Expecting college football head coaches to be saints is unfair — they’ve never been nice guys.
But at least some of them were good guys, off the field.
These days, several of the most prominent head coaches in college football have been getting in more frequent confrontations with members of the media. So let’s take a look at a few of those ugly situations:
- In early September, Alabama head coach Nick Saban went on a rant, directed at the media, telling them he didn’t appreciate the way their next opponent — Western Kentucky — was being portrayed by the writers. Aside from the fact that they were Western Kentucky, apparently the media should have been lying to the readers and telling them the Hilltoppers had a shot against the Crimson Tide. He’s had several run-ins with the Tuscaloosa media, and I don’t envy a single Alabama beat writer’s job.
- In mid-September, Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin ended a press conference very soon after it began because a reporter asked him about a player practicing that day, despite being injured previously. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a reporter’s job to ask questions like that, and the coach can always say, “No comment.” But Kiffin ran off and refused the media a chance to do their job and question him after a practice.
- UCLA head coach Jim Mora (already known to be a bad guy by this writer) kicked the media out of a practice — school media included — days after Kiffin’s press conference issues. Writers, cameramen, SIDs, everyone. The two Los Angeles teams’ head coaches have alienated sports writers so much that the L.A. Times, according to that article, have stopped sending reporters to practices. They just don’t think it’s worthwhile to have to deal with Kiffin and Mora.
- Kansas head coach Charlie Weis, unhappy that the school’s student newspaper discussed the poor play of the football team, had the critical writer intimidated by the school’s Director of Football Communications. Never mind that his football program had just gotten smoked by a rival … let’s make sure that kid knows his place!
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There are still coaches that treat the media well, so I’m not trying to say they’re all bad guys. I never had issues with Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson when I covered the Yellow Jackets, and while he was plenty moody after losses, he was respectful to the writers on the beat. The media in Tallahassee has commented, publicly, how happy they are to cover Florida State Football because head coach Jimbo Fisher is a respectful guy. You won’t hear about the good guys, because they’re not making news by being friendly.
But it sure does seem like the bad guys are multiplying.
No student should worry about being bullied by a coach, if they’re writing the truth. As these coaches stress complete focus from their players, they seem to be getting distracted more and more by the media. That seems a little counterproductive, if you ask me.
The petulant coaches listed above need to grow up, and their peers need to realize they should behave differently while in the public eye. They’re role models, and it will eventually bleed over to their players. And if the players start treating the media the same way, they will see their publicity fade over time.
And nobody wants that.