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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Thursday marks the official start to the Big Ten football season, as players and coaches from all 11 teams meet the media at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Unlike some of the other conferences, which sprinkle several teams into media sessions that span two or three days, the Big Ten throws everybody at us at once. Having covered Big Ten media days for the last six years, the format can be a little overwhelming, but not too awful.
Here's how things will work. The two-day event begins Thursday at 10:15 a.m. Central time with a short video showing key points for college football officials in the 2008 season. After the video, the 11 coaches will conduct 15-minute question-and-answer sessions on the dais. Each coach then leaves the ballroom and usually spends a few more minutes taking questions in the hallway before their sports information director whisks them away to do TV interviews. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany follows the coaches and does a one-hour question-and-answer session from 2-3 p.m.
Since 11 coaches appear in a fairly short time span (10:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m.) with only one 30-minute break, the first day doesn't have a ton of value. Every coach says how excited he is for the season, talks about his returning starters, takes a few questions and leaves. There are exceptions, though, and this year should produce some first-day intrigue. Here's a look:
The second day of media meetings brings better stories and more excitement, as the players join their coaches for a two-hour session with reporters. Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman and Big Ten coordinator of officials Dave Parry also will be available. Things begin at 8 a.m. Friday. Getting to all 46 interview tables in 120 minutes is impossible, but I'll do my best to bring you a solid sampling.
The biggest crowds are usually around Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel, but Rodriguez, Ferentz and Illinois coach Ron Zook will get their share of visitors. Ohio State's star threesome of James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Todd Boeckman won't be lonely. By the way, I forgot to complain about having no Beanie Wells at media days. I get the bringing-the-seniors thing, but he's a legit Heisman Trophy contender. Other players sure to be mobbed include Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum, Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, Illinois quarterback Juice Williams and all three Penn State invitees (Josh Gaines, A.Q. Shipley and Derrick Williams).
Possible highlights of Day 2 include:
So there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about Big Ten media days. Unlike my colleagues, I'm not staying at the Ritz or heading to Vegas. I'll be saving the company money and making the short trip down Lake Shore Drive from my home on the city's North Side. The blog should be buzzing the next two days, so check it out. And e-mail me any questions or comments as the event goes along.