INDIANAPOLIS — The annual Big Ten Media Days kick off today in Indianapolis. Scheduled to speak on day one of the two-day affair are Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti, followed by Illinois head coach Bret Bielema, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker, Northwestern interim head coach David Braun, Penn State head coach James Franklin, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day.
We will have live updates here running through the session, which gets underway at 10:30 and will last for a little over two hours. Refresh for the latest updates.
Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day
- The OSU players here are a cross-section of their team. A receiver from Philly, a tight end who is from a farming family, and JT Tuimoloau who is from Seattle and with his Polynesian background. The diversity is great but the mindset is the same.
- Any updates on the quarterback situation? Freshman Lincoln Kienholz has surprised and impressed them with his approach. It doesn’t seem too big for him. Tristan Gebbia has done a great job as a coach of the position. He understands the offense at a high level. The depth at the position will allow them to do some things they haven’t been able to do in a long time. It would be nice to see somebody emerge quickly at quarterback.
- The two areas of concern right now are the offensive line and quarterback, specifically the guys who haven’t played yet on the offensive line. He is excited about some of their options. Josh Fryar has looked good and cut wait. The addition of Josh “Jimmy” Simmons gives them more options. There are enough people there to find starters “but they have to go do it.”
- As the season wears on he has to make sure he doesn’t get too locked into the offense and lose track of what else is going on with the rest of the team.
- How much conversation is there internally about the way the season ended? It’s not easy to come up just a few plays short in both of those games, so it’s been a motivator. Everything they did in the offseason was about competing because when you’re in “matchup games,” the outcome can come down to one or two plays.
- Explosive plays were the Achilles heel in the final two games last year. They talk about it every day. They’re not going to let it beat them twice by hyperfocusing on it, but it is a motivating factor.
- Could both quarterbacks play in the opener? Over the last seven years, they’ve had situations where they didn’t know who the starter would be going into camp. You’d like for somebody to emerge during camp, but who knows if that’s going to happen. If that doesn’t happen, then maybe they do play two guys. You have to do whatever it takes to win that first game on the road, so we’ll see what happens.
- Brian Hartline and Keenan Bailey are both energetic, bright, and they connect with the players really well. Bailey has coached in so many different rooms at Ohio State. He has the respect of so many players because he spends so much time with them. Hartline has so much credibility with his players because he has played the position so well. The next logical progression was being a coordinator. They expect him to excel there as well.
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
- This is a veteran offensive team.
- Any sense on who on the team will be impacted by the sports gambling allegations? It’s not a large number of players. They don’t know what the outcome will be. The team has now learned a lot about gambling based on what has happened the last few months. Hopefully the NCAA will reconsider punishments and penalties that are fair to the world they are living in right now. There is also room for better education about gambling because it’s not going away. It’s going to continue to grow.
- Why did they go to the portal more this year? What changed? What changed is that we’re all living in a different world now. The portal is “just part of the terrain” now, so they will incorporate it as part of their process. There are definitely advantages to it.
- They look to change and modify the offense every year if needed. The offense has been pretty good save for the last two years.
Penn State Head Coach James Franklin
- It has been obvious right from the beginning the leadership that Tony Petitti was bringing to the Big Ten.
- This team is deep enough to compete not just in the Big Ten, but nationally. They are bigger and more athletic upfront. They have a legitimate three-deep on the front seven. There are some question marks in the secondary based on their losses, but they should be in a good position.
- The offensive line is in good hands.
- They need to figure out who there No. 3 wide receiver is going to be.
- They are still in a competition phase at quarterback. Obviously there is a lot of talk about Drew Allar. He understands the excitement about the 6-5 242-pound sophomore.
- He is happy with where PSU’s NIL situation is but there is still work that needs to be done.
- Regarding moving on from playing OSU and Michigan every year after this year, Franklin said the Big Ten has made scheduling decisions moving forward that would put the conference in the best position for competing for national championships, and also get multiple teams in the playoffs.
