This Week in the Big Ten

Justin Spring was promoted this week to head coach of Illinois' men's gymanstics and then learned his defending Big Ten Champions were picked to finish second in the conference's preseason poll.

Justin Spring was promoted this week to head coach of Illinois' men's gymanstics and then learned his defending Big Ten Champions were picked to finish second in the conference's preseason poll.

Dec. 19, 2010

[ONE // branding the big ten]
The Big Ten Conference made several announcements to start the week Monday that completed a series of decisions prompted by the upcoming addition of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as the conference's 12th member school. The conference revealed a new logo to be used for all sports beginning with the 2011-12 academic year and also unveiled names for its two football divisions and a list of names for 18 trophies to honor coaches, teams and student-athletes starting with the 2011 football season. Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern will now vie for the “Legends” division title, while Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin will battle for the “Leaders” division crown.  View the new Big Ten logo and take a look at all 18 postseason football trophies by checking out the official press release here.

[TWO // four peat]
Congratulations to the Penn State volleyball team, which once again staked its claim as national champions after winning Saturday night's NCAA Championship final with a 3-0 (25-20, 27-25, 25-20) victory over California. Three Nittany Lions finished with double-digit kills, led by senior Blair Brown's 18 kills, supported by Deja McClendon's 16 spikes and Arielle Wilson's 12. Brown chipped in 10 digs and four blocks as Penn State extended its NCAA Championship winning streak to 24 matches. Offensively, the Nittany Lions hit .276 on the night, while their defense held California to .182 hitting. Overall, it is Penn State's fifth national championship and lost just one set during the 2010 postseason.  The Nittany Lions advanced to Saturday’s final after a 3-0 sweep of Texas in the national semifinal on Thursday night.

[THREE // lucky thirteen]
Thirteen Big Ten volleyball standouts were named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America Teams on Wednesday. Three were named to the first team, four were chosen for the second and third teams, and two earned honorable mention status. In addition, Penn State's Deja McClendon was named the AVCA Freshman of the Year.  Penn State's Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson were named first-team All-Americans for the second year in a row, while Indiana's Ashley Benson makes her first appearance on the first team. Second-team honorees included Illinois' Colleen Ward, Michigan's Lexi Zimmerman, Northwestern's Sabel Moffett and Penn State's McClendon. Third-team selections went to Illinois' Michelle Bartsch and Hillary Haen, Michigan's Alex Hunt and Purdue's Jaclyn Hart, with Minnesota's Jessica Granquist and Northwestern's Naomi Johnson earning honorable mention status.  To view the complete release from the AVCA, click here.

[FOUR // big ten mentors up for national coach of the year]
Three Big Ten football coaches are up for the nation’s top coaching honor. Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Ohio State's Jim Tressel have been named finalists for the 2010 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award, which celebrates coaches for their sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence and for giving back to their teams, schools and communities, on and off field. The finalists were determined as a result of online fan voting at www.CoachoftheYear.com and through an objective scoring model endorsed by the College Football Hall of Fame. Illinois' Ron Zook was named the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year in 2007, the Big Ten's lone winner since the award's creation in 2006.  In addition, Dantonio and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema have been named finalists for the Bear Bryant Award, given annually to the nation's top head coach. Both Dantonio and Bielema led their teams to a share of the 2010 Big Ten Championship with 7-1 marks in conferences and 11-1 records overall. Ohio State's Jim Tressel, who also earned a share of the 2010 Big Ten title, was the last conference coach to win the Bear Bryant Award in 2002.

[FIVE // gridiron all-americans]
Fourteen Big Ten student-athletes have been named to the All-America first, second or third teams as chosen by the American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, Sporting News and Walter Camp Football Foundation. Big Ten All-Americans include three standouts named to all five first teams - Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan and Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. Jones earns consensus All-America honors for the second straight season, making him the first Big Ten player to accomplish that feat since Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis was tabbed a consensus All-American in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Jones is just the fourth Spartan to earn consensus All-America laurels in two seasons, a group that includes running back Lorenzo White (1985 and 1987), defensive end Charles "Bubba" Smith (1965 and 1966) and linebacker George Webster (1965 and 1966). Jones is also MSU's first unanimous All-American since wideout Charles Rogers was honored 2002. Kerrigan is the first consensus All-American for the Boilermakers since wide receiver Taylor Stubblefield in 2004 and the first Purdue defender to be so honored since defensive back Rod Woodson in 1986. The Boilermakers' last unanimous All-Americans were quarterback Mark Herrmann and tight end Dave Young in 1980. Carimi is the Badgers' first unanimous All-America pick since fellow offensive lineman Joe Thomas was honored in 2006.

