Bielema urges strong enforcement
CHICAGO Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema was asked Thursday about the NCAA cracking down on rule-breakers. He never mentioned Jim Tressel, but it certainly sounded as if he doesn’t have much sympathy for the former Ohio State coach.
Bielema was the second coach to address reporters at Big Ten Media Day and he shared some strong opinions about what to do with coaches who cheat in recruiting.
“If you’re trying to be competitive, you’re trying to win a football game, all those things, maximize all your opportunities, do what you have to do,” he said. “But when you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people, or seriously hold programs accountable. That’s probably the number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”
Tressel was forced out at Ohio State on Memorial Day after the school learned he withheld information about possible NCAA violations by his players.
Wisconsin has stayed above the fray in recent years when it comes to NCAA issues.
“I tell kids all the time in recruiting, I’m going to be in charge of you basically two or three hours on a practice field every day,” Bielema said. “I don’t know what you’re going to do at 1 o’clock on Saturday night. I hope I know because I recruit a young man. I said it earlier, but I think you recruit your own problems.
“One thing we try to emphasize at Wisconsin, I tell my coaches, they’re all fathers, they all have children, if you are not willing to let a recruit come in and baby-sit your children when you’re not in the house, don’t recruit them.”
Wilson a “potential” starter
Bielema isn’t about to hand the starting quarterback job to highly touted transfer Russell Wilson.
He called Wilson, who transferred from North Carolina State, a “potential” starter.
“It’s a work in progress,” Bielema said. “No matter how good a football player Russell Wilson is, the first thing I wanted to find out is what kind of person he is. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t recruiting somebody that was going to be a problem at Wisconsin.”
New Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said scandals and upheaval in the marquee program haven’t seemed to dampen recruiting.
“I don’t know that we’ve seen any big backlash of any sorts,” Fickell said. “We’ve always—since I’ve been at Ohio State—focused on the history and traditions of what Ohio State has brought. It’s bigger than any one person, any one coach, any one coach or era.
“I truly believe that Ohio State will always attract the top-notch student-athletes from around the nation no matter what.”
Back in the day
There’s little 84-year-old Penn State coach Joe Paterno hasn’t dealt with in college football.
“Every once in a while I hear one of these guys that I know a little bit about when they were 19 and 20 … talk about the kids today,” said Paterno, starting his 46th season. “They ought to go back and read Socrates. Socrates, 400 years B.C., said ‘The kids today are terrible, tyrants. They don’t pay attention.’”
Paterno said his health is the best it’s been in recent years.
“I feel a lot better than I did a year ago, I had two tough years physically,” he said. “I feel good. I’m back to doing a lot of things I used to do. I’m walking a lot more, watching what I eat. I enjoyed the spring and have a lot of enthusiasm.”
Kill has big job ahead
New Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has been a fixer where ever he’s coached.
Coming from a Northern Illinois program that earned three straight bowl appearances, Kill’s challenge is to lift a Gophers team that was 3-9 last year and with one winning season in the last five years.
“All the things that through my five or six months that I’ve been at the University of Minnesota are the same problems that we had at the other places,” Kill said. “Now we’ve got to fix them.
“I’ve got to be able to sell the vision (to) our fans, athletic department, our president. This is where we’re at.”
, this is what we need to do and this is how we need to get there. All those things won’t happen overnight.”
Northwestern’s Dan Persa missed the end of last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said Persa’s injury has healed, but the quarterback is still rounding into football shape.
“He’s 100 percent healed from the standpoint of surgery, now it’s about adding the strength, getting the conditioning level up, getting back to having fun,” Fitzgerald said.
Persa is the Big Ten’s top returnee in passing efficiency with a 159.0 rating.
New offense for Denard
Denard Robinson, the 2010 Big Ten offensive player of the year, was the first in NCAA history to rush and pass for more than 1,500 yards in each category.
But he did that running Rich Rodriguez’s spread offenses. New coach Brady Hoke is transitioning to a pro-style offense.
“He’s done a tremendous job,” Hoke said. “He ran the same offense in high school, which is a plus. One of the big differences is the mechanics of taking the snap from center, the footwork, the run game, the foot pattern, the play-action game.”
Huskers prepare for the new
Nebraska has a series of new opponents in its first season in the Big Ten and that means a lot more preparation.
“We’ve had a great offseason, we needed it,” coach Bo Pelini said. “We basically have 11 new opponents on our schedule, which creates a little bit of a challenge. But our kids are ready.”
The Huskers’ initial tests include their Big Ten debut at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium, followed by Ohio State at home.
Iowa welcomes Nebraska challenge
For Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, Nebraska is not only a new opponent but a next-door rival.
The schools plan to unveil a new traveling trophy to be awarded to the winner of their new series, which commences Nov. 25 at Memorial Stadium.
“It’s a fantastic thing for our conference,” Ferentz said. “We have a border that we share and it’s certainly going to be something very much of interest for the fans.”
New defense for Spartans
Michigan State returns a mostly veteran offense from last season’s 11-win team, but an inexperienced defense will take time to develop.
“Defensively we’re a young football team,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “We have two seniors in our top 22 players. But I do think we bring a blend of experience there.”