Questions We'd Love to Ask at 2014 Big Ten Media Days
If ever there was a list of events that could be described as a "media circus," certainly the various football conference media days have to rank near the top. Chicago will again be the center of the Big Ten football world, and over the two days (July 28-29) we're sure to be treated to another cacophony of quasi-football bedlam.
But mixed in with all the hoopla and frivolity, unlike some other conferences that seem to spend a little too much time in the sun, the Big Ten still manages to keep things pretty centered on football. With that in mind, we've put together some questions we'd love to have answered at the 2014 Big Ten Media Days.
Sure, there will be a lot of light-hearted moments, and laughter is a great way to get through the dog days of a football-less summer. But for many Big Ten fans, there are some burning questions that deserve attention prior to kickoff.
With a list of Media Days attendees in hand, it's time to make the rounds with our list of questions we're just dying to ask this year at the Big Ten's Media Days.
The ring leader for our Big Ten circus is commissioner Jim Delany. He has presided over one of the most financially successful eras any collegiate conference has ever enjoyed, and the Big Ten shows no signs of slowing down—especially with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland in prime media markets.
Jim Delany will be joined by Tournament of Roses President Rich Chinen.
Questions for Jim Delany:
"With other conferences (SEC, Pac-12) having started or soon to start their own networks, are you at all concerned that the Big Ten is no longer 'unique' or 'special' in having it's own branded network?"
"ESPN is undoubtedly the biggest media player in college sports, with commentators and opinion-makers that can shift the national opinion and influence the all-important polls. The SEC Network is owned outright by ESPN. The Big Ten owns half of its own network. Are you concerned that with ESPN owning the SEC Network outright will further shift the balance of ESPN's coverage/advocacy for the SEC?"
"After initially floating a 'Division IV' idea for the 'Big Five' power conferences, you seemed to back off of the position. In the end, wasn't it all just a ploy to scare the NCAA into granting you more autonomy? Really? Really, really?"
"With the Big Ten leading the way in television contracts, now expected to top $40 million per school, most Big Ten athletic programs should be able to operate in the black or at least breaking even. Will the Big Ten attempt to institute more control over how that money cycles back to the benefit of the athletes, and while you're at it, can I get cab fare?"
Question for Rich Chinen:
"With the College Football Playoff beginning this season, there's ever increasing chances the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions won't both be available to play against one another in any one particular season. What is the Tournament of Roses doing to fight for maintaining that traditional matchup we all want to see?"
Purdue and Northwestern
Both Purdue and Northwestern have enjoyed success over the years. Unfortunately, 2013 wasn't one of those years for either school.
Questions for Pat Fitzgerald:
"You said last year it was 'time for action.' How's that going for you guys? Seriously, 1-7 in conference place can't be what you had in mind. How can you keep Northwestern from reverting to its status as conference doormat?"
"Is there anything you can do that hasn't been done already to get Northwestern over the hump? The program seems to occasionally get close to lasting success, only to see it come crashing down around Ryan Field. What's next?"
"With all of the media coverage surrounding your players' unionization vote (of which we still don't know the voting results), how can you get beyond the distractions and focus your entire program simply on the task of winning football games?"
"Do Northwestern fans even know you guys play football on Saturdays?"
Questions for Darrell Hazell:
"How are you feeling after your first Big Ten season (1-11, 0-8 in conference)?"
"Purdue has a long history of great quarterbacks. Now, however, it seems as if you can't find a reliable starter. Are you planning on sticking with Danny Etling, or should we expect to see more fresh faces rotating at the position in 2014?"
After another lackluster season finishing 7-6 (3-5 in the Big Ten), Brady Hoke could very well find his seat a little toasty for 2014. Big Blue isn't accustomed to residing in the bottom half of the Big Ten standings, and things are going to get very uncomfortable for Hoke if the Wolverines can't make some sort of tangible progress this season.
Questions for Brady Hoke:
"Michigan has had some major struggles on offense recently. What major changes are we going to see in 2014 with the arrival of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier?"
"Is Devin Gardner still 'your guy,' or is there room for a move to a more traditional quarterback in Shane Morris? I mean, it's not like Gardner can't play receiver—which he's done before, and was pretty good, too."
"Are you cognizant of any pressure on your job status when it comes to earning a prominent bowl berth and then actually delivering a victory?"
"Is Jabrill Peppers really that awesome? Can he really be the savior for which U-M fans have been eagerly awaiting?"
Questions for Frank Clark and Jake Ryan:
"You guys will be the leaders of the defensive unit this season. What is changing that can give fans hope for improved defensive performances against teams like Ohio State and Michigan State?"
