CHICAGO — Dave Wannstedt was a notable presence Monday at Big Ten Football Media Days.
He’s a big dude, for one thing. He played on Pitt’s offensive line in the 1970s.
A longtime NFL and college coach, he also occupies a place in Nebraska football history, albeit a small one. Many folks think he was a top choice of Steve Pederson to succeed the fired Frank Solich as Husker head coach following the 2003 season.
Well, maybe not.
"I never had a conversation with Steve Pederson about anything," Wannstedt said Monday.
The 62-year-old recently was hired as a college football analyst by Fox Sports and the Big Ten Network.
He has heard, of course, that his name came up in speculation about the Nebraska job. He insists there was nothing to it.
"I was head coach with the (Miami) Dolphins and we were going good," he said. "I think Nebraska is a great program, without a doubt one of the best in the country. But me working there was never on the radar."
He was emphatic. Do you believe him?
* Scenic run: Bo Pelini arrived at the hotel at about 8 a.m. and wasn't scheduled to meet the media throng until noon. So, the seventh-year Husker head coach went for a jog down Michigan Avenue on an unseasonably cool day, with temperatures in the 60s.
* Hugs for all: Folks say first-year Penn State coach James Franklin has an energetic and charming personality. As people waited in line Monday morning for media credentials, Franklin appeared from seemingly nowhere and greeted national radio personality Jack Arute with a monster hug. A coach hugging a media member? You don’t see that every day …
* My bad: Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald joked Monday that he's learned a lot about the various Husker hashtags on Twitter since last week, when he cracked a joke in the company of Wildcat fans about Nebraska being a boring state.
You have free articles remaining.
"What is it, #GBR or something like that?" he asked.
Yep. Fitzgerald has seen a lot of #GBR on his Twitter timeline the past week.
Likely putting the topic to bed for good, Fitzgerald apologized to anybody who was offended by last week's comment.
"I make a bad joke. I own a bad joke," Fitzgerald said. "I've only spent two days in the state, so I don't quite have the experience level to say whether it is or it isn't (boring). But it was a bad joke."
Fitzgerald said Husker fans have been very creative on Twitter in their responses, "which is fun."
The coach said he has "nothing but respect for Nebraska" and the two things that really stood out to him during his two trips to Lincoln are the hospitality and sportsmanship.
"To see the way the fans treat our student-athletes ... three years ago we win there, and those fans were high-fiving our kids, shaking their hands, congratulating them," Fitzgerald said. "And a year ago, they were high-fiving them and congratulating them again for what we did in the last seconds. It's just a great fan base. What I was making light of was how they traveled to our place two years ago and how our fans need to step up."
* No hard feelings: Fitzgerald was stopped in the hallway by NU's Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell. Bell gave the Northwestern coach a hug. "We've had some great games," Fitzgerald told them. "That's what it's all about."
* Friendly: Pelini and Husker athletic director Shawn Eichorst shared a warm greeting in the hallway. “Hey, buddy!” Eichorst said as the two shook hands.
* Catnap: It took two questions before someone asked about Pelini’s cat. Pelini played along. Said the cat was in his room taking a nap.
* Oh, Beckman: Illinois coach Tim Beckman had only a few reporters surrounding him at one media station. It was noticeable compared with other coaches, most of whom had at least 25-30 people around them everywhere they went. Lack of interest, of course, connects to the Illini’s ugly recent results, which included a 1-7 record in Big Ten play last year. The Chicago Sun-Times documented the scene, describing it as a “morbidly depressing” media following for Beckman. “And it’s really, truly super sad,” the Sun-Times wrote. “This is Chicago. It’s the heart and soul of the Illinois Fighting Illini’s state.”
* Pelini’s money quote: “We’re looking for a championship. I think we have the pieces.”