Monday Morning Kickoff: The Parade of Old Homes and New Homes
By Tony Gerdeman
* You know what's better than home games? Games at neutral sites! At least that's what various Big Ten athletic directors would have you believe. With the likelihood that the Big Ten will be going to nine conference games once Maryland and Rutgers join, there is the thought that some of those games could be played at neutral sites.
Last week several of those athletic directors spoke with Brian Bennett of ESPN.com extolling the virtues of playing opponents at various NFL and MLB stadiums, rather than their own stadiums, including Ohio State's own Gene Smith.
|"I would like to see more neutral sites in those scenarios. We've got a great stadium in Chicago, one in Detroit, one in Indianapolis, and now we have the East Coast. So I can see more neutral sites for conference games."
Most people wouldn't expect Ohio State to give up a home game for a neutral site game, but Jerry Jones might disagree. It is expected that the "lesser" teams in the Big Ten would agree to losing home games and moving them to neutral sites for the right price. How do we know which teams are the "lesser teams"? Well, they are the ones who sell off their home games.
In 2010, Indiana sold its home game in order to play Penn State in Washington D.C. It was essentially a home game for the Nittany Lions. Penn State won 41-24 and Indiana finished the season one win shy of a bowl berth, but at least they made a couple million more than they would have with a home game. Lord knows these Big Ten athletic programs are struggling to stay afloat.
With Rutgers and Maryland coming to the Big Ten, you might ask yourself, "Self, is Rutgers a 'lesser team'?" Well, let's let Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti answer that question for you.
|"We are definitely open to that conversation, because it does a couple of things. From a business perspective, it gives us an opportunity to generate a much more significant amount of revenue on a one-game basis. For our opponent, especially the ones with big alumni bases in this region, it gives them the opportunity to have access to more seats."
Yes, because if there's something that every successful Big Ten football program wants, it's more fans of the opposing teams in attendance. Now, Pernetti said that they're not going to get in the habit of doing this, but once every three-to-five years they'd consider it. I'm guessing they would consider it every single year if the price was one dollar more than what they'd bring in with a home game.
Other than the obvious answer of money, I have no idea why an athletic director would sacrifice a home game, and don't try to tell me that it's for the fans. Oh wait, that's exactly what Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips is saying.
|"Neutral sites are great; those are just great opportunities. They have to be in the right places and have the right matchups, but the fans have responded in a positive way to some of those neutral-site games. We need to listen to them and we need to pay attention to those things. We may not do everything that the fans want, but that’s what's made our game so great and more popular than it’s ever been."
This is the same football program that sold a home game in order to play Ohio State at the very neutral Cleveland Stadium. I would ask how much money is enough, but I already know that the answer is "no amount of money is enough".
Rather than use their stadiums as the home field advantage that they could be, there will be times when the schools with smaller stadiums will look to sell that advantage off in order to pocket $27 million a year instead of $25 million.
The irony is that a Rutgers win at home over Ohio State would be worth much more than the couple of million that they would make for moving a home game to New York City.
* The world of recruiting is never dull. This weekend Ohio State hosted two playmakers in running back/receiver Dontre Wilson and receiver James Clark. Meanwhile, a pair of Ohio State commits – Ezekiel Elliott and Trey Johnson – were visiting Missouri and Tennessee, respectively.
While on his official visit at Missouri, Elliott attended a basketball game where the Tigers fans in attendance chanted his name. Johnson, meanwhile, denied that he was even visiting Tennessee, though it came out on Sunday night that he actuallly did visit Rocky Top.
If you're a Buckeye fan, the fact that Johnson was a bit deceptive in his travel plans might be easier to understand if you had seen what Elliott went through this weekend regarding interview requests and Twitter mentions.
Going incognito is one way to avoid both angry fans and infatuated fans blowing up your Twitter feed. However, if the Ohio State coaches weren't aware of a visit, then that's never a good sign. That doesn't mean a decommitment is imminent, it just means that a player didn't want to have to go through the stress of explaining his desire to visit another school.
The scary thing for the OSU coaches is that 99% of all official visits go well, so then they remain on pins and needles until they get word back from the kids that everything is fine and they are still committed.
Elliott returned from his official visit and tweeted that he didn't want anybody to call him or text him about his visit. There are several ways to take that, and I would guess that most of them are wrong.
All the while this is going on, the coaches are also trying to get Dontre Wilson to flip from his Oregon commitment, as well as secure a commitment from James Clark.
As far as Clark is concerned, it sounds like things went pretty well.
Ohio State was hoping to get a verbal commitment from Clark, but it didn't happen. He still has an unofficial visit to Florida scheduled and plans to announce his decision on February 6th, which is Signing Day.
Wilson has also not committed, though a decision could be coming in the very near future.
These final 10 days are going to pick up speed at a reckless pace, but at least it's not unexpected. Ohio State recruiting coordinator Mark Pantoni summed up the weekend perfectly.
* Using Scout's ratings system, Michigan now has commitments from the #1 running back, #1 offensive guard, #2 fullback, #3 quarterback, #3 offensive tackle, #4 safety and #5 tight end in the 2013 recruiting class. It's no surprise, then, that the Wolverines currently have Scout's top-ranked class.
The running back, Derrick Green, and the guard, Patrick Kugler, should represent the first Michigan signees to be ranked number one at their respective positions by Scout in six years.
The last was Vince Helmuth in 2007, who was rated the #1 fullback. The only other Michigan signee to be ranked #1 at his position in the Scout era (since 2002) was defensive end LaMarr Woodley in 2003.
During that same time, Ohio State has signed nine players ranked #1 at their position per Scout.
|2002 #1 LB Mike D'Andrea
2003 #1 CB Donte Whitner
2004 #1 CB Ted Ginn
2006 #1 RB Chris Wells
2008 #1 QB Terrelle Pryor
2008 #1 C Michael Brewster
2009 #1 FB Carlos Hyde
2011 #1 LB Curtis Grant
2011 #1 C Brian Bobek
When you look at the last 11 recruiting classes between the two schools, especially in regards to the top-rated prospects, is it any surprise that Michigan beat Ohio State just twice in those 11 years?
If you don't think recruiting is important, remove Ted Ginn or Chris Wells or Terrelle Pryor from the above list and tell me how Ohio State would've fared without them.
Yes, Jim Tressel owned Michigan on the field, but one of the biggest reasons why was because he also owned them on the recruiting trail.
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