This Week in the Big Ten

Illinois head coach Jolette Law learned this week her Illini will face Texas Tech as part of the 2011 Big 12/Big Ten Women's Basketball Challenge in December.

Illinois head coach Jolette Law learned this week her Illini will face Texas Tech as part of the 2011 Big 12/Big Ten Women's Basketball Challenge in December.

July 17, 2011

[ONE // the best of the best]
Following the conclusion of the 2010-11 academic year, the Big Ten Conference announced that 534 student-athletes have been selected as recipients of the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award. The list, which was announced on Thursday, features student-athletes from every 2010-11 institution and 33 different sports who have earned a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year.  In February of 2008, Big Ten Faculty Representatives established a conference academic recognition to supplement the Academic All-Big Ten program. Similar to the Academic All-Big Ten honor, Distinguished Scholar Award recipients must be letterwinners in at least their second academic year at their institution. However, the Distinguished Scholar Award encompasses only student-athletes with a minimum GPA of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year, excluding summer school. The Academic All-Big Ten threshold is a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for a student-athlete's academic career.  The 2010-11 class of Distinguished Scholar Award recipients includes 74 student-athletes who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA during the previous academic term. A complete list of the 2010-11 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award winners can be found by clicking here.

[TWO // welcome to the hall]
Three Big Ten football legends were among 16 players and four coaches enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday. Congratulations to Purdue quarterback Mark Herrmann (1977-80), Michigan wide receiver and kick returner Desmond Howard (1989-91), and former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez (1990-2005).  To catch up on the numerous accomplishments these three individuals had on the football field, click here to visit the official College Football Hall of Fame website.

[THREE // look who's coming to lunch]
The Big Ten Conference announced this past Thursday the 36 student-athletes scheduled to attend the 2011 Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, held Friday, July 29, at McCormick Place in Chicago. The 40th annual event will mark the University of Nebraska's first official appearance as a member of the Big Ten Conference and serves as the beginning to the 2011 football season, which will lead in to the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game, held Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.  The event features all 12 conference head coaches and begins at 10 a.m. CT with the players and coaches autograph and photo session for fans attending the luncheon. The luncheon is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. CT, with comments from all 12 coaches and returning All-Big Ten quarterback Kirk Cousins of Michigan State, who will speak on behalf of the players in attendance.  The list of student-athletes scheduled to attend includes 18 former All-Big Ten selections and three past All-Big 12 picks, including six first-team honorees from last season. The list also includes the 2010 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

[FOUR // six slingers tabbed for o'brien award]
This is the time of year when all the prestigious football awards release their player watch lists, and several were published this past week.  For the Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to the nation's top quarterback, six conference standouts were recognized.  Congratulations to Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase, Michigan's Denard Robinson, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, Northwestern's Dan Persa and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.  Those six represent the Big Ten among the 38 players selected for the O'Brien Award watch list. Four conference players have taken home the award, as Ohio State's Troy Smith (2006), Iowa's Brad Banks (2002), Penn State's Kerry Collins (1994) and Iowa's Chuck Long (1985) each earned national recognition.

[FIVE // running for the walker award]
Another six conference standouts earned recognition on the watch list for the Walker Award, which honors the top running back in the country.  The group of 51 players selected for the Walker Award watch list features Illinois' Jason Ford, Iowa's Marcus Coker, Michigan State's Edwin Baker, Minnesota's Duane Bennett and Wisconsin's Montee Ball and James White. Five Big Ten standouts have earned the honor all-time, with Iowa's Shonn Greene (2008), Michigan's Chris Perry (2003), Penn State's Larry Johnson (2002), Wisconsin's Ron Dayne (1999) and Ohio State's Eddie George (1995) reeling in the award.

