CHICAGO, Ill. - We are live from the unofficial kickoff to the Big Ten football season. Stay tuned throughout the day for live All-Sports Blog updates from the Hyatt McCormack Place in Chicago. Check back here often for updates.
The Big Ten Conference officials just announced the preseason top three teams and players of the year prior to the first press conference of the day. Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin were selected as the top three teams, respectively. Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones was named preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was at the podium first. He walked in the room and apologized for being late because he was on the phone with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, joking that he received the new guidelines for conference expansion to share in the room.
Coach Bielema opened the day joking that one of his 2010 resolutions was to be friendlier with the media this season. Following Coach Bielema at the podium was Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald. He started by joking that, "Unlike Bret, I am already good with the media...I am just here to give the facts."
Northwestern is eagerly anticipating its clash with Illinois at Wrigley Field later this fall. Both Fitzgerald, and Illinois head coach Ron Zook, who followed him at the podium, said that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the players to compete at Wrigley Field. It sounds like there a few logistical things to work out at Wrigley to house the game, but both teams are excited to play there.
Coach Zook and Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez both expressed their excitement to put last season behind them and push towards 2010. It sounds like Michigan will have a wide open quarterback race between Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson and an early-enrollee freshman.
The first set of press conferences is done. Michigan State us up next.
As for the Nittany Lions, Coach Paterno, D'Anton Lynn, Evan Royster and Stefen Wisniewski arrived to the media hotel shortly before 11:45 via limo from O'Hare Airport. The group flew out of University Park earlier this morning. We will check in with Wisniewski later this morning to begin some behind the scenes video coverage from the Big Ten Media days to give you an idea of what the players' schedule is like.
Following the short break, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio took the podium for questions. Like the first few head coaches, scheduling in the newly-expanded conference was a major point of conversation. It seems as though everyone wants to make Nebraska their "rival" at the end of the season. Dantonio was asked about preserving MSU's rivalry with Penn State at the end of the year.
He said that all rivalries are good for the fans and good for college football and that he doesn't want to see any of them go. It will be very interesting to see what happens with the scheduling for next season. All of that will depend on the division alignments. We will touch on that later.
We had lunch with Lynn, Royster and Wisniewski following the Michigan State press conference. The trio will spend the day doing interviews with national and local TV and radio stations before some free time in Chicago. First up was some time with ESPN Gameday.
Prior to heading to the airport, Wisniewski kicked off his morning at McDonald's. For those wondering, an offensive lineman's breakfast of choice is a Big Breakfast with hot cakes on the side. As for the plane ride, Wisniewski joked that Coach Paterno was in the "Boss Chair". The single seat just inside the door of the plane belonged to the icon leading the Nittany Lion program. We shot some video with Wisniewski about his day thus far. Check back later tonight for some video.
I will begin this post by saying how great it was to see Coach Paterno walk into the ballroom to give his 15-minute press conference to the media gathered. After a long offseason, Coach Paterno strolled into the room, as he always does, and had the room laughing within 30 seconds of his press conference.
Much was made about Coach Paterno's offseason and the intestinal bug he had earlier this summer, but he quickly dismissed any thoughts of how healthy he is. Coach Paterno looked great, sounded great and was as witty as ever, quoting Mark Twain during his 15 minutes at the podium.
Among the topics he discussed were new divisions, expansion and Nebraska. Additionally, he spoke about traveling to Alabama during the second week of the season. Coach Paterno labeled it as a "good learning experience" for the football team heading into the fall. As Coach Paterno said, there may not be a better team to play on a regular season schedule in 2010 than Alabama. Indeed, it will be a good learning experience for the 2010 Nittany Lions to grow from.
Following his 15 minutes at the podium, Coach Paterno stepped into a hallway adjacent to the press conference room for some one-on-one interviews with reporters. A crowd of around 40 reporters crammed around Coach Paterno for a few more questions. In his typical candid style, Coach addressed every question with a personal touch.
As I said to begin this post, it was terrific to see Coach Paterno back in charge of the room. He is looking forward to the season, and you should, too.
(Coach Paterno answering questions around the media.)
After a brief break for lunch, we headed back in the press conference room to hear what Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel had to say at the podium. Coach Ferentz is a very businesslike man in front of a microphone during a press conference. He always comes across as an "old-school" coach, for lack of a better term.
Case in point was his comment about new media items, such as Twitter, Facebook or even text messaging: "I can read texts, but I can't send them...I will work on that next summer."
The 11th and final coach to take the podium was the leader of the defending Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Coach Tressel has 25 seniors coming back this fall for 2010. He will have a veteran team when the Buckeyes take the field after winning the Rose Bowl in January. Coach Tressel seemed very confident ahead of the fall.
I checked back in with Wisniewski and Lynn following their rounds with TV interviews throughout the afternoon, as well. It was the first trip for both to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days. Two hours of interviews for anyone has to be difficult, but both did a terrific job on day one. Wisniewski, as he will tell you later on camera, was ready to be done with interviews so that he can hit the town for a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
The media festivities from day one in Chicago are done. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany stepped to the podium as the final press conference of the afternoon. From a nine-game conference schedule to the prospect of a Big Ten title game in 2011, Delany had numerous interesting pieces of information during his press conference.
It sounds like a championship game is done deal for 2011. Nine league games will not happen in the next year or two, but Delany said that it could happen within four years. Those are two very interesting nuggets to think about heading into the 2010 season.
The day officially concluded with a photo opportunity featuring Coach Paterno, Commissioner Delany and Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne. That is a sign of things to come in the Big Ten.
With that, our live blog coverage from day one is now done. Our live coverage will continue tomorrow. However, stay tuned later for more on the All-Sports Blog from the first day of activities in Chicago.