While all Buckeye fans were squarely focused on what Luke Fickell would have to say in his first appearance as Ohio State's head coach at today's B1G Media Day session, the other 11 coaches took turns rocking the mic as well.
Just as their respective programs range in success, the ability of the coaches to effectively provide stimulating intros and interesting answers to media queries also ran the gamut.
Transcripts of each session can be found here but I'll save you some time and summarize what I saw as the most relevant info shared this afternoon in the windy city's McCormick Place Convention Center.
The Zooker kicked off the festivities and I was immediately stunned by his intro as the moderator reminded me Zook is now the 3rd most tenured head coach in the conference.
Not surprisingly, the first question asked of Zook pertained to Ohio State. When asked if the issues at OSU "make you cringe", Zook answered:
First of all, I think you cringe because unfortunately it's something out there in college football, something we just had a long talk with the commissioner, which I think is very important...It's obviously very, very important that everybody, not only the Big Ten Conference, but everybody in college football does everything they can do to protect the game and obviously respect the game, for not only where it's going, but where it's come from. You hate to see those things happen. Obviously its lessons that we as all coaches have to look at, maybe rethink, obviously help your players in education, learning what's right and what's wrong from that standpoint as well.
This was the first we heard Delaney's earlier meeting with all the coaches though Delaney expanded on the topic later, making it clear he doesn't want to deal with anymore NCAA issues.
Shortly thereafter we were greeted with the first derp question of the day when someone asked, "Were you hoping that any of your three premier big-name guys (Liuget, Wilson, Leshoure) would have returned for their senior season?" Naturally, Zook would've loved to have those guys back but he said it him when Herschel Walker went pro that you go to college to learn how to make money and those guys were in position to go out and make that money.
Following Zook was Wisconsin's Bret Bielema and he provided one of the more interesting sessions on the day. In discussing transfer QB Russell Wilson, he refused to annoint him the starter and talked about how he went about bringing Wilson into the fold:
I will say this. No matter how good a football player Russell Wilson is, the first thing I wanted to find out is what kind of person he is. I always say that in recruiting, you recruit your own problems. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't recruiting somebody that was going to potentially be a problem at Wisconsin. He's a stand-up guy, great character. Just a really, really neat kid. Began to evaluate, talk to him. Brought him in on his visit, had him meet with a lot of offensive players, skill and offensive linemen. Everybody after that visit was very encouraging to talk to about the way he handles himself and talks to other players.
I liked the "you recruit your own problems" line. Lord knows we've experienced the underbelly of such a fact.
Finally asked about the negative headlines in college football lately and what it will take to get the game back in a positive light, many in the room thought he was lobbing some veiled bombs at Tressel:
If I had a dream world, I would say hammer the guys that don't do things right. To me in my profession, the only thing I get very frustrated about is when I know things go on that aren't right, mainly in recruiting. That's the biggest thing that comes across my desk. People are willingly and knowingly abusing rules and breaking things. To me, when you are consciously aware of abusing a rule, there's no excuse for that.
If you're trying to be competitive, you're trying to win a football game, all those things, maximize all your opportunities, do what you have to do. But when you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people, or seriously hold programs accountable. That's probably the number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.
As a follow up, Bielema was asked about Bill Cubit's recent take in which he said he would like to see any coach found guilty of a major violation no longer able to coach in the NCAA and he responded:
You know what, I think the proven thing there is if someone knowingly and willingly violates a rule, I don't see anything wrong with a substantial penalty. What that is, I'll let other
people decide. You know what, when I come across something that I know someone is willingly or knowingly doing, I have no tolerance for that, in my program especially.
Upon completion of his session, Bielema was asked about his comments and specifically about Tressel, at which time he went out of his way to praise Tressel for how he treated Bielema over the years and for his accomplishments at Ohio State so you can decide where you think Bret stands on the topic.
You know, I really would have no idea what Hope said if not for the transcript as I was totally mesmerized by his perfectly manicured moustache. That sucker is a masterpiece. Straight up. That said, nothing else about Hope was really worth discussing so we'll move on.