- Playing on Black Friday against Michigan State is a great opportunity for the program and it will be tough, but both programs have to deal with the short week so the footing is equal.
Northwestern Interim Head Coach David Braun
- Opens by thanking his family. His wife is due with their third child any day now. They have been an absolute rock over the last couple of weeks and he wanted to acknowledge that.
- Secondly, he thanks the players, the staff, and the families for their response, resolve, and perseverance during this difficult time. It has been inspiring. It is an honor to be here representing them.
- He never could have imagined, nor desired, to become a head coach like this, but he is honored to do so. His dad is from Ohio and they moved around the Big Ten footprint, so they’ve always been a Big Ten family. His dad is now a Northwestern fan moving forward. They won’t acknowledge who he used to root for.
- He dreamt of playing in the Big Ten, but that never happened. It is an honor to be coaching here now.
- This has been a difficult time for current and former Northwestern players. He is grateful for the opportunity to lead this program forward.
- The goal moving forward is to provide the ultimate student-athlete experience.
- The team this year can write its own story about overcoming adversity. “Let me be clear, this team will be ready to go.”
- The quarterback battle will be fun to watch. Three guys will be competing for the job.
- The last few weeks have been emotional for him. Highs and lows, but it means a lot to know that he and his family have the support of the players.
- Is he looking into the allegations about current assistant coaches being involved? He is confident the investigations will provide him whatever information he needs.
Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker
- “We have a hungry, determined, and very, very focused football team…”
- There is competition at every single position this year, and this is the most-talented roster they’ve had top to bottom. There is more team chemistry going into this season. They have done more team-building events than they’ve ever done before.
- Last year was a learning experience. Not just for the players, but also the coaching staff. They are all hungry and excited to get going this year.
- Quarterback Noah Kim is tremendously talented. He’s a winner with a lot of arm talent. He’s in the top 20 fastest players on the team. He knows the offense and he has the right demeanor.
- Has the Northwestern situation motivated you to take a deeper look at your program? “Our culture is very strong.” It starts with connections and authentic relationships. There is an anti-hazing policy on the team and the players know that. They will cover that topic again when they report to campus on Wednesday.
- What did they learn as coaches from last year? Football is a game of attrition. They had to modify the way they practiced this spring, changing when and how much they hit. Studies show that players get injured more when they’re on the ground, so they tried to keep everybody up as much as possible during the spring.
- There is tremendous NIL support at MSU.
- On Deion Sanders: “I’m pulling for him and the Buffs.” “I think he’s going to be wildly successful.”
- The portal has been a great help to Michigan State, but there is a downside when you have so many players who never find homes, so that is disturbing.
- Why did you give up a home game to have the Penn State game moved to Ford Field? This was an opportunity for great exposure for their players to play in a pro stadium. It will be a great game in the Detroit area where they recruit. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano
- Tony Petitti is a great listener and has been great to work with.
- They had the highest GPA in program history, over 3.0, in the last term. The players know that their lives continue on after football. He tells families on recruiting visits that other than the time when you are an infant, the four or five years in college provide more development than any other time in their lives.
- How will going away from divisions next year impact Rutgers? The 2024 schedule doesn’t really look much different, but it will likely moving forward. But his focus is on 2023 right now.
- When he came back to Rutgers, he was surprised by how much had changed in his eight years away. They have worked to build things back up.
- What is one thing he would change about NIL or the portal if he could? Somehow if they universities could control more of the NIL so that there is more uniformity involved. He’d like that to be brought in house, but how they do it is a question for somebody else.
- What are the biggest challenges for Rutgers? The biggest challenge is that they play in the best conference in football. But you have to build your program up to compete with it.
- How will Rutgers prepare for Northwestern given the head coaching shake up? He doesn’t think much will change scheme-wise. The more important thing will be to make sure Rutgers is ready.
