Big Ten mailbag: Bielema, Hazell, & expansion

Time to open up the mail bag. And, as you would suspect, the bag was stuffed with questions about Bret Bielema’s shocking move from Wisconsin to Arkansas that still has the nation buzzing.

Read all about that—and more. And send me your latest questions and comments at the bottom of this post.

I think Bret Bielema is the first Big Ten head coach to leave for another job since Nick Saban bolted Michigan State for LSU in 1999. Why are some writers making it out like there’s a mass exodus of coaches from the conference? – Jonathan

I can’t speak for the angles other writers take on stories. But, as you said, the Big Ten hasn’t lost a lot of coaches in recent years. Below is a look at each school’s head coaches since 1990 and how they left. As you can see, only four left directly for other jobs: Illinois’ John Mackovic to Texas; Northwestern’s Gary Barnett to Colorado; Michigan State’s Nick Saban to LSU; Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema to Arkansas. Two died: Indiana’s Terry Hoeppner and Northwestern’s Randy Walker. Five retired: Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez; Purdue’s Joe Tiller; Michigan’s Lloyd Carr; Iowa’s Hayden Fry; Nebraska’s Tom Osborne. All the others were fired.

Illinois: John Mackovic (Texas); Lou Tepper (fired); Ron Turner (fired); Ron Zook (fired)
Indiana: Bill Mallory (fired); Cam Cameron (fired); Gerry DiNardo (fired); Terry Hoeppner (died); Billy Lynch (fired)
Iowa: Hayden Fry (retired)
Michigan: Gary Moeller (fired); Lloyd Carr (retired); Rich Rodriguez (fired)
Michigan State: George Perles (fired); Nick Saban (LSU); Bobby Williams (fired); John L. Smith (fired).
Minnesota: John Gutekunst (fired); Jim Wacker (fired); Glen Mason (fired); Tim Brewster (fired)
Nebraska: Tom Osborne (retired); Frank Solich (fired); Bill Callahan (fired)
Northwestern: Francis Peay (fired); Gary Barnett (Colorado); Randy Walker (died)
Ohio State: John Cooper (fired); Jim Tressel (fired)
Penn State: Joe Paterno (fired)
Purdue: Fred Akers (fired); Jim Colletto (fired); Joe Tiller (retired); Danny Hope (fired)
Wisconsin: Barry Alvarez (retired); Bret Bielema (Arkansas)

Bring back Paul Chryst! – Paul Mirman

Many people think that will be the first target of Wisconsin to replace Bret Bielema. Chryst has pledged his allegiance to Pitt, where the one-time Badger offensive coordinator has coached only one season. Still, some feel Wisconsin will push hard for Chryst, who is Pitt’s fourth coach since 2010. Could Chryst be the latest coach to bolt Pitt, which fired Dave Wannstedt and then went through Mike Haywood and Todd Graham before landing Chryst? Stay tuned. If not Chryst, Wisconsin could go for Pitt offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, a former Badger assistant and offensive lineman, ex-Wisconsin quarterback Darrell Bevell now coordinating the Seahawks offense or Jaguars’ defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, a one-time Badger defensive back.

Who will coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl? – Doug Mack

It won’t be Bret Bielema, obviously. And there doesn’t appear to be a logical choice on the staff. If so, it likely would be co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge or defensive coordinator Chris Ash. But the most likely candidate may be Barry Alvarez. Why not? He is the last Badger coach to win a Rose Bowl, guiding Wisconsin to a win over—ironically—Stanford after the 1999 season.

[RELATED: Twitter reaction to Bielema's move to Arkansas]

They only reason I can think of for Bret Bielema to take the Arkansas job over Wisconsin is money. There’s no way Arkansas is a better job. – Andy

You are correct. Arkansas is a middle-of-the-pack job. No coach has even won an SEC title there since the Hogs joined in 1992. Finishing ahead of Alabama and LSU in your own division is daunting. But it is a new challenge for Bielema in the best league in America. And he may feel has done all he can at Wisconsin.

Look at the Michigan-South Carolina Outback Bowl. South Carolina will win that game by 30!! – Tom

You may be correct about the Gamecocks winning, but I doubt the margin will be that big if South Carolina prevails. Still, it could be a rough postseason for the Big Ten. Last time I checked, the Big Ten was an underdog in all seven bowls. And the three biggest appear to be Purdue vs. Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl; Nebraska vs. Georgia in the Capital One Bowl; Minnesota vs. Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

[RELATED: View our 2012-13 bowl schedule]

Is the Big Ten gonna move to 16 teams? – Jeff

It could happen, if you listen to some people. I think it will happen—and sooner rather than later. And when the Big Ten does grow, I would suspect it will look south to schools like Georgia Tech, Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. I also have seen schools like Vanderbilt and Kansas mentioned as possible targets. I then would suspect the other four major conferences (Pac-12; Big 12; SEC) to follow suit and expand to 16, giving us four, 16-team conferences.

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke wanted to hire a coach that would enhance Purdue’s reputation as the “Cradle of Quarterbacks.” But Kent State is ranked last in passing yards per game in the MAC. Is this a good fit? – Brian Holmes

It is a good question, but don’t read too much into Kent State’s team stats. Hazell didn’t inherit the best roster and tried to build around what he had. And the personnel dictated establishing a ground game. It worked. Give the guy credit. At Purdue, Hazell will be able to recruit players built for more of a passing game. He is a bright mind and top recruiter who worked at Ohio State prior to going to Kent State, which he took to its first bowl since 1972.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (3 Comments)
3 Post Your Comment
oneblankspace on 12/5/2012 @ 5:47pm EDT Said:

Kansas won’t join the Big Ten because Kansas State, by state law, must be in the same conference as Kansas, and K-State is not in the AAU. Pittsburgh and the University at Buffalo are the next nearest FBS AAU members.

Mike Cember on 12/6/2012 @ 1:03am EDT Said:

Not south, but east. Pitt and Syracuse would be good fits. Missouri would be a good fit, but don’t seem interested in jumping conferences.

As to coaching changes, the NCAA should prohibit the firing and selection of current coaches from week 12 of the season until after the last bowl game is over. What does it do to a player’s spirit and confidence to know that the coach that brought the team to the bowl game isn’t going to be there? Who would be hurt by a 6 week hiatus in shuffling coaches?

In the Arkansas announcement, Brett Bielema shows his class and his concern for the young men he coaches — just like he did at Indi, where his starters were still on the field at the end of the game, despite a lead that hadn’t been less than 25 points since halfway through the second quarter.

Fred on 12/10/2012 @ 6:33pm EDT Said:

@oneblandspace:
“Kansas won’t join the Big Ten because Kansas State, by state law, must be in the same conference as Kansas”
… Pulled right out of your butt. No such law exists. The president of the Kansas Regents said he would like to see them in the same conference, but that’s as far as anything along those lines goes.

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