MSU AD Mark Hollis talks Big Ten divisions, expansion, concerns, etc.

Mark Hollis joined me, Jack Ebling and Terry Denbow Tuesday afternoon on The Drive with Jack on 730-AM in Lansing, during our weekly hour-long “At Issue” segment, this time tackling the future of the Big Ten.

Michigan State’s athletic director addressed a number of issues relating to the Big Ten, which recently announced it’s move to a nine-game league schedule and new East and West divisions beginning in 2014, when Maryland and Rutgers join the conference. Here’s the entire interview on The Drive with Jack YouTube channel.

For those who prefer the written world (or don’t need sound to let the rest of the office know you’re not exactly on task right now), here are the highlights …

Hollis on playing in the tougher East Division, which also includes Ohio State and Michigan:

“From a recruiting standpoint, you want to create games that fans want to watch and kids want to play in.

From a competitive standpoint, I think it’s just a situation where you’ve got to go out and play the game and some postseason opportunities are going to come along based on the strength of schedule. There are going to be challenges for teams, as we found out, when you go into that championship game and lose. Where are you going to fall in the situation? And in many cases, I think you’re going to find you’re going to find the second- and third-place team in one division may pop up ahead of what you’re finding on the other side.”

Hollis addressing the notion that many fans would have preferred MSU to be in the West Division, away from Michigan and Ohio State:

“I always say, you are who you walk with, or you are who you play against. I very much want to be in a conglomerate of the best of the best. And Michigan and Ohio State have historically been great foes against Michigan State. They will continue to be. I think those are the games you want to see take place in Spartan Stadium. I’m ready to face it head on. But I understand how some could come to that conclusion. But I think as you walk through it and you look at the opportunities Michigan State’s going to have, you ought to get pretty darn excited about what our future is going to look like.”

Hollis on whether the ACC’s recent grant of media rights deal shut down conference shifting and expansion for the foreseeable future:

“I think it’s calmed nationally. I know we as athletic directors are not in a pursuit or inquiry situation at all. We’re in a very comfortable state right now. I think things that change from a national perspective are things that we as a conference and as institutions will continue to monitor, and if there are changes that are out there on the landscape, we’re going to protect our borders, protect our positioning, so that we can ensure that we can continue to be a strong and viable conference made up of great institutions.”

Hollis on the unintended consequences of conference expansion and the transformation ongoing in college athletics:

“When you don’t play the full round-robin, when you don’t play the home-and-home in basketball, the value of the conference championship starts to get diminished. It’s hard to say you’re a champion when you didn’t play this team or you didn’t go to this location. And as you do that, you start to say, OK, what is the goal, what is the achievement that is valued? And that’s going to be the national championship.

“And if you fail or if you fall short of that, you’re going to be a loser. And so many of those teams are not losers. That’s probably one of the bigger things that I’m concerned about relative to the size of these conferences, is there are so many great things that happen on our campuses, so many great achievements within each game, within each season, and those stories get diminished because of the size of the conferences.”

Hollis also spoke about the divisional crossover priorities (Northwestern) and likely casualties (Wisconsin), which colleague Joe Rexrode penned for today’s story in the LSJ on Hollis’ fight to keep MSU in Chicago as frequently as possible.


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12 Responses to MSU AD Mark Hollis talks Big Ten divisions, expansion, concerns, etc.

  1. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Hey Graham, I got an email from that former Spartan player that I introduced you to at the basketball game. He told me that Hollis had told him last week over the phone that he intended to push to keep the Minnesota game in the crossover loop with Northwestern. He also said Hollis point blank told him that he was interested in keeping an MSU prescence here in the Minneapolis region as well as Chicago? Have you heard anything to confirm this or is this just wishfull thinking on the the part of the former player?

    Thanks for your input?

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Hey Ted,

      Here’s a quote from Hollis from yesterday (also in Joe Rexrode’s story linked at the end of the blog).

      “We’re gonna find as we get these (schedules) finalized, you’re gonna have MSU playing frequently in Chicago. You’re going to have, Minneapolis is another market that’s important to us. We put all those out there and Jim (Delany) listened to us.”

  2. avatar dmbtierney says:

    Is Hollis suggesting that there will not be an equal rotation of games among cross-over play? Over a 20 year period (I hope I’m still around) might we play NW a dozen times, and maybe Wisconsin only three or four? Is this what he is suggesting?

  3. avatar SteveL says:

    These divisions stink. You would think the teams have to travel to sights via stage coach to have divisions based on location (East/West). Looks like it will be a fight between Wiscy and Nebraska each year in the west while in the east I wouldn’t count on MSU coming close to even sniffing a possible Championship game anytime in the near future. It will leave MSU at a mediocre level for years to come. Hollis caved in on this one. Shame on you Mark. Playing in a tough division won’t help much in recruiting if you can’t keep pace with the big boys in the eyes of the easily swayed young recruits.

    • avatar Jmac says:

      You do realize it is 2 games you are talking about each year? Each counts as 1 game either way, and Penn state will not just waltz out of there punishment as a contender either.

      People are making too big of a deal out of this in terms of the schedule. It is more important that the program separates itself from teams Maryland, rutgers, Indiana, purdue, northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois and northwestern. The Spartans are starting to get lumped with Wisc and Iowa. It will be extremely important to bring in talent, and playing in the west was a huge risk (crappy games and fewer people).

      The bottom line is too many fans think a west division championship would actually mean something. I think Hollis put it pretty well, 3rd place in the east will mean just as much.

    • avatar MayoSpartan says:

      Steve L., better judgement suggest not replying to your consistent negative MSU drivel.

      However, Coach D’s traack record in player development and solid coaching in general makes MSU a contender most seasons regardless of conference, schedule or whatever. Knowledgable sports journalist and coaching peers often remark that MSU’s in good hands while in Dantonio ‘s stewardship.

  4. Pingback: Big Ten could shake up football bowl lineup « Big Ten Network

  5. avatar NJ Rob says:

    SEC isn’t balanced East vs West either…

    If I’m UM and OSU, I am pretty bummed that MSU fell into their division (along with PSU and pretty good Rutgers team). You can’t lose more than one game (maybe not even one) and expect to get a spot in four game playoff, and MSU is going to be strong for the foreseeable future.

    Further, UM and OSU will be entering their probation periods in a few years, which will make our path even easier.

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      Yeah, but then we get to have Urban Meyer in the studio talking about the rise of Spartan Football.

  6. avatar Cal says:

    I love the new divisions. You want to be the best, you better beat the best. I’ll take our FB coach every day, and twice on Saturday, over UMeyer and BHoke.

    Don’t underestimate the team of LASimon, MHollis, MDantonio, TIzzo, etc.. We are still building….and the best is yet to come.


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