B1G Changes: Urban Meyer as Catalyst in a Staid League

By Kyle Rowland on February 12, 2013 at 10:00a
Jim Delany is poised to lead the Big Ten through another round of significant changes before riding off into the sunset

Urban Meyer went to Chicago on Monday with a wish list in hand. The NCAA’s new recruiting rules were “bad stuff,” according to the Ohio State head coach, and he was in favor of more night games to boost the game-day atmosphere. 

Apparently Commissioner Jim Delany and the rest of the conference’s head coaches and athletic directors were in agreement, because Meyer’s proposals – and more – were lauded and, in some cases, encouraged. At the conference’s winter meetings between football coaches and athletic directors, a consensus was reached and the NCAA’s new rules allowing almost unlimited contact and printed materials was met with much trepidation.   

In a statement released by the conference, the July 1 date, in which some of the rules would go into effect, was questioned.

“While we applaud the work that has been done to date,” the statement read, “we are very concerned that the timeline proposed for implementation of the proposals does not allow sufficient time for the Football Recruiting Subcommittee of the NCAA Leadership Council to thoughtfully consider the impact of the proposals.”

The lack of a dead period in contacting high school athletes and the virtual unregulated nature of sending mail struck a chord with the coaches when the subject was brought up last week on National Signing Day. The NCAA passed the rules at their annual convention in January.

From the outset, there were concerns. Most of the questions centered on the have-nots and how effective they would be in a deregulated world. But the coaches at Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska, three of the deepest blue hued programs when it comes to blue bloods, were outspoken critics of the move.

“For the high school coaches, I think it’s a big-time mistake,” Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said. “My philosophy on life is, kids need to be kids. I don’t think the rules are helping.”

Said Nebraska’s Bo Pelini: “First and foremost, it is going to affect the kids in high school. They are going to be concentrating on things they shouldn’t be concentrating on. That is academics, being the best football player they can be, that’s developing as a young man and enjoying his high school career. The more time a kid is sitting on his phone texting and on the telephone and all the other things, that is doing the kids, the high schools and high school coaches a disservice.”

The no-holds-barred comments were somewhat unexpected due to the advantage premier programs would have over the lesser guys. The benefits for the Ohio States, Michigans and Nebraskas of the world are overwhelming.

“For the high school coaches, I think it’s a big-time mistake. My philosophy on life is, kids need to be kids. I don’t think the rules are helping.”

Not only do they have bloated recruiting staffs, the financial resources are unlimited. But there was Meyer last Wednesday with the most impassioned critique of anyone.

“I’m putting together a personal letter to all the coaches in America,” he said, voice raised. “I disagree with most of (the new rules). I would imagine not many of (the administrators) were recruited who wrote those (rules). That’s my question, who comes up with that? Have they actually got in a car and went and recruited sophomores in high school and said, ‘Think about this for a second, unlimited mailings and you can mail them whenever you want.’ Just take a deep breath. Could you imagine what’s going to be rolling into kids’ driveways? Fatheads and magnets. It’s nonsense.

“I’m not a big fan of deregulation. I’m a big fan of firm, harsh penalties for people who break rules, not saying, ‘Just go, we can’t follow all this stuff so have at it.’ I don’t agree with that at all.”

It’s not like Meyer needs an unlevel playing field to attract top-tier recruits to Columbus. For six years in Gainesville, a revolving door or four- and five-star recruits went in and came out of the Florida program. It’s déjà vu all over again at Ohio State.

“Every day, we spend part of the day on recruiting,” Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien said. “How are we going to handle unlimited text messaging, unlimited visits to schools, whatever it may be? We’re never going to join the ranks of the Wild, Wild West, I can promise you that.”

Ironically, the NCAA established the new rules to help simplify its complex rulebook. But the only thing that’s happened is more confusion and anger.

“We have serious concerns whether these proposals, as currently written, are in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches,” the Big Ten said. “We are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources.

“We look forward to working with the NCAA toward improving the game, the recruiting process and the overall college football experience for all student-athletes.”

Another important aspect of recruiting is game-day visits. Prospective players get immersed into the campus culture and atmosphere, which often plays a big part in their final decisions.

The Big Ten and SEC are far and away the best two conferences when it comes to campus settings. Both leagues are home to beautiful campuses, rabid fan bases and oversized venues. It’s been tradition in the North to play at noon and 3:30, but night games are becoming the preferred timeslot for coaches, players and fans. And that’s when the SEC often showcases itself.

