Harrison: Big Ten Media Days Analysis

Posted Jul 27, 2012

Phil Harrison's take on the first day of Big Ten's media days

Phil Harrison
Harrison:B1G Ten Tour-Media Days Reaction Day One

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Day one of the 2012 version of Big Ten Media Days is in the books, and you know the interest is great when the traffic bombs out Twitter. To date, we've heard from all of the coaches, the Big Ten Coordinator of officials Bill Carollo, BTN president Mark Silverman, and even the Commish himself—Jim Delany. Here are some thoughts and observations after day one from Chicago:

Overriding Theme-
The theme of this year's event revolved around the recruitment of the Penn State players. Each coach (and Delany), answered the same question about the controversy of teams going after Penn State players so aggressively. Time and time again, almost every coach had the standard response: "We're just worried about our program." The only difference was Tim Beckman who clarified his position. Yes, apparently he did send folks to Happy Valley, but none set foot on campus but in local establishments. Which makes you wonder where they were? Starbucks? How about a blue chip athlete with your latte?

We're obviously talking about uncharted territory here, and it is becoming increasingly evident that confusion on how to handle the situation is abounding. Delany may have put it best by imploring that all members of the conference "act like grown-ups."

The saga continues....

The other recurring question centered around scheduling and the imbalance of of power between the two divisions now that PSU and OSU both are sitting in the penalty box. Both were answered somewhat by Delany confirming that the league is happy to stay at eight conference games, and with the notion that the league alignment was done for the long haul and not the immediate situations. So, basically, we get another "status quo."

Now let's look at some awards of the circus that was the first day of Big Ten Media Days:

Best Response by a Coach to a Media Question- Bill O'Brien had to be dreading his turn at the podium with all of the storm-clouds hovering over the Penn State campus. He handled himself well though—no doubt a product of the media school of his former boss that resides in the Boston area.

When asked if he could provide an update on the Silas Redd situation, O'Brien so aptly responded—"No." Nothing more, nothing less (if that's possible). When asked if he had talked to Coach Beckman personally about coaches from his staff on campus, O'Brien went no further, and responded confidently again with—"No." There was nothing else offered up by the coach and he didn't care.

But it was his body language that said the most. He was in charge of this situation and things are going to go the way that he dictates. His team will need this type of demeanor going forward. Needless to say, there was not a follow up question on either account.

And somewhere Bill Belichick is smiling.

Most polished speaker- Bret Bielema is a talker. Practically every other coach opened with a short introduction then filled up the rest of the time with questions. Bielema kicked things off with one-liners, stories, and praise. The answers to media questions were an afterthought. Listening to BB is good entertainment.

Most polish needed- Danny Hope—by far. All indications and stories point to Hope being a swell guy, but he gives the appearance of being a little lost in the limelight whenever a microphone is put in front of him. It was no different in Chicago. Toastmasters anyone?

Most Awkward Quote- Staying with the same theme, Danny Hope opened his visit to the media by stating "This is an exciting time for all the Boilermaker nation, our fans and our players and our coaches. First time since I became the head coach at Purdue we potentially have a very good football team coming back." Hope probably didn't mean it to sound like Purdue's teams under him so far have been a disaster, but that's a little how it came off. I doubt his former teams were told about his lack of confidence in them at the time.

The Politician Award- Jim Tressel is long gone now, so someone has to take over the senatorial role at Media Days. Jim Delany can take a question and answer it by not really answering it. And then time is up. Delany went right up to the closing of the last day and I'm still not sure exactly what question he directly answered. Of course, that fits previous history. There were details shared, but most were on his own accord and not as a reaction to something that was asked.

Most Energy- Welcome to the league Tim Beckman, and welcome media to the high energy of the new head man in Champaign. It was hard to get going this morning after a sleepless night. Coffee didn't do it, but as soon as Beckman began being "proactive" (in his own words), the mind began to work. Now if only he wouldn't be so proactive in his recruiting tactics of Penn State players.

Most Honest Answer- Apparently the stereotype of the Big Ten lacking speed is a law of the universe--at least according to Urban Meyer. When asked about the SEC's dominance because of the speed of the front seven, Meyer went even further: "I think that, and I also think just overall team speed right now. We're addressing that......So I just think overall athleticism right now we're a little bit behind." Nobody ever accused Meyer have having a filter on his responses. And if Ohio State—historically known as the speediest team in the Big Ten—is behind on speed and athleticism, then so is the rest of the league. Such is life according to Urban Meyer.

Biggest Bombshell- Jim Delany said a lot, but one of the most interesting things he outlined is a document that is being worked on that would clarify the lines of responsibility and hierarchy at the member institutions. Because coaches stay and become legendary, sometimes those lines get blurred. The league is apparently working on correcting this via a proposal of some sort that should be ready for implementation by ‘12 or ‘13. This after the university presidents review it in the fall. The timing seems a bit tentative, but this is certainly an interesting nugget we'll have to keep an eye on.

Biggest Surprise- This is only an opinion, but from a sheer I got things together perception, Kevin Wilson actually handled himself very well at the podium. He is quick on his feet, confident, and makes a lot of sense with his words and responses to questions. Wilson really feels that the Hoosiers will be more competitive this year and his confidence exuded that fact. We'll obviously reserve judgement until the win/loss record shows at the end of the year.

Shortest Coach's Appearance- It was almost a run-by press conference for Jerry Kill. The second year head coach of Minnesota only answered four questions, and after some awkward silence, he was dismissed. Then the five minute wait for Brady Hoke ensued. I've seen sneezes last longer.

Other notes:
- The biggest rule changes this year involve the kickoffs. Kickoffs will now start from the 35-yard line now instead of the 30. Also, a touchback will result in the ball moving out to the 25 yard-line instead of the 20.

- The Big Ten Network is now in over 90 Million households. The market that BTN would love to get into that has not happened yet is Eastern Pennsylvania. Also, BTN2GO, the mobile app for BTN will expand and reach almost anywhere that high speed internet is available.

- Penn State is giving some serious consideration to changing its uniforms. Consider it another sign that moving forward is at a premium.

- Brady Hoke did not rule out Fitz Toussaint being ineligible for the Alabama game because of disciplinary reasons. In other news, nobody believes that....

- Kirk Ferentz almost guaranteed that one or both of the two most notable incoming freshman running backs (Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill) will get significant playing time this fall.

- Mark Dantonio credited the effort of getting deeper and more athletic on both the offensive and defensive lines as the biggest reason for Michigan State's rise.

- Though it's his alma mater, Bo Pelini is indifferent about going to Ohio State this year to play. Though it's a special experience, so are other places in the league. It'll be another game to prepare for and try to win.

- Jerry Kill pointed towards MarQueis Gray and his improvement as noticeable. According to him, look for Gray to make a splash in the Big Ten and even nationally.

- Pat Fitzgerald made mention that during this time when two teams from the Leaders division are ineligible, maybe it makes sense to allow the opportunity for two teams out of the Legends division to make the Big Ten Championship game.

Okay, off to day two where individual interviews will rule the day.