CHICAGO — It’s midnight, rain pelts the Windy City, and Big Ten Media Days are 10 hours away from beginning.
You ready for this shindig? For what’s going to feel like Nebraska’s true, full-fledged entrance to this old-school league?
We sure are. Check this blog — a ton — for updates and fun stuff for the next two days.
On Thursday, festivities kick off at 10 a.m. — that’s 9 a.m. for those Husker fans in the Panhandle — at the Hyatt Regency next to McCormack Place, one seriously giant convention center near Lake Michigan and Soldier Field.
What can you expect? Each Big Ten coach, probably all dolled up in a suit and tie, talking for 15 minutes at the main podium, followed by an afternoon of radio and TV interviews. A speech from Commissioner Jim Delany. A quick talk from Big Ten Network head honcho Mark Silverman, too. And, well, whatever we dig up.
Here, in fact, is the schedule. Central time:
- Illinois coach Ron Zook: 10 a.m.-10:15 a.m.
- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema: 10:15 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
- Purdue coach Danny Hope: 10:30 a.m.-10:45 a.m.
- Ohio State coach Luke Fickell: 11-11:15 p.m.
- Indiana coach Kevin Wilson: 11:15 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
- Penn State coach Joe Paterno:11:30 p.m.-11:45 p.m.
- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald: noon-12:15 p.m.
- Michigan coach Brady Hoke: 12:15-12:30 p.m.
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini: 12:30 p.m-12:45 p.m.
- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz: 1 p.m.-1:15 p.m.
- Minnesota coach Jerry Kill: 1:15 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio: 1:30 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
- Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo: 1:45-2 p.m.
- Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman: 2 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: 2:15 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
OK, now the big picture stuff. Here are five things to watch on Thursday:
Jim Delany’s State of the Union: The Big Ten commish won’t miss this opportunity to crow about the addition of Nebraska and put forth his vision — whatever that may be — of where college football should go over the next five years. Might his speech include a deeper case for full-cost scholarships? Alterations to the BCS? Thoughts about the grimy business of college football recruiting?
The Big 12′s Dan Beebe played Roy Hobbs and pooh-poohed trouble with the Longhorn Network. The SEC’s Mike Slive meticulously wrote and revised his speech and argued for significant changes to recruiting (including a return of partial qualifiers). The ACC’s John Swofford told the media his league has to do better in high-profile games. The Pac-12′s Larry Scott unveiled seven Horcruxes, I mean seven conference networks — one national and six regional — in a continuing effort to make TV deals as complicated as possible.
Delany gets to go last. A blunt speaker and bold thinker, he has a lot of options on the buffet table. The man can’t help but have an Olympian air about him, so his directives have the effect of coming from an oracle, or maybe Elrond in “The Lord of the Rings.”
Nebraska Invasion: Expect more than 50 members of the Nebraska media on hand for the Chicago festivities. The Big Ten brass won’t know what to do with itself. Bo Pelini appears Thursday for the TV masses; will he opt for bunker mode, where he barely acknowledges the season beyond Chattanooga, or will he be more expansive as he returns to his home conference? League pundits and writers clearly think highly of him, given last week’s Big Ten Newspaper poll. This is their first, long glimpse at the guy.
The New Leaders of Michigan and Ohio State: Also known as the Wolverines’ Brady Hoke and the Buckeyes’ Luke Fickell. Their stories are polar opposites. Hoke is a “Michigan Man” hired to clean up after Rich Rodriguez’s messy, dramatic three seasons. Fickell is the interim head coach at OSU after Jim Tressel’s resignation. It’s a big — and tough — day for Fickell, who needs to perform well answering questions about problems he didn’t create. Buckeye boosters will be watching. Hoke, meanwhile, can relax and score points with his lunch-pail personality.
Ferentz Faces a Little More Music: One year ago, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had an Orange Bowl champ and national title contender to tout. Now the Hawkeyes are an inexperienced, middle-of-the-pack bunch with offseason troubles to finally forget. Ferentz may field one last round of questions about the case of workout-induced rhabdo that sent 13 players to the hospital last January. But few coaches smother potential scuttlebutt with as much rote banality as Ferentz, so his brand of bland should do the trick again.
A Cup of Joe: One of the rare, fleeting delights in life is being around a guy so comfortable with who he is and what he stands for that he doesn’t even know when he’s being funny. That’s Penn State coach Joe Paterno. He’s long past creating an image or buttering up a crowd, so his answers can be charmingly off-topic. He could hijack a whole line of questioning with some vague soliloquy about Matt Suhey, and reporters wouldn’t bat an eye — they’d crack a smile. Maybe he gets a brief moment with Tom Osborne on one of these days, too.