Big Ten kickoff: Inner Harbaugh, spinner Delany, (hopeful) winner Frost. And math by P.J.

CHICAGO—If Scott Frost coaches up Nebraska football as well as he introduced himself to the Big Ten media on Monday, look out.


The new Cornhusker mentor not only won the press conference. He won it over six other coaches and commissioner Jim Delany, who all shared their thoughts at the opening session of the two-day event at the Downtown Marriott.

``When I sit in my office with recruits, in this first recruiting cycle, the parents all remember Nebraska as Nebraska,’’ he said. ``A lot of the kids don't remember that. It's our job to change that. It's our job to make sure that the new generation remembers Nebraska for what it is and what it should be.’’

Matter-of-fact. Sincere. Low-keyed. On point. Frost seems to have a very firm grasp on being CEO and communicator as well as head coach.

``Nebraska stood for a lot of things when it was great,’’ he said. ``It was an organization of integrity and character—unity, unity across the whole state. We used to build it from within by developing players better than anybody else. We went out and recruited good players that were hungry and had upside and got to work in the best strength and conditioning program in the country, with the best nutrition program in the country, best academic support in the country, best life skills development in the country. Went out and got a bunch of walk-ons from Nebraska and from the Midwest that were hungry that were put into the same type of program and developed them, too, and by the time they were sophomores, juniors and seniors they were contributing.’’

Sounds good.

``The program used to reflect the people of the state,’’ he continued. ``Nebraska's best asset is its people. It has unbelievable people that are hardworking, blue-collar people that are going to care about each other. That's what we're trying to get back to in our program, and that's the way that we're going to build it to try to make it have sustained success.’’

That ought to get the farm boys fired up. If Frost can find some lads who can block and tackle—and recruit some outside skill the way his mentor, Tom Osborne did. . .

We’ll find out in a few years.


These media days are usually so sunny. That was particularly true at this year’s Big Ten kickoff—which was relatively devoid of burning issues. No major scandals. No momentous broadcasting contracts bringing in big dollars at a scheduling price.

Commissioner Delany, who opened things, even managed to put a bright spin on the 2017 season, which ended with Ohio State bemoaning being left out of the College Football Playoff.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

``I honestly think it was one of the finest seasons in modern football, here or elsewhere,’’ the Commish said, noting that the Big Ten was the only Power-Five conference to increase its ``in-stadium attendance.’’ It also led those conferences by winning 77 percent of it games against FBS opponents. It also had a 7-1 bowl record.

And, he might have added, the Big Ten did not lose any College Football Playoff games.


Most coaches wear coats and ties to these events. Jim Harbaugh opted for a Michigan ballcap, a blue Michigan golf shirt and his ubiquitous khaki pants. And his Woody-Hayes-style over-sized dark-rimmed glasses.

Harbaugh also remains above the fray when confronted by righteous media.

Q: ``Michigan hasn't beaten Ohio State in six seasons. How much do you hear about that, and how much pressure do you feel to change that this year?’’

Harbaugh: ``We feel like just improvement. We need to improve. And that will lead to success. It will lead to championships. It's that simple.’’

Unsatisfied, the next questioner came in with a high hard one. . .

Q: ``You've got a third place, a third place and fourth place finish. And you're 1-5 against Michigan State and Ohio State. What do you have to do this year to demonstrate to the Michigan community that you are on the path to achieving what they hired you to achieve?’’

A: ``The improvement will lead to success, will lead to championships.’’

If I had been inclined to ask a question, I would have followed up with. . .

Q: ``Did you get that from a fortune cookie?’’

Harbaugh and his Wolverines will start providing substantive answers very quickly. They play their opener on Sept. 1 at Notre Dame.


Officially, P.J. Fleck is heading into his second year at Minnesota. But he doesn’t look at it that way.

``Year One, last year, is really Year Zero the way I look at a program,’’ Fleck said. ``And I know everybody's like, `What do you mean by that? Is that just to get a contract extension? Is that just to delay a process?’ No, that's reality. Year Zero, everybody's learning and everybody's getting to know each other. We took over at a very tumultuous time, to be honest with you, and we had a lot of things to have happen. We had players leave, players stay. But it was a transitional time. We're in Year One, the way I look at it.’’

Here's the really tough part about P.J.'s Gopher math: ``Nine scholarship seniors on offense and defense, 14 juniors on scholarship offense and defense.''

What these numbers add up to is. . . tempering expectations in the Land of 10,000 Lakes But Considerably Fewer Wins.