At Media Days, Coaches Confront Issues Out of Their Control

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Your Veteran Scribe spent two days (just over six hours each day) at Big 12 media days to start the week. YVS has been to dozens of these ganged-up mosh pits disguised as interview sessions. Rarely do these opportunities reveal much but there is reinforcement to an obvious epiphany:

Most college football coaches are unaware life forms existing in an impermeable bubble of their job.

Two for instances from Wednesday’s media sessions for the SEC and the ACC.

In Atlanta, Nick Saban fired this warning shot across the bow of the USS Media: “I guess you’ll ask about the quarterback controversy. The controversy you (media) created.”

OK, time for full disclosure.

On Jan. 8, I made a halftime call to the Alabama coach’s burner cell and suggested that the Tide’s offense needed spark and he needed to pull Jalen Hurts in favor of freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Bama fans, you’re welcome and apologies for creating a QB controversy.

Then, in Charlotte, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora flipped his lid, saying that the game of football is under attack and that the sport’s decline would lead to our country’s downfall in the next decade.

Then, he doubled down and exposed himself as a CTE truther.

(Those attending any media day always hopes for something interesting about which to write. However, those at the ACC event are probably a bit shocked they were handed a story that gives them insight to covering POTUS.)

Now armed with some perspective, YVS can look back at the Big 12’s two days of talkin’ football and realize that two off-season rule changes have coaches supporting one and criticizing the other. And those stances help indicate why – generalization warning ahead – football coaches are experts at speaking from both sides of their mouths.

The “redshirt rule” allows a player in any class play in up to four games but not lose that entire season of eligibility. A senior could play four seasons plus no more than four “bonus” games in one third of a fifth season.

The “transfer rule” will have the NCAA set up a database of players who wish to transfer that will available to the public. Also, schools will be prohibited from blocking players’ school choice when transferring.

“I think it’s a good rule,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said of the redshirt rule. “We got into some dicey situations last year in the playoff where an injury here or there we would have had to pull a redshirt on a guy. So, it takes that out of the equation, which is good. That’s the right thing for the players and it does give you a chance to use those games in the way you best see fit.”

TCU coach Gary Patterson, who was a strong advocate for the rule change, points out that college football has changed since the last rule changes in roster management.

Instead of 125 scholarships and a 10-game season, coaches now have 85 scholarships and play at least a dozen or up to 15 games.

While that’s evidence of one change, another change is that in the days of 125 scholarships, only a few of the top coaches earned six-figure salaries. But as the scholarships were reduced, the coaching salaries blew up into the multi-million dollar range.

Football coaches live to control their programs, but they can’t control injuries. If you’re the highest-paid employee on campus, nobody is crying elephant tears over your depth chart.

The redshirt rule allows a coaching staff to manage the roster and plug holes. And while it allows a player to perhaps add four games to his playing career, those are four games of injury risk and more exposure to CTE (despite what Larry Fedora believes).

The NCAA’s transfer rules in football and basketball have been unfair and restrictive to college athletes. The rule change helps alleviate that, but some coaches are making comments that cast an unfavorable light.

“(They’re) an individual that fits in an age group of instant self-gratification,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said Tuesday. “Which means at least in my terminology, I want it. I want it now. If I can’t have it now, forget it. To me, not a good way to live a life.

“I think … we are teaching lessons that are contrary to what most of us have been raised with and that is if you want something then you work extremely hard. You have a good plan about how to achieve it and you work extremely hard at doing it and you don’t give up, you don’t give in, you don’t walk away from it. You continue to compete to make what you desire to happen, happen. I think some of the rules kind of bypass that.”

Patterson took the blunt and jacked it up a notch.

“What we’re teaching our kids to do is quit,” he said. “I’m not starting. I’m not getting my playing time. Every freshman I’ve ever known wants to transfer because it’s harder than anything else he did in high school.

“As I tell people all the time, at your house you’re going to allow your 17-year-old, 18-year-old to run your household? Let them pay your bills, that’s what you do? No. You don’t do that. So why are we putting our jobs in jeopardy because of an 18-year-old? That’s stupid.”

Well, yes, that’s stupid.

And it’s not stupid to assume expect a man who has roamed the earth for four or more decades and is paid millions to coach a sport should understand the irony of his arguments. Coaches can bemoan the mistakes under pressure of 18- to 22-year-olds but then bitch about those 18- to 22-year-olds’ inability to make mature decisions that even adults can’t handle.

Ever had to change jobs? File for divorce? Taking “control” of your life sometimes means out-of-control decisions.

Another off-season rule change limits coaching staffs to no more than 20 headsets on the sidelines and in the coaches’ boxes during games.

If you think you need 20 people talking and/or listening to help you control a football game played by young men, then you probably don’t understand that the redshirt rule helps coaches more than players and that the transfer rule helps players … and if it creates discomfort for coaches look elsewhere for sympathy.