News, Notes and Final Thoughts From the Big Ten Media Days...

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Dantonio’s Moxie Again Took Center Stage… LINK

 It didn’t take long in Chicago for everyone to agree that Penn State and Ohio State were the top two teams. In fact, it was so widely accepted that very little discussion was wasted debating the subject.

 One of the biggest topics, however, was the green and white led by Mark Dantonio. “I think you have to step back and really look at the job Mark (Dantonio) has done there and really appreciate it as a great coaching job,” was the reaction of Kirk Ferentz, the head coach at Iowa.

 It wasn’t just the topic of coaches, although they certainly had a lot of praise, it was also among the media and here is a source I bet you never thought you would read, the valet parker. When we were leaving Chicago he notices my Michigan license plate and said, “Ya’ll Wolves or Spartans?” Of course, I set the record straight to which he responded, “That coach ya’ll have is good. He (is) makin’ folks here worried about the green.” Now in case you are wondering I had already tipped him, but that sentiment was prevalent at the Big Ten media days.

 

Christmas was green. LINK

 I have never hid my respect for OSU head coach Jim Tressel nor for his nephew Mike whom coaches LBs and Special Teams at MSU. I did find it funny when talking to Jim that he let me know Mike had given him a green sweater vest for Christmas. 

 Tressel is glad that the Spartans and so many close friends and family are not on the Ohio State schedule this year. In fact, he was very open about rooting for the Spartans. I thought back about Roy Williams, the UNC head coach, wearing a Kansas shirt while watching his old team play in the 2008 championship game.

 Tressel is a class act and it can help to have one of the greatest coaches in America on your side. Tressel was more than willing to brag about MSU and Dantonio while in Chicago and not just when people who knew who covered it were around. He was a Spartan and Dantonio PR machine. 

 I can tell you this. Tressel knows that his team is loaded. He knows that his fan base stands solidly behind him and he also takes great pride in Dantonio, this staff, and the job they are doing at a school whose head coaching job at one point he wanted so badly and the powers that be felt he was only a “Small school coach.”

 Luckily, Tressel doesn’t carry a grudge and understands how his steps had been ordered to Columbus. More important than his praise this week, was the fact that when Dantonio called him about coming to MSU, Tressel was emphatic that he “Had to take the job.”

 

Close Call LINK

I posted yesterday the video of Mark Dantonio talking about star TE Dion Sims being hit by a drunk driver. Dantonio said he is fine, but made it clear that it was a “Scare.” Sims came into MSU in great shape with a mentality of a warrior.

He is a TE, but don’t be shocked if Pat Narduzzi takes a page from the past (Kellen Davis) and tries to use him as a speed rusher on 3rd down and passing situations. 

 

Hope for Purdon’t?

 I don’t know Purdue’s new Coach Danny Hope. I do know that he will have a tough time having more success than the departed Joe Tiller. I did respect his guts and confidence this week in Chicago, and his humility with confidence routine reminded me of Mark Dantonio at his first Big Ten Media Day.

 

Pat on the back? LINK

I really like Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. I like him as a person (a great guy) and as a coach. He has grown into a fine coach and I already knew that my friend, the late Randy Walker (FMR coach at Northwestern), respected him and wanted him to succeed him, but Randy would be proud.

 He had a Randy moment that you can watch in the video section, but I will tell you about here. Ron Zook the Illinois coach floated an idea about playing Northwestern at Wrigley Field. It is a great idea and I love it. I threw it out to Fitz who quickly made it clear that it would be THEIR home game and details were yet to come. He wasn’t about to let his biggest Big Ten rival take the limelight from his school and the newly minted Hall of Famer showed some of the fight that made him such a great player.

 Fitz and I also talked about the Red Wings vs. Blackhawks and the new Hossa acquisition. He is an avid Hawks fan and it is great to see NW with a coach that truly loves and embraces the city.

