Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dear Reporters at Coaches' Press Conferences: No

Just, no.

I realize that when you're at a press conference for a coach whose program is embattled in one way or another, you're going to want to ask the hard questions. You're going to want to ask about the scandal do jour, and you're going to to want to be seen doing so by your editors when the awkward footage of said press conference shows up on SportsCenter.


Odds are, said coach has said he's not going to talk about this. Coaches are Very Good at not talking about things they don't want to talk about - it comes with being handed all the life-or-death power of a Persian satrap on their campuses - which is why coaches' press conferences generally don't turn into referendums on whether players should be paid, whether conference re-alignment is nothing more than a cynical cash grab, and why exactly universities that can't afford to fulfill their primary educational mission are pumping untold millions of dollars into facilities and coaching salaries for money-losing athletic programs.

So, when a coach says that he's not going to talk about, say, the fact that his star QB apparently got caught signing umpty-gazillion pieces of memorabilia for multiple dealers and was most likely paid a ridiculous amount of money for doing so, asking him questions about said starting QB is likely to be a non-starter. I mean, sure, ask one or two to establish that you're not just letting the coach walk all over you, but really, everybody knows that line of questioning is going nowhere.

So wacky attempts at rephrasing questions? They're embarrassing non-starters. Asking about the "Aggie code of honor" when you're really trying to ask "Your QB has been caught with both hands in the cookie jar up to his pectorals. Are you going to play him and risk having to forfeit the game later when the NCAA finally gets around to issuing a decision, or are you going to sit him down this week because, hey, it's Rice, and those guys couldn't beat whipped cream into stiff peaks?" is not so much a bit of clever misdirection as it is an obvious sidestep, one that the coach isn't going to fall for. The second and third time you try that obvious sidestep, you're just making yourself look bad and giving the coach an excuse to either go all Mike Gundy (allowing the loyal fans of Wossamatta U to leap to his defense) or end the press conference without having to subject himself to questions that might actually be hard to wriggle out of.

So on behalf of all of us, I'd ask that you give it up. We know you're trying, and we appreciate it, but really, we just kind of feel bad for you when you have to do this. We also know that any coach who falls for that shtick isn't going to last long enough to reach his second press conference. Instead, go for the gold. If the coach is going to make a farce of this stuff, farce him right back. Ask him about his third string left tackle's GPA. Make the questions as ridiculous as his evasions and non-answers and "that's-off-limitses". Embarrass the coaches the way they've been embarrassing you for years.

Because you deserve better than to have to sit around waiting for the cynical paint job to get slapped on the dollars and cents decision, and then feign surprise. And, quite possibly, so do we.
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