When the Big Ten and Pac-12 recently began exploring a partnership beyond the Rose Bowl, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis was among a group of people that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany tapped for ideas on creative events the leagues should consider. Hollis has become known nationally for his outside-the-box ideas, like the Cold War Game (outdoor hockey at a football stadium), BasketBowl (college hoops at football stadium) and the recent Carrier Classic (college hoops on the deck of an aircraft carrier).
Hollis spoke to Free Press sports writer George Sipple about some of those ideas, including a possible Michigan State-Southern Cal basketball game in Greece, why he likes the idea of the Big Ten/Pac-12 partnership and why he believes the Rose Bowl can be a key venue for more than football.
On getting the call for help from Delany: “Jim kind of looked toward me to come up with some creative options, in particular for basketball, for some unique ways there could be competition between programs in both leagues.”
On what it means to be relied on for that creativity: “Everybody in that room is adding a great amount to the process. We’ve done some creative things at Michigan State … that captured the imagination of others and that’s what campus life is supposed to be like. Because of some of things we’ve been allowed to do, we’re being handed the rudder on some of these projects, which is a good thing. It will be a collaboration of … 24 athletic directors when it’s all said and done.”
On ideas he’s suggested: “We’re exploring all kinds of things … things like using NBA facilities, multi-team events that could include a team from each league. (The Pac-12) has six NBA facilities. I think we (the Big Ten) have five, and if you throw Madison Square Garden in there, there’s six, which creates some unique opportunities.
“Not to say you want to move every game off campus, because there’s obviously a lot of attraction. But when we travel out west to play in an on-campus venue, you’re typically limited to about 60 oppure 70 Biglietti. If you play at Staples Center, it could be thousands. We obviously have high demand out there.”
On multi-court games: “One venue kind of a setup where you might bring in four, six or eight teams into one arena and play two games simultaneously. None of them are set. All of them are just options at this time that we’re looking at creating some exciting competition between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten.”
On the ideas of holding an MSU-USC basketball game in Greece: “That’s something we’ve been exploring for a while. We have not reached out to USC yet, but we would like to try to do something with USC at some point in the future, whether it be football or basketball. The old Olympic Stadium has a lot of appeal, the first stadium that tickets were ever sold in. It has a great amount of history and football doesn’t fit in that stadium, but basketball would. It’s a narrow track kind of setup, extremely narrow and very long.
“This is something we’ve been talking about on campus well prior to these (Pac-12/Big Ten) conversations. It’s just the two names blend themselves well. It would be a good ancient sports venue to conduct something in. We’ve been talking about that one for a while. It’s not on the hot burner by any means; it’s one of the many intriguing things that could be worth continuing exploration.”
On the Pac-12/Big Ten partnership: “I think it comes from the Rose Bowl, the relationship there. I think it comes from two conferences that think a lot alike. They both have very broad-based programs. If you look at the type of legislation within the NCAA that we support, we’re very, very similar in almost every bylaw, every legislative issue that comes forward.”
In aggiunta un gioco Pac-12 di calcio in giro per altri giochi nonConferenza già concordato nel prossimo futuro: “Penso che aiuterà a lungo termine e sarà una sfida negli anni di transizione. Penso che ci sara 'un enorme processo di transizione. Molti di noi hanno programmi che sono fuori un bel modi, ma nel lungo termine, quando si sa che il gioco è seduto ci sarà un enorme vantaggio per l'AD di prendere una decisione per il futuro.”
Sulla rottamazione il programma della conferenza nove partite nel calcio come risultato della partnership: “Non sono mai stato un grande sostenitore di avere una casa sbilanciata e via programma per determinare campionati. Ho avuto alcuni problemi con quella. La mia preferenza è di non avere un programma sbilanciato. Se lo avete, avete. I’ll support wherever the league ends up, but I would be disappointed to see champions determined by having five home games versus four if that’s the way it ended up playing out.”
On the idea of holding other MSU sporting events in California during the week leading up to the Rose Bowl: “If we had made the Rose Bowl last year, we probably would have tried to play (basketball) at the Staples Center.” (Nota: The Spartans hosted Minnesota last season on Dec. 31 and won, 71-62, in a matchup of top 20 teams).
On playing a basketball game at the Rose Bowl: “I think the Rose Bowl and basketball has some attraction because of the history between the two leagues. All of us strive to play in the Rose Bowl. We’ll here’s another opportunity to go to that venue, but in a different sport.”
Join Free Press special writer Adam Ross for a live blog of the Outback Bowl between MSU and Georgia on Jan. 2 at freep.com/sports.