Lucas at Large: Themes aplenty at Big Ten Media Days

110728_FB_Bielema_Bret_2.jpgCHICAGO -- What was Illinois coach Ron Zook referencing when he was talking about "organized chaos'' during his introductory comments here Thursday at the Big Ten Media Days?

A)    Was he talking about the new divisional set-up and championship game?
    
B)    Was he talking about the NCAA rule book?   

C)    Was he talking about the coaching turnover in the Big Ten?

D)    Was he talking about Husker Nation?

E)    Was he talking about Ohio State escaping any further sanctions?   

F)    Or none of the above.
   
The answer: F

Zook was referencing the fact that both of his daughters got married over the summer. "And I learned the meaning of organized chaos,'' he said.

Nonetheless, he could have been talking about the college football landscape in general. So many questions, so few answers, especially, it would seem, when it comes to accountability.

Zook was the leadoff speaker during the morning session and the first question that he fielded was on that topic. To be precise, he was asked for his perspective on the Ohio State situation.

First of all, Zook volunteered that all of the league coaches had just had "a long talk'' with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. However, he didn't get into specifics on what was discussed.

But Zook noted the urgency to do things the right way because "everybody's looking'' and he emphasized the importance of "protecting'' and "respecting'' the game.

Interestingly, the second question that was directed at Zook had nothing to do with Illinois, either. Instead, he was asked about UW quarterback Russell Wilson and the impact that he might have.

Zook was gracious in his response even though he hinted at the awkwardness of talking about somebody else's quarterback, particularly one who has yet to take a snap in the conference.

But he did say that anytime there is a player of such a "high profile'' -- like Wilson, the North Carolina State transfer -- there's "greater excitement'' and "it raises the level of interest'' in the game.

UW coach Bret Bielema followed Zook to the podium and casually suggested that Wilson was the "potential starting quarterback'' for the Badgers.

That drew a bunch of blank looks from the assembled media corps and the inevitable follow-up question on whether Bielema was serious about thinking that Wilson wouldn't be the starter.

Bielema assured everyone that he was serious and Wilson would have to compete for the No. 1 job and "show us what he can do.'' But he conceded that he had an idea on what might happen.

Bielema was in mid-season form with some of his expressions.

"I always say in recruiting, you recruit your own problems.'' (That's what happens when programs take chances on character and don't recruit quality people, like Wilson, for example.)

"The one thing that never graduates is tradition.'' (That was a Barry Alvarez rule of thumb. If you have a strong brand, a strong program, you don't have to agonize over the graduation losses.)

"I always say we're not the first girl taken to the prom, but we're not the last.'' (The Badgers have a brand that personifies blue collar and hard work and there's no need to apologize.)

"If I had a dream world, I would say hammer the guys who don't do things right.'' (If people are willingly and knowingly violating rules, the NCAA needs to get rid of those people and hold those programs accountable.)

"It's fun to be a Badger." (That was his take on the success that the Badgers have enjoyed over the last six years and the promise that the future holds in an expanded Big Ten.)

The speaker who drew the most attention and scrutiny here Thursday was Ohio State coach Luke Fickell, who accented "trying to pound home the culture that we believe is important in moving our program forward.''

Fickell confessed that things happened so fast that he really didn't  have time to "feel sorry'' for himself or "sit and think about it'' the events leading up to the ouster of Jim Tressell.

(Later in the day, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio called Tressell a "tragic hero.'')

Fickell confessed the last few months have been a "whirlwind ... exciting, crazy, emotional but yet very productive as well.''

Near the end of his Q & A, he stressed, "Ohio State is bigger than anyone person, bigger than anyone team, bigger than anyone era.''

Fickell came across as sincere.

Michigan's Brady Hoke came across as arrogant, by his own admission, no less.

Asked about the success the Wolverines have had recruiting, he said, "This might sound arrogant, but it is what it is, we're Michigan.''

Earlier, he rejected any notion that the Wolverines might be rebuilding. "I don't think we're rebuilding, period,'' he said defiantly. "We're Michigan.''

That came across loud and clear for everyone except maybe Penn State's Joe Paterno, who opened up the floor to questions by saying "Speak up ... if you will guys.''

In addressing his age and fitness -- and he said "I feel great" -- JoePa quoted Marv Levy, who once said, "I'm old enough to know my limitations and young enough to know how to handle them.''
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