Nebraska Cornhuskers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
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ESPN tabs seven Big Ten games for primetime kickoffs

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Mark your calendars, because these are only five months away! (/sobs)

ESPN on Monday announced seven Big Ten games that’ll kick off in primetime, either on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, this upcoming season. Not surprisingly, six of the seven feature either Ohio State or Michigan. The list:

Oct. 8: Michigan at Rutgers (7 p.m. or 8 p.m. ET)
Oct. 15: Ohio State at Wisconsin (8 p.m. ET)
Oct. 22: Ohio State at Penn State (8 p.m. ET)
Oct. 29: Northwestern at Ohio State (5:30 p.m. ET)
Oct. 29: Nebraska at Wisconsin (7 p.m. ET)
Nov. 5: Nebraska at Ohio State (8 p.m. ET)
Nov. 12: Michigan at Iowa (7 p.m. or 8 p.m. ET)

Noticeably absent from this list is Michigan State, though the Big Ten has a deal with Fox, too, meaning the Spartans will almost certainly play in primetime at some point this season. Plus, Ohio State and Michigan equal ratings, no matter how good either team is (and both are expected to be pretty good this season, of course).

 

Ohio State draftees to sign contracts worth in excess of $110 million

Urban Meyer
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Forget about going shirtless at a satellite camp or a sleepover or climbing up a tree or any of the like; this is what you call a recruiting pitch.

During the course of the three-day NFL draft, a dozen former Ohio State Buckeyes were drafted.  While OSU failed to break its own record for most picks in a single draft, the 12 selections in the first four rounds were the most ever.

And, not surprisingly, those players are going to get paid.

According to PennLive.com‘s David Jones, those players will sign contracts that could be worth a total of $120 million.  Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch has the number pegged slightly lower at $111,462,707.  Either way, that’s a lot of cash — and a lot dollar signs for Urban Meyer to flout in front of potential recruits.

Of course, not all of that money is guaranteed, although the guaranteed dollars involved aren’t too shabby either.  From the Dispatch:

Just the signing bonuses alone, which range from Bosa’s projected $17,017,226 to Jones’ $383,393, have an expected total of $60,526,660. Unless a player does something to cause his contract to be voided, signing bonuses are theirs to keep.

Regardless of how you spin it, former Buckeyes did quite well financially the last couple of days.  And, as Jones alludes to when it comes to James Franklin and Penn State specifically and the Big Ten in general, Meyer and the Buckeyes are in an entirely different zip code than the rest of the conference — a fact that will no doubt come up on the vast expanses of the recruiting trail.

The good news for Franklin and Penn State: They had three of those 11. The bad news for them and everyone else in the league: Urban Meyer is probably preparing a recruiting flyer right now with a 9-figure dollar amount printed in big bold numbers.

Big Ten spring attendance by the numbers

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 18:  A general view of  Ohio Stadium as more than 99,000 fans packed in to watch the annual Ohio State Spring Game on April 18, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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The SEC may have led the pack when it comes to spring game attendance, but the Big Ten was once again a strong draw this spring with its usual heavy-hitters continuing to set the pace for the conference. Highlighted by a record-setting turnout for the Ohio State spring game, the Big Ten finished in a firm second place in cumulative spring game attendance with a total of 376,049 fans attending spring games in the Big Ten this year.

Big Ten Spring Attendance By School

Here is how the Big Ten schools compared to each other in the spring game attendance figures.

  1. Ohio State – 100,189
  2. Nebraska – 72,992
  3. Penn State – 65,000
  4. Michigan State – 51,000
  5. Michigan – 35,000
  6. Iowa – 18,460
  7. Rutgers – 14,177
  8. Wisconsin – 9,181
  9. Purdue – 5,050
  10. Illinois – 5,000

Note: No attendance figures were made available for Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota and Northwestern.

What Meyer Wants, Meyer Gets

Ohio State set the national spring game attendance record a year ago coming off a national championship with 99,391 fans. Despite the lack of championship this spring to defend, head coach Urban Meyer raised the bar and claimed he wanted to see 100,000 fans at the spring game in Columbus. He got his wish with a new record crowd of 100,189 fans this spring. What’s next for Meyer? Well, there are still a few seats left to fill. Will Meyer hope to push that number even higher next spring?

Biggest Increase, Biggest Drop

In the spring following an undefeated regular season and appearance in the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl, Iowa boasted the largest increase in spring game attendance this season, both in total fans and percentage. To be fair, Iowa did not have much to compete against with its 2015 spring attendance number. A year ago Iowa recorded an estimated 8,000 fans for the spring game. That was up over 10,000 with a much more official-sounding 18,460 fans this spring.

