Football

Live Updates: Big Ten Media Days – Day One

INDIANAPOLIS – Day one of Big Ten Media Days is underway as Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren will speak to reporters, followed by the head coaches of half of the conference’s 14 teams. The other seven coaches will then speak on Friday.

The head coaches talking today will be Minnesota’s PJ Fleck, Maryland’s Mike Locksley, Nebraska’s Scott Frost, Illinois’ Bret Bielema, Penn State’s James Franklin, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

We will have live updates throughout the day from Warren and each of the head coaches. We also have a live thread going on our Ask The Insiders message board where you can interact with all of our members and insiders.

You can refresh this page throughout the day for the latest updates from today’s events.

Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach Michigan

  • “This feels good to be back. I hope everybody’s enjoying themselves. I know I’m here to have a really good day.”
  • Brought three great guys today. Aidan Hutchinson is an All-American-type football players. Along with Josh Ross and Hassan Haskins, they are real football players.
  • No speech, we’ll go right to questions.
  • On his new hires, the thing they all have in common is what they know about football, their experience, the teachers that they are, and how things have come together. The staff has meshed well and the dialogue that is going on is tremendous. Nobody is afraid to talk or put their opinion out there. Thoughts get batted around and discussed. “I love that. It’s a really good room.” It’s almost like a scrimmage is going on when they have meetings because offenses and defenses are been discussed. He sees good things on the offensive staff as well. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has trust in his coaches and they all have trust in him. Mike Hart and Matt Weiss have been great additions. “To see the trust has exceeded my hopes and expectations.”
  • Quarterback Cade McNamara is the No. 1 QB going into fall camp. He took the reins as a leader. He did it in the spring and has done it in the summer by example and bringing other guys along with him. He’s got the fiery competitor gene. Freshman JJ McCarthy has those same qualities. “He’s fighting.” He’s got the athletic ability and the arm talent to get it done, but McNamara’s not letting him take it away. That’s probably the best thing for the team — they are fighting and making each other better.
  • They may use third-string QB Dan Villari on special teams or like Taysom Hill on offense. “That’s in his hands, how much of a desire he has to do that.”
  • Transfer QB Alan Bowman has good energy. Harbaugh has heard good things about him. “He’s played in a lot of football games.”
  • New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald was probably going to be the eventual DC at Baltimore, so he came highly recommended from people that he trusts. Harbaugh told his brother that it’s really great that he would recommend Macdonald, but John Harbaugh told him that he really loves Jim and really loves Michigan football and this would be a great hire.
  • The defense will move some guys around. All options are open. Aidan Hutchinson will be all over the place, as will others.
  • Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson thinks about all of the right things, like Kwity Paye. Hutchinson is a 267-pound guy that can move. He gets low. He is quick. Force, mass, acceleration. Has a great desire to be good. He pulls other guys in and holds himself and others accountable. He’s one of his favorite guys ever. He gets the best grades and does everything you ask him to do.
  • He’s as enthusiastic as he’s ever been to have an opportunity to win the Big Ten and beat Ohio State. “And we’re going to do it or die trying.”

Pat Fitzgerald, Head Coach Northwestern

  • Going into his 16th year now, which seems somewhat surreal.
  • To go through the entire season last year without one COVID positive is a credit to the players sacrificing and the medical team educating the program.
  • They have good depth and talent at quarterback. They all have game experience. All three guys will compete in camp. They will make a decision on a starter sometime in camp. They did well in spring.
  • “You don’t replace (departed DC) Mike Hankwitz.” They’ll miss him, but they’re happy he gets to retire. He still thinks this is the best group of defensive assistants in the nation.
  • The NIL opportunity for all student athletes is tremendous. He’s a little jealous. He could’ve made some nice money in college. Every coach around the nation is saying the same thing, that they have the best opportunity for kids to maximize their name, but every coach is still trying to figure this out. “I think we’re all going to learn a lot over the next 18-24 months.”
  • They may have as much depth and talent as they’ve had in his time. “We’ll see.”
  • He told his players about NIL that they have to understand that it’s a job and they need to use the people around them to make sure they make smart moves. And don’t lower your name and just put it on anything.
  • “I’ve got great confidence in our back end.” The recruiting in that area has been very good. The DBs call themselves “The Sky Team” and it goes back a number of years.

