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Big Ten Media Days: Day Two Roundup

Jacob Diaz

Jacob Diaz

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

To nobody’s surprise, Jim Harbaugh wore khakis.

The Michigan head coach was the big draw on day two of Big Ten Media Days, as evidenced by the massive crowd that followed him out of the room as he left the podium. However, while he gave some interesting quotes, talking about his team’s trip to Rome and preseason position battles, there wasn’t a lot of news coming out of his camp. When asked about the team’s quarterback situation, Harbaugh wouldn’t commit to any of his options, leaving the position open whichever of Wilton Speight, John O’Korn and Brandon Peters impresses him in the coming weeks.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day came in the form of updated and changed rules from Bill Carollo, Big Ten Coordinator of Football Officials. Carollo specifically highlighted his desire to make sure the officials do not miss any targeting calls in the upcoming season. Carollo repeatedly emphasized the importance of calling targeting when it happens as a means to improve player safety, and advocated for increased use of replay to confirm the calls or spot calls that officials may have missed.

The somewhat controversial rule, intended to protect against intentionally dangerous and aggressive tackles, carries a very high penalty of immediate ejection from the game as well as a 15-yard on-the-field penalty, and because of this Carollo wants referees to consult video replay more often to make sure that they get the calls right.

Some of the other changes around the game include replay officials now wearing headsets so that they can more easily communicate with the officials on the field. Now they will be able to quickly confirm certain calls (a goal-line touchdown call for example) without stopping the game for an official review.

Also, on punt and field goal attempts defensive backs will no longer be able to take a running start and jump the line to block kicks. This decision was made with player safety in mind according to Carollo, who also announced a tweak to the horse collar tackle penalty, which now can be called on tackles in the nameplate area, as well as the inside of the shoulder pads and around the collar.

The final rule change has to do with managing coaches on the sidelines. It will now be illegal for coaches to come on to the field to challenge a call or argue with the referees. Coaches who violate this will face a stiff 15-yard penalty.

Another theme of day two in Chicago was new facilities opening up around the conference.

After Illinois’ representatives talked about their planned $79.2 million facility Monday, Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers all talked about their new facilities during their press conferences Tuesday morning.

Northwestern’s new facility is something the program will flaunt long after it’s anticipated opening in 2018. The 500,000-square-foot, $260 million lakefront facility will provide the Wildcats a new place to train, eat, and meet with coaches, and all with a view of the Chicago Skyline. The Wildcats and coach Pat Fitzgerald are buzzing about the facility — which the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein called the “Taj Mahal for football players” — and what it will mean for recruiting and team operations in the future.

“You can see where the recruiting is at. It’s at an all-time high,” Fitzgerald said. “Young men want to play for a winner, want to get a great education and be prepared for life. And, quite frankly, they want to see commitment from universities and fans that they’re going to support your program and the experience.”

Purdue’s new practice facility will be finished at the end of August according to head coach Jeff Brohm, and apparently it has already had a significant impact on recruiting.

“(The facility) will be fantastic and a tremendous asset for us,” Brohm said. “I think for us recruiting has gone very well, it’s actually gone better than I thought at this point. there are a lot of things to sell for Purdue football.”

At a $65 millon price point, Purdue’s facility is a little less flashy than Northwestern’s, but will serve many of the same purposes. Similar to Illinois’ new facility in size and function, the practice complex is just the first step in a plan to rejuvenate Purdue’s program, with plans for an academic facility named after former quarterback Drew Brees and renovations for Ross-Ade stadium in the pipeline.

Rutgers rounded out the day’s announcements with mention of their new outdoor practice facility. Adjacent to their indoor complex, the Hale Center, the Marco Battaglia Practice Facility features two new fields, video boards, an LED light system and enhanced drainage. It may not stand up to the price tags of some of the other facilities around the conference, but the Rutgers athletic department and their coach are both ecstatic to see it opening up for the first time on August 6.

“Facilities is obviously something that’s very important to a lot of programs,” head coach Chris Ash said. “I think it will be one of the best in the country. It’s going to be two-fold: One, help us in recruiting but also in player development. And we continue to build and make our program better.”

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