Hughes: Big Ten media day notebook

first_imgCHICAGO – It may not be as popular of a nickname as “Windy City” or “Second City,” but Chicago is sometimes called the “City of the Big Shoulders.” And there are plenty of them walking around for the Big Ten football media days.After listening to the dozen of Big Ten coaches (as well as the commissioner himself) field questions from a ballroom of reporters. Here’s a little notebook of highlights from day one:Bielema denounces NCAA violatorsThe increasing amount of schools getting tied up in NCAA violations was a topic that kept reappearing all day Thursday and when it was Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema’s turn to comment on the matter, he expressed a no-tolerance policy – and an extreme distaste – for those who willingly and knowingly commit infractions.“When you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people, or seriously hold programs accountable,” Bielema said. “That’s probably the number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”“If someone knowingly and willingly violates a rule, I don’t see anything wrong with a substantial penalty. What that [penalty] is, I’ll let other people decide.”Although he didn’t venture a specific kind of sanction, Bielema was the most candid coach to speak on NCAA violations. I think the amount of scandals that have been revealed over the past couple years (in football and basketball) has made many college sports fans second-guess the integrity of their favorite teams. And given Bielema’s stance on the matter, however non-specific it may ultimately be, it would seem like he has nothing to hide.You don’t see many coaches of BCS schools speaking that way, so hopefully we don’t catch him hiding any emails in the future. He’ll be eating his own words if he does.Wilson update Bielema was unable to speak much about the progress of Wisconsin’s new transfer quarterback Russell Wilson, since, per NCAA rules, he has not been able to coach him yet. But after talking to wide receiver Nick Toon and safety Aaron Henry, who accompanied their head coach to Chicago, Bielema was able to report that Wilson formed a bond with Henry and that he attended summer workouts with diligence.“Everybody told me… he just showed up and went to work and worked as hard as anybody else to prove he was a valuable member of our team,” Bielema said.Bielema also remained insistent that, despite the excitement surrounding Wilson, the quarterback position is, as of this moment, entirely up for grabs.“I haven’t seen Russell Wilson compete one snap competitively in practice,” he said. “I think I might know what will happen, but until it happens, that’s where we’re at.”Delany casts a warning In reaction to the violations recently exposed at Ohio State, mixed with Michigan’s run-in with the NCAA involving unofficial practices prior to the 2009 season, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany informed the media that he held a meeting with all 12 conference coaches Thursday morning to “make clear to them what our expectations are.”Delany called the two above-mentioned violations particularly “embarrassing” for the conference. And with so much misconduct – 14 incidents, by Delany’s count – coming to light in the past year across the nation, he referenced the shadow of doubt it has placed on all other schools.“I think that the 14 struggles that have come under scrutiny in the last year raise legitimate questions in people’s minds about who is sponsoring these [athletic] programs and what do these programs stand for,” he said. “I can’t remember a period of time where we’ve had more questions about various programs, where it be on the agent side, the recruitment side, or the academic side. We’ve had two of them in this conference, and that’s two too many, as far as I’m concerned.’Delany’s stern voice made it sound pretty clear to me that he’s done with shenanigans.Fickell braces himself Where once stood The Vest now stands Luke Fickell, Ohio State’s interim head coach following the tattoo fiasco.In addressing the media, he didn’t appear nervous at the podium, just well prepared for the room of reporters to get their pecks in. Over the last few “crazy” and “emotional” months, he said he hasn’t had “a whole lot” of contact with the ousted Jim Tressel and has not received any instruction, implied or up front, about avoiding him.After facing a public relations nightmare and with the hammer of the NCAA looming above his inherited program (if only for a year), a few phrases kept popping up as Fickell answered questions. Phrases like: “stability,” “foundation,” “moving forward,” “starting from day one,” and “focusing on what we can control.”It’s about as much as you can expect from a guy in his situation.Elliot is a senior majoring in journalism. Are you licking your chops for the new-look Big Ten season to begin? Let him know at [email protected]last_img

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