Purdue's Tiller toasted, roasted at final media day

July, 24, 2008
7/24/08
6:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Tiller
Tiller

CHICAGO -- At times, it resembled a roast, as Joe Tiller's Big Ten colleagues cracked jokes about the retiring Purdue coach. But for the most part, a series of tributes were bestowed upon a man who brought the Big Ten a trend-setting offense and a colorful personality.

"I'd like to think that if you can't get along with Joe Tiller, there's something wrong with you," Tiller said. "I've never had an issue with a coach."

He made impressions on several colleagues, particularly with the offense he brought to Purdue in 1997. The pass-happy "basketball on grass" system shook up a league known for bruising running backs and smashmouth football.

Eleven years later, most Big Ten teams are running some version of the spread. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema noted that the Badgers' run-first offense with a fullback and a tailback has gone from traditional to unique.

"He brought in a whole new concept to the Big Ten as to what we could do," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said of Tiller. "I'm probably the old man of the coaching right now -- I've been in (the Big Ten) 15 years or so -- and we didn't have the indoor facilities, we couldn't throw the football. In the South they could practice year-round throwing the football. Joe came in and started to open up offenses."

Paterno couldn't help but chide Tiller about his love for fishing.

Tiller traveled to Big Ten media days from Wyoming, where he'll retire after the season. The coach will return there Friday for a few more days of fly fishing before training camp.

"He keeps telling me he wants to fish," Paterno said. "I said, 'Fishing, for cryin' out loud. You catch three of them, you look at one and they all look alike.' But he's a great guy."

Bielema also got in some friendly shots on Tiller, poking fun at the coach's casual attire.

"I'm a big Joe Tiller fan because he can walk in here without a tie," Bielema said. "If I got up here without a tie, I'd get heckled, so I admire a guy that's going into his last year can wear whatever he wants and nobody's going to say anything."

Purdue has reached bowls in 10 of Tiller's 11 seasons as coach after failing to reach the postseason in the 12 seasons before his arrival. His offense featured standouts such as quarterback Drew Brees and, more recently, wide receiver Dorien Bryant.

"It doesn't surprise me at all that the spread offense has really swept the nation," he said. "To me, it's almost a reflection of our society. Things can be instant in the spread offense, and I often times refer to our society as being an instant gratification society, so the spread offense just fits right in. We've just done our part to help America be better."

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