Big Ten media days got underway Wednesday in Chicago with the conference’s two new head coaches stepping to the microphone in their Big Ten Media Day debuts. But before Purdue and Wisconsin’s new coaches could step in to the spotlight, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald got things started on a confident note.
Northwestern is opening the 2013 season as a team on the rise, with a lot of quality talent returning, but head coach Pat Fitzgerald made a point to say just reaching bowl games is no longer acceptable. Fitzgerald said the goal is to win championships and being able to win the Gator Bowl last January was just the start for his program heading forward. Fielding a team capable of achieving that success requires a good blend though.
“Discipline begins in the recruiting,” Fitzgerald said when asked about disciplining players. Fitzgerald explained that having a staff doing their homework on the players they bring in to the program is vital to keep a program improving without sacrificing character. Northwestern has long had a certain profile, but recent success ha helped the Wildcats recruit better talent and offer new opportunities to players who may not have given Northwestern a second look years ago.
New head coach Darrell Hazell admits he has a lot of work to do to get the Boilermakers in the Big Ten title picture. Hazell, a former assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressel and the previous head coach at Kent State, knows a few things about turning a program around. At the first team meeting he had with Purdue Hazell explained to his players the football program has always been regarded as a middle-rung type program, never great but never terrible. His message was simple, that hard work will be done to make Purdue a perennial national force.
Gary Andersen takes over a program that is not in need of a rebuilding process. The Badgers have represented the Big Ten in three consecutive Rose Bowl games as conference champions, and Andersen is well aware of the recent success in Madison. One of the challenges Andersen faces at Wisconsin is continuing to keep the program competing at a high level the ay his predecessor, Bret Bielema, had.
“I’m not in to comparing what has been done and with what we’re doing,” Andersen said. Instead Andersen is focusing on doing what he has been doing since becoming a head coach with Utah State. The former Urban Meyer assistant knows that transition can be difficult though. “It’s a challenge to get the right coaches in when the program has been winning.”
Wisconsin still has to figure out a quarterback for the season but Andersen is not rushing to any decisions on that front. Andersen joked the Badgers might jog on to the field in week one with two quarterbacks, and confirmed the quarterback competition will continue in the upcoming camp.
Kevin is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation and host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow McGuire on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.