I'm on vacation, but all that means is you'll get more words out of me. I hope you like my words. Here are a few of the happenings in the Big Ten along with a few podcasts I listened to this week. Have a great weekend. Is it September yet? Cornhuskers riding on Armstrong’s shoulder. Let’s get right to it. In order for Nebraska to improve from 2015’s 6-7, 2016 Tommy Armstrong has to be better. Setting career records for touchown passes and passing yardage will be for naught if he has another season of 16 interceptions. Half of that in the Big Ten won’t net many more than the six wins of last season and being lackluster at the end of the spring game doesn’t exactly instill confidence heading into the summer. Armstrong was 8-of-15 for 80 yards, while backup Ryker Fyfe 15-of-21. So, Armstrong will have to carry the Cornhuskers on his arm, and I guess his legs. He’ll have to work on ‘easy’ draw plays and be more precise. His timing will have to be better and he’ll have to grow up on and off the field. In January, Armstrong proposed to his longtime girlfriend and former Nebraska soccer star Jaylyn Odermann. Many in the Cornhusker fan base probably hope this among many other off-field moves will help settle his social life so he can focus on football. Armstrong’s goal is to have a marriage ring and also a Big Ten championship ring. Good luck with the latter.
Going to the Rose Bowl ins’t cheap, especially when you lose. Iowa lost in Pasadena not only on the field but in the bank account in January when the Hawkeyes played Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes are claiming a $228,000 deficit in spending that will make people wonder how a university in the Big Ten can lose money in a bowl game. The university received $2.5 million from its share of revenue for the bowl, but that wasn’t enough to cover these related costs:
- About $1.9 million for expenses for the football team and athletics department staff.
- About $663,500 for expenses related to the marching band.
- About $166,000 for expenses related to Iowa officials and administrators.
- UI is reporting total expenses of $2,728,445, leaving a deficit of $228,445.
Due to this and probably other unforeseen expenses throughout the athletic department, UI athletics will close out its fiscal year with a deficit. Iowa does not take student subsidies and is self-supporting, but its revenue is smaller than normal because its football season ticket sales are down despite how well the team performed last season. I guess, the fans want to see if last year was lightening in a bottle.
Small potatoes add up, and I’m sure none of these people could afford to pay their own way, but administrative officials accounted for $165,815 in costs related to tickets, transportation, meals and lodging, and ‘other transportation.’ You can assume ‘other transportation’ is the motorcade from the hotel to the stadium. Can’t have the president of the university or the sexual misconduct coordinator sitting at traffic lights like peons.
When the defensive backs coach compares his unit to being an alcoholic. "It's kind of like being an alcoholic: You have to figure out where you are. If you're rock bottom, then OK, now I've got a chance," said Rutgers defensive backs coach Bill Busch. (I’m sure he isn’t related to Adolphus Busch, but it would be appropriate). Rutgers’ pass defense was not good last year, and yeah, if that secondary wasn’t at rock bottom it was obvious they can see it from where they stand. The unit could get worse, and playing in the Big Ten East certainly doesn’t make their recovery any easier, but newly hired coach Busch seems like a man on a mission. He mentions Michigan State and Ohio State as the two toughest opponents the Scarlet Knights will face this season, and yeah…that’s probably accurate, but what’s more important is the building process. Making practice harder than the games and getting players to understand the decisions making process in practice is supposed to be harder than it is during the game is the ultimate goal.
The telling number: 118. Rutgers’ defensive secondary ranked 118th of 127 nationally in passing yards allowed. 118th.
"I talk to them all the time about how we stress them out here," Busch said. "We stress with the pace, how we go from drill-to-drill — everything is stress. Then I ask them, 'How hard is it on Saturday night when you're playing against Ohio State or Michigan?' The guys that played are like, 'It's really hard.' So you see our method and they get it. They understand that we're trying to prepare them for this fight they're going to be in."
Did I mention the Scarlet Knights were 118th in passing yards allowed in 2015?
When retired Spurrier says something he probably shouldn’t. I’m the biggest Steve Spurrier guy there is. I think he’s a national treasure and definitely one of the funniest guys in college football – retired or not – but sometimes it’s better to not speak on certain things. In many ways though, I think I’m a lot like Spurrier, if someone asks me something I’ll probably just say whatever and then realize after I’m halfway through my answer that I probably should have said, ‘no comment.’ Spurrier appeared on Paul Finebaum’s radio show earlier this week and was asked about the treatment of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno. His response:
"[Paterno] was treated the most unfairly of any coach ever," Spurrier said. "He had nothing to do with that scandal. Nothing at all, and amazingly, what they did to him was completely wrong. I've heard they're having talk of putting the statute back, and they should do that. They really should."
Well. I agree with some of this, and I agree that Paterno in the court of public opinion may have received a slightly raw deal, but Paterno did nothing to bring anyone to his side of the argument. Paterno was hung out to dry by the Penn State administration, but I still have an hard time believing he had no idea what Jerry Sandusky was doing. I’m not suggestion he had complete knowledge, but at some point you have to think to yourself, something about Sandusky and this situation doesn’t seem right. And I think this is where Spurrier and some of the Penn State fans and alumni jump the shark.
Joe Paterno was a great coach and probably a better man, but like all men (and women) everyone makes mistakes. It is not ill to talk of someone after they die if you’re simply pointing out obvious flaws and facts. It would have been better to point these flaws out while he were alive so he could respond to them, but when you’re in the inner circle I get that it’s hard to be honest with the icon in the middle. But what are friends for?
If Paterno and Spurrier were close friends, then Spurrier should have asked Paterno what the hell was going on with Sandusky, and why hadn’t Paterno done something meaningful about it when he found out about it?
And for this reason alone, I cannot support the replacement of Paterno’s statue at Penn State. I don’t mind restoring records or wins because those are reflective of the student-athletes that won those games, but until I’m convinced Paterno had zero knowledge of what Sandusky was doing, then in my eyes, Paterno let a lot of people down.
What to listen to:
- BuckAround episode 130 with Rich and Maxwell. They preview the Badger’s spring game tomorrow and Dylan from Pennsylvania wants to know if Wisconsin is a football or basketball school. Obviously worth your time.
- What’s it like to be a Northwestern fan as an NU student, parts 1 and 2. The gang at Inside NU podcast a two-part series asking the tough questions surrounding Northwestern’s student fandom. Part 1 and part 2.
E-mail Damien at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.
Photo: Corn Farmer/Flickr.