Big Ten Media Days: The Coaches
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini
Posted Jul 28, 2011

The Big Ten Media Days are on, and the coaches spoke. No, OSU head coach Luke Fickell didn't talk much about what everyone wants to talk about, but Bo Pelini, Brady Hoke, Bret Bielema, and of course, Joe Paterno, were entertaining. Here are the top quotes from several head coaches at the Big Ten press conferences.

2011 Big Ten Media Days

Press Conference Quotes

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini

Q. Given your program's style of play, how do you feel the Big Ten is a better fit for Nebraska than the Big 12? 

A: I don't know if it's about style of play or anything else. We feel like we can line up and play against anybody in the country. We're going to do our thing. We're going to play our way. Obviously you have to make some adjustments according to who you're playing in a particular week. But we feel like our style, the type of kids we recruit, the type of football team we put on the field can fit into any conference. Is the style of play a little bit different? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Football is football. You're going to win by the basics, the fundamentals. If you're good at those things, you're going to win football games, no matter who you're playing, no matter what conference you're in.

Q. Whether it's on the field or off, what would you say are the biggest differences you've noticed between the Big Ten and the Big 12?

A: Well, ask me that a year from now, I'll have a better idea. Having not gone through the conference schedule yet, it's hard to say. I think the leadership in this conference is tremendous. I obviously played in this conference. I grew up in Big Ten country. I have a tremendous amount of respect for everything that the Big Ten represents. So to me it's an honor to be a part of this, to be a part of this conference. I think if you look at the tradition, academic integrity, all the things that I believe our program at the University of Nebraska stands for, I think we fit right in with this conference. Tremendous football, tremendous athletics, a tremendous commitment to academics, and doing things the right way. That's what this conference is all about. That's what it represents. So obviously I believe Nebraska is a tremendous fit.

Q. For the Big Ten fans that aren't as familiar with the play of Taylor Martinez, tell us what makes him such a special player and what types of things you'd like to see him improve upon this fall?

A: I think Taylor has all the tools you look for. He's very fast. He's quick. He gets to top speed in a hurry. He can make all the throws. He can do really everything you ask a quarterback to do. He has good arm talent. He can throw the ball outside. He has a long way to go in his decision making, just his knowledge of the game overall. With more experience, he's going to continue to get better. It was interesting because last year he had such tremendous success early on that everybody wanted to jump ahead. The pressure went up in a hurry. People were talking Heisman candidate, all those things. He was two, three games into his career, which was crazy. Then he got hurt later on in the year.

But the young man is committed. He's tremendously talented. He has an opportunity to finish up his career. He has obviously three years left to play. He's going to be a tremendous player not only this year, but I think he'll continue to get better as the year goes on and throughout his career. Just got to let him develop. That's where we are right now. He is a much more prepared quarterback right now than he was a year from now. A year earlier he was just getting started. We had no idea what we even had going into camp. Now he has a year under his belt and I think he has the opportunity to take his game to another level. But you got to earn it on a daily basis. He has a lot of talent around him, a lot of talent pushing him. So he's going to have to be on his Ps and Qs to withstand all that competition.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz

Q. You mentioned how looking back to last year a lot of the losses, all of the losses were in one-score games. Several of your wins were actually by much wider margins. One of the things going into this next year is trying to figure out how to win those real close games. What do you think you need to do to turn that around? 

A: The easy thing to do is always focus on the last two or four minutes of a game. Sometimes that's where you need to focus. I can think of a lot of examples through the years where really it gets started in the first half. You squander opportunities in the first half that might not be there in the second half. So it's really kind of complicated. A lot of things that go into winning and losing. That's probably the message we try to send to all our players, you're never sure what play or series is going to have a big impact on the game. End of the day, that's why you need to be at your best at all times and be ready to compete at your best.

Q. You mentioned how looking back to last year a lot of the losses, all of the losses were in one-score games. Several of your wins were actually by much wider margins. One of the things going into this next year is trying to figure out how to win those real close games. What do you think you need to do to turn that around?

