Ranking Big Ten coaches by their performance at Media Days
Let’s be honest, what coaches say at Media Days won’t really matter all that much by the time the season starts. Heck, it won’t matter by next week. But any time you have all 14 Big Ten coaches in one place and doing the same thing, you have to compare them, right?
These coaches are obviously a product of the questions they’re asked, but here’s how I’ll rank them:
- Did they give an interesting answer?
- Was it cliché?
- Were they energetic and engaged?
Before Media Days, I ranked how excited I was to hear them speak, so I’ll note that for reference to see how close I was:
14. Paul Chryst (Wisconsin)
Pre-Media Days: 14
Chryst was spectacularly boring. He’s not here to make headlines. He doesn’t relish time with the media like others seem to, and that’s perfectly fine. His track record speaks for itself.
13. Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)
Pre-Media Days: 6
Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in college football, so his perspective on the changing landscape is unique. It would be nice to hear more about that. He didn’t take many questions, but that’s OK—he doesn’t need to impress anyone.
12. Jeff Brohm (Purdue)
Pre-Media Days: 12
There wasn’t a ton Brohm could do on this stage. He is entering his fifth season, so it’s time for him to show the results on the field. Brohm is thoughtful (he was actively trying to come up with solutions for a season last year during COVID), but we didn’t see that side of him on this day.
11. Mike Locksley (Maryland)
Pre-Media Days: 13
Locksley doesn’t make a ton of waves in the media, and that’s perfectly fine. He’s crushing it on the recruiting trail and helping establish Maryland in the Big Ten. I like that he is sick of talking about potential.
10. Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)
Pre-Media Days: 8
I loved how Fitzgerald threw in a line about everyone talking about what Northwestern lost (14 starters), but he likes talking about what they gained. That’s cleverly changing the conversation—even if I do think the Wildcats will take a step or two back this season. The other noteworthy thing he said was talking down how certain schools will be better than others at NIL. I disagree (see Alabama and Ohio State), but I admire his efforts to put Northwestern on a more even playing field.
9. Tom Allen (Indiana)
Pre-Media Days: 5
Of course Tom Allen has a “word” ready to go for 2021. In 2020, it was “LEO,” meaning love everyone—and it’s still a motto the team lives by. This season, that word is “chase,” as in chase greatness. It also felt noteworthy that Allen mentioned this is the most depth that an Indiana roster has had since he’s been there.
The only complaint about Allen is the opening statement. I don’t need a rundown of the entire team, Tom! Short and sweet is always best.
8. Scott Frost (Nebraska)
Pre-Media Days: 2
Frost came across as humble, which is a trait I don’t think is associated with Nebraska all the time. The Huskers were very outspoken last year (and rightfully so), but I think Frost struck the right tone at his press conference. I also chuckled when he said he wasn’t into sloganeering, which is obviously in contrast to PJ Fleck and Tom Allen. That’s not Frost’s personality, and that’s fine.
7. Bret Bielema (Illinois)
Pre-Media Days: 9
Bielema was insightful and seems to have really learned from his failures at Arkansas, even if he didn’t specifically reference that. He has a great sense of humor about his Iowa tattoo, and he emphasized the importance of getting back to recruiting Illinois. He isn’t the charismatic type, but all in all, he did a great job in his return to B1G Media Days.
6. James Franklin (Penn State)
Pre-Media Days: 4
I like that Franklin said he wasn’t going to use NIL as a recruiting pitch, even if I don’t believe him. To say that you are using NIL in recruiting feels a little cheap, and I liked his answer. It was touching how Franklin talked about COVID and being separated from his family and the lessons learned from last season. He seemed energized and ready for a bounce-back season.
5. PJ Fleck (Minnesota)
Pre-Media Days: 7
Of course Fleck had the longest opening statement. But Fleck’s enthusiasm is unmatched. I love hearing about how he is thinking about educating players on scams, taxes, etc. This isn’t just a recruiting tool to him, he seems intent on teaching about life. He also did a great job spinning the coaching rumors (in this case, Tennessee) to bringing more attention to Minnesota.
4. Greg Schiano (Rutgers)
Pre-Media Days: 10
Watching Schiano speak, you can understand why the guy recruits his tail off (the Scarlet Knights’ 2022 class is currently fourth in the B1G and 12th nationally). He has a great presence. He is masterful at answering questions and weaving in positive things about Rutgers without you really realizing it. It’s natural.
It was fun hearing how he stole some stuff from former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on the recruiting trail. It was fun hearing how he has gotten Rutgers back to recruiting New Jersey so well. It was fun hearing how Schiano has convinced Rutgers that it belongs in the Big Ten. It was fun hearing how Schiano is teaching his players about the free market.
3. Ryan Day (Ohio State)
Pre-Media Days: 3
Day talked about NIL and how it may be wise to potentially spread the money out from just quarterbacks—like for the guys blocking for the QB. That’s an interesting thought, and it’s something I hadn’t considered. Will companies target a group of Ohio State players (and maybe be able to use the Buckeye logo?) rather than just the starting QB or star RB? Obviously Day has thought about it and how it would affect team chemistry. This isn’t a surprise from Day, who is always thoughtful and not afraid to say anything.
2. Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)
Pre-Media Days: 1
Harbaugh notably compared the hot-seat chatter to World War II propaganda. Now that’s some great stuff. Of course there’s some validity to it, but you’ve got to love the reference. Harbaugh actually let us know who was leading the QB race (Cade McNamara) and that he is as motivated as ever to beat “Ohio.” He said, “We’re going to do it or die trying.”
Also, Harbaugh gets added points for one of the shortest opening statement and leaving more time for questions. Who actually gets anything out of those opening statements? Who are those for? No one ever says anything.
1. Mel Tucker (Michigan State)
Pre-Media Days: 11
This was Tucker’s first B1G Media Days as a head coach, and boy, he hit it out of the park. I recognize that Kirk Ferentz and Paul Chryst aren’t trying to hit home runs at an event like this—their track records speak for themselves—so there is a different standard. Tucker had to show well this week—for recruiting, for the fan base, for his program—to instill confidence and belief moving forward, and he did just that. You could see the intensity in his eyes.
Tucker spoke from the heart, about how Michigan State has been his dream job since 1997. He spoke about the team’s identity and how the fans deserve a winning team. My favorite part was how everyone keeps telling him that this is really Year 1, since he was hired so late and then COVID hit, stripping him of a chance of an offseason with his new program. But Tucker rebuts that by saying, “No, it’s not Year 1, it’s Year 2. We have to get this thing moving. There is a sense of urgency with this program.”
Can’t wait to see it!