Big Ten should steal a page from SEC playbook, expand Media Days event
Two days simply isn’t enough time. But four days might feel like an eternity.
So, what about three days?
This was the pragmatic thought running through my head in the hours leading up to the 45th annual Big Ten Media Days, a two-day event that included 13 head coaches – Nebraska didn’t attend the Chicago-based gala in lieu of the tragic death of punter Sam Foltz) – and 40-plus football players from the respective institutions.
And it’s a tight schedule, folks, with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald kicking things off at 1 p.m. ET on Monday and ending with the last of the coaches and players leaving individual podiums about 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
All told, we’re talking about nearly 60 coaches/players/college football executives going through the Media Days car wash in about 30 hours. If you could clone yourself – or, more realistically, drop recorders on podiums everywhere, there was nearly 65 hours of interviews that went on from midday Monday to early Tuesday event.
That’s a long, long day.
It’s also an absurdly condensed period for perhaps the fifth biggest week on the Big Ten social calendar, after Rivalry Weekend and the championship game in football and the Big Ten basketball tournament and the start of the NCAA Tournament in March.
Look, I’ll concede that a number of head coaches loathe talking to the media, especially unfamiliar faces. I’ll also acknowledge how half of the standout players can be painfully shy, or tedious with their responses, when speaking to a large group.
But the Big Ten is, at worst, the second-most powerful conference in college sports; and if the reports are true about the upcoming TV/media-rights deals (combined value: $2.64 billion over six years), the Big Ten will soon be the most lucrative league throughout the land.
As such, the conference needs to sync up its monetary/visibility growth with its Media Days setup — even if this request seems trivial at first blush.
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I can still remember the announcement being broadcast to a large group of SEC writers, circa 2013, just seconds before Bret Bielema took the stand for his first league-wide act as the Arkansas head coach.
Mark your calendars accordingly. Next year’s SEC Media Days will be expanding to four days.
If you’ve spent three consecutive days in Hoover, Ala. — a modern-looking Birmingham suburb most famous for serving as Michael Jordan’s home hub during his brief attempt to play professional baseball in 1994 with the Double-A Birmingham Barons — you already know that 72 hours is more than enough time to experience everything Hoover has to offer.
Within that rationale, expanding the SEC Media Days to four days seemed more like a punishment than reward to the assembled media. After all, do second-wave schools like Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Missouri and Mississippi State really need to have the undivided attention of 1,200-plus media members?
Turns out, though, the league event runs much smoother when transformed into a four-day event. The quality of SEC Media Days, from various angles, had greatly improved; and the same would presumably hold true, if the Big Ten adopted a three- or four-day model for its Media Days.
Notable perks, such as:
- Longer access to the head coaches, especially when shadowing one for a whole day.
- Fewer overlaps on podium time, where now it is virtually impossible to listen to six interviews at once.
- Greater access to the league commissioner and key executives with the College Football Playoff.
- More time to file breaking-news pieces, engaging features and on-site videos.
- The players would be at greater ease, knowing they wouldn’t be subject to rigid time constraints.
- The TV networks would be satisfied, given the longer allotment of one-on-one interview time.
- McCormick Place would have an easier time accommodating the visiting fan bases over three/four days.
- The Big Ten Network would have more time to film commercial gems (like this).
- And using history as our guide, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh — the undisputed king of social media in college football circles — could easily fill up an entire day’s worth of media attention on his own.
Bottom line: The Big Ten might have the greatest collection of college head coaches right now. It might also be the home of this year’s Heisman Trophy winner (Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett).
So, why not give the assembled media three days to soak it all in?
For comparison sake, Chicago certainly beats Hoover, Ala. in the dead of summer. And that’s not even close.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and Fox Sports.