"With the offense struggling (a lot), is Michigan's defense up to the task to generating short fields and providing an anemic offense with at least a legitimate shot at winning football games?"
If you want to see a coach squirm on the hot seat, look no further than Illinois' Tim Beckman. After two seasons, Beckman has put together a 6-18 record, winning just a single game in conference play against 15 losses.
It's do or die for Beckman's career at Illinois in 2014.
Questions for Tim Beckman:
"With just one win in two seasons in conference play, what reasons do you have for Illini fans to be hopeful about 2014?"
"Illinois is a long way removed from the good old days of the 2008 trip to the Rose Bowl Game. Understanding that incremental steps are going to be required, what benchmark are you setting for yourself and your team this season that we can hold you to come December?"
Jerry Kill's third year at Minnesota was his best thus far, guiding the Golden Gophers to an 8-5 record (4-4 in the Big Ten). Despite not getting past the top teams in the conference last season, Minnesota has now reached the stage of beating the teams they should—a far cry from the years of losing to FCS opponents.
Questions for Jerry Kill:
"How are you planning on building on the success of 2013? What is the next step and who are the student-athletes you believe can carry the team to the next level?"
"Over your tenure at Minnesota, you've occasionally missed time due to your ongoing health concerns. First, how is your health, and secondly, how are you, your staff and your players working to mitigate the unavoidable distractions that come from your condition?"
"You were given a raise and contract extension at the end of the 2013 season. What do you feel you owe Minnesota for that trust, and how do you plan on proving to the school and to the fans you're worth it?"
Rutgers and Maryland
Maryland's Randy Edsall and Rutgers' Kyle Flood are all set to participate in their first Big Ten Media Days, and because both are brand new members of the Big Ten, both will see a whole host of very similar questions.
Questions for Kyle Flood:
"You've recently outlined your goals for Rutgers during the transition to the Big Ten. Making a bowl game is great and all, but have you set some realistic goals for the team's performance in the East Division in 2014? What's a success in terms of number of conference wins?"
"With a shift in media footprint, it obviously opens up a much larger area in which Rutgers can actively recruit. Are there any plans to start sniping some high-level recruits from Ohio, Michigan and further west?"
"The Big Ten isn't exactly the Big East/AAC. Is there anything you will be able to do in the short term—this season—to try and improve on your 6-7 (3-5 in conference) record against a noticeably higher level of competition?"
Questions for Randy Edsall:
"Maryland has had trouble competing with the top teams in the ACC over the past several seasons. Even with outstanding players like Stefon Diggs, your program has struggled to compete for conference titles. Do you expect anything different now that you're replacing opponents like Florida State, Clemson and Miami with Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan?"
"What has been the biggest challenge for Maryland in its move to the Big Ten?"
"You're 13-24 at Maryland having never finished better than fifth place in the ACC's Atlantic Division. What personal goals do you have for your performance that could convince people at Maryland you're the right guy for the job moving forward?"
In three years, Kevin Wilson has taken Indiana from a 1-11 team to a 5-7 squad in 2013. Indiana now has one of the most powerful, electric offenses in the nation. Unfortunately, the defense is the exact inverse of the offense, allowing 38.8 points per game last season (115th in the nation).
Questions for Kevin Wilson:
"As good as your offense has been, what needs to change about your defense so Indiana can finally return to a bowl game?"
"With the loss of dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson, does that mean we'll see even more passing in 2014 (Indiana threw the ball 40 times per game in 2013)?"
"Will Nate Sudfeld now get the role as full-time signal-caller?"
"How is your relationship progressing with local talk radio?"
After Bill O'Brien left town in a huff, Penn State was faced with finding its second new head coach in three years after spending much of the past five decades under a single, larger-than-life figure. James Franklin is now the guy in Happy Valley, and he'll likely have the task of leading Penn State out of its bowl banned, NCAA-sanctioned years into, hopefully, a new era of success.
Questions for James Franklin:
"With some of the well-publicized gripes of a certain former Penn State coach, how have the people in and around the program welcomed you?"
"We haven't seen any recruits commit to Penn State since early June. Despite having an early lead in Big Ten recruiting (according to 247Sports.com), there's some concern you may have lost that 'new car smell.' What's changed?"
"Keeping in mind the NCAA sanctions, including a postseason ban, no conference championship possibility, no bowl game and reduced scholarships all added to the loss of one of the conference's top receivers in recent memory (Allen Robinson), what is your biggest challenge in your first season as head coach at Penn State?"
Of all the college football coaches in the nation, few are as fiery and unpredictable as Bo Pelini. From defending himself to his players to his program, Pelini has been known to lash out from time to time. Just as entertaining, Pelini can also be funny in an oddball sort of way.