James Franklin, Head Coach Penn State

  • They are excited for the season. They have a countdown clock to the start of the season, but starting against Wisconsin raises the bar and the stakes.
  • Mike Yurcich is a great addition. “Been tracking and pursuing Mike for a couple of years.”
  • The offensive style won’t change much. They still want to make defenses defend the entire field. They have one of the most talented running back rooms in the country. Same at tight end.
  • Excited about the offensive line. And it’s nice to have an experienced quarterback who has seen it all.
  • Defensively, the consistency has been as good as anywhere in the country.
  • They’re as talented as anybody in the nation at linebacker and they have the best secondary of Franklin’s tenure.
  • “We’re hungry. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder.”
  • He doesn’t look at NIL as something to use in recruiting. They will support the players in their opportunities to make the most of their names, images, and likenesses.
  • He still hasn’t figured out how to wear a mask and glasses without fogging up his glasses.
  • They will continue to take COVID protocols seriously at Penn State.
  • Last year reinforced some things that he already knew. He’s a relational leader. “I always have been.” He wants to embrace, scream, yell, hug, and it was hard to do all of that via Zoom. It’s hard to connect with the players. “We better learn from this and we better grow from the experience.”
  • The goal for everyone is to get back to this building in December and win a conference title and represent the Big Ten and Penn State in the playoffs.
  • “I think we understand what it takes to get here (B1G Championship Game).”

Bret Bielema, Head Coach Illinois

  • “Thanks, Commish.”
  • His last game in the Big Ten was in Lucas Oil Stadium against Nebraska and his first game back in the Big Ten will be against Nebraska. It’s come full circle.
  • The plan is not just to get Illinois to where they want to be, but to then stay there.
  • They lead the nation with 22 super seniors. They also have 18 seniors.
  • Very excited about the playmakers at receiver. The move of Isaiah Williams to receiver has been good. “He’s lightning in a bottle.”
  • Without seeing film or knowing the players, he offered every senior an opportunity to return when he took over. He wanted to show that this is a family.
  • Being in the NFL enlightened him on how to practice more efficiently and safer.
  • He’s a different coach than he was the last time he was in the Big Ten. He’s older and more experienced.
  • Asked about recruiting in-state and competing against Iowa, especially given his Iowa tattoo. “I got a tigerhawk tattoo when I was 19. It was a great idea then. Not such a great idea now.”

Scott Frost, Head Coach Nebraska

  • “Without a doubt, this is the most excited I’ve been about our team and the most confident.” That’s about talent, culture, etc. “We have to earn whatever respect we get and so far we haven’t been able to do that.” Too many errors and penalties that have kept them from winning close games. The players are very mindful of that. They know the little things that everyone has to do to make things better.
  • “I’m excited for NIL. It’s going to change the landscape of college football. I think Nebraska is uniquely positioned to take advantage of it. We’re the only show in town.”
  • They haven’t even scratched the surface yet of where NIL can go. He’s excited for the players.
  • “I was really excited when they hired Trev Alberts.” The other coaches at Nebraska were happy as well. It’s good to have somebody who understands the unique nature of Nebraska, the advantages, and the challenges. “I couldn’t be more excited than to have Trev.” They’ve already met four times in the last few weeks.
  • It’s hard to pick one position that he’s most excited about. “We’ve recruited well on the offensive line.” “I expect that to be one of our strengths this year.”
  • They will have to wait and see how much they use NIL in recruiting. The school can’t go out and get deals for players. But there is excitement around Nebraska and he believes a lot of it will happen organically and the news will get to recruits.
  • He doesn’t have an opinion on canceled games being deemed forfeits this year. They’ll trust the Big Ten to make those types of decisions.
  • Winning is going to help recruiting a lot.
  • “I’m not into sloganeering.” If players need a slogan or a mantra in order to win, then he probably doesn’t have the right players.
  • If you beat yourself, you can’t win in the Big Ten.
  • “We haven’t had an old team yet.” This will be the most experienced team they have had.
  • Quarterback Adrian Martinez is primed for a really good year.
  • “I’m ready to get the season started.”

Mike Locksley, Head Coach Maryland

  • “I feel like I’m being hazed every time I have to follow PJ Fleck.”
  • Locksley thanks the Maryland medical personnel for helping to make last season happen.
  • “It’s great to be here in person and see all of you guys’ faces.”
  • “I hope the days of only seeing you guys on Zoom is over completely.”
  • It’s exciting times for Maryland football on and off the field. They have a new practice facility.
  • On the field, it’s a simple thing — they have to take the next step. The mantra is “No BCEs. No bitching, complaining, or excuses.”
  • The culture is where it needs to be in year three.
  • Bringing in Ron Zook is big. He’s been a mentor. He will handle special teams and outside linebackers.
  • Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has shown signs of being a great playmaker for them. Just needs to be consistent.
  • “It’s time for us to stop talking about potential.” It’s time to prove themselves right and not worry about proving others wrong.

