Big Ten Media Days Live Blog

by Jack Satzinger

Big Ten Media Days is underway. Follow along for news and notes from Chicago.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was first to the podium. Fitzgerald touched upon his team's academic success and also said his team lost its focus at one point during the season. The Wildcats finished 5-7 and lost to Minnesota 20-17. 

"I'm proud of the maturity that our guys demonstrated throughout the whole process," Fitzgerald said, when asked about unionization. "I believe there's no more unified football program in the country [than Northwestern]." 

Purdue's Darrell Hazell said he believes the school is starting to invest more into its football program. The Boilermakers finished last season 1-11, but Hazell made it clear that his team is "a different football team than what we were last year."

"I don't want to sound cliche, but I want to make sure our team comes out and competes in game one to get us out on the right foot," Hazell said. 

Hazell was asked about stipends and other NCAA issues and how he addresses that with his team. He said they had a meeting about it in spring, but he told his players not to talk about it because they "don't know about anything that's going on." 

The Badgers will have a quarterback battle this season. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said there is no timeline for it. Redshirt juniors Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will split reps to begin.

Andersen dismissed the notion that Wisconsin has an easy schedule. The Badgers will miss Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State this season.

"I think the schedule is very challenging," he said. He stressed that there are no easy games in the Big Ten.

Illinois will also have a quarterback battle following the departure of Nathan Scheelhaase. Head coach Tim Beckman said the Illini will "see great competition every day."

Michigan's Brady Hoke said his team is as competitive of a team as he's been around as all positions. Hoke said he believes the foundation has been laid.

Michigan begins its season with Appalachian State on Aug. 30. 

"You can't win all your games unless you win the first one," Hoke said. Michigan lost its first game of the season to Appalachian State in 2007.

After a short break, Rutgers' Kyle Flood spoke. Rutgers officially joined the Big Ten at the beginning of the month. Flood said it will be an honor for him to coach in the Big Ten.

"When they came to me and they said that, I said, 'Perfect,' because that was our first choice," Flood said on joining the Big Ten.

Jerry Kill said the summer went well. He said he believes his team has gotten stronger and faster. Kill said he has been impressed with Mitch Leidner and Cedric Thompson stepping up in the offseason.

"We want to continue to improve on what we did last year," Kill said. "If you don't have a mission to win the Big Ten, why play?"

Kill said the Gophers don't have a lot of mottos.

"Work hard," Kill said.

Kill said Thompson's maturity grew in the program each year. He said Thompson approached him and said "Hey Coach, I want to be that guy. I want to have this pressure. It's my time to lead." 

He said he's talked with his players about the changes in the NCAA but the focus "remains on the season."

"The game is about the kids," Kill said. "We need to make sure we take care of them.”Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio took the podium after Kill.

Dantonio’s Spartans won the Big Ten championship last season.“We’re a bit more of the hunted. It’s a good place to be but a precarious place to be as well,” Dantonio said.

He said he did not discuss Northwestern’s unionization issues with his players.

“Really it’s about us at this point in time,” he said.

Nebraska's Bo Pelini told the media his cat is enjoying a nap in his hotel room.

"He's enjoying the Windy City," Pelini said.

Pelini led Nebraska out of the tunnel for their spring game with his cat in hand in response to a faux Pelini Twitter account.

On a more serious note, Pelini suggested doing away with national signing day. He said there would be fewer early offers and said the recruiting process has gotten away from football.

"I think sometimes the way the recruiting process works is contradictory to what we're trying to teach these kids," he said. 

Like Flood, Maryland’s Randy Edsall talked about his excitement in joining the Big Ten.

Edsall said change is inevitable in life, and that he did not pay attention to ACC Media Days.

“I was in St. Thomas enjoying the heck out of St. Thomas,” Edsall said.

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer said his team blew up its pass defense and started from scratch.

Regarding his star quarterback, Meyer said Braxton Miller is in the best hsape of his life and is ready to go.

“Do we try to slow Braxton down? Absolutely not. We try to protect him and surround him,” Meyer said.

In his first Big Ten Media Days, Penn State’s James Franklin made an impression.

Franklin said he tells his players they have to compete and earn their jobs.

He called himself the veteran at Penn State — a new president and athletics director have been hired since he was seven months ago.

Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, said his team would be “significantly” improved on defense based on what he saw in spring. The Gophers miss the Hoosiers this season.

As he wrapped up, Wilson said having seven home games is critical to having a winning program. This year, Indiana has six.

The last coach of the day, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz said he used to hit 9th in little league. He moved down five spots to 14th today.

Ferentz said he thinks the college football playoff is good for the game.

“I think everybody’s talked about that. I think it’s a great step,” he said.

After the coaches wrapped up, Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman had a 15-minute press conference. Silverman said this year is the network’s best schedule ever.

Silverman said they have no plans to start up a second network, but that they would consolidate BTN2GO and Big Ten Digital Network. 

College Football Playoff’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Kelly talked about the structure of the playoff. The Peach, Fiesta and Orange Bowls will take place on Dec. 31 followed by the Cotton, Rose and Sugar Bowls on Jan. 1. The latter two will be the two semifinals for the playoff and the championship game will be Jan. 12. The championship game will always be on a Monday.

A selection committee will choose the best four teams to compete in the playoff. Rankings will be released Oct. 28 and every Tuesday after.

Last but not least, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany spoke on the state of the conference.

Delany stressed that education is part of the system, unlike in AAU or Little League.

“There’s been a disconnect in some ways, but for us, these things are inextricably linked,” Delany said.