The Big Ten media kickoff is Thursday and Friday at the Hilton Chicago. I’ve been attending the events since the early 1990s.
There have been some personal highlights, none better than in 2006, when we asked all of the Big Ten coaches: “Why do you love college football?” for our preview section.
We took special photos of each coach, with Penn State’s Joe Paterno holding a football on the cover.
I asked him to the kiss the football, but he said “I don’t do cornball.”
Two other photos stand out: then-Michigan State coach John L. Smith wearing a Spartans foam finger and late Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner wearing a T-shirt that read “I (heart) college football.” We had it made special for the coach and he kept it. Very cool.
Of the 11 coaches I interviewed, two remain at the same job: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. That’s been 13 years. How many of the current head coaches will be in their same jobs in 2032? We’ll have to patiently wait to find out.
But here are some other things I expect to see at this year’s Kickoff. Here’s a handful:
Three College Football Hall of Famers will attend: former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne and ex-Michigan State running back Lorenzo White, who is in this year’s Hall of Fame class.
Osborne won a ridiculous 255 games in 25 seasons. Allow me to help you with the math: that’s an average of 10.2 wins per year. He was a part of five national championship teams, including three as head coach.
There’s a reason the school picked one of Osborne’s former players, Scott Frost, to rebuild the program. And there’s a reason the coach’s name is on the Memorial Stadium field.
Alvarez didn’t win as many games as Osborne. But his feat with the Badgers was also amazing. Taking over a mess, Alvarez turned football into the big deal in Madison.
The winningest coach in school history led the Badgers to three Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles. He is still making important moves as the school’s athletic director.
Commissioner Jim Delany is in the final lap with a conference he made the envy of college sports. I don’t agree with everything the former North Carolina basketball player did. He was too late to the College Football Playoff party for my liking.
But his work on the Big Ten’s TV deals and with BTN were genius. And put the league into a power position for decades.
All those new buildings going up at Big Ten schools, like the Smith Center at Illinois, Delany deserves plenty of credit.
Will the commish cry as he handles his final Kickoff press conference? Maybe.
Listening to Locks
One of the two new coaches in the Big Ten took over at Maryland. Folks in Champaign-Urbana know Mike Locksley well.
If not for Larry Fedora’s unexpected dash to Oklahoma State, Locksley might not have joined Ron Zook at Illinois. And Illinois wouldn’t have been in the 2008 Rose Bowl.
Locksley’s got plenty of work to do in College Park.
The guess here is he will make a great impression with the Big Ten media. He has always been willing to speak his mind. Reporters like that.
The weird part ...
Usually starts when Jim Harbaugh goes to the microphone. The Michigan coach is scheduled for the second day, right after Rutgers coach Chris Ash.
Harbaugh can be insightful, funny and friendly. Or, he can be defensive, prickly and rude.
It all depends on the day.
The Wolverines have a solid team returning, so Harbaugh should be in a good mood. Unless he isn’t.
Honestly, I have enjoyed working with Michigan coaches in the past. I got along well with Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.
A new Day
As in Ryan, the first-year coach at Ohio State.
Day got a preview of life as the Buckeyes leader during the 2018 season, serving three games as head coach for suspended Urban Meyer.
Certainly, Day understands that the Ohio State press contingent is one of the largest in the country and craves every bit of information. If the third-string tight end injured his toe, it’s a story. Nothing wrong with that.
Is Day ready for the gig? Ask me at about 1:45 p.m. Thursday after he takes his turn in front of the reporters.
Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at email@example.com.