Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ready for football ... except for those coaches

Les Miles: His team needs to be better
 than he was at drinking coffee Monday.
(photo from The Advocate in Baton Rouge)
      Ready for college football? I am ... and I'm not.
     That's right, I'm declaring coaches off-limits. Don't want to see them interviewed -- before the game, at the half, after the game. Don't want to hear their bull.
     Oh, I might make an exception for the LSU coach because you never know what's coming there -- what bizarre take on a game or what twisted expression. We know this after Monday: He's not likely to be doing coffee commercials; he won't be the new "Mr. Coffee."
     I'm ready for the games, love the competition, love the bands and the atmosphere (but not some of the crowd behavior and, yes, LSU is guilty there.)
     But this is the view from someone pretty far removed from the college-football scene, from someone adverse to travel, and with plenty of years to form his opinions. Maybe I'm a minority of one, but I now have a jaundiced view of college football head coaches.
      I think they are among the most egocentric, self-centered, self-serving,  myopic, secretive, paranoid, controlling, grossly overpaid people in this country. Arrogant dictators. Tyrants.

      Sorry, I'm sick of them ... and we haven't kicked off yet.
     They might as well be politicians (but, of course, they generally make a helluva lot more money than politicians.)
      My suggestion is that if we are having leaks in the State Department or the National Security Agency or the Central Intelligence Agency, put a college football head coach in charge of those places. 
      Because no secret would ever get out then. Have to give son-in-law credit for this line: "If a coach had been in charge, Edward Snowden would never have happened."
      OK, so Nick Saban in charge of the State Department; Gary Patterson as Secretary of Defense; Steve Spurrier heading the CIA; and we can assign Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Brian Kelly, Tommy Tuberfine, etc., wherever we need them. Can't trust Bobby "Crash" Petrino anywhere; can't trust someone named Dabo. Art Briles -- what did he know and when did he know it?

      Where to place Jim Harbaugh? It'll be have to be a weird hideaway where he can keep wearing his pleated khakis every day.
       Oh, darn, I forgot Butch Jones, who moved near the top of the "paranoia" list a couple of weeks ago.
       I am borrowing from a WBIR-TV (Knoxville) news release about the three-page policy sheet University of Tennessee athletic department people handed out to the media recently:
        "... It defines all the policies and procedures that must be followed by all members of the media. ... Failure to comply with the media policy could result in media members losing their passes and access to the team.
        The gist is: " ...  A new rule that says all injuries or players that are not dressed in practice gear during the open practice cannot be reported on. That means a reporter cannot share the information if they see a player not practicing."
       You don't think Jones is behind that, do you?
       So, if you -- media member -- don't do what we want, we won't let you in our press box, or our practice. You are banned. Freedom of speech? Not here.
        Paranoia central. Butch Jones, head of the Secret Service.
        Coaches don't want to talk about injuries, or strategy, or say anything that could give their opponents any kind of information, or edge. It is pretty standard now in the college game: The head coach is the only "voice" of the program.
       And do you think those guys are going to say anything controversial, anything to give opponents "bulletin board material?"  Assistant coaches are not allowed to speak to the media; except in some cases (but not all) after games. (This, where Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is concerned, might be good; he can't put his foot in Alabama's mouth).
       Player interviews are limited, and must be cleared through sports information departments. Some weeks -- TCU coach Patterson, as an example close to home -- there are NO player interviews. Don't want distractions.

