It’s no surprise that the main focus of the Football Big Ten Media Day today in Chicago was pretty much all about Penn State. I mean, how could they not address the big fat elephant in the room at every turn?
One fellow in the crowd asked every single coach how he feels about recruiting Penn State players, and while some coaches were appalled at the notion (Urban Meyer of OSU), others realized that they had been presented with a golden opportunity to nab some great players (Tim Beckman of Illinois and Danny Hope of Purdue) .
Every coach sported a tie that boasted his school’s color, and some were way more excited to be there than others. Beckman would’ve sat in the media’s lap if he could have, while Indiana’s Kevin Wilson let us know that he can’t trust any of us even when we ask him questions off the record. Brady Hoke of Michigan thanked us for coming, while Bill O’Brien of Penn State was pissed off from the start.
After the sanctions that came down Monday, it is perfectly legal for B1G coaches to approach Penn State players. The Big Ten and the NCAA said it’s fine, but some guys still had issues with the idea. Let’s take a brief look at what each coach had to say on the PSU matter, as well as other highlights throughout the day.
Wiscy – Bret Bielema
Wisconsin’s Brett Bielema started the day off and let us know (twice) that he has now been married for 19 weeks and five days. When asked, he confirmed that marriage has made him stronger and more mature. We also learned that Montee Ball should be pronounced MonTAY, rather than Monty. So apparently we’ve all been wrong for the past three years. He could be a potential Heisman Candidate, so be sure to get it right.
On the topic of PSU, Bielema said there is a brotherhood of Big Ten coaches, and so he decided not to pursue any Penn State players. However, you have to wonder if he’d be singing a different tune if he wasn’t poised to win the conference yet again.
Purdue – Danny Hope
Danny Hope and his moustache came out next, and he seemed as astonished as anyone else that his Boilermakers have a strong returning team. “First time since I became the head coach at Purdue we potentially have a very good football team coming back,” said Hope.
As someone who could use a few good players, Hope has no problem with recruiting players from PSU. “As long as we’re compliant, we’re going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team,” he said. Well put.
OSU – Urban Meyer
Ohio State’s new coach Urban Meyer came next, and boy he is nice to look at. He’s a pro at this, and it shows. He had the attitude that he’s too good for the conference, and he made a point to let us know that the Big Ten is not the best conference out there. That means his team should crush everyone, right?
Don’t worry about his relationship with Beliema, because Meyer assured us that they have a “very, very good relationship.” His thoughts on recruiting players from Penn State: “I have a problem with that.” This from a guy that can’t take on more people because he already has his plate full of players.
Illinois – Tim Beckman
Up next at the podium was Tim Beckman, who gushed that he was honored to be here as the head coach of the University of Illinois. Take a look at my personal blog for more on Beckman, but he was quick to assure everyone before the questions began (because he’s a “proactive guy) that he was never on the Penn State campus. He admitted he talked to some guys, but he let Penn State know before arriving and he was NEVER ON CAMPUS!
A few minutes later someone asked in the crowd to clarify that he had been in Happy Valley. He confirmed he was there, but reminded us again that he wasn’t on campus. “We were in State College, but we did not go on campus,” he said. “We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.”
Indiana – Kevin Wilson
Indiana’s Wilson hit the podium next, and it’s obvious he still isn’t a fan of the media. He pointed out that nothing is ever off the record, even though people tell him that it will be. Thus, we media members are scum. He went on a tirade about some people having 87 players on scholarship while he only has 85, but I had no idea what he was talking about.
On Penn State, Wilson said that he is focusing on his own team. He hasn’t studied any tape of the PSU guys (not a surprise since he admitted at his first media day last year he doesn’t watch any tape on other teams), and he isn’t actively going for them. Basically, he wouldn’t recruit anyone unless they came to him, and let’s face it if you are at Penn State and you want to go somewhere else, would Indiana be first on your list if they haven’t reached out first? Wilson confirmed that as of now no one has reached out.
PSU – Bill O’Brien
The moment we’ve all been waiting for came next, our first look at the man of the hour: Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. Whoo did he come in with a chip on his shoulder, but what can you really expect? He had some inspiring words to share with his players as to why they should stay, but I can understand why some would still want to leave. His thoughts on other Big Ten teams pinching his players: “As far as other schools on campus, I said my peace on that yesterday. I have no idea what schools were on campus, nor do I care. And I will tell you that that’s about all I have to say on that.” And that was his basic attitude for the rest of the questions.
Northwestern – Pat Fitzgerald
Pat Fitzgerald came in with a big grin on his face and reminded us all that his kids are smarter than any others. “We take great pride in being the No. 1 school academically in Football Bowl Subdivision as far as APR scores. So we believe we’re the No. 1 school academically in the country.” He then came up with some odd plan to restructure the entire conference since he is in the Legends division which has six eligible teams, while the Leaders have just four since OSU and PSU are out. He suggested perhaps both championship teams should come from his division as well.
Penn State players for Northwestern? Nope: “We’re excited about our team, we’re focused on our team, and no way, shape, or form are we going to pursue, contact, or reach out to Penn State University.”
Minnesota – Jerry Kill
Coach Jerry Kill of Minnesota came next, and when asked about his health (he had a heart attack last year) he said he’s feeling fantastic, and appreciated the inquiry. In terms of PSU players, Kill commented that Minnesota has enough things to worry about fixing right now, so they’re not actively pursuing any players.
“We’ve got to concentrate on our football team and our football program,” he said. “And if a young man called us from Penn State or whatever, we’d do the proper procedures. But right now we’ve got enough problems and focus on what we need to do to become a football team and that’s where our focus is.
Michigan – Brady Hoke
Brady Hoke of Michigan grunted his way to the podium and thanked us all for attending. Though picked to finish somewhere near the top, Hoke doesn’t put a lot of stock in media predictions. “It’s like anything in life, it’s not where we start but where we finish,” he said, which I can get on board with..
On Penn State, Hoke had this to say: “I’d be lying if I didn’t say we didn’t look at the roster to some degree — but we’ve kind of made a decision that we’re going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business.” I guess that means they’re not pursuing any PSU guys? I have no idea.
Nebraska – Bo Pelini
Nebraska’s Bo Pelini has to be very excited not to be on the hot seat this year, since they have now been in the conference a full year, and there are bigger fish to fry. Pelini isn’t actively pursuing any Penn State players, but if they’d like to come to Nebraska he wouldn’t say he wouldn’t look at them – or some other form of double negative that indicated he’d take a look if a Nittany Lion wanted to be a Cornhusker.
MSU – Mark Dantonio
Even though Michigan State lost the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, coach Mark Dantonio is pretty pleased with his program, as he should be. He’s got 46 lettermen returning and 16 starters. Dantonio really really wants to go to the Rose Bowl. Not one mention of a Nat’l Championship, but lots of Rose Bowl Talk. I guess it’s good to have realistic expectations.
When talking about Penn State, Dantonio did a little word dance, but it sounds like they will be looking into a few players. He pointed out he knew a few guys during recruiting before they picked Penn State, so he might look into those guys again.
Iowa – Kirk Ferentz
Last, but not least, the veteran of the league Kirk Ferentz took the stage. He has been in the conference the longest, as he is entering his 13th season in the Big Ten. Gotta be honest my brain was a bit fried by this time, so let’s just focus on the most important question and his response. Ferentz admitted being confused by the Penn State situation, and his main goal is to be compliant. After that everyone can do what they think is appropriate. However, Ferentz never actually shared what he thinks is appropriate.