By Charles Hallman
The Big Ten for several seasons has assembled 16-game regular-season schedules in which each team has six single-game opponents each year. Minnesota, for example, only plays Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern once each this season.
Now that the conference has 12 teams, one would think a return to a round-robin league schedule — each Big Ten squad plays its opponent twice (once home and once away) — is in the near future. The MSR last week asked Indiana Coach Felisha Legette-Jack if it’s time to do away with the league’s “One Plays” format.
“I’m totally optimistic that they [conference schedulers] are going to get it right this time,” she opined after her Hoosiers completed their one-game slate with the Gophers, losing 84-43 to the hosts.
Colorful present and past
Overall there have been 23 Black head basketball coaches in the Big Ten, 13 males and 10 females. All but Michigan State and newest member Nebraska have yet to hire a Black head coach either in men’s or women’s basketball — the Spartans did, however, hire (and fire) the last Black head football coach in the conference.
In her sixth season, 10th overall, Felisha Legette-Jack is the dean of the Big Ten’s Black female head coaches. Jolette Law (Illinois) and Coquese Washington (Penn State) are in their fifth seasons both at their respective schools and overall as well.
“They are doing a great job right now,” notes Legette-Jack on Law and Washington. “I am just trying to find my way.”
With Bobbie Kelsey in her first season as a head coach at Wisconsin, the Big Ten with four Black females heading up hoops programs is the current national leader, tops in any non-HBCU conference.
However, Minnesota is the Big Ten all-time leader with five Black head coaches — three Black males and the only conference school ever to have two Black women coaches, LaRue Fields (1987-90) and Cheryl Littlejohn (1997-01). Both recruited and signed three of the program’s best-ever players during their tenures: Carol Ann Shudlick by Fields, and Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville by Littlejohn.
U of M, Wisconsin (2), Michigan (2) and Indiana (2) are the only conference schools ever to have at least two Black men’s basketball head coaches. And Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan are the only conference schools to have had consecutive men of color as head coaches: Jimmy Williams (interim) and Haskins for Minnesota; Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson for Indiana; and Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker for Michigan.
The Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer (Iowa, 1983-1995) has the longest tenure as a Black female coach in the Big Ten.
Also, Iowa and the Gophers are the only Big Ten schools to ever have Blacks as head coaches of both men’s and women’s basketball at the same time: George Raveling and Stringer for Iowa, Littlejohn and Clem Haskins for Minnesota.
Purdue has the honor of the first and only Black female to win a national championship — Carolyn Peck, 1999.
Hill at the top
Ohio State junior guard Tayler Hill is one of three Big Ten players among the nation’s top 25 in scoring: The Minneapolis South grad is 12th at 21.2 points a game. She also currently is the only player to win multiple Big Ten Player of the Week honors this season (December 5 and December 26).
Indiana center Quaneisha McCurty was named league Freshman of the Week for January 2. She averaged 11 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks for the Hoosiers last week.
“She could be a viable option in our conference, because all the great post players have graduated,” says IU Coach Felisha Legette-Jack after McCurty’s 10 points and eight rebounds performance in a loss to Minnesota January 2. “She could be a force in the post to be reckoned with.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.