[SIX // the boys of summer]
Baseball season is right around the corner and several national publications have already designated preseason All-Americans, including two standouts from the conference. Indiana's Alex Dickerson, the 2010 Big Ten Player of the Year, was named a Preseason First-Team All-American, the NCBWA announced on Wednesday.  This past Friday, Indiana’s Dickerson joined Northwestern reliever Paul Snieder on Collegiate Baseball’s Louisville Slugger All-America first and third teams, respectively. 

[SEVEN // michigan tops women’s gymnastics preseason poll]
Michigan was selected by the Big Ten women's gymnastics coaches as the top conference team heading into the 2011 season, the conference office announced on Wednesday. Joining the defending Big Ten Champion Wolverines in the top three are Illinois and Penn State, with Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State and Ohio State rounding out the poll. Michigan enters the 2011 season ranked ninth in the country after earning its fourth consecutive and 18th overall Big Ten title in 2010, closing the season with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The coaches also selected two gymnasts from their respective teams to a “Gymnasts to Watch” list, which includes Illinois’ Allison Buckley and Melissa Fernandez, Iowa’s Houry Gebeshian and Rebecca Simbhudas, Michigan’s Natalie Beilstein and Kylee Botterman, Michigan State’s Kathryn Mahoney and Shanthi Teike, Minnesota’s Kendra Elm and Kristin Furukawa, Ohio State’s Rebecca Best and Sarah Miller, and Penn State’s Madison Merriam and Sharaya Musser.

[EIGHT // michigan men flipping over ranking too]
After earning its fourth NCAA Championship in 2010, Michigan was chosen as the 2011 Big Ten men's gymnastics preseason favorite by the conference coaches, the conference announced on Wednesday. Michigan enters the 2011 season ranked second in the nation by GymInfo. The Wolverines, led by 2010 NCAA All-Around Champion and Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Chris Cameron, return three All-Americans from their national championship squad.  The Wolverines are followed by defending Big Ten Champion Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa in the 2011 preseason poll. The coaches also selected two gymnasts from their respective teams to a Gymnasts to Watch list, which includes Illinois’ C.J. Padera and Paul Ruggeri, Iowa’s Lance Alberhasky and Javier Balboa Gonzalez, Michigan’s Syque Caesar and Devan Cote, Minnesota’s Harris Coleman and D.J. Repp, Ohio State’s Sean Regan and Brandon Wynn, and Penn State’s Matt Albrecht and Felix Aronovich.

[NINE // spring into the spotlight]
Speaking of Big Ten men’s gymnastics, Illinois’ Director of Athletics Ron Guenther announced on Wednesday that Justin Spring has been promoted to head men's gymnastics coach.  Spring served as associate head coach last season after spending three years as an assistant coach at Illinois. He also was a member of the Illini gymnastics team from 2003-06, collecting four individual national titles, 12 All-America honors and the 2006 Nissen-Emery Award. In 2008, Spring achieved a life-long goal by competing for his country at the Beijing Olympics and helped lead the U.S. to a team bronze medal. He later retired from competitive gymnastics to focus solely on coaching.

[TEN // cool brees]
Perhaps it was fitting that the Big Ten Conference branded its future with “Legends” and “Leaders” the same week a legendary league leader was honored for his efforts on and off the field.  Purdue’s Drew Brees, who was recently honored as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, was named Friday as the 2010 Male Athlete of the Year, chosen by members of The Associated Press.  The reigning Super Bowl MVP from the New Orleans Saints and former Boilermaker quarterback earned 48 votes from the 176 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations that make up the AP's membership. The 2009 AP Male Athlete of the Year, NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, finished second with 31. Boxer Manny Pacquiao was third with 21 votes, followed by Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay with 17. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, a comeback story himself, rounded out the top five vote-getters with 10.

[ELEVEN // a golden effort]
Finally this week, in keeping with the theme of honoring those efforts on and off the football field, a tip of the cap goes to the University of Minnesota for its assistance in preparing the Golden Gophers’ TCF Bank Stadium for Monday Night Football.  After last week’s roof collapse of the Metrodome, the Minnesota Vikings played their NFL contest at Ford Field in Detroit, but was focused on playing this week’s Monday Night Football contest in front of the home fans.  Since the roof had yet to be repaired at the Metrodome, the former home of the Golden Gophers, NFL officials moved the game to TCF Bank Stadium.  But that was not as easy as it sounds. Over the course of four days (Tuesday through Friday), more than 1,500 workers moved 40,000 cubic yards of snow from TCF Bank Stadium. Since Tuesday, workers have put in more than 15,000 man-hours to prepare TCF Bank Stadium for Monday's game.  To see the remarkable effort by Golden Gopher and Viking fans chipping in to help dig out of the snow, watch this video and see how all of it disappeared for the sake of football!  You’ve got to love it!