Yellow Fever may be the worst journalist ever, but at least he can get to events on time. Last year the Pac-10 Media Day was at the Sheraton LAX, about 50 miles from where I live. I took me an hour to get there, but I allowed myself about an hour and a half to get there. The Rose Bowl is also about 50 miles from where I live. Surely it couldn't take that much longer to get there, right? Surely it cannot take any longer than 2 hours and 15 minutes, right? Nope.
Eventually I did arrive at the 2010 Pac-10 Media Day and it proved to be an entertaining, eventful, and annoyingly hot day. I talked to the Almighty Tedford, I talked to The Prophet, and I even briefly talked to Uncle Ted. The event had its ups and downs, but overall it was an enjoyable experience. Next year I'll try to get there early again. If I fail, we'll be forced to do the unthinkable: send TwistNHook to represent us.
In Part I of my experience at Media Day we'll look at the first block of press conferences (including Cal!), the unique setting for this year's conference, and the goodies they handed out to us. If you're interested in another perspective, check out ConquestChronicle's coverage of the event.
After figuring out that the Rose Bowl parking lot seems to have sections named in random order (with letters of the alphabet, of course), I managed to park and get to the stadium right at 9:30, which is when festivities started. Nevermind that I left around 7:15, I had finally arrived. Nevermind that there was a sig alert, plenty of random traffic, and--quite literally--a kitchen sink on the freeway. Unlike last year, when I arrived at 8:45 and spent the first 45 minutes talking to Tedford and others, I had to scramble to the field as soon as I arrived.
The new Pac-10 logo was on display pretty much everywhere. These jerseys surrounded the logo. The Rose Bowl Trophy was in front of the statue when I arrived, but it was gone as I left (and took these photos).
I shuffled down to the field where the event was taking place. We were baking in the July sun while various media groups (ESPN, Versus, etc) had tents off in the distance.
I signed in and of course, the person checking me in hadn't heard of SBN, nor did she seem to care who I was. I could sign in as Dumpster Muffin and they'd still let me in. On the way down to the field I picked up some brochures. Larry Scott's knows how to win over the media: goodie bags! I received a Pac-10 tote bag (not pictured), a pen, a lapel pin, notepad, and a flash drive with all the media guides as well as several files with the Pac-10 logo and that extended promotional video. The Rose Bowl people felt bad that we had to sit in the sun all day, so they gave us free hats! Though giving a Cal fan a Rose Bowl hat may seem cruel, it wasn't as bad as when they took Paul Wulff's picture as he stood next to the Rose Bowl trophy. That was just mean.
The brochures were about the same as they were last year. They had run out of Stanford and USC brochures by the time I arrived, but the Oregons again had high quality products. I was amused the OSU's said "Welcome to the Rodgers' Neighborhood"
Some of the other brochures were not nearly as impressive. At least Cal saved itself from having the most embarrassing brochures two years in a row: they had a color cover! The Cal and UCLA media guides were just thick packets of paper that were stapled together. Yay budget cuts!
One of the first pieces of information I obtained was the media poll. It was one of the closer (and clearly confusing) polls in recent years. I'm still not sure who voted for UCLA. I'm also not sure which people did not put WSU at 10th.
I got to my seat (behind Ted Miller) as Larry Scott was talking about allegedly important things. I missed the announcement that there was wifi, but it didn't matter because soon enough I found out that the network had crashed. He also spoke about the new Pac-10 logo. He talked about what the shield, mountain, and wave all represent and managed to say the word "shield" about 30 times. He emphasized the the logo will be on every field and every uniform this year. I'm not the biggest fan of the new logo, but at least it's going to be changed to Pac-12 once Utah and Colorado join. When he finished up, it was time for players and coaches to take the stage.
Before I continue, I'll initially say that pretty much every coach had the same response to these two questions: how was the NY Media Day? How would you like the Pac-12 divisions split? People kept asking and getting the same responses. What's their deal?
Coaches generally enjoyed the NY events and appreciated the opportunity to get some exposure on the east coast. Marketing the Pac-10 has been a big goal for Larry Scott and the coaches seem very happy with how he's addressing that goal. Regarding the division split, everyone wants to play the LA schools due to the recruiting base in Southern California. They know their players would love to play in LA in front of friends and family. Because of this, all the teams want to be able to visit Southern California each year.
Now, onto the press conferences.
The conferences began in reverse order of finish, so Wazzu was up first. Here are some tidbits for you closet Washington State fans. Also, as Yellow Fever can attest, Paul Wulff is a frightening individual. He's large, intimidating, and has a bizarre head.