A: The easy thing to do is always focus on the last two or four minutes of a game. Sometimes that's where you need to focus. I can think of a lot of examples through the years where really it gets started in the first half. You squander opportunities in the first half that might not be there in the second half. So it's really kind of complicated. A lot of things that go into winning and losing. That's probably the message we try to send to all our players, you're never sure what play or series is going to have a big impact on the game. End of the day, that's why you need to be at your best at all times and be ready to compete at your best.

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno

Q. Joe, could you compare the way your physical condition to a year ago at this time?

A: I feel a lot better than I did a year ago. I had two tough years physically. The kid from Wisconsin running into me in the sideline, when I broke my knee that time. Then I threw my hip out showing off, trying to show the kids how to kick a football. I couldn't kick when I was healthy. I sure as hell couldn't kick with a broken knee. But anyway... I feel good. I'm back to doing a lot of things I used to do, walking a lot more. I've been watching what I eat. I feel good. I enjoyed this spring, have a lot more enthusiasm. I've got an old saying that I had forgotten. They asked Marv Levy one time when he was coaching, he was a great coach, he said, How about your age? Marv said, I don't think age is a factor. He said, I'm old enough to know my limitations and I'm young enough to know how to handle 'em. So, anyway, I feel good. That's a long answer to a nice, simple question.

Q. Joe, with all the scandals, the number of schools on probation recent, is this one of the worst stretches in college football?

A: I'm not sure I know what you mean by 'the worst' what?

Q. The number of scandals in college football.

A: Geez, we've always had problems. You're going to have problems when you have the type of competition that's going on. I tell a story. The old days when I first started to coach, I lived four blocks off the campus. We don't have a big house. We've been there for a long time, my wife and the kids. Well, the kids are all gone obviously. I used to get a telephone call from one of the campus cops would say, Hey, coach, you better come up here and get ahold of Mike. Too much to drink, making a lot of noise. I'd go up at 2:00 in the morning, grab Mike, put him in bed, get him up at 5:00 in the morning, run his rear-end off for a week. You guys never heard about it. Every once in a while I hear one of these guys that I know a little bit about when they were 19 and 20, I'm talking about all the kids today, they ought to go back and read Socrates. Socrates, 400 years BC, said, ‘The kids today are terrible, tyrants. They don't pay attention.' That's 2,500 years ago, OK? Anyway, I'm shooting my mouth off too much. Let's go.

Q. With all the coaches' changes we've seen in the Big Ten and throughout the NCAA this year, what is the secret to keeping your job in this profession for so long?

A: Well, you know, we don't have as many of you guys around as some of these other guys. That helps. We're in that little town up there in State College. No, I don't know. I think the environment in our place may be a little bit different as far as people who have some impact on who is going to coach, who is not going to coach. I think that's had something to do with it. We've had enough success that you can fool people that you're maybe a better coach than you really are. But I don't really know. I just get up and do my job. Somebody told me five or six years ago, talking to me about maybe I ought to quit, I didn't think I was ready to quit. I said, ‘If I can't get something done here in the next couple years, I'll quit.' We got some pretty good teams in the last couple years, up till last year. Last year we weren't very good.

Michigan head coach Brady oke

Q. You have a tremendous talent in Denard Robinson. How excited are you to work with him and get him acclimated to your offense?

A: Very excited. He's done a tremendous job. I can tell you, he ran the same offense in high school, which is a plus. One of the big differences is the mechanics of taking the snap from center, the footwork, the run game, the foot patterns, the play-action game. He was ahead of the curve a little bit. I think Al Borges has done a tremendous job with him. We are smart enough, which I would -- people usually don't say that about me -- but we're smart enough to have elements he does well from what he did in the past in the spread in our offense.

Q. What do you think it will take in the long-term sense to rebuild Michigan to the national power that it was before Rodriguez's era?

A: Well, I don't think we're rebuilding, period. I mean, we're Michigan. We've got kids who understand that they're Michigan. I don't put any stock into that.

Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on the potential possibility of playing Ohio State two consecutive weeks in the future?

A: You know, that game always needs to be played the last week in November. I mean, that's tradition. I think there's certain traditions you don't mess with. To be honest with you, if we play them two weeks in a row, we play them two weeks in a row. You see this happen, baseball, they play the same teams back to back to back to back. Or the NFL, you have your leagues. It's usually not two weeks in a row, but it's what it is.

