Big Ten Football Kickoff: Day 1

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The two days that signal the unofficial end of summer for many of us - Big Ten media days and kickoff luncheon - started Thursday at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and Convention Center in Chicago. The entire first day is centered around press conferences, interviews and photo shoots, with Friday holding a few more interviews, an autograph hour for fans and the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon.

Assistant sports information director Derek Neal and I met Nathan Scheelhaase, Graham Pocic and Michael Buchanan this morning and walked to breakfast, where we met up with head coach Tim Beckman after he finished a meeting with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney and conference head coaches. After we finished eating, the players started their round of interviews by shuffling between rooms where staffers from ESPN, ESPN.com, CBS, the Big Ten Network, the BTN show "The Journey" and a photo shoot for BTN. Many of the questions they get during this round are actually more general, like "What is the first game of the season like" or "What's it like running out of that tunnel on game day?" And each of the players had a little fun during the BTN shoot, showing a little flair pointing to their Block I lapel pin, pointing a rose at the camera or signaling a touchdown.

Nate rose photo.jpg

While this was going on, Coach Beckman was was holding his press conference in front of 200+ media, where he talked about his senior leaders, addressed the issue of possible Penn State transfers and wished his mother a happy birthday, among other things. Watch Beckman's full press conference here.

After the players were finished with the TV networks, we had to hustle from that area of the convention center across the skybridge over Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the ballroom in the hotel, where Beckman and the three players would rotate from one stage to the next to be interviewed by the assembled masses of local television affiliates from across the Big Ten footprint for the next 75 minutes. The group answered questions then moved to the next stage every 15 minutes, with four of the five stages starting their allotted time with questions about the Penn State situation. Beckman mentioned at each stage that the Illini staff did not attempt to contact any Penn State players unless those players had first reached out to the Illinois coaches.

After the local TV rotations, the four Illini spent about another hour sitting down to chat with many of the radio stations set up on "radio row" around the perimeter of the ballroom lobby. They also taped some one-on-one interviews with several TV stations. While Coach Beckman and the players were rotating through the various TV and radio stations, we bumped into Erin Andrews, the former ESPN broadcaster who recently moved to FOX Sports. Pocic said later that meeting her was the highlight of his day.

We headed to lunch after finishing those interviews, but Coach Beckman only had about 15 minutes to eat a few bites before walking down to a meeting with the Big Ten Network, rotating through interviews with CBS, ESPN, ESPN.com, BTN and The Journey, sitting down with Steve Kelly and Brian Barnhart on WDWS' SportsTalk and making an appearance on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, along with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, before finally calling it a day.

It was a busy day packed with interviews, but Coach Beckman and all three players did a great job interacting with the reporters and representing Illinois in a first-class manner. After a few hours of relaxation tonight, we'll be back at it again early Friday morning with breakfast at 7:30, roundtable interviews with print and radio reporters at 8, an autograph session at 10 and finally the B1G Kickoff Luncheon at 11:30.

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