PJ Fleck, Head Coach Minnesota

  • They always talk about how the players need to make sure they’re better people than players.
  • They have more than just Mohamed Ibrahim at running back, but he’s a tremendous person and player.
  • Defensive end Boye Mafe is also here and is a freak. He’ll be back in this building eventually for the NFL Combine and will blow people away.
  • Quarterback Tanner Morgan is here. He lost his father to brain cancer last week.
  • They just set their highest cumulative GPA ever with a 3.33 for the team.
  • Starting lineman Blaise Andries is an actuary. “I didn’t even know what an actuary is.” Another player is practically a doctor. “I got an 18 on the ACT, everybody.”
  • This is a fun team to coach and he wants them to play like kids.
  • Eleven players decided to use their free year and return.
  • “I’m fired up about name, image, and likeness.” Minneapolis is not a small, little college town. “We’ve got businesses galore.”
  • The identity of Minnesota this year will gratefulness and togetherness. It doesn’t get any better than opening up at home against Ohio State, so be grateful for that.
  • “We have to put more pressure on us than anybody else will put on us.” If they do that, they’ll have a great season.

Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten

  • “This is a first for me. As you know we didn’t have one last year.”
  • He is very appreciative to see so many people here, including the Big Ten’s bowl partners. “Our bowl partners are really special.
  • Bowl games are special because they allow players to appreciate what it’s like to play in bowl games.
  • Three major themes today: 1) To respect the 125-year history of the Big Ten; 2) To protect the Big Ten; 3) To transform the conference as the game grows on a daily basis.
  • Warren says he expects the Big Ten to compete for the national championship every season.
  • Warren announces that Barry Alvarez has agreed to join the Big Ten Conference as a special advisor for football.
  • “I trust Barry Alvarez implicitly.”
  • Last year, the reality of protecting the B1G’s student-athletes took on a whole new meaning. To operate a conference in a global pandemic, “we had to keep in mind that our most important item that we needed to focus on was the health and safety of our student-athletes.”
  • “It was complicated for all of us.”
  • “This was not a perfect time for us in the conference, but it was productive.”
  • Warren said he learned plenty of lessons last year.
  • 1,843 of 2,000 competitions scheduled last year took place. That took a lot of dedication and effort.
  • The Big Ten will be hiring a chief medical officer.
  • Since Kevin Warren took over, five new presidents or chancellors have taken over. They are all persons of color or women.
  • The Big Ten has been made better by the hiring of Bret Bielema at Illinois and Trev Alberts at Nebraska.
  • The conference is committed to gender equity. “We’re building a diverse group in our Big Ten offices also.”
  • Regarding transforming the conference, “It’s clear that we’re at an inflection point in college athletics.”
  • The Alston ruling changed college athletics forever. “Forever.”
  • Warren still believes name, image, and likeness needs federal guidance.
  • Warren challenges people to be thoughtful rather than critical when discussing the changes coming to college athletics.
  • One of the things he learned from last year is the importance of people, relationships, and what makes college football special is the people and the relationships.
  • He chucklingly thanked some of the people in the room for all of the love they showed to him last year. But he does appreciate the passion that the Big Ten brings.
  • Asked about Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC and if that prompts the Big Ten to initiate expansion talks, Warren said college athletics are at an inflection point. These are the kinds of issues that “we all will be dealing with.” They are always evaluating what’s in the best interest for the conference. It will be interesting to see where that story goes regarding SEC expansion.
  • Asked about playoff expansion and Big Ten divisions, Warren said that’s all stuff that they want to get back to talking about once they get past COVID. They have started these conversations regarding expansion and playoff expansion and how the members would feel about it. He came to the Big Ten to make it the best conference in college athletics.
  • On June 6, 2021, it was voted for the B1G to allow the individual institutions to handle the COVID policies and procedures. Once the schools put that information together, then the Big Ten will look at it and make further necessary policies. “We will have that done prior to our first game, 37 days away.”
  • Asked about last year, he said he has a different view about life and the journey of life. When he was 10 years old he was hit by a car and was nearly killed. But he learned from that experience. Last year was one of the best years of his life because his “prayer life” grew. He’s a stronger person. His gratitude coefficient is extremely high. He held to his values and promise to keep the student-athletes safe. He continually grew as a person last year and he’s thankful for it. “What it did is it really allowed me to understand the importance of communication and relationships.”
  • He has weekly calls with the other A5 (Autonomy 5) commissioners.
  • Does he have any regrets about last year? “What really is the essence of regret? I don’t really have any regrets.” There may be some things he would do differently. But he would make the same decisions that he made because it’s about keeping the student-athletes at the center of their decisions.
  • Warren says as we know, we can call him any time.