Q. Do you see Ohio State as being wounded right now, this is time to take advantage of the situation from a recruiting standpoint, have you done that a little bit?

A: No, I really don't. That's a tremendous program with tremendous transition, just like we have. We have 42 championships in the Big Ten. When you have schools that have that quality about them, have those legacies, I don't see anybody as wounded.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald

Q. As someone who has been in the Big Ten for a while, does it hurt the Big Ten as a whole, do you get any distress from seeing Ohio State go through tough times?

A: Well, I think just as a college football fan, first, before I can speak about that, you want to see young men come into our programs as coaches, as fans, so on and so forth, that are going to make great choices. When you don't make great choices at the player level, if choices aren't great at the coaching or administration level, it's disappointing. I'd say that about any organization, any family. There's a lot that's going on right now in college football that I think we need to wrap our arms around as a complete and total body. We will. We'll make it better. There are going to need to be changes, tweaks, adjustments, to bylaws and rules, I would think so based on what we've seen in the last off-season. I don't think there's a coach or administrator in the country that doesn't want to be a part of that solution. As we work through it, as it was alluded to earlier, the game has never been watched or supported at this level. I think we're all thankful for that. It's all on us as stewards of the game to make sure we leave it in the right spot as we move it forward, while we're in it and also as it comes after us. Hopefully we'll continue to do that in a positive vein.

QQ. You had a unique perspective to offer Dan Persa, then you have the opportunity to go forward and try to get something back your senior year. From your own personal experience, what did you try to pass on to Dan as he's trying to recover?

A: Number one, I wanted to talk to him about being patient, dealing with the rollercoaster. The first aspect is dealing with the fact that you're hurt and you can no longer play, what you're passionate about it's taken away from you. We dealt with that. Then he had to deal with the surgery, the initial rehab process of being immobilized. Kind of the steps you have to take. I'm not going to bore you with all of them. He's doing great. Everything is going well. He's going to come back to football not in the shape maybe the last time he played. That's going to be really frustrating. How you shake the rust off, look at it from a bigger perspective, yeah, you have to take it day-to-day. He's going to be back, it's going to be a little bit different because his body is going to operate a little bit different. He's 100 percent healed from the standpoint of the surgery, now it's about adding the strength, getting the conditioning level up, getting back to having fun. I know he's chomping at the bit to play football again.

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson

Q. Kevin, how do you go about changing the culture of a program that's been down for so long?

A: To me, again, it's all about the future moving forward and it starts with me. I have no issues in complaining or what should have been done or why things have happened in the past. I've been fortunate to be a part of programs that have turned it around. I look around the country, see so many programs, I don't think 15, 20 years ago we thought of Oregon as we think of those guys today. We look at programs that came on so strong, Northwestern, what Coach (Gary) Barnett, Coach (Randy) Walker, Pat (Fitzgerald) have done, what Coach (Bill) Snyder has done at Kansas State. There are so many great examples. We should do well. We should do well. We expect to do well. To me the culture changes with our performance. I don't complain about our culture. I want our fans to be excited about it, but they're not going to be until we win games and do the things that winners do. When we get our program in place, that's when the culture will change.

Q. I know it's pretty early to make comparisons, but what do you see in terms of similarities between the Big Ten and Big 12 style of play?

A: Having been in the league before, again, I haven't done a great deal of trying to study because to me that tape is so generic. Until you're on the sideline and you're up close and personal, I think you get sometimes some false impressions. We're going to have great coaches, great players, some phenomenal teams. What's going to be interesting as you get into November, you're not going to see four or five teams jockeying; we're going to see six or seven teams, three or four from each division, fighting for that divisional deal. I think the uniqueness of our league, I don't think the league understands, I don't think the people from Indianapolis understand the jockeying for play and the power of the championship game, how strong that's going to be for our league. I know we've got tradition, but I think we're on the cutting edge of something special for college and Big Ten football.