It became one of Meyer’s favorite aspects of life at Florida. It benefitted current and future players alike. The fans made playing in the Swamp nearly impossible for opponents, while recruits left wide-eyed and wanting more.

“The night atmosphere is much better,” said Meyer, last week on his call-in show. “Nebraska was a magical feeling (last season). We want more energy in the stadium because you’re competing. Some people say, ‘That’s not the way we’ve done it.’ That’s fine. Maybe we should consider that because we have to have better recruiting classes in this conference and get going. That’s just one man’s opinion.”

Meyer said he brought the subject up to athletic director Gene Smith and Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee. Neither carried huge objections. The Big Ten shared that opinion as well.

On Monday, the league gave the OK for more night games and even said they wouldn’t object to playing under the lights in November. Delany told ESPN.com that Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska were the schools that showed the most interest in primetime matchups.

“November is a good option. Historically, we’ve been resistant to that for weather reasons and our kids getting home so late at night or early in the morning. We’re more open to it now.”

“November is a good option,” Smith said. “Historically, we’ve been resistant to that for weather reasons and our kids getting home so late at night or early in the morning. We’re more open to it now. One of the things we have to look at is the historical temperatures in November, what they look like, and we can make an informed decision on that point. I'm open to it.”

There have been 12 night games in Ohio Stadium history. The first didn’t come until 1985, but the past five seasons have featured one each year. The Buckeyes are 9-3 all-time under the Musco lights at the Horseshoe. The likely candidate for the 2013 season in Wisconsin.

In the future, more conference night games make sense because the Big Ten also announced it will expand its conference schedule – whether it’s to nine or 10 games remains a mystery.

During discussions about the league’s schedule when Maryland and Rutgers enter for the 2014 season, an eight-game slate wasn’t even on the table, according to Delany. The change, something in the works for over a year, won’t be put in place until the 2016 season. If a nine-game schedule is used, teams will only have room for three non-conference games each season, while a 10-game schedule would mean just two out-of-conference games.

The imbalance could also affect the number of home games, a point of concern for both Michigan and Ohio State.

“It is exceedingly important that (Michigan and Ohio State) play a minimum of seven home games,” Michigan AD Dave Brandon recently told Eleven Warriors. “Both of our business models are driven by that. If we were to get into a circumstance where we were playing six home games that would be very problematic.”

According to Delany, the affected parties who have only six home games could be receive some sort of financial assistance. Regardless of whether it’s a nine- or 10-game schedule, the conference season will get a considerable boost in the number of overall games. That means an even richer TV contract for the schools to revel in.

“If you go with 10 and you can’t guarantee people seven home games, how do we financially make people whole?” Smith said. “Then how often does that occur? That’s one of my challenges for Ohio State, not just the athletic department institutional revenue but the economic impact in our community. That’s a huge discussion.”

Teams have been told not to schedule any future games, but Ohio State’s non-conference schedule already runs out to 2023. Future series with Tennessee and Georgia were already scrapped after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced a plan to play games against one another in the coming years, but that venture too was axed. Last fall, the Buckeyes announced future home-and-home dates with Oregon, Texas, TCU and Boston College. Smith, however, said those games are not at risk of being removed or altered.

“We’re going to hold onto those,” Smith said. “Those are great experiences for our kids. We’re a national program. It’s something I don’t see us changing.”

The final decision on how many conference games will be played is expected to come in March when ADs meet at the Big Ten Tournament. Another matter on the docket in the spring is divisional alignment.

When the infamous Leaders and Legends Divisions were originally announced, not only were the names mocked, so was the makeup. The Big Ten used competitive balance as the No. 1 factor in determining which teams would be in which division.

That theory has been retired. A more traditional East-West alignment is likely to be used once the conference gains Maryland and Rutgers, pushing it to 14 teams. There are eight schools in the Eastern time zone and six in the Central time zone, so one eastern school must crossover.

But one thing is almost certain – Ohio State and Michigan will be in the same division.

Meyer probably wanted that, too.


Comments Show All Comments

ab42beerman's picture

Interesting read.  Thanks Kyle.

Doc's picture

Meyer is a Jedi Master using his mind tricks.  "You will play night games in November."  Delaney, "We will be playing night games in November."