I like this guy. He followed Fickell and looked considerably more comfortable at the podium and did an outstanding job of specifically answering questions and giving opinions. It was easy to see how he could pull off a coup by landing hotshot QB Gunner Kiel.
While he's likely living in a dream world thinking he can take Indiana football and make it nationally relevant there's no question he firmly believes he will. He talked of becoming the next Oregon from the standpoint of coming out of the blue to be legit and of instilling a "culture change with our performance."
Within his sorta-awesomeness he even quoted Woody, though I'm having a hard time believing Woody ever heard of rollerblading:
The key, Woody Hayes said years and years ago, you rollerblade in the winter and ice skate in the summer. That means, when you can't do it, how do you improve in the summer? We
can't put on pads. It's nice to be in shape, stronger, but are we better football players August 8th? It will be interesting when we see you guys on the 9th, if we think our team has made the off-season strides as football players.
God bless the old man. Most of the time he sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles so it was hard to piece together his ramblings. He's borderline Boomhauer.
As expected, he took the high road when asked about Ohio State:
You guys have talked. I don't know enough about it. Ohio State to me has been a great, great, great college football program through the years. For all of a sudden, now there's something going on out there, I don't know. I don't know enough about it. I sure as heck don't want to start being critical of situations when I'm not that familiar with them.I try not to even read anything about it. I try to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to do, period. If we do what we're supposed to do, I worry more about answering the question about whether we're going to have an opportunity to play for the conference championship. Those are the kinds of things I think about.
Later on, he was asked about the new rule that could actually take a TD off the board if the player is flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct before crossing the goal line, ie. such penalties will now be considered live ball fouls:
That's the first time I've heard that's a possibility in our game. To be frank with you, I'm not sure what's going on in the pro leagues. I don't pay much attention to what's going on in pro football. That's not to be blasé about a great game. I have enough troubles trying to keep up with these young coaches in college football. I think college football has so many great
young coaches today compared to when I started. The coaching is phenomenal, what they're doing. I don't know the consequences of what might happen when they do that.
You lost me on that one, Joe.
First off, Brady may want to invest in elastic collar shirts. Today's get up looked a little snug.
I thought he had a very interesting response when asked if there was a risk in changing the offense after such a productive 2010:
I think this. There's two sides of the ball in the game of football. I can tell you, and I'm a defensive coach, that when your defense plays against a pro-style offense all spring long, they play against a pro-style offense all fall camp, you build a toughness and an edge because the schemes themselves are different. This is a physical football league, physical offenses, people that run the football. We think we can play better defense by the fact of how we do things on the offensive side of the ball because they feed off each other.
Hoke then slipped into another dimension as illustrated by his take upon being asked what it will take long term to rebuild Michigan to the national powerhouse it was before Rich Rod came on the scene:
Well, I don't think we're rebuilding, period. I mean, we're Michigan. We've got kids who understand that they're Michigan. I don't put any stock into that.
Of course, he did speak well of Ohio State shortly thereafter when opining whether OSU was wounded right now, leading to a recruiting edge:
No, I really don't. That's a tremendous program with tremendous transition, just like we have. We have 42 championships in the Big Ten. When you have schools that have that quality about them, have those legacies, I don't see anybody as wounded.
Last on the docket, Dantonio was blasted with anywhere near as many Tressel questions as expected. When asked for his reaction, Dantonio responded as you'd expect:
Very heart wrenching for me and my family because we're close to Coach Tres. He's had a lot to do with my life as a mentor really since 1983, and that's a long time. That's a tough situation. As I mentioned out there, he's done a lot of good for college football. Every person he's come in contact with as a player and a coach, he's made a positive impact on their lives. To me, it's tragic. He becomes a tragic hero in my respect, in my view. Usually tragic heroes have the ability to rise above it all in the end and that's what I'll look for in the end.
Hopefully Dantonio's words prove prophetic.