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell

Q. Have you had much contact with Jim Tressel? What is the best advice anybody's given you?

A: No, I have not had a whole lot of contact with Coach Tressel. I know he has been very supportive. He loves Ohio State and wishes us nothing but the best. Again, I think in the short period of time, there has been a lot of people I've talked to, a lot of advice I've gotten. To a T, I'd say probably the best advice from several people would be, be who you are, do it your way, make sure you're not trying to be somebody you're not. That's probably the best thing that I've got.

Q. Is it difficult going into the season not knowing about your own future beyond this year? Do you do anything this season to sort of make an impression with your own administration about your ability to do and keep the job?

A: Again, our focus is on what we can control. I think that's been from day one, from that leadership ability. Nobody puts more pressure on themselves than me. So all the outside pressures are things that obviously you deal with. But the pressure you put upon yourself I think is greater. What is the future? We know that we're excited about getting on the field, proving what we can do, focusing on what we can control, and everybody else will make those decisions for themselves.

Q. Coach, you and Brady Hoke will be starting a new era in the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. How does that feel coaching along a new coach in that game?

A: As you know, that's an exciting time, no matter what. If that starts hopefully a long rivalry as some of the ones in the past have had, that's what it's all about. Nobody will overlook that. I know that's not something that will ever be overlooked at Ohio State. Obviously look forward to that rivalry, continuing that great tradition.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema

Q. Talk a little bit about Russell Wilson and what he brings to the program.

A: It's a work in progress. I came in the middle of spring. I had a fax on my desk. We get a lot of that, where kids want to talk to us about transfer opportunities. Russell Wilson jumped right in my head right away. I remember watching him on some games the past couple seasons. Reached out to my quarterback coach, offensive coordinator, he was aware of it as well. Just began the recruiting process. I will say this. No matter how good a football player Russell Wilson is, the first thing I wanted to find out is what kind of person he is. I always say that in recruiting, you recruit your own problems. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't recruiting somebody that was going to potentially be a problem at Wisconsin. He's a stand-up guy, great character. Just a really, really neat kid. Began to evaluate, talk to him. Brought him in on his visit, had him meet with a lot of offensive players, skill and offensive linemen. Everybody after that visit was very encouraging to talk to about the way he handles himself and talks to other players. Come full circle, he obviously picked Wisconsin. He was back on our campus within three or four days after that and has been there ever since. Because of NCAA rules that we follow, you can't be around him as a coach. You kind of have to let him do what he does. The players have been very positive. You'll have three of my guys here in the next couple days, they've been around him a lot more than I have. What Russell brings to the table is an opportunity for us as coaches to see what we can do. We'll get him in fall camp, like every one of our players. We have 105 players coming to campus. We'll see who can give us the best chance to win football games in the fall and figure it out from there.

Q. Last year you cleared some hurdles, beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten championship for the first time in 11 years for Wisconsin, made it to the Rose Bowl. Where do you think things are in terms of Wisconsin, that brand, your football program right now?

A: You know, those are great things, but they're a part of history. People write about history. What you do is what you do. Now what I want to do is concentrate on the future history of our program. I want to concentrate on what our guys are going to be able to do this upcoming season. I couldn't be more excited. To be so privileged to be a part of our program, Wisconsin is what it is. We're not real sexy. I always say we're not the first girl taken to the prom, but we're not the last. I think we're a group that lines up, goes to work, does things the right way. One thing that jumped out to me right away, I remember during the whole recruitment of Russell, media attention, we were doing a Badger Day, we go all around the state. A fan walked up to me and shook my hand said, ‘Coach, I really appreciate the way you do what you do.' He was sincere. He said, I mean what I said. All he was saying was the Russell recruitment, whenever he is a starter, it was a positive story about college football. I think that's what I'm excited about.

One of the first things I do every day, I'll come into my office and plug into a web page that's all about college football. I'll read the top 12 headlines. Most of the time, more than three-quarters of them are about negative things around college football. For us to stay in a positive light, means a lot for me, means a lot for us in recruiting. I think that's very evident in the kind of kids we're playing. I think for us to be entering a time in college football, to be part of a new conference with 12 teams, to be a part of the Leaders Division, to have our team on national TV for four games in our conference that no one else can touch, to have our winning percentage over the last six years go against anybody in college football, it's fun to be a Badger.