Media Days Notebook: Changes Coming

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was the last man to take the stage Monday at the Big Ten media days in Chicago, and he provided the most newsworthy issues of the afternoon. Read on to find out what's in store for the Big Ten, as well as some other nuggets from the conference coaches, in this Big Ten Media Days Notebook.

The times they are a changing for the Big Ten.

So is the conference's logo among other things.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was the final person to take the podium Monday at the first day of the Big Ten media days and gave an update on the latest issues surrounding the conference's changing landscape.

The conference will feature a 12th team starting in 2011 when Nebraska joins its ranks, and the transition that comes with it will bring several changes. According to Delany, the next 30-45 days will feature plenty of conference news stemming from the expansion, from a new divisional alignment for football to picking a football championship game venue.

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was on hand and was a part of a photo opportunity after Delany's press conference. He, along with the other Big Ten athletic direcors, will soon be working on a divisional football alignment for the 2011 season. Delany said an announcement on divisions should come within the next six weeks.

As for how they will go about dividing the teams, Delany said maintaining rivalries, keeping competitive fairness and geography are the three main principles the conference is using. As for whether Ohio State and Michigan would be in the same division or not is to be determined, but Delany did stress the importance of the rivalry.

Another things for fans to look for in the future is a nine-game Big Ten conference schedule, which would begin within two-to-four years. Despite having Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel stand at the same podium less than a half an hour before Delany and saying he was against it, Delany said he thinks there is a consensus on going to a ninth conference game.

"I think a ninth game would serve everybody's interests," he said.

There is no venue or TV network decided for the Big Ten football championship game, but Delany said the first edition of that contest will be in December 2011.

Delany said addition expansion is possible, but it is on "pause." The conference will continue to study possible expansion opportunities on the same 12-18 month timetable it set out in 2009.

One team that likely won't be joining the Big Ten in the future is Notre Dame. Delany said he will take Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick at his word. Swarbrick had earlier said he preferred to keep the Fighting Irish independent when it comes to football.

"I see Notre Dame playing as an independent in football for many years to come," Delany said.

Despite all of the change, one thing will remain the same. The conference will not change its name.

"I think the Big Ten is the Big Ten regardless of the number," Delany said.

Looking North: Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez's time with the media saw him answer several of the questions surrounding his team. The head coach said he was happy to return to the field after two previous seasons filled with more losses than wins and more drama than most Maize and Blue fans would prefer.

"No one is more excited to start coaching football than I am," Rodriguez said. "But our fans have been absolutely phenomenal. … We're fortunate to be at a place where they're very passionate about football, and our fans are very passionate about it."

The embattled head coach was asked about fan support after a 3-9 season in 2008 and a 5-7 mark in 2009. He called the reaction from fans overwhelmingly positive.

"Nobody wants to win more than the coaches and players," Rodriguez said.

The main question facing the Wolverines on the field comes under center. Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson both return, and Rodriguez called the battle a wide-open competition with true freshman Devin Gardner challenging the incumbents.

"I hope it's answered who will be the starter or the two guys by the first game, but it may take a couple of games before someone clearly separates themselves," Rodriguez said.

Another position battle will come at the middle linebacker spot, where Mark Moundros will move from fullback to the defense. Moundros was the starting fullback in 2009 but came to Rodriguez asking to switch positions for his senior year.

"He came to me in spring and said, ‘Coach, I'd like to try middle linebacker,' " Rodriguez said. "I said, ‘Mark, it wouldn't make much sense for me to move my starting fullback over to a linebacker position during his senior year. He said, I just think I can bring something to the defense. And he has."

Moundros isn't the only player switching positions for Michigan. Cam Gordon, a former receiver, moved to defensive back in the spring, and Rodriguez called him one of the Wolverines' better performers in the spring.

Finally, Rodriguez addressed some of the off-the-field drama that has surrounded his program when he told reporters he will travel to Seattle in mid-August for the NCAA's hearing on Michigan's alleged practice time infractions. The Wolverines have adjusted their fall practice schedule to make sure Rodriguez won't miss any time.

Paterno Returns: Joe Paterno is 83-years old, but the longtime Penn State coach still has no intention of ending his legendary career.

Paterno's time with the media began as it usually does – with the coach declining to make an opening statement and opening the floor to questions. The first question, however, may have made him regret that decision. A reporter from USA Today asked Paterno if he planned to coach until he died.

