Big Ten football media day live updates: Indiana, Purdue and Ohio State headline final day

Brian Haenchen J.L. Kirven
Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS — The 2021 Big Ten Football Media Days kicked off Thursday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium continuing into Friday, and with the season just weeks away, the event provided players and coaches the chance to preview what fans can look forward to this fall. 

Day one kicks off with a news conference with commissioner Kevin Warren followed by sessions with coaches right after. On Thursday, players and coaches from Minnesota, Maryland, Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan will be made available.  

More:See where Big Ten football media think IU, Purdue will finish in 2021

The media days will conclude on Friday with representatives from (in order of appearance) Rutgers, Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State. 

IndyStar reporters Zach Osterman, Brian Haenchen and J.L. Kirven are at Lucas Oil and will provide updates throughout the day.

Related: Big Ten commish Kevin Warren can’t afford anymore growing pains after chaotic first year

(Hit refresh for updates.)

11: 45 a.m. — Tom Allen on 2020: 'It's in the past'

Indiana head coach Tom Allen has one word on his mind for the 2021 season: Chase. 

The Hoosiers were one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably in the conference but didn't get to prove it in the Big Ten Championship. Lucas Oil Stadium is exactly where Allen wants to be at the end of the season and in order to do that the Hoosier will have to find a way to get past Ohio State. 

"They're the gold standard," Allen said. "That's who we're chasing. Our word for 2021 is chase and that's what we're going to do every single day." 

Expectations have never been hire for Allen heading into his fifth season at the helm. Indiana set to start the season ranked 16 in the country and could be even higher up in the rankings by the time the Hoosiers welcome Ohio State to Bloomington on Oct.23. 

Studs like quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw for five touchdowns against the Buckeyes and he' returns to lead the offense into 2021. 

"[He's] one of the best in the country," Allen said. 

Penix and standout wide receiver Ty Fryfoggle will be two major pieces as the Hoosiers try to  improve on a 6-2 season, but Allen knows last year's success won't carry over just because it's expected to. The Hoosiers have a target on their backs. 

"It's about building off the success of 2020," Allen said. "Everything we did, it's awesome but it's in the past." 

11: 20 a.m. —  Spartans follow Mel Tucker into year two 

Mel Tucker remembers working for $400 as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in the late 90s. It was his first foray into coaching and the main reason why he wanted to return to Lansing and coach the Spartans. 

Tucker's 2-5 first season was highlighted by a road win over rival Michigan and a 29-20 victory over eventual Big Ten West champion Northwestern. But Tucker is over thinking about last year, it's time to get to work. 

" No, it's not year one. It's year two," Tucker said. "We've got to get this thing moving." 

11: 00 a.m. — Greg Schiano kicks off day two. 

The first coach to take the podium and kick off day two of Big Ten Football Media Days was Rutgers Greg Schiano. Since his first stint at Rutgers, Schiano felt like Scarlet Knights belonged in the Big Ten, he has no problem battling with the powerhouse schools. 

"If we bring in the right people the right culture fits our program we'll be all right," 

Rutgers finished last season 3-6 but brings back at 11 starters. The surprisingly all of the Scarlett Knight's wins came on the road. Winning at home matters to Schiano on and off the field. 

Reclaiming New Jersey and setting Rutgers as the school to be will be vital to the Scarlet Knights success. When he first got to campus in 2001, Rutgers wasn't a prime choice in the area, Schiano had to build the program up with recruits from South Florida.

But if Schiano's going to win in the Big Ten he's going to have to find ways to excel on the recruiting trail. And locking down the Jersey area comes first.

2:50 p.m. — Pat Fitzgerald weighs in on pros and cons of NIL 

Name, image and likeness (NIL) is going to be a heard a lot not only this season but in the years following. Players having the opportunity to make money off themselves and the possibilities are growing. 

For Big Ten players and coaches, NIL is a unfamiliar road that could have players lost without help or guidance.  For Northwestern, the main goal at hand for the Wildcats is returning to Lucas Oil in December and leaving as Big Ten Champions, its has yet to be seen how new found endorsements affect a player. 

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald wonders if the responsibility of developing as a person, player and student is already more than enough for a 19-20 year old to handle. Having to make important business decisions on top of that could be overboard. 

" I think this is a really hot topic right now, but it's a job, a bonafide job," Fitzgerald said. " I think these young me have to be really careful they don't set their market too low...we do a really good job helping them, it's a huge benefit. If they mismanage it their academics are going to go down, they're not going to play well and all that stuff is going to go to waste. " 

Northwestern players like running back Cam Porter feel similar. Porter felt like the newfound platform and voice that many young athletes will have is fantastic. Still can't forget take care of business on the field. 

"It's truly a blessing but it could also be a distraction potentially," Porter said. "It's important to realize how great of an opportunity this is but also remember we're here to play football." 

Fitzgerald said earlier in the day that he was "jealous" of the opportunities college athletes are getting. He remembers the old days where the only thing he had to focus on was school football and fun. Even if the NIL was a think during Fitzgerald's college days, he doesn't think he would've taken it super seriously. 

"I would not have put a lot of time into it," Fitzgerald said "i would have passed it off to my mom and dad and told them to deal with it. I'm going to go to school, play ball and have fun ... probably in reverse order. " 

1:40 p.m. — Frost: 'A lot of things in the air' in college football

Conference realignment and postseason expansion were two major topics of conversation for Nebraska coach Scott Frost during Big Ten media days Thursday.

With respect to the former, Frost said college football is in a time where "there's a lot of things up in the air." 

His comments come less than 24 hours after reports surfaced that Big 12 members Texas and Oklahoma have reached out to the SEC about possible membership.

