Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Thursday marks the official start to the Big Ten football season, as players and coaches from all 11 teams meet the media at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Unlike some of the other conferences, which sprinkle several teams into media sessions that span two or three days, the Big Ten throws everybody at us at once. Having covered Big Ten media days for the last six years, the format can be a little overwhelming, but not too awful.
Here's how things will work. The two-day event begins Thursday at 10:15 a.m. Central time with a short video showing key points for college football officials in the 2008 season. After the video, the 11 coaches will conduct 15-minute question-and-answer sessions on the dais. Each coach then leaves the ballroom and usually spends a few more minutes taking questions in the hallway before their sports information director whisks them away to do TV interviews. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany follows the coaches and does a one-hour question-and-answer session from 2-3 p.m.
Since 11 coaches appear in a fairly short time span (10:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m.) with only one 30-minute break, the first day doesn't have a ton of value. Every coach says how excited he is for the season, talks about his returning starters, takes a few questions and leaves. There are exceptions, though, and this year should produce some first-day intrigue. Here's a look:
Purdue coach Joe Tiller is always entertaining. He talks about fishing in Wyoming or Montana or someplace. Unlike his colleagues, he rarely wears a tie. Plus, he's always candid about his team, rule changes, etc. Tiller usually shows up well before the sessions begin and he'll hang out in the back of the ballroom to hear the other coaches talk.
Joe Paterno is 81 years old, and he doesn't waste anyone's time, including his own. Paterno always passes up the long-winded, normally flavorless opening statement and goes straight to questions from the media. He'll undoubtedly be asked about his future at Penn State for the 10,000th time. I'm interested to hear his thoughts about the quarterback competition between Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin.
Rich Rodriguez makes his first appearance at Big Ten media days, and much of the attention will be on the new Michigan coach. He might have to rehash his recent settlement with West Virginia, but I'm more interested in his outlook for Michigan's offense. His system usually doesn't click in the first year. Will this time be different?
With everything going on at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz's 15 minutes on the dais should be, well, interesting. The Iowa coach can't say much about the ongoing sexual assault case involving two former players, but he might defend the way he and other school officials responded to the alleged victim and her family.
Delany will discuss the Big Ten Network's long-awaited deal with Comcast and possibly his status as a college football playoff pariah.
The second day of media meetings brings better stories and more excitement, as the players join their coaches for a two-hour session with reporters. Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman and Big Ten coordinator of officials Dave Parry also will be available. Things begin at 8 a.m. Friday. Getting to all 46 interview tables in 120 minutes is impossible, but I'll do my best to bring you a solid sampling.
The biggest crowds are usually around Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel, but Rodriguez, Ferentz and Illinois coach Ron Zook will get their share of visitors. Ohio State's star threesome of James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Todd Boeckman won't be lonely. By the way, I forgot to complain about having no Beanie Wells at media days. I get the bringing-the-seniors thing, but he's a legit Heisman Trophy contender. Other players sure to be mobbed include Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum, Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, Illinois quarterback Juice Williams and all three Penn State invitees (Josh Gaines, A.Q. Shipley and Derrick Williams).
Possible highlights of Day 2 include:
Finding out from Jenkins what really happened at the Playboy All-America event.
Talking to Illinois linebacker Brit Miller, one of the most charismatic personalities in the league. The kid is hilarious.
Spending some time with Michigan defensive end Tim Jamison and cornerback Morgan Trent. Everyone's focused on the offense, but the Wolverines' defense could be pretty good.
Getting Dave Parry's thoughts on rule changes and becoming the first National Coordinator of Collegiate Football Officiating.
So there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about Big Ten media days. Unlike my colleagues, I'm not staying at the Ritz or heading to Vegas. I'll be saving the company money and making the short trip down Lake Shore Drive from my home on the city's North Side. The blog should be buzzing the next two days, so check it out. And e-mail me any questions or comments as the event goes along.