Covering college football conference media days seemed to reduce the IQ of the media by several points. The Big 12 meets this week in Dallas and that got me to thinking about covering the event in 2011.
I was at the Galleria in Dallas before 8 a.m. on that Tuesday; a full two hours before my first scheduled interview so I had plenty of time to roam around from place-to-place. It was early and there may have been 15 or 20 media people wandering on the third floor at the time.
Now I don’t like Oklahoma University, I never have. From watching television, I’ve always thought Sooner coach Bob Stoops was pompous and unfriendly. I was wrong. With no entourage or handlers, Stoops wandered through and talked to everyone there. I was stunned and I managed to mumble “Hi,” and that was about it. I liked him despite myself.
Two hours later when Stoops made his official appearance, riding up the escalator it was like the royal wedding: Hundreds of photographers and cameramen jostling and pushing for a picture. It was a mad rush; people were standing on tables and chairs. At one point a cameraman pushed Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville out of the way. I don’t know where all those people came from or where they went – within seconds there was nobody there but the coaches and players from the other four schools and a few media folk.
My first meeting with Tuberville was in that hallway after Stoops had moved on. I introduced myself and asked a really stupid question. “Coach I hope you win all of your games but I don’t think you will. What do you think?” He put his hand on my shoulder and steered me down the hall answering a question I should have asked.
I had always thought, again from television, that Tuberville was slick and arrogant. I have revised my opinion. Tubervile is a straight shooter and not always politically correct. I liked that. He was friendly and I see why he has a reputation as a great recruiter.
In the first group conference Tuberville was in fine form and quite funny. At one point he said he didn’t think Tech could compete with TCU this year; then he said he wanted to read former coach Mike Leach’s book. “Maybe I’ll ask him for an autographed copy,” he said.
After the first press conference, I had time to kill. So I went and watched the regional television interviews. Kansas coach Turner Gill’s team was picked to finish last in the Big 12. And Gill looked like he wanted to be anywhere but in front of the camera — I should say cameras. The ballroom had four camera stations, each with a dozen cameras. Each coach and player went from station to station, answering the same dumb questions over and over. That’s why you see quotes and hear sound bites that don’t quite match from different sources. Gill went around the room answering the same questions – sometimes he’d give a different answer. On the same page of notes I had him saying Kansas was going to be pretty good and saying that they weren’t going to be very good. I guess he covered all of his bases.
My favorite part of the day was the one-on-one interviews; I had about 10 minutes with each of Tech’s three players. I got so much time because almost all of the writers were thronged around the Oklahoma players. I ran out of questions to ask safety Cody Davis so I asked him if he had any questions he thought I should ask. He volunteered his opinion about Oklahoma State: “I don’t like the fans at Oklahoma State.”
It was hard not to root for all the players and coaches; they all seemed much more patient answering dumb questions than I would be: and I was one of those asking dumb questions.