In the land of the perverts, the team who only wanted to play a make-up game is king.
Or was it land of the blind and the one-eyed man? I get so confused - is that quote attributed to Erasmus or the eyeless drug dealer who tormented Tom Cruise/John Anderton in Minority Report? Never mind, I’m already off on a tangent.
The B1G, which drips with good ol’ midwestern toughness and values, caught a bad break when the the cork blew off of Northwestern’s team bonding and negative reinforcement models. Instead of an annual celebration of everything which makes the Big 10 great and 14 groups of coaches and players for whom everything is still possible, we got instead yet another dose of something which has become just Big 10 as hell.
Yes, the conference which blazed the perversion trail with Penn State’s follies and the Michigan/Michigan State doctors has opened a new door - or a very old one. Northwestern has chucked their hat in the ring in a big way allegations of 50’s and older-style abuse and hazing over four sports (so far) and both genders. The football fellers think gettin’ nekkid with each other will inspire a higher quality of play and baseball, volleyball and softball have also been of the opinion that abuse will make things better.
Heck, they even chucked in some of the behavior toward minority players which cost Iowa a $4M settlement when that smoke cleared.
Donning Purge masks and naked dry humping freshman? Naked pull-ups? Naked QB snaps under center?? (Any one who ever played QB or center, non-shotgun, knows how bad this truly is).
And just for good measure in what seems 0% shocking, rumors are startin’ to snowball in the direction of the rowmaster himself. Yes, the PJ Fleck who himself craves attention to the point of plastic surgery may be running a little cult of his own.
The Big 10 is right there with the SEC in forward thinking and staying a few steps ahead of everyone else, there’s no denying it. But there’s also no denying that we are a conference of perverts and deviants and it’s starting to turn into goddamned Whack-A-Mole around here as scandal pops up in another place faster than the previous one is smashed to meat and bone by a mallet.
Even in Nebraska, the horrors are unavoidable as rumors exploded recently that the volleyball team was held away from the training table so only football players could dine. But thankfully, head coach Matt Rhule was there to squash the rumors with a smile:
So I have left the confines of Omaha for Indianapolis and B1G Football Media days. I made my way over to Lucas Oil Stadium which does have the feel of a high school basketball arena managing to feel snug on the field, but maybe that’s because Memorial Stadium holds around 23,000 more seats.
For Day 1, I mainly just spent time getting my bearings and just tried to take some notes as the day rolled along. I’ll have much more info tomorrow when HCMR takes the main stage followed by him, Ethan Piper, Jeff Sims and Luke Reimer taking some questions.
But as I walked into B1G Football Media Days today, like Obi-Wan to Mos Eisley before me, I couldn’t help but think I would never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
I must be cautious.*
(* - Mostly kidding of course, most coaches and players I saw in interviews and conversing with people were very fun and polite.)
So anyway, here’s some quick hits on head coach interviews at the main podium today.
CHECKING IN AND WANDERING AROUND
- Did a tour of the joint and the BIG 10 does truly take it over & make it their own. See the pics below.
- The 1st celeb bump-intos of the day were Rick Neuheisl, Bert (Bret Bielema for those who don’t know who Bert is), and Kirk Ferentz - The universe hates me.
- OK, there’s Gerry DiNardo & Barry Alvarez. I feel a little better.
- I found the breakfast, the under the stadium interview rooms & my 1st secret door. Has a guard but I still haven’t seen what secret badge permits entry.
- On the corner big screens, they’re throwing up major award winners - Heisman, Maxwell, O’Brien, Butkus, Guy, Rimington….uh…What the hell is a Burlsworth Trophy? I’m serious.
- Taking a selfie & a badge pic. Figure I might as well announce to the room I’m a rookie.
- Add Mel Tucker & Greg Schiano to the early wanderers. Only have David Braun & Ryan Day left and no idea what Braun looks like.
- Who will win the B1G Media Days Ruddy Reddest Face Award? Likely to happen today since both Bert & Ryan Day are on the podium. (I hate Ryan Day. Anytime I use his name in a sentence with the word “day”, it feels like overkill.)
- Since Jim Harbaugh isn’t on till tomorrow, we’ll have to wait till then for him to make excuses for lying like to the NCAA like an asshole. It was buying burgers for players, dude. No one cares in an NIL world, it would’ve been a slap on the wrist. If the Cavinder twins can get dinner from a Miami booster on a recruiting trip…
- How funny is it that the top 2 guys known for lying about something they would’ve gotten into less trouble for just fessing up are former Michigan QB’s. Looking at you Mr. Deflategate.
- Also, it’s fitting in the Big 10 world of perversions and misbehavior that Harbaugh is the living embodiment of every police sketch of a serial killer - the cap, glasses, blank face. Yep, he’s the one I saw diggin’ a hole in the park, detective
- By the way, B1G Media Days has a DJ and he is into it.