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

45has2's picture

These are not the droids you're looking for.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

mr.green's picture

Our former coach was nicknamed The Senator but the current one actually works it like one. Interesting. 

Seabass1974's picture

He reminds me more of Ceasar. All Hail!

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

hail2victors9's picture


Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

BucksfanXC's picture

But one thing is almost certain, Ohio State and Michigan will be in the same division.

So pumped for that! This is the most important thing to me about new division. I'll keep the crappy names, the playing them Thanksgiving weekend instead of 3rd Saturday, but put them in the same division for the love of all that is sacred.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Poison nuts's picture

I love the sound of all these changes...night games in Nov . Means that OSU & Tsun could play at night, which I'm hoping for...Then there is putting the 2 schools in the same division, which I think many people would like. This is all very good news so far.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

Jim Delany, thank you for finally seeing the light. I can't tell you how gratifying it is to think that we might be moving away from "Leaders" and "Legends" as division names. The pain and embarrassment that I, no WE, have all endured over the past couple of years because of those ridiculous names might finally be coming to a close. <wipes tear from eye> I'm not crying, it's just that the sun is in my eye...

Denny's picture

“November is a good option,” Smith said. “Historically, we’ve been resistant to that for weather reasons and our kids getting home so late at night or early in the morning. We’re more open to it now. One of the things we have to look at is the historical temperatures in November, what they look like, and we can make an informed decision on that point. I'm open to it.”

Global Warming brings us night games in November and suddenly I don't care about the coastline anymore because night games are the best thing.


Seabass1974's picture

Definition of staid (adj)
bing.com · Bing Dictionary
staid [ stayd ]  
sober and steady: sedate and settled in habits or temperament, sometimes to the point of dullness
Nothing like waking up and feeling dumb first thing in the morning. :) Excellent article and a beyond excellent use of the word staid.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

buckeye76BHop's picture

Uh oh.....Steensn will be here soon to be the PC police on this one^^^^;-)

That's inappropriate LOL

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

M Man's picture

Night games:  Fine.  For your team, if you like it.  It would be nice for me; I'd get to see more Ohio State football, which I enjoy.  After enjoying the beautiful sunny fall weather in Michigan Stadium.

cinserious's picture

We weren't sure about it a couple years ago, but there's no doubt in my mind now that Ohio St. and Michigan need to be in the same division. Add in MSU, Nebraska, Purdue, Indiana, Iowa.
For the East: Penn st., Wisconsin, Northewstern, Illinois, Minnesota, Rutgers, Maryland.
Hell, I dont know. Geogrtaphy and competitive balance be damned. Just put OSU and UM together.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

CC's picture

Why?  This eliminates the chances of beating them 2x in the same year.

Riggins's picture

That's the whole point!
I don't want to play them twice.  It dilutes the rivalry.  Especially so since it would always occur in back-to-back weeks.
Imagine a scenario whee both teams have already clinched their division and are guaranteed a spot in the B1G Championship Game.  Wouldn't it suck to see teams resting starters, or holding back potential plays to unveil for the following week?
How do people not get this?

Buckeye80's picture

Imagine both teams are near the top of the ratings looking to go into the playoffs. scUM losing once might not keep them out, but two loses in a row could knock them out of playoff contention. Or we win the first, lose the second, and we're both out. There are many scenarios, but in the end, I think it's better for us (B1G) to be in the same division. 

OldColumbusTown's picture

East: Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern
West: Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana
Yes, these are a bit unbalanced competitively, but you have to keep OSU-UM together, as well as UM-MSU, and even OSU-PSU.  The only real stretch is putting the Indiana schools in the west while keeping Northwestern in the East, but having the big-time programs playing in Chicago more often than not is the best-case scenario.  Illinois and Northwestern can remain "rivals" and play each season, no matter the fact they are in separate divisions.
More likely than not, these will change again when more schools are added to the conference.  In that case, more balance may be needed.

CC's picture

Clearly you have forgotten the lessons of the B12 and the lack of balance.

BoFuquel's picture

This is nothing but political correctrness.The haves are patronizing the have-nots.It's just like when I was in the working world,we would always say we as big business were against goverment regulations,but I truely knew I had a staff of 50 people to comply while it chocked the small business man out of existance.The bigs are laughing while they rape the little guy.Oh we hate doing this but it is the law you know.It's all public relations,while the staff is out there pounding the competition till they give up.GO BUCKS! 