[SIX // in the trenches]
Sixteen Big Ten players appeared on the 2011 Rotary Lombardi Award watch list, released this past Monday. The honor is awarded annually to the nation's best down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, and linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.  Those named to the watch list are Illinois' Jeff Allen, Iowa's Riley Reiff, Michigan's Mike Martin and David Molk, Michigan State's Joel Foreman and Jerel Worthy, Nebraska's Jared Crick, Lavonte David, and Cameron Meredith, Northwestern's Vince Browne and Ben Burkett, Ohio State's Mike Adams, Mike Brewster and Andrew Sweat, and Wisconsin's Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler.  Seven former Big Ten standouts have combined to win eight Lombardi Awards, with former Ohio State lineman Orlando Pace claiming the honor in 1995 and 1996. Former Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley was the last conference player to garner the postseason accolade, winning the award in 2006.

[SEVEN // hey you in the middle]
Six Big Ten football players were named this past week to the Rimington Trophy watch list, presented annually to college football's most outstanding center. The conference standouts named to the list include Iowa's James Ferentz, Michigan's David Molk, Nebraska's Mike Caputo, Northwestern's Ben Burkett, Ohio State's Mike Brewster and Wisconsin's Peter Konz.  Four former Big Ten standouts have been honored with the Rimington Award, which was first presented in 2000 and is named after former Nebraska All-American Dave Rimington. Penn State's A.Q. Shipley was the last Big Ten center to win the award following the 2008 season.

[EIGHT // the backing of a legend]
Five Big Ten student-athletes have been named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker and named in honor of Illinois Hall of Famer Dick Butkus. Big Ten players appearing on the watch list are Iowa's Tyler Nielsen, Nebraska's Lavonte David, Penn State's Michael Mauti and the Wisconsin duo of Chris Borland and Mike Taylor. The Big Ten has claimed the Butkus Award on eight occasions, most recently when Ohio State's James Laurinaitis was honored in 2007.

[NINE // ready for a hoops challenge]
The Big Ten and Big 12 conferences have announced the matchups for the 2011 Big 12/Big Ten Women's Basketball Challenge.  The inter-conference series began in 2010 and features a home-and-home format over a two-year agreement. Texas Tech will represent the Big 12 in two games, while Big Ten member Nebraska will sit out in 2011 due to the uneven number of teams among the two conferences. Last season, the Big Ten claimed the inaugural challenge, 7-5. The 2011 Challenge will be played Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3 and 4, with the exception of three games. Wisconsin travels to Kansas on Dec. 8, Michigan State will play at Texas on Dec. 10 and Texas Tech will face Illinois in a neutral site game at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 17. The Big 12 will have six home games, while the Big Ten has five home contests in 2011. This year's series will be referred to as the Big 12/Big Ten Challenge.  Click here to see each matchup of this year's Big 12/Big Ten Women's Basketball Challenge.

[TEN // big ten network living big]
This fall, BTN will launch BTN LiveBIG, its initiative to recognize and inspire the community service efforts of Big Ten fans. To "live big" is to find a cause that you're passionate about and to do something about it. Beginning on Oct. 3, BTN will premiere BTN LiveBIG, its new weekly series hosted by the University of Michigan's Dhani Jones.  Over the course of the season, the series will feature alumni, students and supporters who are living big in their service to others, including Michigan's Charles Woodson, Nebraska's Tom Osborne, Minnesota's Tony Dungy and Indiana's Jane Pauley, who give time to organizations solving problems in education, healthcare and disaster relief, to name a few.  BTN LiveBIG aims to inspire Big Ten students and fans to get involved in service. Online, viewers will get more information about the profiles and stories they saw on BTN at www.BTNLiveBIG.com. There, people can tell the BTN how they "live big" by sharing their stories of community service.  The site will also provide the tools and support Big Ten fans need to start serving, including the chance for Big Ten students to win the BTN LiveBIG Scholarship for Outstanding Service.

[ELEVEN // btn summer renovations]
Finally this week, we check in on how the Big Ten Network is adapting to the addition of Nebraska to the conference as well as the conference's new branding initiative.  BTN.com blogger Brent Yarina took us inside the BTN studios this past week and showed us several interior redesigns of the network's building, which included incorporating the names, logos, helmets and fight songs into some of the schemes on the walls.  For a closer look, check out Brent's Big Blog by clicking here.