OTE Interview With Gerry DiNardo, Part 2

Big Ten Network

Gerry DiNardo on why the Rose Bowl doesn't matter if it's not the national championship and how to get back to being the best football conference in America, conference realignment, and why oversigning is a good thing.

Yesterday we gave you part one of our great interview with the BTN's Gerry DiNardo. If you missed it, I highly recommend reading it, because he was awesome. Today, in part 2,we talk conference realignment, the importance of the Rose Bowl, and oversigning.

To say what DiNardo is about to lay down flies in the face of what most B1G fans think is an understatement. I hope you guys enjoy:

The success of the network is really driving realignment. OSU President E. Gordon Gee hinted in December that more expansion is coming, and 14 is probably not the final number. How many teams do you think the B1G will end up adding, and who do you feel are the next one or two teams are?

I don't think we'll ever play with a 14 team team conference, I think it'll be 16 (by 2014, when Maryland and Rutgers join). And I don't think they're going to go through all this conversation and all this realignment and do it again for just two more schools. Where are they going to come from? Hard to say, but I would guess the footprint would continue to grow southeast, so that would leave me to believe that would be the ACC. When you look at schools institutionally, they'll be schools similar to Maryland and Rutgers. They'll be an academic fit, which I think is important, and appear to be in areas where there's population, and I think those are the similar things that has driven expansion. Once the (conference) footprints started changing, like when Texas A and M and Missouri went to the SEC, and you start talking about some of the crazy alignments like the Big East (was looking at), to me it looks like the B1G may keep going southeast.

Do you ever see Notre Dame joining a conference, or will they stay independent?

There are two factors that they need to make a decision on. Can they get to the national championship in football as an independent? Well, this year, they proved that they could, so they really don't need to join a conference for football. The only way they would join a conference for football is if they were denied access to the BCS, and that's not going to happen. The issue becomes all their other sports. They may need to become part of a conference to get access to all the NCAA championships. Football is the only non-NCAA sponsored championship, and the route to all other NCAA sponsored championships is through conference bids.

This ACC deal is a sweetheart deal for them, because they can win the national championship in football (as an independent) while being part of a great conference for all their other sports. So if the ACC holds up, they'll stand pat. If the ACC doesn't hold up, then they're really going to have to re-think this.

You talked earlier about moving the Ohio State-Michigan game and other marquee games into September to help with recruiting, and the addition of more schools with conference realignment seems to dilute some rivalries even more. Do you think these conferences are getting too big, and these rivalries and conference traditions too diluted, or is this a good thing overall for college athletics?

There are good things and bad things about what's happening, and I think you've identified the bad things. But you know, the world used to be flat, now it's round. The B1G used to be 10, then it was 11, now it's 12, and going to 14. A lot of things used to be different, you know? But a lot of things have changed about our culture, and about college athletics, that have been positive. I think there's been a lot of positive changes in this country that have broken traditions, and I think we just have to weigh the pluses and the minuses.

Is there a tradition in the B1G to be the very best?

Now, it appears that basketball has had an opportunity to continue to try to be the best basketball conference in America. Is it them or the ACC? I don't know a whole lot about basketball, but when you look at possible expansion to ACC schools, the B1G can still be the best basketball conference in America.

How do they become the best football conference in America? Is that a tradition? If it's not a tradition, is that a goal? But if the B1G wants to be the best in the country in football, and tradition doesn't allow them to, then let's get on the highest mountain and scream that we don't necessarily want to be the best, we want to be the most historic and most traditional, and let's say who we want to be.

But if you want to be the best, and breaking some traditions allows you to be the best, then let's get on the mountaintop and say we love some of our traditions, we're going to miss some of our traditions, but we want to be the best. And to be the best, we'll have to do away with some of our traditions. It's just like B1G coaches continuing to talk about the Rose Bowl as the end all. Well, the Rose Bowl used to be the end all because you couldn't go to another Bowl, and the B1G could only go to the Rose Bowl, and they couldn't go two years in a row. Historically, again, why don't we go back to that if you want tradition? Let's just say we can only go to one bowl game. But that tradition changed.

The Rose Bowl is a great bowl game. After the National Championship, I think it's the best bowl game there is. But some (B1G) coaches are saying 'you're coming to our school to go to The Rose Bowl, and other coaches, specifically Urban's coaches, are saying 'you're coming to Ohio State to win a National Championship.' So in effect, when he's saying you're coming to OSU to win national championships, he's breaking tradition as well.

