I’ve had the privilege of attending the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago the past few years and it’s one of my favorite days of the year.
If you can take off work, you’ll enjoy getting autographs from coaches, taking selfies with coaches and mascots, and listen to BTN’s Dave Revsine emcee a lunch in a ballroom with interviews of the coaches, Jim Delany, players, and the head of the Tournament of Roses.
This year’s tournament was held at the Marriott Downtown at 540 N. Michigan Ave. It was a quick bus ride down from my apartment via the 151 bus. I enjoyed going here much better than traveling to McCormick Place, Chicago’s enormous convention center where it’s been previously held.
After I picked up my ticket, I got in line waiting to enter the autograph session.
Fans were dressed in all kinds of attire. I wore a Northwestern polo and shorts, some people were wearing suits, some were wearing jerseys, and then there’s this Michigan superfan!
(This is no way, shape, or form a further indicator of bad attire choices from the Wolverine faithful or program...hehehe)
All day yesterday I was uploading pictures to the slack chatroom of your humble volunteer amateur sportsblogyellers, and I’ve included their commentary on what I saw.
MC ClapYoHandz: I would give an A for effort but that footwear was a horrific choice.
I purchased a football and a sharpie, and waited 45 minutes for the event to open up.
I chose to visit new Nebraska coach Scott Frost first, because I thought he’d have a ton of people in line to get his autograph. Harbaugh always has very long lines.
I welcomed Scott Frost to Chicago and the Big Ten.
Stewmonkey: The chair! Did you ask at all about the chair?
Me: I didn’t ask Frost. I’ll ask Fleck
Next up I went to DJ Durkin
And I managed to get a video of Testudo and a few mascots inexplicably doing the Macarena... WTF.
Then I went over to the Wisconsin table
MNWildcat: OH GOD, CHRYST IS GOING TO EAT YOU
LPW: Yeah, bad placement
MNWildcat: Seriously, he looks like the Stay Puft man looming behind you in that pic. Terrifying.
Beezer: I still think Chryst looks like Stewie or whatever his name is from Eastbound and Down
BigRedTwice: This was my immediate impression of the LPW/Chryst pic, but I really like where you guys went with the Stay Puft Man
Next up was Lovie Smith:
I texted my old roommate who went to Illinois and here’s what he had to say:
LPW’s Old roommate: Is that Lovie Smith??! Someone buy that man a razor!
Next up I visited Indiana HC Tom Allen
Next up I went to PJ Fleck:
So, about the Chair....
I didn’t feel like asking Frost about the chair. He’s probably only focused on restoring the Huskers to the glory of the mid-’90s. I can’t blame him.
I did ask PJ Fleck about the chair, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to record the conversation due to my phone acting up (that’s why the photo of him autographing my football looks weird. Or he’s very fast at signing autographs).
Fleck told me it’s going to have to stay a charity or unofficial trophy, and the Big Ten conference will not allow it to become an official trophy. I wish I took notes or recorded this conversation properly.
I also got Goldy to spin her head:
Next up is Pat Fitzgerald!
Next up I went to Penn State, and oh my god, the Nittany Lion suit smells FAR FOULER than it looks. I mean, it’s a rummage-sale piece of shit, or a high school costume that was beaten 100 times with a baseball bat, but my god, this thing smelled like it hasn’t been washed in a month! Or two.
WSR: That Franklin picture is awesome.
Next up I went to Ohio State.
Next up I went to Purdue (and sadly I could not find Purdue Pete and get a selfie with him)
Next up I went to Rutgers
I went to Iowa next
I managed to get 12 out of 14 coaches. I had ten minutes left (out of an hour to get autographs), and would it be possible to get Harbaugh and Dantonio?
The lines for both were huge. Dantonio, I’ve been told, doesn’t like doing this event, and one year he was 40 minutes late.
Next up I took a picture of Jim Harbaugh and then....
........[BIG RECORD SCRATCH SOUND IN SLACK]
(For context: our writing staff includes several lawyers and other professionals that have to wear a suit and tie at the day job.)
WSR: JIM! You get dressed up like my 11 year old nephew. Come on, man. ”Mom’s making me wear these clothes so I’ll put them on, but I don’t have to try.”
MNW: BREAKING WITH TRADITION
MNW: DISRUPTING THE #B1GMEDIADAYS MARKET
Creighton: A) Not a big fan of the wide spread collar. 2) Uhhhh who tied his tie?
WSR I mean, yeah. That’s my complaint today. And he just chucked the jacket on once and never adjusted it.
Creighton: Oh yeah that thing is super weird fitting. And the shirt is like a weird seersucker pattern, that also looks like it probably doesn’t fit quite right. But for real who the hell tied his tie?
WSR: Even Scott Frost did a better job yesterday.
Andrew PolishMcPolishFace: He definitely just keeps one pre-tied on a hook in his office and slides it over his head when the occasion demands it
Creighton: That makes sense because he looks like me every time I had to wear a suit before I turned 18
WSR: Probably got a phone call about yesterday. “Jim, we’ve talked about this. I can accept losing to Ohio State. And Penn State. And Michigan State. But you need to wear a tie to these things where you represent the University of Michigan!”
Me: Spread collars are stupid. Double Windsor all the way
Creighton. I can’t believe his wife let him leave the hotel wearing that. I haaaaate spread collars. Say what you will about Fitz and Franklin, but at least the dudes can dress themselves
Creighton: I have no problem with the tan suit. He could probably pull that off quite nicely if the rest of it wasn’t a train wreck. I think Lovie wins the day. Dude looks shaaaaarp
WSR: OTE Eye for the Coach Guy is pretty fun. Oh yeah, Lovie was great.
Beez: The wide collar is fine but he needs a wider knot for it. Can’t go four-in-hand or whatever plebe knot that is when you have to occupy two square feet of collar gap
WSR: It’s a “Mom tied this 17 years ago and I never learned how to tie a knot so I just loosen it and pull it over my head until the next time I need it”
The one hour allotted to autographs was up, so then the players and coaches had to assemble for class photos
My fellow writers had some comments about the coaches class picture:
Creighton: DJ Durkin rocking some New Balance sneakers
WSR: That’s another faux pas. They should be Under Armour.
Beez: Harbz, Franklin, and Lovie look the best. Who is that with the flag pin?
Creighton: Harbaugh looks like a child. Franklin looks good in the navy
WSR: Fleck went with the most boring possible look today. Yesterday was much better.
Creighton: Except you’re supposed to unbutton when you sit down.,...
We all went to a huge ballroom to get lunch, and it’s an hour long affair.
The BTN’s Dave Revsine emceed the event by talking to each coach in groups of four (and the last two), there were team recap/preview videos, Jim Delany spoke, there was a plea to us to lobby Comcast to carry the BTN by the guy that runs the BTN, and Khari Willis from Michigan State delivered an inspiring speech.
I didn’t realize that my colleague Brian Gillis was also at the event with an official media pass until he contacted me over slack. That was a pleasant surprise!
Brian remarked to me after the event that he was surprised how short Trace McSorley was.
At the end of the event one of the prizes was the opportunity to catch a football thrown by one of the six quarterbacks in attendance if your ticket number was called. Mine was!
So I’m 60 yards away from the center of the room, and a quarterback, I think it was Clayton Thorson threw me a football. I caught it!!
Speaking of Clayton Thorson, he was walking just fine. No crutches!
The Kickoff Luncheon was an absolute blast, and if you want to join me next year, you can buy tickets through the B1G office for $110. I’ve been doing this for the past few years and already can’t wait for next year.