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.