Big 10 Commish Tony Petitti
- People are unsure if the media is supposed to clap for him. The day started off with light smatterings and gave it up by the time Mel Tucker got done.
- The Wifi went out almost the moment he hit the stage.
- He gives shout-outs to HC Matt Rhule and whoever the other new
- 1st question - SHOCKER - someone from NW is asking if there’s more punishment in store. Excellent non-answer (waiting for more internal investigations) which for me translated to yes, many more to come.
- A Chicago reporter wants to know if the conference is gonna lay into other schools to catch them hazing too. Northwestern is in Chicago by the way. He so wanted to say, “Cmon, you know everyone is doing it do.”
- He was just asked how he intends to fix the transfer portal. Assume NIL questions to follow. His opinions are nice but these are national issues.
- NIL questions slightly outnumbered Northwestern questions in Round 1.
Bert Bret Bielema - Illinois
- The mediocre QB club of Joel Klatt, Gary Danielson and Todd Blackledge come out to pump themselves and FOX/CBS. Oh and also to introduce Bert who’s standing off to the side with a “Let’s just get this shit over.” look on his face.
- “It’s great to be back, very excited to be back…” Bert sounds like it’s not and he’s not.
- To be fair, he did pick it up. In the opening remarks, his total number of “uh’s” was roughly 236, sometimes machine-gunning 2-4 in a row.
- I kid - I used to do that and now just try to go silent while I wait for the thought to pop. The downside is people look at me like I’m having an Alzheimer’s attack or a Calling like a character in Manifest.
- Kudos to Bert after hearing Dabo, Sabes and now Lane Kiffen bitch nonstop - Bert jumped in front of transfer/NIL furor by saying he’s just accepted it’s around to stay and they’re trying to work with it as best they can. The coaches who take this approach will succeed. The ones who bitch and gripe will not.
- In what will probably be asked of every coach by someone today - some form of “Is there hazing in your locker room?”
- It’s the Chicago guy again. Dude, we get it.
- As to hiring Jim Leonhard, former Wisconsin DC (and linebacker) - he set up a meeting with him on his 1st day at Wisconsin when hired there and Jim was a player and they ended up hitting it off. He said he reached out as soon as he heard he wasn’t being retained on staff and the analyst thing just ended up working out.
Greg Schiano - Rutgers
- Goddamn, Gary Danielson, quit yelling, they have speakers everywhere. Did Schiano’s intro and blew out a few sets of eardrums.
- I love the canned fight songs as each coach walks up. I know the B1G loves its “old school” nonsense, but they’re doing amazing things digitally with sound recording these days. Just saying, so far the fight songs sound like cassette tapes from the late 70’s.
- Greg says Rutgers is a developmental program. You’re kidding. Not a top 20 recruiting class there every year?
- Questions for Coach Schiano? There was about a 4-5 second pause before the 1st one. Just long enough for it to start getting awkward.
- Hey, it’s Sam McKeown from the Omaha WH popping the obligatory what will you change about NIL/portal? I don’t think Greg really deals with NIL - he said something about the wanting the schools to have a part in it and “Bring it back in-house.” Yeesh, that’s never happening. (To be fair, I really think he just was going, crap, why didn’t I bring my NIL guy, I don’t know about this.)
- Chicago guy back with the hazing question. Eyes are officially rolling at this dude.
- However on NIL, like Bert, he said he realized he’s not gonna change it by himself, so he adapted and that’s that. Definitely better responses than hungover-looking Lane Kiffin bitching about it while cashing seven-figure checks.
Mel Tucker - Michigan State
- Mel gets an introduction from Jenny Dell, the host of CBS Campus Eats. Need to track her down for a place to eat tonight. And not just because she’s cute. Which she is. But around the stadium doesn’t look like the best place to wander and hopefully get lucky on food.
- Credit to Michigan State - their fight song sounded like it was actually produced this decade.
- I’d say “Hey, it’s Mel Tucker in one of his last appearances here!” except for the fact his buyout would probably fall into the range of the school’s Larry Nassar legal fees. That is still playing out as THE worst college head coaching contract in history.
- Holy crap - Phil Thompson, Chicago Tribune, finally caught his name - will be asking every single coach what they’ve done to root out and prevent hazing.
- Mel got asked something along the lines of “Hey, heard you guys did some team-building activities in the off-season. What kind of things did you do?” Heh heh, okay guy, I see what you’re doing there. It’s not like he’s going to answer, “Well, first off, it was tough finding Purge masks for all the seniors-”
- Mel is not electric. I am truly wondering what convinced an AD/school president to give this guy 10 years and $90M. A quick perusal of stats show his Michigan St dream season was a pile of lucky breaks.
