Well it happened. We did not expect much excitement from a conference desperate for media partners, attention, and recognition. The biggest stories were Lane Kiffin, Butch Davis, and who deserves the most respect.
The league has its share of personalities — ODU head coach Bobby Wilder is fun, WKU’s Mike Sanford is young and also a friend of Wilder, Lou Holtz is free with opinions, and Butch Davis also. Lane Kiffin is controversial but not exciting and not much of a storyteller. Every one else had a look of resignation — they are required to do these things but would much rather do anything else.
If you have ever had to do anything for work that was clearly your least favorite you know the feeling as well. So it goes.
The media contingent was sparse compared to the bigger conferences, but each region had at least one beat guy there. Best represented? The East had at least three regional guys in attendance. Louisiana Tech was probably the most covered by beat writer. My unofficial, casual count was two beat writers and one radio show.
Reddit’s r/CFB sent a couple of people and there were a couple of independent blogger/podcaster types including yours truly. MGN was the only team-centric site with a guy there.
What, exactly, does that mean? Well Media Days were originally conceived as a way to make it convenient for reporters to cover. The idea was mutually beneficial — everyone in one place and a group that needed coverage getting it. Thanks to the internet, there is less need for any of this. Not only are publications shuttering or cutting back on funds — meaning smaller travel budgets for beats — but it is easier to broadcast coverage. CUSA broadcast interviews with each coach and player delegation live on Facebook.
Why travel to Irving when you can simply report on the Thulin conversation?
Well, because the best stuff comes from sitting two feet in front of your subjects. The Newstar’s Cory Diaz did his job with an iPhone and a laptop. It seems an enterprising publication could shell out a few bucks to an independent journalist to walk around and record some video for cheap.
Of course, that presumes that even such a small amount would be worth it. The bigger, more professional outfits had expensive video cameras and grabbed what they needed quickly and efficiently. The media rights partners had special rooms where they could do their interviews.
Depending on your natural tendencies this entire exercise was useful. If you lean toward hot-take drivel, you probably could do with a couple of days where everyone seems more like a real person. If you lean toward insider, secrets-revealed stuff, this was not going to unveil anything beyond the rehearsed answers.
As an aside, it was impressive hearing Sean Kugler and Doc Holliday repeat memorized talking points so effortlessly and seamlessly into any question.
I went in expecting nothing and ready for anything. I had enough gear to do a live stream of audio and/or video but was mostly planning on sitting and getting quotes for posts. And so I did.
The problem with the set up is that NT was in and out fairly quickly. The rest of the time was for the rest of the conference.
I wrote a few posts for fellow blogs. Here are the ones published thus far:
There is an FAU one coming out soon.
Marshall: I asked Doc Holiday and the players about what exactly brought about that 3-9 season. Doc: “Well, we didn’t coach them up well enough.” Ryan Yurachek: “Dunno, I mean I hate to put it all on one game or one play but we were never the same after Litton was sacked [ on the scoop and score against Akron]”.
UTEP: I asked Sean Kugler about losing Aaron Jones and the future of the offense. “It’s a collective. We feel good about the offensive line.” He also feels good about Metz and seamlessly rattled off stats with him at the helm. I heard him repeat this line elsewhere. I also asked about building rivalries and a coach’s responsibility toward contributing toward that. “I can see it with all the Texas schools. It happens naturally and with good games. Like the UTSA win last year. They’ll want to get back at us after that.”
UAB: Shaq Jones is huge in person, and really focused on picking up where UAB left off. What does UAB football look like? “Aggressive, tough, dominant.”
We’ll have more on the podcast this Sunday.