be a pretty big factor in making their decision if everything else is equal. It would for me, I know that much.


August 22nd, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

We do have Magnuson from CA and got Barnett from TX last year but I get your point about most of Hoke's recruits coming from the Midwest.  I think as he builds the program back to prominence he will be able to expand the recruiting to top guys nationwide. 

I understand that I'm different from a lot of high end recruits because I actually like winter, other than it cutting into my motorcycle riding a little.  I see the point about the weather influence, I just think it's too easy to make that the crux of the argument of North vs South.  And I think some positions actually benefit from learning to play in cold weather.  Brady, Big Ben and Brees all played at Midwest colleges and they do well in the NFL where a lot of playoff games are played outside in bad weather.  I'd rather know how to play in the cold and have to adjust to warm weather than vice-versa.

Blue in Yarmouth

August 22nd, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

I agree with this as well. I think it is quite shortsighted of recruits to stick in the south (if climate is the determining factor) if they plan on playing in the NFL. I have always been puzzled why a recruit would feel that way when they have to know they will be playing outdoors in the winter in the NFL. 

I also agree that it is an uninformed recruiting analyst that uses climate as the crux of their argument when discussing the north v south recuiting. It may play a role as a "tiebreaker" (as I stated in the previous post), but I would be surprised if recruits stay in the south JUST because of the climate. If that were the case once the big name schools filled up they would simply sign with the smaller schools just to stay down there, and most of the big time recruits that are pursued by big time programs don't do that. 


August 22nd, 2011 at 1:48 PM ^

The SEC has won 5 national titles in a row.  And it isn't just southern teams that have had the edge over the midwest.  And it isn't a new phenomenon.  Bo went 2-8 in the Rose Bowl, and it wasn't because of crappy coaching or some excuse about winning the Big Ten being the top priority.  The fact is Michigan didn't have Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Plunkett and Warren Moon.  They didn't have the NFL talent that USC had.  Bo also lost a Sugar Bowl (to an Auburn team with Bo Jackson) and an Orange Bowl (to Oklahoma under Barry Switzer).

The last time Michigan won a major bowl game?  The quarterback was a future NFL Hall of Famer.  From California.  The left guard was a future NFL Hall of Famer.  From Florida.  The leading receiver was from Virginia.  Tommy Hendricks was an all conference performer from Texas.  The leading rusher (Anthony Thomas) was from Louisiana.  Dhani Jones was from Maryland. 

Acting as if we can build a nationally competitive program without a major influx of talent from outside the midwest is far more simplistic than anything Forde writes in this article.


August 22nd, 2011 at 2:47 PM ^

I think Hoke is getting the best players he can close to home first and then he'll expand the base.  The last 4 to 5 spots this year could still include a few guys from outside the midwest.

I agree that my comment was simplistic but it was a quick reaction to an article I'm assuming took much longer to write.  I was reacting more with pride as a Midwesterner than to the recruiting argument anyway.  My criticism of Forde reminds me of an ongoing argument with my wife.  Whenever I criticize somebody we see on tv or something we hear on the radio she says "it must be tough to be perfect".  I have to remind her that I don't get paid to look good or give my opinion.  Thank God for that because I'd be broke. 


August 22nd, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

My comment had way more to do with the dumbass criticisms/opinions we've heard recently than anything Coach Hoke has done on the recruiting trail.  The in-state recruiting meme (as if we lost games because the freshmen and sophomores Rodriguez recruited didn't include enough Michiganders) and the way the media/fans seem to have eaten up the "Big Ten football" and "recruit the midwest" statements from Coach Hoke are annoying.  Him going out and getting 4-star linemen from California, Tennessee and Missouri is awesome and I am sure it will continue, even if he continues to please the knuckleheads by pretending that growing up in close proximity to the state of Michigan somehow confers a special ability on football players. 


August 22nd, 2011 at 3:23 PM ^

I agree with the "Michigander" comment.  I think the availability of great in-state HS recruits this year has been a little lost in the shuffle.  If you get fixated on getting Michigan players you'll be hurting yourself when the crop isn't quite so ripe for the picking.


August 22nd, 2011 at 12:58 PM ^

Something tells me Bo wouldn't have liked the addition of Nebraska to the conference.  When Penn State joined in 93, he said we should drop our series with Notre Dame because with the Nittany Lions now on the schedule every year, that was going to be too many difficult opponents in one season.

Although, in Bo's defense, both Notre Dame and Penn State's programs were a hell of lot better in 1993 than they are today.


August 22nd, 2011 at 8:42 PM ^

No, I don't think that is right.  It might have been played after Thanksgiving occasionally, I think it was almost always, if not always, the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  I think that is especially true during Bo's tenure, which I remember very well.  (Woody goes back to the 50s.  I was not around for the 50s or most of the 60s.)

Mich/OSU, USC/UCLA, and most of the other conference rivalries were before Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving Friday and Saturday were limited to a handful of other games, like USC/Notre Dame.

At least, that is how I remember it.


August 22nd, 2011 at 2:29 PM ^

I hate to complain...but I'm gonna. Michigan's violations != Ohio's violations. We all know that, but Rittenberg talks about them like they are equal.

Meanwhile, in the more relevant part of my comment: Brands change. Michigan's biggest rival in the first part of the last century was the University of Chicago. Yost would not have recognized the Big 10 in Woody and Bo's day. Things change! It's a good thing, even for tradition oriented people like us. I am excited to see the rebirth of Michigan football in a new look conference.

Yostbound and Down

August 22nd, 2011 at 7:26 PM ^

I'm with you. I wish Rittenberg would simply acknowledge that the two violations are not equivalent. Michigan certainly ought not have committed the violations, but practicing more than a team is supposed to is a far cry from essentially a pay for play scheme in Columbus. 

I am a little wistful with all the changes though. I'm in college now and the last few years of college football in general and the Big Ten in particular have left me disappointed. Obviously quite a bit of that is due to changes at Michigan. But I am hopeful the addition of Nebraska and the championship game brings the Big Ten back into conversation as an elite conference. 


August 22nd, 2011 at 3:56 PM ^

I hate that he says Bo and Woody would have been alive, they'd be shocked to find Michigan and Ohio St in NCAA trouble. If Bo was still coaching, we wouldn't have been in trouble with the NCAA over practice.