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Commentary

NFL draft not buying what Big Ten is selling

The Big Ten has been providing a second-rate football product for some time, which was reaffirmed in this year’s NFL draft.

You can start with the fact the Big Ten came within one reach by the bumbling Jerry Jones of getting shut out in the first round for the first time since 1953.

There were 12 teams in the NFL then. Bernie Flowers, an end from Purdue, was the first pick in the second round (14th overall).

There are now 32 teams. The Big Ten was 0-for-30, until Jones and the Cowboys went for Wisconsin center Travis Frederick. The Southeastern Conference had 12 players taken in the first round.

Other facts that tell us Big Ten football in its current state is a fraud:

•The 12-team conference had 22 players selected, the lowest since an 11-team conference had 21 selected in 1994. The Big Ten is now on a five-draft streak without having a player taken in the top 10.

•There were 78 skill position players taken, five from the Big Ten including Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who was drafted as a receiver, not as a quarterback.

The numbers that guarantee the Big Ten’s decline is not a short-term trend are the home states for the draft choices: California 28, Florida 27, Texas 25, Georgia 19, South Carolina 13, Louisiana and Ohio 11, Pennsylvania 9, Alabama 8 and New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina with 7.

Two decades ago, when the Big Ten was admitting Penn State, Ohio and Pennsylvania still had reputations as elite states for producing football talent. Michigan and Illinois also were offering solid numbers of players.

Now it’s not only Florida producing many more recruits than the big states of the North and Midwest – it’s the rest of Dixie. South Carolina (1 in 363,000), Louisiana (1 in 418,000) and Georgia (1 in 522,000) are raising NFL draft choices at extremely high rates.

It’s culture. In the North, mom and dad are worried about concussions and pointing their boys toward soccer and lacrosse. In the South, the old man still is pounding on his boy’s shoulder pads and saying, “Get out there and smash ’em, son.”

All that heat and vitamin D from the sun are making the young males of the South stronger and faster, and dad is making them tougher.

The strongest, fastest and toughest of those sons of Dixie have two big dreams: to play in the NFL, and before that, to play in the second-best football league in the world ... the SEC.

Commissioner Jim Delany and other Big Ten apologists can schmooze as they choose, by citing attendance figures and numbers of households for the Big Ten Network, but the huge competitive gap between his league and the SEC will only increase in the years ahead.

The SEC improved itself in football when it went to 14 teams by adding Texas A&M and Missouri a year ago. The Big Ten is lessening itself in football by going to 14 teams with Rutgers and Maryland a year from now.

Rutgers had seven players taken in last week’s draft. I’m sure Delany is giddy over that. Except those were recruits brought in by Gary Schiano, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Schiano was replaced by an assistant, Kyle Flood. Does the name John Gutekunst ring a bell?

Rutgers will come winging into the Big Ten known more for the scandal of an abusive basketball coach than anything it offers as a football attraction.

The Scarlet Knights’ bowl history consists of appearances in the Garden State, Insight, Texas, International, PapaJohns.com, St. Petersburg, New Era Pinstripe and Russell Athletic bowls.

And Maryland? The Terps’ four bowl games since 2006 have been Champs Sports, Emerald, Humanitarian and Military.

Maryland has had so many clunkers that Gophers fans are correct to be pleased that former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall turned down Minnesota and later wound up with the Terps.

Delany’s announcement of the East-West football alignment starting in 2014 referred to “parity” scheduling – meaning more games for a traditional mutt such as the Gophers against Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana, rather than Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.

Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana are sure to pack the joint.

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