Big Ten’s expansion further damages Rose Bowl’s status


By Ralph D. Russo - AP College Football Writer



INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Playing in the Rose Bowl was the pinnacle of a college football career for those who coached and played in the Big Ten for decades.

The Rose Bowl’s importance has been waning for years as college football’s postseason evolved. The latest expansion by the Big Ten puts the future of the Pac-12, the conference’s longtime Rose Bowl partner, in doubt and was another damaging blow to the Granddaddy of all the bowls.

“You have to adapt,” former Wisconsin coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez said Tuesday at Big Ten media days in Lucas Oil Stadium. “When I got into the league, every kid that played in this league, your vision was play the Rose Bowl and win the Rose Bowl.

“It’s not the same now. It’s the CFP. It’s get into the playoffs.”

The future of the Rose Bowl as a showcase game, mostly featuring teams from Big Ten and Pac-12 on New Year’s Day, was already murky as the College Football Playoff creeps toward what seems like an inevitable expansion from the current four-team format.

“The Rose Bowl will always be an important part of the Big Ten,” said Alvarez, who now works for the conference as a special advisor to Commissioner Kevin Warren.

Now that the Big Ten has poached Southern California and UCLA from the Pac-12, it remains to be seen if the West Coast’s Power Five conference will still be an important part of the Rose Bowl.

“I focus on the Big Ten,” Alvarez said. “When we went through expansion (in the early 2010s) I was really happy that we were able to add my alma mater, Nebraska, into our league. I knew Nebraska in the Big Eight. There is no Big Eight. So things change. You have to go with the flow.”

Warren said playoff talks with the other FBS commissioners will pick up again in September. Warren maintains he is a staunch advocate of expansion, but he was among a group of newer commissioners who stood in the way of early implementation of a 12-team format.

Alvarez said he is not sure what the best number should be for a playoff, but eight, 12 and 16 would all be intriguing, depending on the details of the format.

He also said the Big Ten should be open to considering expanding its own postseason when the league grows to 16 teams with USC and UCLA.

Maybe a four-team Big Ten tournament instead of just a championship game?

“That’s something you’re going to have to take a look at,” Alvarez said.

IOWA RAISES

After winning the Big Ten West last season, all of Iowa’s returning assistant coaches received raises.

The smallest increase went to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, head coach Kirk Ferentz’s son. Brian Ferentz’s salary went from $860,000 to $900,000, according to The Athletic.

The elder Ferentz was asked if the offense’s lackluster performance — tied for 11th in the Big Ten in yards per play (4.67) —- had anything to do with his son’s relatively small bump in pay.

“Not necessarily. I think he’s been compensated really well,” Kirk Ferentz said. “Bottom line … I feel like our staff, the numbers, there’s reasons for everything we do, and we have private conversations regarding that. I feel like the staff salaries reflect levels of experience, contributions to the program.

“As a head coach, it’s important to me that we’re able to keep guys, retain guys, and hopefully it’s an attractive place for them to work.”

MICHIGAN CHANGES

Jim Harbaugh’s return to Michigan after leading the Wolverines to a playoff berth and their first Big Ten title since 2004 was no slam dunk.

Harbaugh interviewed for the Minnesota Vikings’ head coaching job after Michigan’s season and ultimately was not offered the job.

While the former Michigan quarterback is back for his eighth season as head coach, both coordinators from last year’s team have moved on.

Mike Macdonald returned to working for Harbaugh’s brother with the Baltimore Ravens as defensive coordinator, and Josh Gattis took a job with Miami as offensive coordinator.

Harbaugh looked to the Ravens for another defensive coordinator. Jesse Minter was defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt last season after spending four seasons with the Ravens. Harbaugh said when he hired Macdonald before last season he had also considered Minter, who will run the same system that the Wolverines succeeded in last year.

“So I went back and talked to Jesse Minter right when Mike left, and just felt it was the absolute best thing for our team,” Harbaugh said.

To replace Gattis, Harbaugh looked within and promoted offensive assistants Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss.

While the scheme could look a lot like last year, who is running the offense is the most intriguing question of the preseason for Michigan. Cade McNamara was QB1 last season with talented freshman J.J. McCarthy playing a complementary role off the bench.

There is no guarantee those roles will stay the same this season, Harbaugh said.

“Cade McNamara is going to be really tough to beat out for the starting quarterback job,” Harbaugh said. “J.J. McCarthy is going to be really tough to beat out for the starting quarterback job.”

RECOVERING RECEIVER

Maryland coach Mike Locksley said receiver Dontay Demus Jr. was ahead of schedule recovering from a knee injury that cost him more than half of last season.

Demus had 507 yards and three touchdowns in five games before getting hurt.

Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terps still managed to have one of the most prolific passing seasons in school history, but getting Demus back to team with Rakim Jarrett could give Maryland one of the best combos in the Big Ten.

“Really, really impressed with how he’s returned,” Locksley said of Demus. “We do expect him, barring any setbacks during training camp, which we’ll do a good job of trying to protect him and get him to that opening game, but there is the expectation we’ll see Dontay Demus playing in the first game.”

The Terps open the season at home against Buffalo on Sept. 3.

GOPHER REUNION

After helping Minnesota win nine games in 2019, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca left Minnesota for Penn State. He was fired after one season with the Nittany Lions.

Now, after spending last season at West Virginia, the 56-year-old has been reunited with the Golden Gophers — and much of the supporting cast he helped lead to nine wins in 2019.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan and running back Mohamed Ibrahim are both returning for their sixth season, and coach P.J. Fleck believes getting the band back together could lead to another big season in 2022.

Fleck isn’t alone.

“Kirk wanted to know how that would affect the kids, and I wanted to know how that would affect the kids,” Fleck said, calling the rehire an easy decision. “I said, of course you might have to answer some questions in your first team meeting, but that will be easy after the first five minutes, and he did. I know we’re excited to have him. Tanner’s really excited to have him.”

Morgan threw for 3,253 yards and 30 touchdowns, both career highs, and had just seven interceptions in 2019. Ibrahim rushed for a career-best 1,160 yards in 2018, also under Ciarrocca.

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By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer