Iowa, Penn State players bond over rough times

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The night between Big Ten media days gives players from rival teams the rare opportunity to spend some time together. This isn't quite Ohio State and USC stars partying at the Playboy All-America function, but the players get a chance to hang out in Chicago before the season.

It's a good time for all, though the good vibes rarely last. Three years ago, Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez organized a group -- all of whom were legal drinking age, of course -- and went to a sports bar. Basanez hung out with Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway, who several months later he accused of head-hunting following a game.

Players from several teams met up Thursday night, and Iowa players ended up spending most of the time with the contingent from Penn State. Both the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions have endured their share of problems during the offseason. ESPN's Outside the Lines recently documented Penn State's string of transgressions, while Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and other athletic officials are being investigated for a second time regarding their handling of an alleged sexual assault involving two former football players.

"Both of us have had some off-field issues, and our seasons haven't gone the way we wanted them (to go) the last couple years," Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul said. "We just talked about as leaders, what they're trying to do, what their coaching staff does. You just try to find similarities, how different schools react to the same problems."

Like Kroul, Penn State center and team captain A.Q. Shipley is accepting a greater responsibility for keeping teammates in line this season.

"With (Iowa) going through the same things, dealing with that, talking about that, it was interesting to see how they were handling things, too," Shipley said. "We've been through it for a while. It's good that we're past it now. Guys faced the consequences and were able to move on."

Though the Outside the Lines piece rehashed Penn State's problems, the worst appears to be over in Happy Valley. Iowa is a different story, as an incoming freshman was arrested July 19 after leading Iowa City police on a foot chase.

Kroul said Iowa's team leaders have addressed disciplinary issues throughout the summer and will continue to do so when preseason practice begins Aug. 4.

"We changed some things, made it a little more of an open forum with the older and younger players," he said. "Hopefully, they can feed off us and see how we do things. We're trying to get in more contact with them, let them know that we actually care about them and they're not some little freshmen that don't mean anything to us. It's up to us to keep the Iowa tradition and try to restore the image that we've had."