Most of the other Big Ten spring numbers were within close distance compared to 2015, either increasing or decreasing by no more than a couple thousand fans for the most part. While Iowa had the most noticeable increase in spring attendance, the Michigan Wolverines saw the most significant drop. Last year Michigan broke the typical spring game mold in Ann Arbor by turning in a crowd of 60,000 for the first spring game under Jim Harbaugh. This year that total dropped to 35,000. The biggest reason for that drop can likely be contributed to the schedule. Last year’s spring game was played on a Saturday afternoon. This year’s game was given a Friday night billing, which may have led some Wolverine faithful to pass. Michigan has not typically been a huge spring draw, but it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are made to the scheduling of next year’s spring game.

The Other Usual Power Players

Ohio State aside, it was yet another solid spring showing from the fans in Lincoln, Nebraska and State College, Pennsylvania. Nebraska and Penn State have always typically been strong spring game draws on a regular basis, and neither disappointed again this season. Nebraska once again eclipsed the 70,000-fan mark with 72,992 showing up. Penn State brought in another 60,000+ crowd with an estimated 65,000.

Michigan State is starting to become one of the stronger spring draws as well. The Spartans set a new school record with 51,000 coming out to East Lansing on Saturday. With that, Michigan State pushed past their rivals from Ann Arbor, which surely will bring a smile to the face of Mark Dantonio.

Quick Hits

  • Illinois got off to a late start with spring practices due to a late coaching change. No formal spring game was open to fans, but 5,000 Illini faithful got a chance to see Lovie Smith in action as the new head coach during an open practice.
  • Like LSU in the SEC, the fact that Wisconsin only brings in just fewer than 10,000 for its spring game amazes me. Wisconsin fans love the Badgers and make for a great crowd, but for whatever reason there is not much emphasis on the spring game.
  • Maryland has not recorded a spring game attendance either of the past two spring games, but Rutgers has once again welcomed about 15,000 fans for its spring game for the second straight spring.

You can view my database of spring game attendance in this Google doc. It is updated periodically as information becomes available or confirmed.

Mo’ money, no problem? Big Ten closing in on media rights bonanza

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Associated Press
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For those who lament the amount of money made by universities while the student-athletes that drive the sports, particularly football, receive “nothing,” you can commence your kvetching.  Again.

With its current first-tier media rights deal set to expire next year, the Big Ten, it was reported last month, had begun the process of accepting offers from various networks for the next round.  And, according to the Sports Business Daily, it’s set to toss a sizable amount of money into the conference membership’s coffers.

From the website:

Fox is close to signing a deal that gives it half of the Big Ten’s available media rights package, according to several sources. Deal terms still are flexible – both in terms of money and rights. However, the two sides have agreed on basic terms that will give Fox the rights to around 25 football games and 50 basketball games that it will carry on both the broadcast channel and FS1 starting in the fall of ’17. The deal runs six years and could cost Fox as much as $250M per year, depending on the amount of rights the Big Ten conference puts in its second package.

To put that into perspective, the Big Ten’s current deal with ESPN that expires in the spring of next year was worth $1 billion over the course of 10 years; that $100 million annual average would be blown away by FOX Sports‘ $250 million a year average — and that’s just for half of the deal.

For further perspective…

Again, this deal would be for half of the conference’s football inventory over the next six years, with SBD reporting that “ESPN will be one of several TV networks engaged for the second half of the Big Ten’s package, along with the usual suspects of CBS, NBC and Turner.”

Nebraska losing pair of veteran defensive linemen

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMPER 6: Defensive end Greg McMullen #90 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers wraps running back Kelvin Bennett #29 of the McNeese State Cowboys during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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On the same day Nebraska put the finishing touches on this year’s spring practice, a pair of defensive linemen have officially put the finishing touches on their playing career in Lincoln.

According to head coach Mike Riley, Greg McMullen has decided quit the sport of football and move on with his life.  Earlier this month, it was reported that the lineman would be taking a leave of absence in order to focus on the academic side of being a student-athlete.

Less than a week later, that sabbatical has morphed into a permanent separation.

“Since he got his degree, he wants to go on with his life,” Riley said. “He’s made a decision not to play football anymore… he’s really got a vision about where he wants to go and what he wants to do, and I’m really proud of him in a lot of ways in what he has done here for this school and this team.

“Saying that, we’ll miss him.”

The last two seasons, McMullen has started 26 games for the Cornhuskers, so his unexpected departure puts a significant dent in NU’s experience along the line.  It also puts a dent in the returning production as McMullen as credited with seven tackles for loss and four sacks last season.

In addition to McMullen’s departure, Riley also confirmed that oft-injured lineman Kevin Williams

has decided to transfer out of his program.  In November of last year, it was announced that Williams had received a sixth season of eligibility; that eligibility will be used elsewhere will transfer out as a graduate and be eligible to play immediately in 2016 at another FBS program.

Williams missed his entire true freshman season in 2011 because of a knee injury, then missed the entire 2013 season because of another knee issue.  His healthiest season came in 2014 when he played in 10 games.

This past season, a groin injury helped limit Williams to eight games.

Williams was a three-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 36 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 22 player at any position in the state of Ohio. In between the injuries, he’s played in a total of 23 games for the ‘Huskers.