David Braun - Northwestern
- And here we go. Everyone running up grabbing seats and jumping up with their cameras.
- Just to let everyone know, David Braun is in his first year at Northwestern. And the Power 5. And Division 1. He was the DC the last 4 years at North Dakota St.
- Also, this is his 1st college head coaching job ever.
- With allegations surrounding several other assistant coaches as well, everything seems to scream of Northwestern saying this is the only guy who couldn’t possibly be involved.
- I’m a cynic but he appears to be eating up as much of the 15 mins with his intro remarks. Cut back on the 500 questions coming at him.
- 11 or minutes of the 15 were the opening remarks. That was no accident. Got off light with 4 total questions.
- Ooooo, here comes the question about all the other assistant coaches who have been called out in lawsuits as aiding or participating in the naked stuff & how does he feel about having them on staff. Had a prepared, say-nothinganswer ready, but that is the issue. And will be asked. A lot.
- So basically the lawsuits have allegations about multiple assistants some of whom participated and a couple who were recipients of the hazing. It’s a ridiculous position to be in right before practice starts.
- Also think of all the players. The ones who actively engaged are still on the team as far as we know. Unless this all turns into an “oops, my bad”, it appears as if the only choice is forge ahead minus the head coach but retaining everyone who was active in it. Insanity.
James Franklin - Penn State
- James Franklin is the early leader for being comfy in front of the mike.
- Feel bad for him - the place cleared out hard after Braun finished
- Lol - 247 dude starts off his question about the open QB job by saying, “Coach, you haven’t had to have quarterback battle in several years -” and James cuts him off with, “Just to be clear, we’ve had a quarterback battle EVERY year.” Good one, coach.
- Kudos though - the guy picked himself up off the canvas with, “Ok, the first time in awhile you haven’t had an incumbent,” and finished out. Way to take the 8-count and clinch to get out of the round.
- Good sesh there. I think James will be at Penn State for a long time.
Kirk Ferentz - Iowa
- Listening to Kirk Ferentz has the same effect on me as well….zzzzz
- Wait, I’m awake. But yeah, that monotone is about as exciting as watching his kid’s offense.
- I don’t think he wants to answer questions either; he finishes second to Braun eating up about half the question time with opening remarks.
- Cedar Falls Gazette lobs him a question about how with the large number potentially involved how many 1st or 2nd teamers could be hung up in the gambling investigation. Kirk gets salty. “First off, it’s NOT a large number of players (frown).”
- Will anyone ask him about the $4M hit the athletic department took for the racial discrimination settlement? Probably not. And definitely not the fact that roster is still 75-80% white.
- Kirk asked about what changed for him to finally turn to the portal. Despite the answer about great fits, etc., he doesn’t look happy about it. However that’s not totally fair since he doesn’t look happy about anything. Definitely the anti-James Franklin.
- C’mon - someone ask him about his spawn’s minimum 25 ppg average in the contract.
- Gary Barta’s retirement got brought up. SOOOO tempting to ask, “How did Gary Barta feel when informed of his ‘retirement’?” I would, but I’d like to come back next year.
- Kirk just brought up offensive and defensive line stats and then said “But I won’t bore you with those,” without realizing the irony of that statement after the last 15 minutes.
Ryan Day - Ohio State
- Ryan Day takes the ruddy look title. He’s red-faced like it’s the 3rd quarter in a November blowing snow game in Piscataway.
- Since Ohio State doesn’t have 1) a new coach, 2) a current scandal of some sort and 3) Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune asking him what he’s done to root out hazing (apparently left with the crowd after Braun), we’re getting questions like, “Who’s your backup quarterback?”
- Quite frankly, the rest of Ryan Day’s session just made wonder if lunch is being served.
- On the upside, the thunder outside makes me glad I brought the car. We were told to get parking passes at gate. The parking pass was apparently pulling up and telling them we were here for B1G Media Days.
Some Quick Hits From David Braun’s Booth Remarks
- See the pics below. Three weeks ago, who would have bet the people surrounding Northwestern’s Head Coach would equal those around Ryan Day?
- He and his wife are expecting a new kid this weekend??? Hope I misheard that.
- On recruiting: Admits trying to both retain recruits and attract new players to the program in this situation will be an incredible challenge.
- Stated flat out that many of these young men wish Fitzgerald was still their coach.
- On the new Big 10 TV deal and how it would benefit Northwestern: laughed and said he has no idea, he’s still learning about that
- On how do you fix all this: He hopes after everything is over, he can look in the mirror and know he tried to do it the right way.
- Admits he will have to reach out to others with much more experience and wisdom for advice.
A Few Shots From Day 1