CHICAGO — The Big Ten’s annual Football Media Days has arrived. The two-day affair will feature all 14 coaches speaking at podiums and providing updates on their respective teams.
Three players from each team are also in Chicago to speak with reporters. Thursday’s session features Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana, Minnesota, Maryland, and Ohio State.
In order to keep you up to speed on what the coaches are saying, we’ll be running live updates right here when Jim Delany kicks off the event at 11:15 a.m. Central. He will be followed by new BTN president Francois McGillicuddy, and then coaches Scott Frost, Lovie Smith, Mark Dantonio, Tom Allen, PJ Fleck, Mike Locksley, and Ryan Day. Each coach will speak for approximately 15 minutes.
The rest of the teams and coaches will talk tomorrow. Make sure to refresh for live updates.
Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day
+ You can catch Day’s full rundown on the Front Page shortly.
Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley
+ Locksley would need another two hours to talk about what he learned from Nick Saban. Consistency in your messaging is major, as is quality control.
+ Keandre Jones brings the experience of being at a winning program. He brings those behaviors and habits and “leaves clues” for his teammates.
+ Regarding the transfer portal, when he arrived, he had to work hard to keep this team intact. “I called it speed dating.” He met with every player for about 15 minutes and asked them what they did and didn’t like about being a Maryland football player. They have been able to fill some holes by bringing in transfers like Ohio State’s Keandre Jones.
+ His love of Maryland started when he was growing up in the mid-70s. Maryland was a power program back in the day. The three years of 10 wins each year in the early 2000s is also in his mind. That’s the Maryland that he knows.
+ The Maryland job was the one he has coveted since he got into coaching. This is his third stop at Maryland and he is hoping it is his last stop.
+ Teams change from year to year, but family transcends the past, present, and future, so they have gone about making this program a family.
+ They have gone about building trust in the coaches by having the players over at the coaches’ houses routinely for “Sunday fundays” and more.
+ They use the phrase “Maximize It” around the football program because everything they are doing is important, be it classwork, practice, lifting, or whatever.
Minnesota Head Coach PJ Fleck
+ Getting Paul Bunyan’s Axe back is healthy for the rivalry. After 14 years of Wisconsin winning it, it was hurting the rivalry. “Breaking that mold creates this hope for the future.” Fleck wants the fans to see that they are doing things the Gophers haven’t done in a long time. And then when you add to that, you begin to see those limitations aren’t actually real.
+ The defense got better last year when they replaced their defensive coordinator and simplified the defense.
+ They are starting to get to the point where the best players are their hardest workers, and when you finally get there, it’s infectious.
+ There are more games lost than won in college football. Teams generally lose games rather than win them, be it turnovers or missed tackles or something avoidable.
+ Fleck said he is a 6th-grade social studies teacher at heart.
+ The B1G West has gotten a lot better over the last few years. Scott Frost and Jeff Brohm have been great additions. Minnesota feels like they are a part of that overall improvement as well. “It’s a wide-open west. There are no easy games.”
+ Illinois is a huge recruiting state for Minnesota and Chicago is a large part of it. He knows what type of players come from this area and they want to build their program around that style.
+ Minnesota has gone from the youngest team in the nation to the second-youngest team, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win.
+ Running back Mo Ibrahim has been a wonderful surprise and tough runner with great vision.
+ Defensive end Carter Coughlin was responsible for Minnesota’s defense improving last year.
+ Asked what flipped late last year to improve the program, Fleck said changing the defensive coordinator helped, but the team also had enough experience at that point to overcome difficulties.
Indiana Head Coach Tom Allen
+ The offense won’t be dramatically different with a new offensive coordinator. It is a completely new system, but it’s not the veer or triple option under center.
+ Recruiting has been effective because they are targeting young men who fit what they are at Indiana, and then they recruit the entire family. “We’re going to love them more as a person than a player.” The key is finding guys that fit that and want that. It takes a lot of energy and effort.
+ Asked about potential realignment, he said it’s something he has nothing to do with. Not really his concern.
+ They do not plan to run a two-quarterback system. The plan is to pick one and let him be the man.
+ Allen won’t be calling the defense this year. He has finally handed it off. The defense has depth, but it is young. It’s a fast and physical defense.
