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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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Big Ten spring attendance by the numbers

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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.”

NCAA solicits survey polling Division I athletes’ time demands

ANN ARBOR, MI - APRIL 04: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the Michigan Football Spring Game on April 4, 2015 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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There will eventually be a line in the NCAA’s rulebook known as the “Jim Harbaugh rule,” but the issue runs much deeper than one football team’s mandatory working vacation.

Earlier this week the NCAA distributed a survey to athletes across Division I sports, asking for their feedback on the time demands currently placed upon them. Obtained by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, the survey has the potential to spearhead some sweeping changes.

Many of the questions lead to seemingly obvious answers: smart coaches aren’t putting their team back on the practice field at 6 a.m. following a 10 p.m. final horn, and most athletes aren’t going to sacrifice 10 percent of their seasons.

But the bottom question has the potential to rock the boat. As those of you whose jobs follow you home in the forms of constantly-connected smart phones and mandatory-voluntary off-hours activities, college athletes put in a lot of hours doing work-type things when they aren’t technically on the clock. A change in that respect seems both necessary and likely.

Along with, of course, cutting off-season spring break practices.

“Even though some things burn inside of us deeply and we’re sensitive to some people taking advantage of rules, having one-off legislation is not the right approach,” Northwestern AD Jim Phillips told ESPN. “What Michigan is doing is permissible. If the student-athletes come back and tell us across the board we don’t want to interrupt our spring break, we’d be hypocritical not to listen to them. They may also say there’s a period of time after the completion of a season, two to three weeks where they don’t do anything: no film, no weights, nothing.

“So you can’t restrict legislation or propose legislation when you’re dealing with a comprehensive, holistic review.”

Survey responses, which were solicited outside the team structure so as to prevent top-down pressure from coaches, are due March 21. Phillips says a “massive legislation package” will be introduced in September, with a policy put up for vote at the NCAA’s annual convention in January.

“We could have passed legislation at the [2016] NCAA convention around time demands, but that wasn’t the right thing to do because each sport has its own ebb and flow and their own calendar where they play and practice,” Phillips said. “As much angst as there is about specific rules out there that people are using that are legal, the right approach has been to take this in a comprehensive review.

“We want to hear what the student-athletes have to say.”

SEC, Ohio State tops on Carolina, Denver Super Bowl rosters

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  Former Tennesse quarterback Peyton Manning and current quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts is honored alongside his former college coach Phillip Fulmer before the start of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 29, 2005 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Cam Newton may be hurtling toward history, but the former Auburn quarterback will not be the lone player representing the SEC in next month’s Super Bowl.  In fact, he’s far, far from it.

As you may have heard, Newton’s Carolina Panthers are set to square off with Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos in the 50th Super Bowl Feb. 3.  Manning and Newton are two of and FBS-best 30 former SEC players who are on the two teams’ rosters, which includes those on the 53-man, reserved/injured list, practice squad, reserved/suspended by commissioner and reserve/future squad.

The Pac-12 is next with 23, followed by the Big Ten (21) and ACC (17).  The final Power Five conference, the Big 12, has 10, three less than the Mountain West’s 13.  The AAC, with eight, is the only Group of Five league to come close to double digits.  The MAC, meanwhile, is the only conference to be shutout, while all of the other divisions in the NCAA combined for 18 players.

Nearly every SEC team is represented in this year’s big game, the lone exception being Vanderbilt.  Of the dozen schools in the Pac-12, only Arizona and Washington State are missing.  Both the ACC and Big Ten have 11 of their 14 teams in the game, the lone exceptions being Clemson, Louisville and Virginia Tech for the former and Illinois, Minnesota and Rutgers for the latter.

One of those B1G schools that’s in, Nebraska, has had at least one player on a Super Bowl roster for 23 straight years, the longest active streak for any FBS program.

Ohio State easily outdistances individual schools with seven, three more than the four each for Auburn, Georgia Tech, Oregon State and Tennessee.  Alabama, Arizona State, Colorado State, Georgia, Nevada, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, USC and Utah.

A total of 20 schools have two players each, including Coastal Carolina, the only non-FBS program in the group.  The other 19 includes Arkansas, Boise State, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, San Diego State, South Carolina, Stanford, Troy, Tulane, Washington and Wisconsin.

Two weeks from signing day, offer pulled from lineman committed to Michigan since 2013

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Jim Harbaugh head coach of the Michigan Wolverines during the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on November 21, 2015 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)
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The past couple of weeks have featured nothing but feel-good stories — some would call one them creepy — of Jim Harbaugh on the recruiting trail. Today, though, the unsightly underbelly of the recruiting game has been exposed yet again.

Erik Swenson was the first commitment to Michigan’s 2016 recruiting class, verballing to Brady Hoke and the Wolverines back in November of 2013. Even with the coaching change from Hoke to Harbaugh in December of 2014, the four-star offensive lineman remained committed. Why? Because he committed to a school, not a coach.

“You have to stick with your commitment, you committed to Michigan, you have to honor that,” Swenson told mlive.com last June. “You made a commitment and you have to show you’re willing to honor it. There will be ups and downs at any place, and any place you go you’ll have to show you can push through them.”

Fast-forward seven months, and how was Swenson’s loyalty rewarded? By having his offer from UM pulled exactly two weeks before National Signing Day.  At least, that’s the recruit’s side of the story.

From mlive.com:

In a text message to MLive, the four-star offensive tackle said Michigan recently pulled its scholarship offer and canceled his previously scheduled official visit. He said the program did not provide a reason for doing so. He declined to speak further on the matter at this time.

Swenson had previously revealed on his personal Twitter account that, “[d]ue to unforeseen circumstances, I am reopening my recruitment.”

Because of NCAA bylaws, UM officials will not be permitted to address, at least on the record, their side of a story that’s certainly to cause its share of controversy.

Swenson is the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Illinois and the No. 227 overall in the country according to Rivals.com. He also holds offers from, among others, Alabama, Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.