This Week in the Big Ten

July 5, 2008

by Jeff Smith

[ONE // more olympic dreams coming true for swimmers]
For the second straight week, Big Ten representatives have been qualifying for the Olympics Games this summer in Beijing. In the pool, the entire world has been taken back by the record-breaking performances of Michigan volunteer assistant coach Michael Phelps. Through Friday's competition, Phelps had claimed four gold medals in as many events and established two new World records. On June 29, Phelps opened his Olympic Trials with a World record time of 4:05.25 in the 400-meter Individual Medley. He then responded on Tuesday with a winning time of 1:44.10 in the 200-meter free, followed closely by fellow Wolverine representative Peter Vanderkaay at 1:45.85. Vanderkaay earned his second Olympic bid as he also placed second in Sunday's 400-meter free with a time of 3:43.73. Also on Tuesday, Northwestern's Matt Grevers punched his ticket to the Summer Games with a 53.19 in the 100-meter backstroke, good for a second-place finish. Phelps returned to the water on Wednesday with a winning time of 1:52.20 in the 200-meter butterfly and then captured his fourth gold medal in the 200-meter IM in a World-record breaking mark of 1:54.80 on Friday. For complete updates on the U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials, click here.

[TWO // four on the right track to beijing]
A group of four Big Ten track and field standouts were also among the qualifiers this week at the 2008 U.S. Track & Field Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Ore. On June 29, Minnesota's Shani Marks won the triple jump to become the first Minnesota women's track athlete to make the U.S. Olympic Team. Marks, a 2007 Golden Gopher representative for the Big Ten's Black History Month campaign, recorded a leap of 47'-2.25" to her third straight title in the event. On Tuesday, Purdue javelin thrower Kara Patterson launched a record-setting throw of 58.44 meters (191'-09"), which was an Olympic Trials record. She too will be the first woman to represent her school at the Olympics. Former Michigan star Anna Willard qualified Thursday when she won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:27.59 to set the American, USA Olympic Trials, and stadium records. Friday's competition saw former Indiana standout David Neville finish third in finals of the 400m dash, making him the first male former Hoosier to qualify for the Olympics since 1996, when Bob Kennedy and Jim Spivey both qualified in the 5,000m run.

[THREE // following football]
The Big Ten announced Wednesday the television schedules for the first four weeks of the 2008 football season. The schedule contained game times and television plans for every home non-conference contest this season. Action begins on Saturday, August 30, with eight games televised on ABC, ESPN and the Big Ten Network. For a complete look at the schedule, click here.

[FOUR // several conference gridiron stars named to maxwell award list]
Since 1937, the Maxwell Award has been presented to the outstanding collegiate football player in America. On Monday, 10 conference standouts earned a spot on the watch list for the prestigious award. Earning that honor was Illinois sophomore Arrelious Benn (WR), Michigan State senior Javon Ringer (RB), Northwestern senior Tyrell Sutton (RB), Ohio State seniors Todd Boeckman (QB) and Brian Robiskie (WR) and junior Chirs Wells (RB), Penn State senior Derrick Williams (WR), Purdue senior Curtis Painter (QB), and Wisconsin senior Travis Beckum (TE) and junior P.J. Hill (RB).

[FIVE // add 10 more to the list]
Ten additional conference players were also named Monday to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list. The award is presented annually to the nation's top defensive football player. This year's Big Ten honorees include: Illinois junior Vontae Davis (DB), Indiana junior Greg Middleton (DE), Iowa senior Mitch King (DL), Michigan senior Terrance Taylor (DL), Ohio State seniors Marcus Freeman (LB), Malcolm Jenkins (DB) and James Laurinatis (LB), Penn State junior Maurice Evans (DE), Purdue senior Anthony Heygood (LB) and Wisconsin senior Matt Shaughnessy (DE).

[SIX // hoosier golf gone national and international]
This past week turned out to be an impressive one for the Indiana men's golf program. This week, Jorge Campillo led Team Europe to a 14-10 victory over the United States in the Palmer Cup. Campillo, a native of Spain, captured the Big Ten title this season, was named the conference's Golfer of the Year, and finished runner-up at the NCAA Championships. Keeping with the international theme, former IU standout and two-time Big Ten Golfer of the Year Jeff Overton earned an invitation to the 2008 British Open Tuesday with a six-shot win an international qualifier. Overton won the event at 14-under-par, which included an opening round 63. In addition, Overton recorded a 66 and a 65 in the first two rounds of the AT&T National and went into the weekend with the lead at the PGA Tour event.

[SEVEN // and the espy goes to...]
The name that follows that statement could once again be Minnesota's Blake Hoffarber. Already the owner of one ESPN ESPY Award for this unbelievable shot he made back in high school, Hoffarber struck again this past year at the Big Ten Tournament with a thrilling buzzer-beater over Indiana. That shot, which can be seen here, earned him an ESPY nomination this week and was recently named the Big Ten Network's "Best Play" and "Best Finish" of the past year.

[EIGHT // two conference softball coaches honored]
Congratulations to both the Michigan and Purdue softball coaching staffs as they were honored this week with regional accolades by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The Wolverines, led by head coach Carol Hutchins, were honored as the Great Lakes Region winner, while Kim Maher's Boilermaker staff took home Mideast Region accolades. For more information on the awards, view the complete NFCA press release here.

[NINE // staying on the diamond...]
Congratulations and a big welcome to new Michigan State baseball head coach Jake Boss, Jr. The Spartans' new manager was hired Tuesday after leading Eastern Michigan to the NCAA Tournament in his first season and being named MAC Coach of the Year for his efforts. Boss is no stranger to the Big Ten as the Lansing native served as an assistant coach at Michigan from 2004-07.

[TEN // yet another honor for northwestern women's lacrosse]
Although women's lacrosse is not an officially sponsored sport by the Big Ten, it has been impossible over the last four years to not applaud the efforts of the Northwestern program. Winners of the past four NCAA national championships, the Wildcats earned another honor on Tuesday as head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller was named the Division I National Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA). The honor was the second for Amonte Hiller, as she captured the award in 2005 after NU's first national championship. In winning their fourth-straight title, the Wildcats finished this past season with a 21-1 record.

[ELEVEN // honoring a conference coach and administrator]
One of the pillars among Miami (Ohio)'s infamous Cradle of Coaches and a Big Ten mentor has passed away. Former Indiana and Northwestern football coach John Pont died on Tuesday at the age of 80 at his home in Oxford, Ohio. Pont coached the Hoosiers from 1965-72 and is the only coach to lead IU to the Rose Bowl and the last to guide them to a conference championship. Pont then left for Northwestern in 1973 and stayed on as head coach until 1977. During that time, he was hired as the Wildcats' director of athletics in 1975 and served in that capacity until the fall of 1980.