"When the dust settles, I think a lot of things will be different," he continued. "I don't have any comment on teams going from one league to another, but I think a lot of the things that are happening with the rules in college football are going to shake things up. I wouldn't be surprised if many things change, possibly even realignments. But we can't focus on that. We need to focus on our football team and try to navigate the waters when the dust settles."

Asked directly about Texas and Oklahoma, Frost said he has "absolutely no comment" on either schools or another league. 

"There's a lot of dust flying around right now and we're going to have to see where it settles in the end of the day," he added. "If that leads to realignment, I feel great about the position Nebraska is in. We're really happy with where we are right now." 

As for the latter, Frost said he is in favor of expansion, but declined to share his ideal format: "I have my opinions on how they should expand it, but I don't think they matter."

12:40 p.m. — Jim Harbaugh may have his quarterback in Cade McNamara

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has had his share of talent in Ann Arbor since taking over the Wolverines in 2015, but one could argue his biggest shortcomings have come under center. 

During Harbaugh's time at Michigan rarely has he had a quarterback take control of the team early in the season. Harbaugh is no stranger to quarterback battles, but that may not be the case this season. 

Junior Cade McNamara is the favorite heading into camp to win the starting quarterback job. Last season, McNamara threw for 425 yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions and completed 60 percent of his passes in the four games he appeared in. Harbaugh loves that he has a deep quarterback room but feels good that McNamara has made the spot his to loose. 

"You talk about reins and leadership, that's something he's (McNamara) has done. 

Fans in Ann Arbor couldn't care who's under center as long as they beat Michigan's rivals Ohio State and Michigan State. It isn't lost on Harbaugh that he's never beaten the Buckeyes or won the conference championship. Both of those goals are desperately vital on Harbaugh's list. 

"We're going to do it or die trying," Harbaugh said.   

Noon — James Franklin on reuniting with his family, COVID protocols

Penn State coach James Franklin reunited with his family for the first time in over a year last month.

Due to the pandemic, Franklin decided in March 2020 to live separately from his wife and two daughters, one of whom has Sickle cell disease, a blood cell disorder that leaves her at high risk of hospitalization if she were to contract COVID-19. 

"(COVID risk) is something that hit very close to home with us," Franklin said. "It's been something that we take very seriously not only in our home, but also in our community. What I challenge people to do, whether you completely agree with it or not, is to continue being diligent about it. You're making a sacrifice for others that maybe don't have that choice."

Franklin joked that he still hasn't mastered the art of wearing a mask and glasses, but said he took great pride in "setting the example" for his players and staff by consistently wearing a mask. 

"The success we had with COVID, I think that showed we're not going to let our guard down and we're going to continue to be aggressive with that," he said. "We're asking our fan bases and our community to do the same." 

11:55 a.m. — Bret Bielema looks forward to return to the Big Ten. 

It's been a long nine years since Bret Bielema was in the Big Ten, but before the former Wisconsin and current Illinois head coach spoke he took the time to appreciate his homecoming. 

The last time Bielema was in Lucas Oil Stadium his Badgers crushed Nebraska 70-31 just before he lifted the Big Ten Championship trophy over his head. Bielema's journey would take him to Arkansas and then a three year stint in the NFL with New England Patriots and New York Giants. 

Hailing from Prophetstown, Illinois,  Bielema will embark on his quest to reclaim Big Ten supremacy in his home state as the coach of Illinois. The Fighting Illini haven't had a winning season since 2011. In order to make up that ground in the Big Ten West, Bielema will have to reclaim the state in recruiting and that'll mean getting the advantage on his alma matter Iowa. 

Bielema will have to make sure his Iowa tattoo is covered up when he's on the road. 

"I got the Tigerhawk tattoo when I was 19, it was a great idea then," Bielema said. "...recruiting is personal if you're doing it the right way." 

10:55 a.m. — Kevin Warren on conference expansion

The Big Ten commissioner was asked about reports of Texas and Oklahoma exploring a move from the Big 12 to the SEC and conference expansion in general.

"That’s the world we live in right now. From where we sit, we’re always constantly evaluating what’s in the best interests of the conference. It will be interesting to see that story, how that evolves and where it lands."

10:30 a.m. — Barry Alvarez named Big Ten football special advisor

Barry Alvarez has been named Special Advisor for Football with the Big Ten, conference commissioner Kevin Warren announced during Big Ten media days on Thursday. 

The former Wisconsin head football coach and director of athletics will begin his new role on Aug. 2.

"He means everything to this conference and we're so grateful that he's agreed to join us at the conference office," Warren said of Alvarez, who stepped down following 32 years with the Badgers in June. "He will be working on projects such as potential expansion, building relationships with our media partners, health and safety issues, scheduling issues and bold partnerships."

Alvarez compiled a record of 119-74-4 over 16 seasons (1990-2005) as Wisconsin football coach. One of 16 football coaches in Big Ten history to win at least 100 games at one school, he led UW to three Rose Bowl victories and coached a Heisman Trophy winner (running back Ron Dayne, 1999).

Alvarez, who retired from coaching after the 2005 season, was named athletic director in 2004. The Badgers won a combined 16 team national titles and 74 conference regular-season or tournament crowns under his watch. 

“Barry has been blessed with an illustrious career in college athletics and his impact on college football and the Big Ten Conference has been significant,” said Warren. “He understands the history and traditions of the Big Ten. I trust Barry and we look forward to working with him on relevant football-related issues and building upon the strong relationships we have with the College Football Playoff, our broadcast and bowl partners, as well as our member institutions and student-athletes.”