Big Ten Notebook: New coaches square off in Chicago

BY SETH ROBERTS | JULY 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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CHICAGO — College football has gone through a tough time lately, and no one knows that better than the Big Ten's two flagship programs.

In 2010, Michigan was put on three year's probation when it was found that then-head coach Rich Rodriguez was allegedly unaware of his assistants holding illegal practice sessions.

More recently, of course, Ohio State has been the center of swirling investigations into improper benefits — allegations that eventually cost iconic coach Jim Tressel his job. Further punishment could still be coming from the NCAA.

Both programs introduced new head coaches at the Big Ten media days in Chicago on Thursday. Michigan hired former associate head coach Brady Hoke, and the Buckeyes replaced Tressell with former Ohio State nose guard and co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

And while both seemed confident that their teams would respond to the adversity with wins, Fickell appeared more ready to admit that expectations for this season have been lowered somewhat since Tressell and 2010 Big Ten MVP Terrelle Pryor left the Buckeyes.

"What is the future? We know that we're excited about getting on the field, proving what we can do, focusing on what we can control, and everybody else will make those decisions for themselves," said Fickell, who said he hadn't spoken to Tressell much since taking over last month. "We know we need to be who we are and continue to move forward and focus on the things we have, not the things we do not have anymore."

Meanwhile, Hoke spoke highly of the Wolverines' tradition when asked how the mounting allegations against the country's top programs — Oregon, LSU, Georgia Tech, and others are being investigated along with Ohio State — had affected recruiting.

"This might sound arrogant, and if it is, it is: We're Michigan," Hoke said. "We have a global education. We're the winningest program in the history of college football."

The 52-year-old repeated that idea when asked if the Wolverines, who have proud tradition but who won just 15 games in three years under Rodriguez, were in the process of rebuilding

"I don't think we're rebuilding, period," he said. "I mean, we're Michigan. We've got kids who understand that they're Michigan. I don't put any stock into that."

Big Red

Most of the coaches at Big Ten media days had something to say about Nebraska's entry into the conference, but not all of them have as much history with the Huskers as Kirk Ferentz.

The Iowa head coach's first game in charge of the Hawkeyes came against Nebraska in 1999. Big Red ran all over the Hawkeyes, winning 42-7 in Kinnick.

"I think we were ranked 140th [in the country], and they were second or third — maybe first," Ferentz said (Nebraska was the No. 5 team in the nation at the time). "The next year, it was about the same."

The Hawkeyes managed to score a little more in the 2000 rematch, but still fell, 42-13.

"They've got such a strong tradition that goes back forever — it's kind of like playing Ohio State or Michigan," Ferentz said. "Our [tradition] is a little more recent … so at least the field will be a little more level than it was a decade ago."

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