The Big Ten Media Days is an annual two-day event held in Chicago. All 14 head coaches and three team representatives along with conference officials and hoards of media members converge at the Chicago Hilton.
It reality, it’s much ado about nothing.
On Monday morning at 10:30 a.m., Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was the first of the 14 coaches to speak. Here’s part of what Fitzgerald had to say:
Look in the rearview mirror, the last two years have been interesting. 2012 we were very fortunate, had great success and stayed relatively healthy. Last year we didn’t achieve the success that we expected in Evanston, and we hope we have some sort of common ground of the injury standpoint. That’s not an excuse, but the reality is we didn’t do a good enough job as a coaching staff getting our next level and our depth prepared a year ago, and it really showed up in the mistakes we made down the stretch. We’ve all owned that in Evanston, we’ve taken that challenge on in the offseason, and I believe you’ll see a much improved football team this season. Looking at 2014, my colleague to my right mentioned we’ve got 18 returning starters. A quarterback in Trevor Siemian that’s going to be going back to the way it was my first seven years as a head coach or six years as the head coach with knowing who our quarterback is going into fall camp.”
Up next was Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell, who also referenced a specific car part:
We didn’t finish as well as we’d like to last year. There’s a lot of things for improvement. But I think this is the time where you rip off the rearview mirror and you take a look at what’s in front of you and all the things that we need to do to be successful in this 2014 season. We’ve got a great locker room right now, and I can’t be more proud of our guys and how hard they’ve worked to put themselves in position to be successful for this campaign.”
Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen followed Hazell, and he wasn’t too happy about the first question he fielded about having “an easier schedule”:
First of all, I think the schedule is challenging. People can say whatever they want about this or that but we have a great schedule that’s highly competitive and we’re playing very good teams out of our schedule. LSU is LSU, one of the best in the country year in, year out. Bowling Green is picked to take their conference and was a great team last year, then we get into the Big Ten. So there is no easy Big Ten games. Anybody who thinks there is is sadly mistaken, and I’ll debate that with you as much as you want to debate it because you better strap it on and be ready every week in the Big Ten.So as far as the schedule goes, I disagree it’s an easier schedule or what have you. That’s my opinion.”
Note: While Wisconsin does face LSU and Bowling Green, the Badgers also take on FCS Western Illinois that was 4-8 a year ago and a South Florida team that went 2-10 in 2013. Plus, being in the Big Ten’s West Division, Wisconsin only gets Rutgers and Maryland from the East Division and avoids Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State.
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was next:
The first stat we talk about with our football team is if you look at our depth chart from the end of last year, you take the two deep and you look at your offense, defense, and special teams, and that rounds up to 50 football players. We have 40 of those guys back. So as we have talked about in years past, we’ve been a very, very young football team. So that kind of speaks in volumes of what we have and what we have coming back.”
Later, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke made it to the podium. He was asked of there’s more pressure this season after going a combined 13-11 over the last two:
You know, why do you coach? I mean, why do you really coach? If we’re doing everything we can for 115 guys, sons on our roster, from the graduation, since we’ve been there, 69 of 69 seniors have graduated. That’s important. Because football’s only going to last so long. So the only pressure is every day preparing those guys for life after football. Competition, hard work and all that, that’s part of it. But socially and academically, that’s a big part of it. So when you talk about that, that’s the only pressure as a coach that I’ve ever felt, making sure we’re doing it for the student-athletes.”
Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood followed and had this to say when he was asked to define Big Ten football:
To me, Big Ten football starts with physicality, and I think you had better get your program ready for the physical battle that is going to happen up front. You look at the teams in this conference and whether they’re traditional offenses, spread offenses, for the most part they’re offenses that want to run the football and stop the run. And those are two things that we’ve always started with at Rutgers.”
Minnesota’s Jerry Kill took to the microphone and had this to say when he was asked what’s the next step
with his program after getting eight wins last season:
I think there’s no question we want to continue to improve on what we did last year. And we won eight games, and I think anytime you go into the Big Ten and if you don’t have a mission to win the Big Ten, then why play? And I think our kids, they’re like anybody else. It’s a new season and that’s our mission statement, and the same way last year, but we have to build on what we did a year ago and continue to make progress.”
Next, Michigan State head coach stepped up to the podium and gave his thought on the Big Ten’s East Division:
I think both divisions are very well represented, great football teams in those divisions. The East where we’re at, you know, great conference. Great games and a lot of games, a lot of teams that have built-in rivalries. Obviously our rivalry with Michigan is intense for us, but we’ve also got a rivalry with Ohio State from the past and Penn State. So those things exist for us. Indiana is a game as well. We’ve got two new members in the Big Ten Conference entering that side of the Big Ten. So I think it’s going to be a tough division. There’s no question about that.”
Bo Pelini, Nebraska’s head coach, talked about Signing Day:
Well, I said what was it about a month ago, maybe two months ago‑‑ it all kind of runs together for me‑‑ I said publicly I believe it would be a great idea if we would look at maybe getting rid of Signing Day. That’s something that I think would make a lot of sense. As far as, hey, you come to an agreement, somebody commits to your school, you’ve made a commitment to a young man to come play in your program, why do we have to wait to any certain day? Why don’t we just go ahead and let’s sign on the dotted line, let’s get it over with and move forward.
…and then he was asked about his cat:
My cat is…he’s enjoying a nap up in the room. So he is here in Chicago and enjoying the Windy City.”
Maryland head coach Randy Edsall on what it will be like when Ohio State visits Byrd Stadium on Oct. 4 in the first Big Ten game for both teams:
Well, I think it will be electric. I think it will be a sold-out crowd. It will be something that I know our fans are looking forward to. Ohio State is a program with great tradition and history and one that has done very, very well. And it will be something that I think everybody that’s in attendance and everybody that gets a chance to watch on TV wished that they were there, because I think it will be a ton of excitement, one that I know we’re looking forward to as well as all the other games we’re going to play.”
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer followed with his thoughts on the East:
East Division is very strong. As we get close to the season, start looking at the schedule, there’s a tough run. We have three very tough road games. But the East is strong. And I have learned a long time ago you control what you can. Scheduling is certainly not who is in the East and who is on the other side. But very strong conference. You can tell by the recruiting, too, on that side, some very good recruiting that’s been going on. So that’s going to be a challenge.”
James Franklin, Penn State’s head coach had this to say:
We just brought a bunch of freshmen in that have joined the program. There’s an excitement and there’s an enthusiasm about the recruiting class and what they’re going to bring to our program. And everybody knows we have some challenges when it comes to depth and things like that, so we’re going to be relying on those guys.”
Indiana’s Kevin Wilson opening remarks:
Thanks. Great to see you guys. Look like…are we still awake here? Got the warm-up bands out of the way. Everybody good to go?”
…and then Wilson chimed in on his thoughts about the East:
We’re excited to be part of the Big Ten East. Being in the Eastern Time zone with our recruiting region and whatnot. We’re really excited with the opportunity with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers. So we’re really excited about the East brand going.”
Finally, the 14th and last coach, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz:
Truth is most of us, I think, really enjoy doing more than talking, and this is the talking time of year. We’ve got three days off campus this week in our calendars where we’re off campus and talking, and the rest of the time we’re going to be in the office looking at each other and talking. So it will be a good thing when we get around to practicing next Monday. That will make I think all of us happy.”
I’ve couldn’t of said it better myself, coach.