Questions from assorted media personnel present at event.
Barry, with the ACC petitioning for a playoff with 11 schools, I was wondering what your thoughts are about a playoff for the Big Ten? And do you have two different answers—one as a football coach and one as an athletic director with bills to pay?
"We discussed this in our last set of meetings. I don't think anyone is in favor, but I'll let the other coaches speak for themselves. I wouldn't be in favor of a playoff game with eleven teams, either as a head coach or as an athletic director."
Could you say why?
"I think talking to some of the other coaches in leagues that have playoff, I don't think any of them are very excited about playoffs. I think it takes away from the Bowl game—sure it is a big payoff for one game. I think it diminishes some of the season and I think it can be a letdown for a team that has a great season and puts their season on the line for a playoff game. And it seems that the reason, and the only reason, is for a paycheck. I just think there are too many negatives. It tacks on another game for the players and you are diminishing your returns."
You have the defending national champion in the conference that returns their entire offense, Michigan returns almost everybody, you guys return a lot from a Bowl-winning team, does this look like one of the stronger Big Ten seasons?
"If you go down the list of teams, most of the teams have the majority of their players returning. We all sat here a year ago and we had to answer the questions: ‘what is wrong with the league?' ‘Is it a weak league?' We proved that we are a very strong league last year. You look at the fact that most of the teams have a very good nucleus coming back; I think this is going to be a stronger league than it was a year ago, maybe one of the strongest leagues ever. You go back to '98-'99, I think in '99 we had four teams ranked in the top 12. That is pretty tough. We may be able to do that. We are certainly capable—looking at the numbers of the people we have and the talent—certainly there are some teams that are capable of that."
Is it hard to predict sometimes, though, like last year all of a sudden the league is stronger than some people thought?
"You may have everyone back, but they are a different team. There is different chemistry, there is different motivation. And as a coach you have to worry about guys getting ahead of themselves and thinking more about the pros, or the next level, rather than that season. Being selfish rather than team oriented. Injuries will play a factor. Teams are so close now, there is such a little difference in all of the teams. So many games come down to the wire—an officials call, a bounce of the ball. There are so many factors involved, just because you have a lot of players coming back doesn't mean you will be better—potentially you will be better. That is the great thing about athletics. That is our job is to try and get the potential out of our teams."
Coach, given the off-the-field activities among coaches this year with Mike Price and Rick Neuheisel is the scrutiny much different than when you started at Wisconsin and do you have to watch yourself, be more prepared, when you are off-the-field than you were in the past?
"I think the scrutiny obviously is more now, with the internet and media outlets as they are. I think we all are much more cognizant and aware of our off-the-field activities. There is more potential out there for things to happen so we have to be much more aware."