+ Indiana opens a new football facility this year.
+ “Our one word for 2019 is ‘grit.'” This program is being built on accountability, toughness, and love.
+ Allen has learned a lot since he took over. They fell short late in games and they have had successes in recruiting to help build that depth. They continue to compete and went out and signed the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history. They played 16 freshmen last season, so they have a “young, experienced” team this year.
+ There are three QBs capable of leading this team and winning. Michael Penix and Jack Tuttle have to beat out Peyton Ramsey because he is the returning starter.
Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio
+ Senior defensive tackle Raequan Williams is from Chicago and wants to be the future mayor of Chicago. “He will do great things beyond football in his life.”
+ There is a difficult road slate this season, but the team’s mindset is that they have won at each of those venues, so it’s nothing new. “We will only limit what we can dream on.” Every game is tough.
+ DE Kenny Willekes is very tough and a hard worker. His intensity is contagious. He started as a walk-on. He chased a dream.
+ Jim Bollman has coached 44 NFL offensive linemen in his career. “He’s been a guy that has been able to calm the waters.”
+ Quarterback Brian Lewerke is healthy, bigger, faster, stronger and has his confidence back. Dantonio expects him to return to his sophomore season and beyond.
+ Twenty starters return and 50 lettermen for the Spartans. They bring a sense of commitment to the season.
+ Asked about the transfer portal, he said it’s been interesting. Over 2,500 names have been added and you have to recruit that just like you do with high school seniors. If you have a need, you look to the portal to see what is there.
+ Safety Khari Willis is off to the NFL, but he has left behind an example for others to follow.
+ Urban Meyer did a tremendous job at OSU, losing just 8 times since 2012. “I’ve been very impressed with Ryan Day. I’ve only met him a couple of times. I’ve been impressed with him as a person, too. Down to earth and charismatic.”
Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost
+ Adrian Martinez is one of three representatives from Nebraska at Media Days. “He deserves to be here.” Usually they bring seniors, but there aren’t a lot of seniors. Martinez is going to speak well and say the right things. He’s ready for this.
+ The team in the weight room is much different than when Frost arrived a year and a half ago. Regardless of scheme, you can’t get pushed around in this league. They have made a lot of strides to catch up and that will show up this year.
+ Year Twos are always easier than Year Ones.
+ He wouldn’t take anybody in the country over his quarterback Adrian Martinez. They will probably go as far as he can take them.
+ The team cost themselves several games last year because of attitude and mentality and that has been addressed.
+ Frost apologized for being late. Their flight got diverted and he spent a part of the day selling shower curtain rings in Gurnee, Illinois.
+ Frost said he doesn’t care if a recruit is in Jamaica, Kazakhstan, or Michigan, he will go and recruit them.
Illinois Head Coach Lovie Smith
+ Smith likes the way the divisions are set up right now, so he’s not in favor of things changing there. As far as the transfer portal, Smith would maybe like to see more transparency on the denying and granting of immediate eligibility. “Sometimes divorce is a good thing.”
+ The Big Ten West is getting stronger every year. There are more teams now capable of winning the division.
+ The defense has to give up fewer big plays and stop the run better than they did last year. They also need to create more turnovers. There were flashes at times last year of what they are capable of — like the Rutgers game. The depth is better on defense right now also.
+ Any time you take over a job, there are reasons for the change. Things don’t normally turn around immediately. They have now had a few years to establish themselves and they now feel that they are in a position to compete this year. They have also added five graduate transfers. “It’s all about this year.”
+ Year four. He knew there were some challenges when he first arrived and they attacked them. The program has been overhauled. His first recruits are now running the team and it’s going well.
+ Offensively, they did enough last year to win more games. Defensively, they did not. They have embraced that immediately following last season.
+ Every year, there is a team that comes out of nowhere and has a great season. They plan on that being them.
BTN President Francois McGillicuddy
+ The new FOX Sports App will house all streaming coverage of BTN. BTN2Go will cease to exist in its current form.
+ BTN’s tailgate show will be live and on scene every week this year from campus.
+ BTN is happy to have Matt Millen back this year.
