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May 17, 2011

Big Ten coach/AD potpourri

Around 18-20 reporters followed the Big Ten coaches and athletic directors all day at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago -- some were tracked down, some got away, Joe Paterno asked if we were sticking him up, and one reporter was able to follow Jim Tressel into an elevator -- and as it turns out, there was a lot to discuss.

    * Mark Dantonio said the recent news is encouraging on Henry Conway's neck injury.

    “Yes, I have a better feeling, it’s a positive feeling,” Dantonio said. “The trend is up. But those decisions have to be made probably in July, but it is healing. It’ll be dependent on how fast the healing is taking place and where he’s at. The doctors will have to review everything, because it will be a safety issue.”

    * Dantonio also confirmed that Dion Sims is all the way back. He will take part in summer conditioning with the team and be there for fall camp. Dantonio essentially said as much after the spring game when he talked about how big of a factor Sims could be on the field next season for MSU. But if you recall, MSU only confirmed at the start of spring ball that Sims was back for spring ball, with fall participation to be determined.

    * The nine-game schedule is happening at some point -- in fact, Mark Hollis said it was actually approved by vote in February, but now it's up for possible "reconsideration." And Hollis is definitely leading the charge to reconsider. He'd at least like to see the Big Ten take its time amid all these changes. Hollis said MSU will not get out of the Notre Dame-Alabama combo in 2016 and 2017, even if nine-game schedules are in effect then. That means MSU will have just six home games in one of those years. Much more on the nine-game issue Wednesday.

    * The Big Ten title game is down to Indy or Chicago, both cities made presentations Tuesday. In Chicago, it would be at Soldier Field. And there's some sentiment for the Big Ten to decide its championship game with a typical Big Ten kind of game.

    “It’s Big Ten football. That’s all I’m gonna say," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I mean, we’re playing a game the week before on our campuses. What’s the difference?”

    * Chicago also is bidding for the Big Ten basketball tournaments. The contract with Indy is up after next season. The Big Ten could stay there, move to Chicago or go back to rotating. There's also talk of moving the women's tournament to the same weekend as the men's tournament. It's still early on those discussions.

    * MSU women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant reported a pair of offseason injuries, a knee surgery for Kelsey Smith and a "foot issue" that Annalise Pickrel "had cleaned up." The prognosis is good for both. Also, Madison Williams is coming along well in her rehab after knee surgery that forced her to redshirt as a freshman.

    “She hasn’t cut yet but she’s increased her cardio and her strength," Merchant said of Williams. "She’s not fully cleared, she probably won’t be until the end of June, early July.”

    * Big Ten tiebreakers were also discussed, specifically whether BCS rankings will be part of the equation. Remember, Dantonio was the lone coach who opposed using them a year ago. If they are used, they'll be used late in the equation, and with divisions and a title game now, I don't see that as much of an issue.

    * There were plenty of questions, of course, about Ohio State and the Tressel situation. Most were met with terse answers. Dantonio obliged a few questions about his close friend, and here's what he said:

    "He seems like he always does. Those things are confidential matters, really, to be honest with you. Those conversations are confidential. But I think that adversity breeds success. I think we all have adversity in our time, whether it's personal, whether it's team, whether it's professional, whatever it is. There's always adversity that's gonna strike you and it's how you be how you handle those adverse situations that is inevitably going to define you as a person. And with that being said, I have deep respect for him."

    * Dantonio also was asked about his health. He said it's "very good." He was asked if he's on a restricted diet.

    "My wife restricts my diet, yeah," he said. "I'm getting exercise every day, except today, but I would say my health is excellent."

    * We'll call tomorrow a hoops day. Some interesting stuff from Merchant on strategies to keep growing Big Ten women's basketball, and some tidbits from Tom Izzo.




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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter

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