"Is that wishful thinking?," Paterno quipped, drawing laughter. "I really don't thinking about that. I like to coach."

Paterno did go through a minor health issue in the spring, something people probably learned more than they needed to know about when the same reporter followed up by asking whether it was an intestinal issue.

"It was a little bit below the intestines," Paterno said.

Paterno, a longtime proponent of Big Ten expansion, called the addition of a really good move for the Big Ten and expressed his what he would like Delany's next move to be.

"Obviously, if we decide it's in the best interests of the Big Ten, I would hope we would be looking at a few schools maybe in the east," Paterno said. "Certainly that would be a good move for us. It would help us in the recruiting in the television. … But I think that's up to some other people right now."

Paterno also drew laughs when asked what it would mean to him to win his 400th game as a head coach. Paterno currently has a career coaching record of 394-129-3 and will soon start his 45th season as head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Even so, Paterno said 400 is just a number.

"When I'm down and I'm looking up, are they going to put 399 on top of me or 401?," Paterno said. "Who the hell cares? I won't know."

Take Me Out To The (Foot)Ball Game: Historic Wrigley Field will host a Big Ten rivalry game in 2010 when Northwestern will host Illinois on Nov. 20 at the Friendly Confines.

"It's going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for our young men to go down there," Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

Wrigley Field has not hosted a college football game since 1938 when DePaul, which doesn't even play football anymore, played its home games at the ballpark. The last football game of any kind at Wrigley came in December 1970 when the Chicago Bears played a game there.

"It's going to be pretty neat to run out where Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus and George Halas were on that field. That's going to be really special."

"I think it's a great, great thing," Illinois head coach Ron Zook added. "I'm looking forward to it. I really am. I know our players are excited about it. I'm sure there will be some logistics that aren't exactly right. That's part of it. I know the end zone there by home plate is going to be a little tight, put some pads up there. There's fields that are just as tight in the country that people have to play in."

A Bunch Of Tweets: Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema also addressed the social networking website Twitter during his time on the stage. He does not restrict his players use of the site, instead allowing questionable tweets to police itself.

"I don't put any parameters," Bielema said. "I point out stupid tweets when I see one.

"I had a freshman who played no role in a game that we won last year early in the season, and his tweet was simply, ‘Yeah, that's right, we did it again.' I read it, I read the author, and everybody hazed him for about the next hour, so that eliminated any stupid tweeting."

Under Pressure?: A relaxed Illinois head coach Ron Zook might be on the hot seat heading into the 2010 season, but if there is added pressure, Zook seems to be immune to it.

"I think everyone that stands up here today has got pressure," Zook said. "Obviously some of us have more than others. I think the thing that you try to do is you do the best you can do."

Zook spent the offseason water skiing more than usual and buying appliances with his wife, the latter the coach said he will "probably never do again." Perhaps his relaxed state comes from a belief that his 2010 squad could be better than his 2007 Rose Bowl squad.

"I think on paper we're probably every bit, if not better, a football team than we were that year," Zook said.

Hoping For A Pair Of Returns: Purdue head coach Danny Hope said he was hopeful – pardon the pun – Ralph Bolden and Justin Siller would be able to return to the field in 2010.

Bolden, who rushed for 935 yards last season, tore an ACL in March. Hope said Bolden is progressing well after having surgery.

"I think he's going to be a fast healer," Hope said. "There's a possibility we can get him back this year."

If Bolden cannot return this year, the Boilermakers will likely rely on sophomore Al-Terek McBurse as their No. 1 rusher.

As for Siller, Hope wants to find a position for the 6-4, 220-pound former quarterback. Siller, a former quarterback and running back, was dismissed from school last year for a violation of the Purdue's academic code.

"He's heck of a football player, heck of a guy," Hope said. "Huge shot in the arm for our football team to be getting Justin Siller back this year. Justin Siller could be a difference maker for our football team when it's all said and done, and I expect him to impact a lot of football games this year. He's really a good player."

Make 'Em Laugh: Bielema has been accused of being surly with the media during his tenure in Madison, something he said he wanted to change. The fifth-year UW head coach started by opening his 15 minutes at the podium with a joke.

"Sorry I was a little late. I was on the phone with Commissioner Delany and I have the new expansion guidelines right here in front of me," Bielema said to light laughter.

"Thought you guys would like that one."

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