Big Ten Media Days notebook: Strange start

Big Ten Media Days notebook: Strange start

Editor's note:  hear more from Big Ten Media Days Tuesday at 5:10 on SportsTalk with Steve Kelly on WDWS.


CHICAGO — Weird opening to the four-hour session. The lights were dimmed and a video was shown welcoming Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer chimed in and resisted using the term “no chance.” Nice of him.

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Of course, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald welcomed the new schools. He is that nice.

Fitz, who looks like he can still play, wore a gray suit with a Northwestern purple tie. He is a bit on the dry side, but you can imagine hanging out with him at a neighborhood barbecue. The guess here is that he mans the grill and drinks the beer.

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Plenty of big shots among the media throng. ESPN’s Todd Blackledge was here. So was Pat Forde from Yahoo! Sports, N-G favorite Jack Arute, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Bruce Feldman.

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Second-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell got off to a rough start in 2013. It went better Monday. Wearing a pinstriped suit and Purdue gold tie, Hazell talked about confidence and a change of attitude. Much improved over a year ago. Maybe the Boilermakers can win two games this year. At least they still have basketball. Oh, never mind.

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Hazell said his quarterbacks are in the office “all the time.” Perhaps they should be out tossing Frisbees and working on their tans.

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Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen reminds you of former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. Only with darker hair. Third coach in a row wearing a gray suit and school-colored tie. He must have got the memo. Not as lively as former coach Barry Alvarez. Not as beefy as former coach Bret Bielema. Points off for not welcoming Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten.

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Illinois coach Tim Beckman didn’t really need a microphone. Like the first three coaches at the lectern, he wore a dark grayish suit.

Former Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase drew special praise from Beckman, who said “there is only one Nathan Scheelhaase.” If there is a second one, Beckman should sign him.

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Of his first three Big Ten Media Days, this was by far Beckman’s best performance. He seemed relaxed and tried to answer the questions straightforward. He didn’t deflect when his job security was mentioned.

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Great to see Brady Hoke again. He is drawing some criticism from folks back home. With his booming voice, the offensive lineman-sized coach stays positive.

“We are very proud of who we are,” Hoke said.

Another dark suit. Time to take these guys shopping at Lands’ End.
Pressure at Michigan? What pressure? Hoke said the only pressure he feels is to make sure the Wolverines graduate.

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Hoke said “it’s a shame” that the rivalry with Notre Dame is coming to an end.The TV networks agree.

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Rutgers coach Kyle Flood was the first of the three newcomers to take the microphone.

How does he feel about being a part of the Big Ten?

“It feels right,” Flood said.

When the leaders at Rutgers came to him and asked about joining the Big Ten, he said, “Perfect.”

The changes in college sports could have left Rutgers outside the power conferences. The Big Ten offered a safe landing.

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Flood doesn’t act overwhelmed with the idea of joining the Big Ten. Having former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen on his staff as offensive coordinator adds to that confidence.

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Finally, the dark gray suit parade ended. Thanks to Minnesota coach Jerry Kill (light gray).

The former Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois coach has worked wonders in Minneapolis. Some folks even consider the Gophers a dark horse to win the West.
Kill appears to be healthy after a few recent scares. The topic didn’t come up during Kill’s Q&A session.

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Nobody did more last season in the Big Ten than Mark Dantonio, who led Michigan State to a Rose Bowl win.

Dantonio was the only Big Ten coach to give The News-Gazette a Friday night exclusive interview during the 2013 season. Then, his team won the league. Coincidence? I think not.

Never shy at the microphone, Dantonio seems to have moved into the Meyer/Nick Saban/Steve Spurrier confidence neighborhood. Not cocky, but sure of himself. Winning a lot will do that for a guy.

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Tick, tick, tick. Bo Pelini talked for 15 minutes. And didn’t explode.

He’s got a reputation as a hothead, but the Nebraska coach came across as less than nutso during his interview session.

The cliches spill out, one after the other. But not any worse than the other 13 coaches in Chicago.

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Pelini has a great idea when it comes to flip-flopping by recruits: eliminate Signing Day. When a kid makes a decision, he signs a letter right then. It wouldn’t make the recruiting gurus very happy. But it might stop some of the problems.

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Following “laid-back” Pelini, Randy Edsall greeted the Big Ten media for the first time. The Maryland coach will not be headlining in Vegas any time soon.

Known for his control-freakishness, Edsall has to learn about a whole new group of schools. He has some Big Ten experience on his coaching staff, including former Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. That should help.

From a media standpoint, we wish Locksley was in charge.

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Ohio State’s Meyer beat the press to the question about the health of quarterback Braxton Miller. “He’s fine.”

Of the head coaches at Ohio State in the last two decades, Meyer is the slickest. No drawl like John Cooper. No sincere-future-college president tone like Tressel.
Meyer drops in morsels of news while answering standard questions. “Did he just say that?” And he did. Slick. Like a fox.

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New Penn State coach James Franklin has a booming voice. Maybe that’s what it took to be heard at Vanderbilt.

Not now. After the nightmare ending of the Joe Paterno era and the sweet-but-short Bill O’Brien years, Penn State desperately needs stability. Franklin provides it.

He has a reputation as a top recruiter. There is plenty of available playing time for Franklin to offer.

Early in Franklin’s Penn State career, most of the Jerry Sandusky-induced sanctions will go away. Franklin will have a chance to be on a level playing field soon after that. If his game is as good as it sounded Monday, Franklin has a chance to take the Nittany Lions back to the pre-scandal success.

Franklin coached at Vanderbilt. He knows what it takes to do more with less.

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Indiana coach Kevin Wilson tried to make a joke. It fell flat. Hungry, tired media members don’t laugh much.

About halfway into Wilson’s time, most of the room had tuned him out. Sorry.

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Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz closed the event. He claimed to bat ninth back in his Little League days (doubt it), so going 14th didn’t bother him.

Ferentz doesn’t have a lot of open media time back in Iowa, so he is asked a lot of technical questions in Chicago. “Who is starting at left tackle?” “How good are your linebackers?” That kind of stuff. If you are hoping for political insight or commentary on the economy, don’t hold your breath.

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Playoff guru Michael Kelly believes in the new system. The BCS leaders could never talk about the old system with a straight face. They knew it was flawed.
Is college football fixed? Not even close. But it is better than it was a year ago. Or 10 years ago. Or 50. No Jan. 1 bids going out in early November. All games will be played, then the teams will be matched.


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Mudhoney wrote on July 29, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Unless the 2nd Nathan Scheelhaase can play DB I don't think we need another Scheelhaase.  I've seen enough INT's from the first.  Wes Lunt will do fine.  Bailey should find another position quick, barring injury to Lunt.