- It is always important to recruit your back yard, but the most important thing is to get the right kids who fit your culture and can help your program. Joe Paterno once told him not to worry about the ones you don’t get, focus on the recruits you do get.
Illinois Head Coach Bret Bielema
- Bielema was introduced by FOX analyst Joel Klatt, NBC analyst Todd Blackledge, and CBS analyst Gary Danielson. He dubbed the three of them a media reality show.
- Been a refreshing sight to see Tony Petitti be so communicative with the coaches.
- How is his staff working to promote a welcoming culture in his locker room? They have an orientation program in January and June when freshmen and transfers arrive. They don’t have official visits unless the players are on campus to show the recruits the culture. He couldn’t be happier with the culture of the program right now. They were tied for second in fewest players lost to the transfer portal, which speaks to the culture.
- Has he seen the Barbie movie? He’s bought a lot of Barbies for his two daughters (4, 6), but they haven’t seen it yet. They are still heavy on mermaids. The Tooth Fairy is now charging $20, by the way.
- Jim Leonhard made a huge impact on him as a safety at Wisconsin. He was so smart and he knows the game. They have stayed in touch throughout Leonhard’s NFL career and in college. He reached out to him after he wasn’t retained by Wisconsin after last season. He will be a senior analyst for Illinois this year and will work in all three phases. He will be with his family on the weekends, but in the office Monday-Thursday.
- Pat Fitzgerald said he didn’t know the hazing was going on, so do you think coaches need investigations to know what’s going on? Also, how do you build on last year’s success? He won’t comment on what happened at Northwestern, but he knows the situation at Illinois was something he wanted to be a part of immediately. They want to sustain success. He wanted to get back into head coaching but wanted to be in a situation that could sustain winning. This is his last coaching job. He has a no-compete contract in the Big Ten. He doesn’t like the word “culture” because he thinks it’s a buzz word and has never really meant much to him.
Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti
- There is nothing like traveling around the country with former ABC broadcaster Keith Jackson, with whom he used to work as part of ABC Sports.
- “The Rose Bowl has been at the center of the history of Big Ten football.”
- Much of what is happening now under the guise of NIL is not true NIL. It is enticements in recruiting and in the transfer portal. It does not comply with Title IX. A national competitive landscape needs national rules that can be enforced.
- He met this spring with UCLA and USC about many topics, including student welfare. They have spent much time working on travel concerns.
- Last year’s Michigan – Ohio State game was the most-watched college football game by over four million viewers.
- Big Ten fans are going to be able to move seamlessly from FOX, to CBS, to NBC on football Saturdays.
- Will the Big Ten launch an investigation on Northwestern? Not right now. The school has two investigations going on right now. They will wait for those findings to come forward first.
- Does the conference need to take a look at hazing throughout the conference? When something like this happens, each school is likely going to take it upon themselves to see if that is happening. Talking to the schools so far, they understand that.
- On expansion: he is being asked to focus just on USC and UCLA right now by the leadership in the Big Ten. He is not getting any direction on further expansion right now.
- Spending time with the Big Ten coaches, they have told him that the transfer portal is a priority. There is concern about graduations and credits carrying over. There are questions about what you can do regarding incentives for the players.
- He will not speak to the work that was done with the networks prior to his arrival, regarding some miscommunications between the former commissioner and the coaches about night games in November. You have to balance exposing your programs to bigger audiences while also not forsaking the fans in the stadiums. They respect that.
- True NIL means a student athlete taking advantage of his marketing rights. But what we’ve seen is a lack of enforcement which has seen the moving of money away from the member institutions.
- What conversations has he had with Northwestern about this season and the safety of the players? He has spoken with the leadership there and he wants to be kept informed about the investigations. There is a commitment to understand what is expected going forward.
- How close is the model where the players are paid directly from schools? He doesn’t want to predict anything in that regard. It would require a lot of different changes.