So to answer your question, losing tradition in the name of being the best, I think, is a good thing. If B1G schools would rather stick with tradition instead of taking steps in trying to be the best, then they have every right to do that. Now people may take exception to me saying that, because they'll maintain that you can do both, but can you do both?

We haven't been able to do it the last seven years, and the SEC's broken a lot of traditions, too.

Well, that's a fair point. And that's a very interesting way to put it, because I've never looked at it in those terms before. A lot of B1G fans are like me, in terms of being a traditionalist. I'm in my 40's, and grew up just as you described, when the goal of your team was getting to the Rose Bowl.

See, sitting at the desk, we've had this conversation. I work with Dave (Revsine), who went to Northwestern, I work with Mase (Glen Mason) who went to Ohio State (and coached at Minnesota), I work with Howard (Griffith), who went to Illinois, and I don't have that fixation on the Rose Bowl. Yet, I've been to the Rose Bowl, when Texas played USC for the National Championship, and was there a couple years ago when Wisconsin played TCU, and it is magnificent. There's no better setting in any sport than the Rose Bowl, but unless it's the National Championship game, it's not the best game, it's not the goal, I don't believe. But maybe I'm the one who's messed up, that's quite possible.

One last question and I'll let you go. Over the last couple days on Twitter, you've had some pretty good back and forth conversations on oversigning. A lot of B1G fans think the SEC has a built in advantage in recruiting because of it. Based on how you've been r responding in 140 characters or less on Twitter, it seems like you don't think it's as big a deal as it's being made out to be. Am I reading that right or wrong off your Twitter feed?

Yeah, it's hard to get your point across in 140 characters, but here's my very strong opinion. First of all, I resent people saying someone's the best because they're cheating, with no evidence that they are. That's just not fair, and at times it's just an excuse for their own underachieving.

When people bring up Alabama, I don't know that they're doing anything wrong, and I'm not going to accuse them of that. Maybe they just do a really good job of recruiting, and maybe they just do a really good job of coaching, and maybe THAT'S why they're the best.

And the other thing I resent is that oversigning is a good thing. Abusive oversigning is no different than the abuse of eating too many spaghetti and meatballs...you get fat, okay?

But that's where I think the general perception is. The SEC is abusive with oversigning. On Twitter, you said B1G teams oversign too, but the numbers seem to be so different than SEC schools. Is that a fair statement?

Look at the numbers. Michigan signed 27, so did LSU, so did Florida, and so did one other school. [ED. NOTE: UM signed 27, LSU signed 25, Florida signed 29. Ole Miss, the other school from the SEC closest to 27, signed 26] Michigan signed 27 guys, but they counted some back. How do we know that LSU didn't count some back? Why are we saying Michigan is following the rules when they sign 27, but LSU is breaking the rules when they sign 27? Maybe we just don't know what we're talking about. Michigan didn't cheat, and LSU didn't cheat.

The other thing is that oversigning can show people opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise have. When I was at LSU, when I was at Indiana, and when I was at Vanderbilt, all three places, I oversigned every year. I never took a scholarship away from anyone for not being good enough. Now, if there were discipline issues, stuff like that, obviously there were some other things that lead to (scholarships being revoked).

It's kind of like being the director of housing or director of admissions. You say 'okay, we've got 10,000 applicants, and your freshman class can be 1,000 people. You can only accept 1,000 people. After 1,000 people say yes, by the end of April, you have to stop saying 'yes' to people. I guarantee you'll have empty beds and empty chairs in the classroom, because natural attrition between 18-20 year old people is going to happen. So if you think there's not going to be natural attrition between February 6th (Signing Day) and August 1st (teams report for fall practice), you've got your head in the sand. Of course there's going to be natural attrition.

So let's say I know three guys are leaving the program--one kid hates my guts, one wants to go to Harvard and study physics, and one wants to go off and protest the war and quit football, so I know those three kids aren't going to be with the program. So do I have to get on top of the mountain and explain myself every time I do something? So there's natural attrition, and you ought to be able to account for that.

So if somebody is abusing oversigning--tell me where the athletic director is. Tell me where the University president is. Why is it the coach's fault? Is the coach breaking a rule or an ethic he's allowed to? If so, who does he report to? Well if you say the football coach is the most powerful person on campus, that's a whole different argument, okay? Then stop going to the game if you don't want them to be the most powerful person on campus.

I just want to say thanks again to Gerry DiNardo and also to Tina Manzo at the Big Ten Network for help in getting this set up. This was, without a doubt, the funnest interview I've done, and I hope that Coach DiNardo will come back at some point in the future. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did doing the interview.

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