Washington State: Paul Wulff and DE Kevin Kooyman
- Ted Miller pulled no punches, asking how it felt to be picked to finish tenth again. That's cold, Uncle Ted. That's cold.
- James Montgomery, the former Cal running back, is recovering nicely from his life-threatening leg injury. He will be able to play this season.
- Jeff Tuel has gained about 25 lbs. Wulff said Tuel's stats were even better than Bledsoe's as a freshman. Really? Bledsoe must have been awful, then. Have you looked at Tuel's stats? His numbers are miserable until the opposing team shows some mercy and sends in its second and third-team defenses.
- Kevin Kooyman was the player with Wulff. Kooyman says this may not be the most talented team he's been a part of, but it works the hardest.
- Overall, Wazzu hopes to surprise some teams this year. If they don't suffer their usual catastrophic injuries, he's probably right. They may win two or three this year, snatching victories from ASU or UCLA if they're not careful.
- Erickson is a hoot in person. He's that typical "get off my lawn" old man, and he smiles wryly as he yells at those whippersnappers.
- ASU has a plenty of experience this year, even though they don't necessarily have many returning starters.
- They've had a tough time replacing Rudy Carpenter, and the QB competition continues as they head into fall camp. Erickson will experiment with some no-huddle, 4-WR sets this season. To ease the QB's job, Erickson believes the O-line will be much-improved this year.
- He seemed displeased with San Jose St's decision to drop their game against ASU so they could play Alabama. This leaves ASU in the somewhat awkward position of playing two FCS opponents, though they also play Wisconsin.
- Vontaze Burfict is a work in progress. He has a great intensity, but his lack of maturity leads to excessive penalties. In the offseason they've been working on allowing him to control that intensity without limiting his natural ability.
- As a former coach of Colorado, Neuheisel has a better understanding of the school than most. He believes they will be a great fit into the Pac-10 and felt similarly back when he was the coach in the 90s. He is glad the Pac-10 is changing its culture away from the stereotypical "finesse conference" label. He believes the Pac-10 trip to New York was a great step in changing East Coast perceptions of the conference.
- Neuheisel and Chow have been speaking to Nevada coach Chris Ault about incorporating some elements of the Pistol offense into the UCLA offense.
- In a refreshing moment of honesty, Rahim Moore admitted that Arizona and Washington have the most intimidating passing attacks in the conference.
- He was asked a variety of questions about USC and he never referred to them by name. He always called them their "crosstown rivals" or something similar. He seems like the anti-Harbaugh--never saying names of those he's talking about.
- Steve is quite pleased with the way they ended the season (like that blowout win over Cal). They hope to carry that momentum into this season, with intentions of earning a bowl game.
- He's looking forward to his team playing against Kiffin's team, as the two were friends from their days at USC.
- Picked to finish 7th, Tedford and the team are focused on their own goals instead of external expectations.
- He repeatedly emphasized aggression on defense and clearly looks forward to what Pendergast will be able to do with this defense. Despite the loss of Syd, Tedford is confident in the secondary. He says Steve Williams is as talented as any DB he's had on his teams. Additionally, he praised the tandem of Conte and Cattouse. Their jobs ought to be easier if the defense can consistently pressure the opposing QB. To help with that, they want to rush enough personnel to get Cameron Jordan in a one-on-one situation. His presence was limited last season because he was consistently double-teamed.
- Despite the loss of Best, he insists on a balanced attack of passing and rushing. Beyond playcalling, this will require that the defense not let the team fall into a hole which requires Riley to pass his way back into the game. Also, the O-line has to do its job and give him enough protection to allow him to pass well. Tedford had much more praise for Riley than I have seen in the past. He believes Riley is poised for a breakout year. If the O-line can block well for him and if the receivers fulfill their potential, Riley ought to have a great year.
- Tedford emphasized the importance of special teams (ALAMAR!), particularly field position (ALAMAAAAAR!), and spoke highly--though briefly--about Jeff Genyk.
- Tedford was positive about expansion and believes adding Utah and Colorado will not affect the balance of power in the conference.
- Tedford is looking forward to the future with the SAHPC and next year's home at AT&T Park. The level of interaction he has had with officials at AT&T assures him that it will be a great gameday atmosphere.
- In the immediate future, he recognizes that as the second-winningest program in the Pac-10 since 2002, second place isn't going to be sufficient. He knows his team has to break through and win the conference and he is committed to leading to team to great heights.