Big Ten Media Days: Harbaugh steals show

Big Ten media days concluded on July 31.

CHICAGO — The second day of Big Ten media days included a list of coaches ranging from newcomer Mike Riley of Nebraska to Minnesota’s Jerry Kill to Penn State’s second-year front man James Franklin.

But, as expected, Jim Harbaugh stole the show in his Big Ten media début.

Below are some of the hot topics of the July 31 action.

Harbaugh talks Big Ten and, naturally, Mike Ditka

No coach worked the crowd at his press conference quite like Harbaugh. Sure, name recognition created the hype that had media members champing at the bit to hear what Michigan’s appointed savior had to say.

Harbaugh could’ve gone all awkward “Colin Cowherd interview,” and some still would’ve eaten it up anyway.

Thankfully for those in attendance, vintage Harbaugh was in the building.

He was quick to note the influence Mike Ditka had on him while answering a particular question about his father. That prompted a follow-up question from the Chicago Tribune‘s Teddy Greenstein, saying he felt obliged to bring “da coach” back into the discussion.

“When you’re a player, your coach is like family,” Harbaugh said. “I had a chance to spend the evening with Coach last night at his restaurant … it was just really, really special to be with my coach. So, in fact, I picked up a Ditka jersey from the restaurant.”

And that’s how to get a Chicago crowd going. Well played.

Strange connection between new coaches

One of the themes of the media days has been the first look at new coaches Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Mike Riley (Nebraska), and you-know-who.

What else do the three have in common? Their names are all stamped on a brief and forgettable era of San Diego Charger football.

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When the Chargers named Mike Riley head coach in 1999, he brought Chryst on board to coach his tight ends. They also brought on the aging quarterback Harbaugh — on his last limb as a player in the NFL.

After going 8-8 in 1999, the team went 1-15 in 2000. In 2001, San Diego finished 5-11. By the end of that magical run, none of the three were around.

But here they are, together again at long last.

“That’s the exciting thing about coaching in the Big Ten and knowing so many of my coaches,” Harbaugh said. “Mike Riley was the head coach of the Chargers when I was there; also Paul Chryst was a coach there on the staff.”

Some say time is a flat circle, or something. Whatever the case may be, the three old friends are now competing against each other in the same power-5 conference of college football.

Other notes:

  • Jerry Kill, who has a history of seizures, said he has not suffered one in a year-and-a-half.
  • Purdue coach Darrell Hazell called running back D.J. Knox an “uncommon back.” The 5-7 sophomore could be a surprise player in the Big Ten in 2015.
  • Speaking of Riley, Harbaugh called him the “highest caliber of character,” and Riley gave off the sense of a genuinely nice, life-enjoying person. He reminds absolutely no one of the last guy to coach the Cornhuskers.

Follow @CharlsGreen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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