The 2016 football season officially unofficially kicked off today, as representatives from six teams convened in Hollywood for the first of two Pac-12 Media days. Since it was my first press event, I spent most of the morning running around and forgetting to put the memory card in my camera.
Here's a quick rundown of today's events. Transcripts for each speaker can be found here.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott
Do you like buzzwords? The Pac-12 loves buzzwords. The conference opened with a hype video for the conference that advertised things like "Totality," "Creativity x Talent x Progress," and "Pac-12 Globalization." To explain what that all meant, Commissioner Larry Scott took the stage to address the state of the conference.
Scott emphasized the Pac-12's focus on the student-athlete experience, specifically the time demands placed on them by their practice schedules. The conference is also focused on issues of player safety, investing $3.9 million this year in grants to study head trauma and other health concerns.
For fans, the biggest news of the morning was Pac-12 Networks' expansion into online streaming, partnering with Twitter to broadcast over 150 Olympic sports events through the service this year. No word yet on DirecTV though.
Before handing the stage off to the coaches, Commissioner Scott took the opportunity to throw some shade on other Power Five conferences (including, for example, one that also had its media event today). When asked whether he had concerns about Pac-12 teams' ability to compete for the College Football Playoff, he responded:
The other thing that one notices is with the advent of the College Football Playoff, we know that in any given year, there will be teams with similar records, and a determining factor that the College Football Playoff selection committee will make is based on strength of schedule. So our conference very much prides itself for a variety of reasons on playing the toughest schedule.
Rich Rodriguez, as usual, was all business. "Am I happy to be here?" he quipped in his opening statement. "Nope. I'd rather be on vacation." He then gave a quick recap of the offseason, saying that the changes he made to the Arizona defensive staff were difficult but necessary for the development of the team.
It's easy to see why people like Rich Rod. A few choice moments:
- On preseason polls: "Hell, that don't matter. I mean, it's preseason, right? I didn't know. Somebody just showed me where we got picked, but I didn't even know—if they picked the top 25 in the country or something? There are a lot of polls coming out."
- On the best team in the South Division: "Oh, I know, but I wouldn't tell you. Arizona. I'd pick Arizona. I have confidence in our guys."
- On Pokemon Go: "I had no idea what the hell Pokemon Go was until the other day, and I think my son was telling me, he's an 18 year old. But I know there's a lot of people that are walking around like this and bumping into each other, so it's kind of dangerous."
I don't think any of us—we didn't leave spring football saying we've got to go find a quarterback. We didn't feel that way at all. We felt like we had two good, solid quarterbacks that were ready. But this was a unique situation based on his relationship with Jake, his relationship with me, and more importantly, his experience in this system, being at Texas Tech. It's a very similar system. So it was a unique opportunity and we felt like it was something we needed to look into.
Speaking of crazy as ever, the next coach to speak this was Washington State's Mike Leach. From the wisdom of my media day forbears, I knew Leach's session would be the best of the day. He did not disappoint. Where most coaches offered up a few minutes of commentary on their programs, Leach instead had the following:
All right, any questions? Those that have dealt with me before know I don't really do opening remarks, so let's get started.
And with that we were off.
What's next for Luke Falk? "Steady improvement."
What's next for Gabe Marks? "Just steady improvement."
Thoughts on the Heisman race? "Yeah, I'm in favor of it."
What's the question you hate most at Media Day?
Thoughts on Pokemon Go?
This is Mike Leach trying to understand Pokemon Go: (it's better without audio) pic.twitter.com/HJY7ZhWR8S— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) July 14, 2016
I snuck out of the Utah session early to chat with Sonny and the Cal players, and because no one could possibly follow Leach's performance. Reading the transcript though, Kyle Wittingham was a very diplomatic interviewee. The Utes have a lot of pieces to replace this season—quarterback included, no news there—and it seems like Wittingham would be glad to keep his head down and work things out himself. He did alert the media to new punter Mitch Wishnowski, saying he was the new guy to know on their team.
That's all for today! I'll be back tomorrow with updates on the other six Pac-12 teams.