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What we learned at Big Ten Media Days 2015

There was an awful lot of talking at Big Ten Media Days. Here's what our man on the ground learned over the last two days.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The final roundtable discussions have wrapped up to conclude the 2015 Big Ten Media Days. New coaches were introduced, some news was broken, and a veritable avalanche of quotes and tidbits dropped on all of the Big Ten programs.

We have some more in-depth stories from the event on the site, but here are some other things that I learned while reporting on the event from the Windy City.

  • It isn't an easy time to be Illinois football coach Tim Beckman, thanks to the investigation into possible player mistreatment in his program, dwindling interest in the on the field product, instability with the entire athletic department, and questions about his job security. The hard questions came early and often during Beckman's presser, and he dodged them in a way that would make any embattled politician's press secretary proud. Beckman's B1G Media Day press conferences are a bit of performance art even under better circumstances, but this one was especially strange. If you asked him what he planned to eat for lunch today, it's likely he'd respond by smiling and telling you how excited and focused he is on Kent State.
  • If Ohio State's Urban Meyer is worried about his team after the big suspensions, or if his players are, they didn't show it in Columbus. Given how the program has recruited lately, that's understandable. There's talent all over the board.
  • Before Big Ten Media Days, there was some concern among media members that the event was lacking in player star power. Ohio State wasn't bringing a QB or Ezekiel Elliott, Penn State's Christian Hackenburg wasn't coming, Maryland brought a kicker, etc. This proved to be unfounded, in my opinion. Ohio State's three representatives, Taylor Decker, Joshua Perry and Adolphus Washington, are all excellent players in their own right, but also engaging, thoughtful and funny. Wisconsin's Corey Clement, who should put up crazy stats this season, had one of the quotes of the weekend. Darius Hamilton of Rutgers loves One Direction, apparently. If you ask interesting questions, you will often get interesting answers. The biggest stars of the conference should be facing reporters enough this season anyway.
  • In case anybody was worried about Maryland's assimilation into the Big Ten, yesterday's Media Days should alleviate those concerns. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said that the B1G was a "lineman's league", and talked about the need for successful teams to dominate the line of scrimmage. He then lauded Brad Craddock, his kicker and one of his Media Day attendees, as one of the best leaders on the team. If you're going to hang your hat on excellent special teams and talk up the uglies along the line, and do that in a deadpan manner, you're exceptionally B1G. Your complimentary Culvers gift card is in the mail.
  • The financials behind college sports on television are changing rapidly, and they'll impact the Big Ten as well. The BTN announced they're going to have apps for Roku and Google Chromecast this year, and that Apple TV and Xbox specifically are on their short list for future agreements. BTN President Adam Silverman said that they need to be on "every platform". With more and more consumers viewing content on devices other than their TVs, being nimble and responsible to these demands will be critical to the commercial viability of the product.
  • On that note, the Big Ten's TV rights are up again very soon, and many analysts had predicted a record windfall. Now, ESPN is cutting costs is bleeding customers. I asked Delany if he was worried the conference might not get quite as valuable a contract as had been previously projected, and he said that he is "optimistic" of their position in the marketplace, and that "we've prepared" for those changes. He also added that he hopes ESPN remains a partner with the conference in the future. The Big Ten has some big advantages in TV negotiations, given the size and demographics of their members schools, but the nitty gritty of how this shakes out will be important to watch, as it could have critical implications for schools that depend on that TV money.
  • Joshua Perry has important musical opinions. His older brother is off to California to pursue a career as a musician while attending grad school at Cal State Long Beach,  focusing on jazz and fusion saxophone. But Perry told me that isn't really his musical scene. He said, as a singer, he's more into "90s R&B, like Boyz to Men, Blackstreet and Dru Hill." His musical tastes are not shared by all of his teammates though, leading to battles over the playlists. "Every day I try to put my music on but the guys just get pissed at me. I just don't care. Like, we're going to listen to some good music today. Turn off the Future, turn off the Fetty Wap, we're going to listen to some real music."
  • His strong takes on music weren't limited to just those two groups though. "I'm not saying you can't listen to country, but anybody who insists on playing country on in the locker room is always wrong. You can play anything. You can play rock, you can play metal, soft rock, rap, you can play R&B, but if you put country on in the Woody locker room, then you're just a jerk." The biggest offender of this policy? Jacoby Boren. "He's probably suspect number one, and he's an ornery SOB, and you can tell him I said that."
  • The press conferences for new Michigan coach John Harbaugh and new Nebraska coach Mike Riley unfolded almost exactly like you would expect them to. Harbaugh's remarks included a curt opening answer on what he'll call Ohio State (that would be 'Ohio State), a random show and tell of a Mike Ditka jersey he bought in Columbus, and an extended back and forth with long time Columbus Dispatch writer Tim May about Big Ten history. It was both charming and weird, and if anything, we should expect Harbaugh to be as close to must see TV as you can get while describing a press conference. The first one after Michigan loses a game should be especially fun.
  • After the most confrontational persona of former coach Bo Pelini, Mike Riley couldn't have been more different, projecting himself so much like a PBS Children's television host that he was asked about his reputation in the Pac-12 as being 'one of the nicest guys in college football'. Being nice is great, but he'll need to quickly get Nebraska back into the Big Ten West championship race to really win over Nebraska fans. For those concerned that Nebraska's new headman won't be as internet-savvy as Pelini and his now famous cat, he did appear to agree to take on the Broken Bits of Chair trophy if he won. Not sure if he had any idea what that was before he agreed to it though.
  • I asked Penn State's James Franklin if his program considers Maryland or Rutgers a rival now, given where all three programs are recruiting. He said that while he thinks the addition of Maryland and Rutgers has been "awesome", and that he has tremendous respect for both programs and coaches, he declined to name either as a rival, saying "we kind of approach it one game at a time. If you look at Penn State historically, we have not really had a true rival per se in the Big Ten. And we're just focused on Penn State and building this program back to where everybody wants it to be." So, if you're a Maryland or Rutgers fan, or hell, an Ohio State fan, and you want to get mad about something, there you go.