Dec. 7, 2007
by Jeff Smith
[ONE // success on the field and in the classroom]
Honoring the student in student-athlete has always been something the Big Ten has taken great pride in. On Wednesday, the conference announced Academic All-Big Ten honors for 661 fall sports athletes, including at least 15 with unblemished grade-point averages. To be eligible for the conference's academic awards, student-athletes must be letterwinners who have completed more than two school years on campus and boast a GPA of 3.0 or better. For the fall term, 61 men's and 109 women's cross country runners, 61 field hockey players, 175 football players, 64 men's and 118 women's soccer athletes and 73 volleyball players were honored.
[TWO // time to go bowling]
This past Sunday, the Big Ten announced its complete bowl package for the eight conference teams that will be competing in the postseason. For the seventh time in 10 years the Bowl Championships Series has been in existence, the conference will send two teams to the prominent games in BCS National Championship hopeful Ohio State and Rose Bowl-bound Illinois. The national title game is the second-straight trip for the Buckeyes, while the Fighting Illini have not visited Pasadena since 1984. Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, the Big Ten has qualified 17 teams for BCS bowls, more than any other conference. In addition to the Big Ten's BCS teams, the following conference squads were selected to play in the postseason: Michigan (Capital One), Wisconsin (Outback), Penn State (Valero Alamo), Michigan State (Champs Sports Bowl), Indiana (Insight), and Purdue (Motor City Bowl).
[THREE // big ten boasts walter camp honorees; linebacker u graduates another]
On Thursday, Nittany Lion All-America linebacker Dan Connor was given the Bednarik Award, presently annually to the nation's top defensive player. Penn State, commonly referred to as "Linebacker U", has won the past three Bednarik Awards.
"The reason I went to Penn State is because it's Linebacker U," Connor told ESPN's Chris Fowler at the nationally televised Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards program at the Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney's Boardwalk. "To be even mentioned in the same breath as Jack Ham, Paul Posluszny, Shane Conlan, that's an unbelievable honor."
In addition, four Big Ten players were named Thursday to the Walter Camp All-America first team in Michigan offensive lineman Jake Long, Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis, Penn State lineback Dan Connor and Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum. Long is the first Michigan offensive lineman to repeat as a Walter Camp All-American since Greg Skrepanek in 1990 and 1991, while Laurinaitis is the third Ohio State linebacker to be a two-time Walter Camp All-American, joining A.J. Hawk (2004-05) and Tom Cousineau (1977-78).
An impressive total of nine Big Ten players were named to the second team in Illinois' J Leman (LB), Indiana's James Hardy (WR) and Greg Middleton (DL), Michigan's Shawn Crable (LB), Mike Hart (RB) and Mario Manningham (WR), Michigan State's Jonal Saint-Dic (DL), Ohio State's Vernon Gholston (DL) and Malcolm Jenkins (DB).
[FOUR // three volleyball squads still in ncaa action]
Big Ten volleyball sends three teams into regional action, but no more than two are coming out. That is because Michigan (24-10), which advanced after upsetting No. 21 Colorado State, will now face third-seeded Penn State (30-2) at Rec Hall in University Park, Pa., on Friday. Michigan State (21-13) will meet defending national champion and No. 2 seed Nebraska (29-1) at the UW Field House in Madison, Wis., on Friday as well.
[FIVE // big ten volleyball standouts honored regionally]
Speaking of volleyball, and postseason awards for that matter, 11 Big Ten volleyball standouts were named to the 2007 American Volleyball Coaches Association's All-Mideast Region Team on Wednesday. First-team honorees included Michigan's Katie Bruzdzinski and Lexi Zimmerman, Michigan State's Ashley Schatzle, Penn State's Nicole Fawcett, Alisha Glass, Christa Harmotto and Megan Hodge, Purdue's Stephanie Lynch, and Wisconsin's Brittney Dolgner, Taylor Reineke and Jackie Simpson. Honorable mention accolades were given to Michigan's Lyndsay Miller, Minnesota's Brook Dieter, Northwestern's Chelsy Hyser, and Wisconsin's Jocelyn Wack
Congratulations are also in stored for Penn State's Russ Rose, who was named the Mideast Coach of the Year, and Michigan's Zimmerman, who was named Freshman of the Year.
[SIX // women's hoops falls in inaugural big ten/acc challenge]
The ACC defeated the Big Ten in the inaugural Big Ten/ACC Women's Basketball Challenge, 8-3, this past Sunday. The Challenge may have been officially lost on Sunday, but it was the Big Ten that made an impression in the finale with Penn State scoring an upset at home over No. 10 Duke. Congrats also go out to Challenge winners Michigan and Michigan State, as well as Minnesota's Emily Fox, who was the leading scorer in the Challenge with a career-high 30 points against Virginia Tech.
[SEVEN // time for tickets and tourneys]
On Wednesday it was announced that both all-session and single-session tickets for the 2008 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament will go on sale to the general public this Saturday at 10 a.m. EST. This is the first season of a new five-year agreement with Indianapolis where both the Big Ten men's and women's basketball tournaments will be staged in Conseco Fieldhouse.
[EIGHT // cazzie continued]
This week bigten.org interviewed legendary Michigan basketball player Cazzie Russell. What was not in the story, but interesting to learn was how focused he was on fundamentals as a player. Despite having career averages of 27 points and eight rebounds, Russell talked about his fascination with sound decision making.
"I guess I would think of myself as a rhythm player, one who worked a lot of footwork, timing and flow," Russell said. "With that flow, I thought of it as allowing the game to come to me. I think of myself as an opportunist. If it was a lob, a chest pass, a bounce pass, quick jumper, or a lay-up, those were things I cherished the most. Making the right decision at the right time. Oscar Robertson always made the right decision at the right time."
It's ironic Russell was so comparable to "The Big O" yet he spurned his idol and Cincinnati when he chose to play at Michigan.
[NINE // buckeyes still battling with eyes on the prize]
For the first time in Ohio State men's soccer history, the Buckeyes are set to compete in the NCAA quarterfinals. OSU will face Bradley in Columbus on Sunday, and look to improve its all-times series against the Braves to 5-0-0. The Buckeyes have outscored Bradley, 9-1, in that four-game span.
[TEN // watching wrestling]
After airing its first-ever wrestling match this past weekend, the Big Ten Network announced this week that every conference team will make at least one live appearance this winter on the BTN. The network also announced its commitment to air the Big Ten Championships and portions of the Midlands Classic.
"The Big Ten is the nation's most powerful wrestling conference and there is a strong following for the sport in Big Ten Country," network president Mark Silverman said. "We look forward to bringing the best of college wrestling to a national audience."
[ELEVEN // murphy's mark]
Finally this week, after a month of speculation, it was announced that Northwestern athletics director Mark Murphy was named the president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers. Murphy is a football guy, having played as a captain with the Washington Redskins from 1977-85, but his commitment to the entire Wildcat athletic scene is worth applauding. NU had unprecedented NCAA Championship success in softball and women's lacrosse under his watch, while improving facilities for soccer and basketball as well. In the past four years, Murphy has overseen a 19-sport program that has won nine conference team championships and 34 individual Big Ten titles, including 13 in 2006-07 alone.
"I very much appreciate the opportunity I was given when Northwestern selected me as its athletic director," Murphy said. "I'll miss the many friends I've made here and I'll continue to be a Wildcat supporter."
And the Big Ten will miss you.