We don't know what Pelini version we'll be getting until we actually get it, but you can be sure this is one presser you'll want to catch.
Questions for Bo Pelini:
"In your entire career, you've never—not once—had a season in which the Huskers have lost fewer than four games. It's difficult, if not impossible, to win a conference championship that way. In Year 7, how are you going to buck that trend?"
"What advice could you give Kyle Flood and Randy Edsall about transitioning to the Big Ten?"
"When are we going to see your cat again? Is he going to become part of the team's rituals this season?"
Question for Ameer Abdullah:
"You led the Big Ten in rushing last season and you now have people buzzing about an encore performance that could lead to a Heisman-worthy season. Is the Heisman Trophy an honest goal for you this season? How about 2,000 rushing yards?"
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has the task of continuing the upward swing of Iowa's up-again, down-again progression. The coach since 1999, Ferentz is as much of an institution as you find about Big Ten coaches these days, and although Iowa City hasn't seen a Big Ten title since 2004, last season was definitely a good step in the right direction.
Questions for Kirk Ferentz:
"You have a lineman in Brandon Scherff that is perhaps the best lineman the Big Ten has seen since Michigan's Jake Long. How can you properly exploit his skills to get the maximum benefit in 2014?"
"It's been a decade since Iowa's last taste of a Big Ten title, and Pasadena hasn't been a January destination for the Hawkeyes since before you took over as head coach. Can you still play to the championship aspirations of recruits, and how do you make clear to them a championship is still a legitimate and reachable goal for your program?"
When Bret Bielema ditched Madison to take over a struggling Arkansas program, some observers might have predicted tough times for Wisconsin. But after Gary Andersen's first season at the helm—and nine wins later—it's probably safe to assume those fears were unfounded.
Don't kid yourself, though; Wisconsin is still in the midst of a transition and there are bound to be a few more bumps along the way. But as coaching transitions go, this one has been pretty painless.
Questions for Gary Andersen:
"Now that you've proven life after Bielema is bearable for Wisconsin fans, what's next to prove Big Ten championships are not only possible, but likely in the Andersen era?"
"Wisconsin has always been a run-first kind of team with at least two and usually three quality backs toting the ball. We know what Melvin Gordon can do, and Corey Clement is a great up-and-coming back. Who, if anyone, can be the next great 'third option' for the Badgers in 2014?"
Question for Melvin Gordon:
"You broke out in 2013 and will be the No. 1, go-to guy in 2014. What strengths at Wisconsin will you rely on to challenge Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah for the Big Ten rushing crown this season?"
Urban Meyer began his tenure at Ohio State with 24 consecutive victories. Seemingly overnight, thanks to the likes of Michigan State and Clemson, Ohio State is now looking at a two-game losing streak.
Urban Meyer is still undoubtedly one of the nation's best coaches and was chasing down some pretty interesting records involved with the start of a coaching tenure (such as Walter Camp's 28 straight wins at Yale in 1888 and 1889 to start his tenure there). But sometimes a loss can serve to galvanize a program. Now we just need to see how Ohio State responds to rare adversity in Columbus.
Questions of Urban Meyer:
"Now that Ohio State's 24-game win-streak is history, how is the team refocusing on the goals it couldn't accomplish last season—namely a Big Ten title and national championship?"
"You had one of the nation's top recruiting classes last year. You've also been hesitant in the past to play freshman. Are there any instant impact players you might look to in 2014, either in their true or redshirt freshman seasons?"
"The November meeting between the Buckeyes and Michigan State has been set for an 8 p.m. start in East Lansing in front of a national television audience. Ignoring the 'one game at a time' coachspeak we're all accustomed to and annoyed with, what does that game at MSU mean for your team in 2014?"
Questions for Braxton Miller:
"How is your health? Do you feel 100 percent? Do your coaches and trainers feel you're at 100 percent? Do you think you can stay at or near 100 percent for an entire season?"
"You've been named the Big Ten's Players of the Year twice now. What do you need to do to convince people outside of the Big Ten you're worth getting some Heisman consideration in 2014?"
Finally, we come to the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl Game champions, Michigan State. It appears as if MSU may have exorcised the demons of years past when any little success was immediately followed defeat after crushing defeat.
So what is Sparty planning for an encore?
Questions for Mark Dantonio:
"How can you even begin to set goals for a season following a school-record 13 wins, a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl Game championship?"
"MSU has a reputation for stifling defense. With some massive losses on defense, are you managing expectations on that side of the football?"
"Everything seems to have fallen into place for the Spartans when it comes to competing for a top spot most seasons in the Big Ten. What single area of the game can you improve upon to move from occasional Big Ten title contender to perennial power and national contender?"
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