CHICAGO — The cure for bleary eyes, apparently, was P.J. Fleck.
The Minnesota coach was the first one to the podium during Tuesday's morning session at the Big Ten's football media days, because 8 a.m. seemed way too early and Fleck seemed way, way too excited.
His opening statement was 750 words and seemed to take only one minute with no time to breathe. And he still had 14 minutes left in his session.
Fleck sounded like an auctioneer — I was waiting for someone to raise their hand to ask a question and end up buying an antique they didn't want.
It's all about promotion.
Fleck is the biggest, newest, hottest commodity among coaches in the Big Ten — he even has his own reality show coming up, we'll get to that in a moment — but reality will be here soon. He will have to get Minnesota into a position to contend in the Big Ten's West Division, surrounded by rivals who have had more success over the years.
"This is the honeymoon stage, and it's coming down to the end here," Fleck said with rapid fire. "It's been a fabulous six months. I've enjoyed that."
Minnesota is coming off a 9-4 season with tumult and controversy at the end that cost Tracy Claeys his job. The Gophers haven't won a Big Ten title since 1967 and Fleck, fresh from Western Michigan and bringing his "Row the Boat" message with him, wants to change that.
"We're not shying away from what we haven't necessarily accomplished in terms of championship feel of 50 years without a championship, but we want to be that bridge," Fleck said. "We want to be that bridge that connects the past with the present and also the future moving forward."
Fleck is getting plenty of attention, and he's smart enough to know that's perfect for his program. It's why he's embracing his new reality show that will appear on ESPNU, although he isn't really crazy about the "Being P.J. Fleck" name.
"One thing I am hired to do is bring national exposure, national attention to the University of Minnesota. And that's what we're going to do," Fleck said. "And the title I don't get to pick. 'Being P.J. Fleck' that's not a title that I would necessarily pick. But I think it's every head coach's job and responsibility to bring attention to their institution.
"That's not self-promoting, but I think every head football coach in America is self-promoting at some point. We're all selling ourselves and showing what we're like and recruiting our cultures and developing our cultures. You're the front porch of the institution."
So Fleck is OK with the attention, much like the coach at the end of the morning session, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
They were perfect bookends to this morning — Fleck with a machine gun loaded with words, and Harbaugh dressed in the full game-day gear of khakis, Michigan blue shirt, ball cap, and glasses, and talking in a tone that sounded like he just woke up.
Fleck talked about how he considers himself the Gophers' teacher.
"I was always involved in education," Fleck said. "I'm an elementary education major. Taught basically sixth grade social studies. I've loved ancient Rome. I was brought up and developed to teach 36 sixth graders a lesson plan 36 different ways. If you think of a head football coach and teaching lessons and teaching life and football, you've gotta do it 125 different ways at times to be able to reach and connect with your players. Not only to just reach, but educate."
Harbaugh took the Wolverines on a trip to Rome last spring to practice, and to learn.
"Yes, it's incredible to connect with somebody from a different country, to see something you've never seen before, taste food you've never tasted or hear a language that you've never heard and then experience it together as a team, like eighth grade classes that go to Washington D.C. for a field trip, or a 12th grade class that goes to Rome, much like that, to be able to experience as a group makes it so much better, 900 times better as you're getting not only your own experience but the others in the group," Harbaugh said in probably the longest sentence of the day. "And, yeah, it's a chance to put the college back in college football.
"It's a chance to have the whole world be your classroom. And not all learning is done in a classroom or on a football field. It's out there living, out there seeing and doing."
Fleck will go about things his way, Harbaugh will go about things his way.
Fleck was long gone for the morning as Harbaugh held court in his own post-press-conference press conference.
The scrum was so deep it was hard to hear what was asked, but Harbaugh, the former quarterback, barked out "BLUE 80" at one point.
Everybody was awake by then.