+ Regarding distribution, “we feel good” about where the BTN is. There has been cable subscriber reductions, but distribution is very strong.
+ It is bittersweet that as he begins his career with BTN, Jim Delany is ending his time with the Big Ten. BTN wouldn’t exist without Delany.
+ This football season, the BTN’s focus will be on quality production of televised games, exceptional story telling, and the best football analysis around.
+ 14 weeks, 40+ games, 750+ hours of coverage.
+ Yes, Francois McGillicuddy is really his name. A French mom and an Irish dad will do that to you every time.
+ McGillicuddy used to be the president of Fox Sports Ohio and also oversaw Sportstime Ohio at one time.
B1G Commissioner Jim Delany Updates
+ Delany is not in favor of transparency of voting with the CFP committee. As long as you’re dealing with human beings deciding these things, “that doesn’t need to be trotted out and turned into content.”
+ Asked about the Big Ten maybe one day playing a football game in Mexico City, Delany said he would love it. The Big Ten is as international as any conference in the nation. “I think it would be a terrific idea.”
+ Teams should be playing comparable schedules.
+ Asked if having Gene Smith on the playoff committee has hurt the Big Ten, he said it would be speculative to answer. “Having said that…” the constant churn of the committee is a concern. “I just wish we had a little more continuity.”
+ Asked if the Big Ten should go back to eight conference games in order to increase their playoff chances, Delany said the B1G has had great success in the New Years Six bowls. Going to nine conference games was done prior to the CFP. “We decided we wanted to have better games.” It would be short-selling fans, players, and television partners to go back to eight conference games. He isn’t happy with the way strength of schedule has been disregarded.
+ Delany agrees with Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby in that in order to be selected for the College Football Playoffs, teams should have played at least 10 Power 5 opponents. Alabama and Clemson have earned everything they’ve gotten, but he’s not sure the conference championships and strength of schedules have been rewarded as much as they should have been.
+ Regarding the marquee noon games on FOX, Delany said this is some counterprograming by FOX to combat the large number of primetime games.
+ Asked about the amateurism model, Delany said there are ongoing litigations. The names and likenesses argument interests him. He won’t miss the legal jousting coming, but he will be paying attention. “These things are going to take some time to work out. My guess is the next 5-7 years.”
+ The 4-team has doubled the access to a national championship, yet doubled the feeling of being excluded when you don’t make it.
+ Big Ten football has changed a lot in 30 years. “The world was so different. There was no playoff. There were 10 members. We had 16 of our 66 games on television.” Attendance was around 60,000 per game. But it is a totally different world now. There are 90 games on TV. “I think we’re built to win championships and I think many of the teams in our conference are built to win national championships.” There are world-class facilities and coaches who recruit from all over the country with total television coverage. “We are a special brand in America with regard to college football.” Delany expects continued and increased excellence.
+ Delany wanted to create an injury report last year and pushed it “pretty hard” but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
+ He and Kevin Warren have spent about a day together and talked on the phone for a few hours over a few days. They will be spending quite a bit of time together this fall. External partners will also come in and meet with both commissioners so that Warren can put faces to names. “I think he’s going to be a great fit and really proud of the decision the presidents made here.”
+ Asked about his biggest regret that he didn’t get accomplished, Delany said mistakes were made in the 70s that have created problems today, including the loss of 4-year scholarships and the loss of freshman ineligibility. He raised those issues about five years ago and they fell with a thud.
+ The Big Ten was the first conference to have concussion protocols put in place. Health and safety of the athletes will only become more important moving forward and it is in good standing currently.
+ 22 former student-athletes have worked for the Big Ten in his 30 years.
+ “It would be a lonely place without great partners and our first one was the Rose Bowl in 1902.”
+ Delany says the sixth commissioner of the Big Ten — Kevin Warren — will be a great addition to the conference.
+ Delany said the media has treated him fairly over his time and recognizes the changes that the media has had to go through and yet still provided coverage of the young people in the conference.
+ “It has been a great run for me.” So many educational opportunities have been provided for men and women. In 1989, it was 75% male and 25% female, and today it is roughly 50/50 depending on the year. “I’m excited that I was part of that change and worked with many others to make it happen.”