The first day of Big Ten Media Days is like a White House press briefing coupled with the movie Groundhog Day. Each of the 11 Head Honchos gives a short spiel on his team, touching on the keys to the upcoming season, followed by questions from inquisitive reporters. The coach discusses his returning starters, his expectations for the season, prospective players and conference play. By the seventh or eighth press conference, the speeches are beginning to sound like a giant game of MadLibs. "We're returning [ENTER NUMBER HERE] starters on offense, including [ENTER NAME OF STAR PLAYER HERE], who we hope will do some big things for us this year. We need to improve in [ENTER AREA HERE] but we know we've got [NAMES OF PLAYERS HERE] that can get the job done. The Big Ten is looking tough this year but we expect to compete with every team.
You get the idea.
Fortunately for us media folk, there are always a few zingers and a few oddities that keep us awake. That said, here is some of the wit and humor seen and overheard by Badger Nation throughout the two-day media circus.
Best media day opening statement:
"When you're 3-9, you have nothing to say."
—Joe Paterno, Penn State head coach
Best alternative to being at Big Ten media day:
"It's great to be here. I can't believe I said that. Most of you that have heard me address this group in the past all know I would rather be fly fishing."
—Joe Tiller, Purdue head coach
Best lesson to the press
"You gotta push it up. We're going to have a course next year before you come here, all you guys. Push the button up, push it down."
—Joe Paterno, instructing the reporters on how to use the microphone at the press conference
You make me feel so young, part 1
"I always remember going (to) a clinic Bud Wilkinson gave way back in 1955, before most of you guys and girls were born…"
—Who else? Joe Paterno
You make me feel so young, part 2
"We've got a couple guys that are granted a sixth year. … So it's kind of nice having some senior citizens around that I can relate to and the rest of the coaches can relate to."
—Illinois head coach Ron Turner on quarterback Jon Beutjer and defensive end Michael O'Brien
"I can give you all the alibis. You want to hear all my alibis? I've got them all stored up but this isn't an alumni group. I use them with the alumni."
—Joe Paterno, speaking on coaches and athletes handling adversity and how Penn State will be better in 2004.
Best use of a player:
"I think what's really intriguing about (punter David) Brytus is that in addition to being an outstanding punter, he's a black belt karate guy. So I told him when we recruited him, ‘David, you're automatically on the travel team and on all road games, you stand right next to me. And if at any time anybody makes a move towards me, DAH!, you give them a little shock. Your job is to protect the head coach and that'll keep you on the travel squad. I don't know if he can punt his way out of a wet paper bag but, by God, he's going to travel for us."
—Joe Tiller, on his multi-talented punter
Most questionable listening skills
"Yeah, am I pleased with the changes defensively? I think that's what the question was. Yeah, I am. I'm real pleased with what we're doing. ... Was that what the question was? … Oh, BCS. I'm sorry, I thought you said defense."
—Ron Turner, responding to a reporter who asked about voting in the Coaches Poll and the changes to the BCS. He later answered the question relating to the BCS and the Coaches Poll.
On really, really high expectations:
"We won 10 games last year and we're not real happy about that."
—Minnesota head coach Glen Mason, responding to a question on whether he was building toward this year and whether or not he had a multi-year plan for the Gophers.
The vaguest statement on the outcome of the Big Ten race:
"I don't know. The Big Ten, anybody, you know, could be on top, you know. Hopefully, we'll be one of them."
—Ohio State tailback Lydell Ross on the top three finishers in the Big Ten
Best (or worst) message to the press:
"NO ANKLE QUESTIONS."
—Written by Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis, who was evidently pretty tired of answering questions about his ankle injury
Coaches sound off on the instant replay system the Big Ten is implementing this season:
"I'm very excited about the implementation of instant replay. I believe that while the game can't be perfect, if you have a chance to get it right, you should get it right."
"We are all in agreement as coaches, administrators and officials and the objective for all of us is, if there is an obvious error made, that it is corrected."
—Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
"I am in favor of it and I always have been, since the first discussion that we had in the Big Ten meetings. My feeling is that it could overturn a major mistake."
—Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo
"Instant replay is a win-win situation. The Big Ten already has a tremendous officiating unit in place and any time you can build on a good foundation is a step in the right direction."
—Northwestern head coach Randy Walker
"I commend our league for taking the lead in something like this. I believe it's a measure that will help college football. With as much that is at stake in every game—if you think about it, we've got the one sport where every game is important. With that much at stake, when there is a mistake—an inadvertent mistake because the officials were blocked out or whatever, we can correct that and just get it right."
—Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez
"I was opposed in the initial discussions because I had envisioned a system that was going to be very cost prohibitive. I had a problem with all the other issues going on in college athletics and a lot of money, millions of dollars being spent on one system. But I do think that they have come up with a system that will keep a game from being decided by a bad call."
—Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr
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