Quite the opposite from the circus surrounding SEC Media Days two weeks ago, which kicks off the college football preseason, the other conference that dominates college football is closing the three-week long Black Friday for the sport with standard, routine stories.
You would think Big Ten Media Days would begin with a bang: two new teams in the conference, James Franklin as the new Penn State head coach, and the looming issue over all of college football that revolves around paying athletes.
But Commissioner Jim Delany, who is no stranger to great sound bites, set the tone for the day as he gave noncontroversial answers to everything. According to a story on ESPN that you can see here, Delany had a boring, uninteresting answer for everything brought up to him.
Instead of adding to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s comments about cheating paying, all Delany said about the issue Monday was, “We need a system that works.”
When talking about new autonomy measures giving the Power Five Conferences more rights to make their own rules, he simply said he thinks that will pass and he doesn’t know what they’d do if it doesn’t.
And when talking about the Ed O’Bannon trial, which he testified in, Delany simply said he hopes education continues to play a major role in college sports.
He did manage to pull his typical comments about the Big Ten stressing academics and athletics, and to be fair, the Big Ten is pretty elite in both. But come on, who cares how good the academics are in college sports?
Then coaches followed and proceeded to say nothing themselves. Brady Hoke provided some insight into possibly cutting out some of the Rose Bowl activities this year because it’s one of the semifinal games. There were some funny player moments. But only one coach stood out in his press conference…..
James Franklin Takes Over Media Days
Penn State Coach James Franklin is the one guy that’ll keep the TMZ part of this conference going with his sense of humor and willingness to let you know that he was hired for Penn State, not to make you happy. Franklin immediately provided some entertainment with his comments about Penn State logos and elevators that hardly made sense, and then he joked about creating a pipeline to Canada.
Ask anybody in State College and it appears that Franklin has already won over the fan base there without winning a game. Winning at Vanderbilt will prove any coach’s abilities enough, and next year’s recruiting class for Penn State right now looks incredible. Remember they’re still on probation. Perhaps after decades of having a completely hands-off college coach (in more ways than he should’ve been) and then an NFL coach who didn’t seem to enjoy the college coaching life, Franklin is proving to be the exact jolt of energy Central Pennsylvania needs.
And he’s already managed to create tension with other places, including the school where he was once the head coach in waiting but passed over for in 2010. That’s right, down the road, Franklin has been fanning the flames in College Park, Md. the past few months, saying that he will own the state of Maryland for recruiting. But in perhaps the only exciting war of words of the day, Maryland Terps Coach Randy Edsall noted Monday that it’s what you do with who you recruit, not simply who you recruit. And that brings us to the last entertaining point…
Welcome Maryland and Rutgers
The first major Big Ten event that Maryland and Rutgers were able to take part in happened Monday, and representatives of both appeared ready and extremely appreciative.
Sticking with Maryland, Edsall continued his year-long story now about how excited he is to be in the Big Ten and how he told Athletic Director Kevin Anderson to jump at the opportunity if it came.
Making jumps into bigger divisions is nothing new for Edsall, and it’s something he seems to be pretty good at handling. As he noted today, he was an assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars as they were an expansion team turned into a quick winner in the 1990s, and then he oversaw Connecticut jump from Division I-AA to the Big East, where they won the conference championship in 2010.
This could be a little bit of a different animal because Edsall won’t have nearly the time he was given at UCONN to be competitive in the Big Ten, but he’s starting out in a pretty good situation with a veteran quarterback and very solid skill players, provided everybody stays healthy.
Rutgers Coach Kyle Flood did a pretty good job of selling why the Scarlet Knights belong in the Big Ten, a union he called a “tremendous marriage.” The oldest FBS school in the oldest power conference does make sense.
The most interesting part to me, though, is Flood managed to bring up his hire of former Terps Head Coach Ralph Friedgen, who will be his offensive coordinator. But he managed not to mention anything about Maryland when bringing him up. Remember, there is very bad blood between the University of Maryland administration and its former coach of 10 years, who says he burned his UMD diploma.
When you add to that the fact that Edsall made a point to talk about the culture change needed his first year in College Park because his players never had experience being held accountable for anything, then there will definitely be some tension when Rutgers heads to Byrd Stadium in November for the last regular season game of the year. If Maryland’s season goes as expected, that game could be to determine if the Terps could become bowl eligible. You don’t think Friedgen, as brilliant an offensive mind he is despite being terrible at everything else, won’t try to come up with the best strategy of his life to win that game?
Time will tell how both teams fare their inaugural and future seasons in the Big Ten, but for now, it’s still the honeymoon.