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

fear_the_nut70's picture

I understand why people want this--play UM once a year and the last game of the year guaranteed.  Understand the tradeoff though--if tOSU and TSUN return to power, as the last two recruiting classes and records on the field suggest is a distinct possibility (as does almost 100 years of history now), you will be left with a CCG that is a complete and absolute farce, with many years featuring the best team playing the third for fourth best team in the conference in a one game winner take all.  It's all fun and games until that underdog teams pulls off the upset and wins the conference, a-la the shenanigans that have occurred in the old Big 12.  So the question becomes, what is more important, protecting the integity of one regular season game (which is absolutely the most important one to me) or the integrity of the title the conference will hand out each year?  To me, this is NOT such an easy question...

CC's picture

You are dead on!

luckynewman13's picture

If B1G teams other than tOSU and ttun can't step it the $%& up, then the entire B1G will be a farce, not just the title game.
A one game playoff with a championship on the line is always going to risk a lesser team winning, but I would argue it's still better than the 11 team system we had, where three teams could claim a championship (ugh).

KCAlum's picture

Perhaps we should eliminate the bogus "title game" that is decreasing in value with every NCAA rule change, and was so popular last year that about 20,000 fans attended disguised as empty seats.

Menexenus's picture

Third or fourth best team winning the conference - isn't that what happened this year?
Competitive balance is an illusion.  Inevitably, some teams will rise and others will fall.  And then so much for your "competitively balanced" conferences.  So unless you're willing to re-align your conferences every few years, you should just give up on the illusion of "competitive balance" and just use geographical proximity to save fans and teams on travel costs.

Real fans stay for Carmen.

fear_the_nut70's picture

A few comments here, JMHO.  Putting the two best historical teams in the same conference isn't going to "make other teams step up".  There are 4 national brands to varying degrees in the B1G (OSU, State Penn, Nebraska, & Michigan).  IMHO, only State Penn and Ohio State have significant in state talent most seasons, and the former will mostly be out of commission (at least at the elite level) for a while.  That leaves three for the forseeable future.  For me, I can see Nebraska as a consistently good but not great team because they don't have much in state talent and they are not the national brand of the big 2.  Throw in population demographic shifts, and it seems like this trend, if anything, will increase, not decrease (you can see the two schools that have spent decades perfecting their national brands having an even bigger advantage as it pertains to conference opponents, though obviously not on the national scene).  While I think the other teams will "step up" from time to time, it is unlikely that Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern et. all will be able to consistently win most years, for the reasons that I just discussed.  Which takes me back to my basic premise, which is, if you lump the two best teams in the same division, you will be watering down the championship to a great degree  many years, if not the majority.
As for the notion that that is what we had this year, that is correct, but let's not forget that 2 of the top 3 teams were on probation and ineligible to play.  I cannot count this season as conclusive proof that "splitting the two up lead to the same result anyway."
I agree with others that the shift in the NCAA to a playoff model, albeit a limited one, shifts the focus a bit away from the CCG to the playoff model (well for some, as i have never been a "the only thing that matters is the ultimate champion guy, one of the reasons I prefer CFB to the NFL).  At this point, I don't know how else you determine a conference champion in a 14 (or possibly soon to be 16 team conference) other than a championship game.  Round robin is the best and fairest way, but for obvious reasons, will not work.  Thus, this silly CCG concept is probably here to stay.  My guess is that we will one day see the commissioners push for a 13 game season (it is feasible, we did it in 01-02) because bigger is always better to them, though my guess is that this will not happen for a while.  Still, I don't think this solves the problem.
I guess I just threw this out there because the overwhelming sentiment is that Ohio State and TSUN need to be in the same division.  While I see why people like this, I just don't think that it is that clear cut, especially if you place any value on winning the B1G, as I do.

Lincoln's picture

Urban F. Meyer. Man how I love thee. He is bringing all the good parts of the SEC to the B1G (recruiting, more night games, scheduling) but is firm against all the bad stuff ( oversigning, shady recruiting, "stretching rules").
Who would of ever guessed that same asshole that kicked our ass, would become so loved and potentially help lead the Buckeyes back along with the entire B1G.

buckz4evr's picture

If Ohio State and ttup are in the same division, it will force the West to step up their game or be humiliated year after year.  For this reason, I love the idea