Football is almost here. Well, kind of. Big Ten Media Days and the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon start tomorrow, meaning we're just a couple weeks away from fall camp. It's not real football quite yet, but it's certainly a step up from watch list season, so we'll take it. Last year's Big Ten Media Days had plenty of storylines — it was Urban Meyer's first year at Ohio State and the first major media event for Penn State coach Bill O'Brien and his players since the school's NCAA sanctions were handed down. This year figures to be at least a little tamer, but there are still plenty of storylines that will undoubtedly be discussed way more than they should be. So here are three things to watch:
Urban Meyer on trial (by the media)
What's the over/under on "Hey Urban Meyer, why do you recruit criminals?" question? I'm going with three questions in. Meyer has been under a microscope since his days at Florida, when he had a pretty terrible track record of recruiting players who eventually get arrested. His reputation wasn't helped on Monday when Ohio State disciplined four players for different off-field issues. Most notably, starting running back Carlos Hyde was suspended indefinitely as a person of interest in an assault case, and star cornerback Bradley Roby will be kept out of Big Ten Media Days and could face further discipline after being arrested in a bar fight.
Meyer will also surely get questions about Aaron Hernandez's murder charge, and whether those questions are fair or not — some certainly won't be — he's going to have to come up with something better than "no comment."
Jim Delany's stance on the NCAA
In the past two weeks, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Mike Slive have made some pretty critical remarks about the NCAA. Slive noted the need for change, while Bowlsby went a step further, talking about the possibility of creating another division inside Division I, presumably of schools from the power five conferences:
"I really think the time has come to think about federation by size and scope and equity brought to the system," Bowlsby said. "There are about 75 schools that win 90 percent of the championships in the NCAA, and we have a whole bunch of others that don't look much like the people in our league, but yet through rule variation they're trying to compete with us."
This seems like it could be a coordinated effort among the conference commissioners to lash out at the NCAA, and it will be interesting to see what stance Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany takes. He, Bowlsby, Slive and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott are arguably the four most powerful people in college athletics, so he could certainly throw his weight around and advocate for sweeping changes in the NCAA's structure.
The SEC comparisons
Every year, Big Ten coaches get the same questions: Can you keep up with the SEC? Why is the SEC so much faster than you? How far is the Big Ten behind the SEC?
Some of the questions are absurd — especially the "SEC Speed" ones — but they'll keep on coming until the Big Ten either wins is next national championship or beats the SEC in a couple major bowl games. The Big Ten-SEC rivalry is unique, and it's more about what happens off the field than on it. On the field, the SEC has dominated, but the rivalry persists because of the passion of the fan bases. Collectively, the SEC and Big Ten have the most passionate fan bases in the sport, and passion tends to lead to a rivalry. For yet another year, the Big Ten is trying to play catch-up, and fair or not, the coaches are going to have to answer for it.