       Then there are interviews that are allowed ... as long as an SID person "monitors" the questions.
       Freshmen are off-limits for interviews, period. Thank Saban for that one, I believe. Freshmen can't talk for themselves; they don't know what to say. They first must pass Media Manners 101.
       But then along comes a freshman as sensational as Johnny Football Manziel, and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin had to relent and let him talk to the media late in his Heisman Trophy season. Wow. No telling what Manziel was going to say. If I remember right, he was fairly humble ... for a change.
       Give me the days when dressing rooms were open, when interviews were easy, when you could talk to anyone you wanted. Maybe the fan attention and media attention, and the "distractions" are so plentiful these days that players and the program need to be protected and insulated.
        I think it takes some fun out of it, and it's a bit too much paranoia. But what do I know?
        I have been on this rant previously, and Saban and Patterson were my main targets. I find them insufferable to listen to when they talk about their football teams. Nothing is ever good enough; they always are "motivating" their team in the media, as if media or fans want to hear that.
        If challenged, if they get a question they don't like, their answers can be condescending or have a sharp edge. I find them uncomfortable to watch.
        It's obvious to me, and probably others, that these coaches don't relish the end-of-the-half interviews; they can't wait to get away from the reporters. Some coaches -- Saban, Patterson, Petrino, Spurrier quickly come to mind -- are going to find something their team needs to do better. Some coaches -- Miles, Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn, Meyer -- will take an upbeat view.
        To me, it's a waste of time. I'm not watching. Time for a restroom break.
        I should remind you that there was a time in life when I revered coaches. Still have a lot of respect for what they do. That's especially true at the high school level, where coaches can play a huge role in kids' lives.
        And don't get me wrong. These college coaches have a gigantic task -- in football, dealing with 125 prospective players, and handling all the other aspects of the job -- assistant coaches, staff, boosters, recruiting, academics, etc. That's why they make millions at the major programs, and even nice sums at mid-major programs.
        So it's easy for me to be critical, from my seat in the living room or at the computer. I'm not in their seat.
        I don't watch much about college football in the off-season or between games. I did stumble across the SEC coaches' roundtable discussions a few weeks ago, and when they are talking football (or life) in general, you can see why some people -- their worshipping fan base -- are smitten. They actually have personalities, not the same as the intense focus on their teams.
        Saban and Patterson do smile ... I think.

        These high-salary coaches are more generous and more giving than most people, and accessible when they want to be. They take care of the people that help them, and there is much to be admired about them. But the other side, the football side ...
        Before, when I wrote about Saban's dour football personality, a media friend commented that he is among the most professional people he'd dealt with in the business. My only time around Saban was a post-Cotton Bowl media conference when his LSU team lost ... and he was, as he usually is after those rare losses, humbled.
        But when he gets on his soapbox, I find it hard to take. Before the start of fall practice, he lectured -- I can't think of another to put it -- the media about the biography written about him recently, saying it wasn't an accurate look at him and he resented the book because only he knows the truth about himself.
         Such as "... I'm not going to be the coach at Alabama." How true was that?
         That's maybe the worst example of him not exactly dealing honestly with the media. How many other twisted untruths/half-truths has he uttered through the years?

          Patterson lecturing/complaining about the lack of media respect for TCU, threatening writers' jobs. Spurrier -- twice, some 20 years apart -- absolutely refusing to do media conferences until a certain writer he was unhappy with left the room. He is well-known for feuds with writers; he can be petulant, peevish and he's never humble.
          Paranoia rules.
          My media friends say Miles is as cooperative as almost any major-college head football coach can be. But we also know there are times when he won't reveal what's really going on with his team.

         When I get to be commissioner of college football, there will be changes made -- severe recruiting restrictions, no more one-year "graduate" transfers, no paying or (for gosh's sakes) fining players, much reduced staffing ... but, first, totally open media policies.
         So I will watch more college football early in the season than my spouse -- who is anti-football, college or NFL, and steering me that way -- would like. I will watch games without the sound, and I will record multiple games and watch because I want to see the SEC teams and the teams LSU is going to play, and I'll watch them late at night.
         Repeat: I love the competition, love great athletes (don't love their antics).
         But announcers such as Brent what's-his-name or the talk-a-thon pre/postgame shows? Nope. Coaches' interviews or coaches' shows? No, thank you. I'll leave that for you.


  1. From Jim Robinson: We always listen to the Les Miles postgame interview on 98.1 as we are leaving Tiger Stadium. You wonder if he even thinks about what he is saying half the time. There will always be one stupid, predictable comment that Les will make in most of his interviews. I think he does it on purpose to see if anyone is listening.

  2. From Jimmy Russell: I agree with most of what you are saying but the media has played a big part in making these guys that way. They are constantly wanting quotes, interviews and additional TV time, hoping to get something unique. There are only so many things [coaches] can say. It would be good if the media left them alone and then they might want to talk with some sense. Many of these guys think what they have to say or don’t say is as important as anything going in the USA or the rest of the world. Believe it not, the world could live without football.

  3. From Sydney Boone: Well said! I do the same. Do enjoy Les.

  4. From Joe Ferguson: Whatever you are taking, I need some of it. That’s a good one. ... Never forget that everything in today’s world is all about the money.

  5. From Bob Tompkins: I’m with you. Your blog takes me back to days when practices were open, as were coaches’ doors. Another thing I started noticing in the last 5-8 years was the players at LSU and other majors, having been coached on how to talk to the media, all started sounding alike in postgame interviews.
    Remember getting a great sidebar in 1974 when Bo Harris seethed after an LSU loss at Kentucky, standing by his locker after the game, in a 1-on-1 interview. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore. Hasn’t for many years.