 

Bretter more than less? LINK

I have never hid my respect and admiration for Bret Bielema. I think it is preposterous and stupid for the Badger fan base to give him the criticism he has taken this year. His run at Wisconsin has been great after taking over for Barry Alvarez. With that said, I addressed my feelings about the criticism and on the record he made it very clear that he would rather be someplace with them than without them.

 Badger fans need to be careful. How long will Ferentz say no to other offers (word is that he is waiting for Joe Pa to retire), and Iowa comes back looking for their favorite son? Bielema brought up his Hawkeye tattoo that he got as a player for Iowa again this weekend. It is perhaps the most talked about sport’s tattoo, but I saw it as more than some of my colleagues. Badger fans are not happy with that tat and I thought Bielema bringing it up was maybe a shot back at his fan base. Bielema is not one to be pushed around. I don’t think he would ever admit it, but at the time I thought that and still do. Good for Bret.

 

JoePa the Magnificent! LINK

It is humbling to sit and listen to Coach Paterno. The respect and affection of the other 11 coaches is evident and he is always a great quote. Maybe with his age, or success, or personality or perhaps all three, he refuses the easy route. He railed against politics in sports and any other subject that people would bring up with his own honest straightforward talk. Other coaches were more careful not to rock the Big Ten offices on the record, but not JoePa. He could care less.

 

M Rod is All Right LINK

I can’t think of anything that makes the hate mail flow from Spartan fans to me than when I admit I like M Rod. I have said numerous times why, but having gotten to know him before he came to UM, I wasn’t clouded in my judgment.

 I thought it was ignorant of people to rip him for instilling his system last season in Ann Arbor. If they did it slowly it would have taken a long time. I think he did the right thing and when we talked about it he laughed at the critics. M Rod might not fit in with the UM aristocracy, but the rank and file fan loves the guy.

I am not convinced he will get the time it takes to turn the program into what he sees it as with his system. If he does get that time, they will be a formidable foe and I see the UM vs. MSU football rivalry becoming the Duke vs. UNC of basketball. Like I said, I don’t think he gets the time, but I do respect him.

 

Kirk in the Pants LINK

I have called Kirk Ferentz the Tom Osborne of this generation. He is a great. He is also a friend of Mark Dantonio. If anyone could pick up the mantle of Joe Paterno for his lack of concern for political correctness and playing the Big Ten political games it would be him. Perhaps it is fitting that many feel he would take the job as Joe Pa’s successor. 

Anyways, he and I talked about his plan of lengthening the schedule from 12 games to 13 and the Big Ten playing each other making ten of the 13 games as Big Ten affairs. He also mentioned you would have to add scholarships, but with the increased revenue it would be possible. He also addressed those that think it is too much, but adding that going from 11 to 12 games was all about revenue.

 

Zooked? LINK

 I also have commented that I like Ron Zook. One on one, he is so engaging and great to talk to. Sadly, I think the abuse he took at Florida keeps him from opening up in settings with a lot of people.

 If every member of the media made the trip to Champaign to interview him they would see a different side. I was disappointed in the job he did. I wished he would have been more comfortable and let the media see what recruits do and people in smaller settings. He is a great recruiter and a good coach. I will have an article this week on his superstar Arrelious Benn who has a great story and is a great kid. We talked about his recruitment and the people attacked Zook, to his highly moving personal story and being on the precipice of college degree. 

 

 

So there are some notes from Chicago. I didn’t mention Bill Lynch at Indiana. To be frank, I have said that I think he will be terminated after or near the end of the season. Lynch is a good man and I don’t ever root for that with anyone. With saying that, I didn’t feel there was a lot to say.

I also didn’t talk to Tim Brewster, the Minnesota coach. I don’t know him personally at all. I simply am not impressed with him as a coach and didn’t have anything germane to talk about with him. I will be posting the video of his press conference, but didn’t have anything I needed to talk to him about so I have no notes to add other than what I previously posted in my team scouting report and prediction.

 I will have a lot more video later so enjoy!