Chicago The Big Ten gathered in its Midwestern hub city to usher in — and celebrate — a new era in one of college football’s most tradition-rich conferences.
The league has a new format, with two divisions and a championship game, and a new powerhouse member in Nebraska to help draw viewers to its already lucrative television network.
No doubt, there were plenty of reasons for Big Ten pride to be swelling on media day. And one ugly mess at Ohio State is drawing attention from all the good stuff.
Ohio State’s NCAA issues come less than a year after Michigan, the Big Ten’s other flagship program, was found to have run afoul of the rules.
“It not only reflects poorly on them, it reflects poorly on us,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday.
Delany, clearly trying to send an enough-is-enough message, said he met with his football coaches in Chicago to let them know the responsibility for running a clean program starts with them.
Delany said he couldn’t remember a time when there were more questions about NCAA rule-breaking, from players having contact with agents to recruiting violations.
“We’ve had two of them in this conference and that’s two too many,” he said.
The Ohio State scandal started in December, when the university learned players were trading tattoos for memorabilia and led to the ouster of coach Jim Tressel and the early departure of quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Interim coach Luke Fickell has been given the task of trying to salvage the 2011 season for the Buckeyes, who have won or shared the last six Big Ten titles.
“We focus on the things that we have and not the things we do not have,” Fickell said.
Many coaches use that line at the start of a new season, but for Fickell and the Buckeyes, it’s more than coach-speak.
Tressel built one of the best programs in the country over 10 years, and the Buckeyes would have entered this season as a national title contender — again — if not for all the uncertainty.
Pryor deciding to bolt from school early instead of facing NCAA scrutiny leaves Ohio State searching for a quarterback, and several other key players, including running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVier Posey, will be suspended for the first five games for their roles in the tattoo parlor scandal.