We’ve reached that weird point in the summer where we want to pretend college football season is here but — in reality — kickoff is more than a month away.
The source of all this undue excitement is nothing other than “Media Days” — the annual preseason media conference where beat reporters, columnists and radio/TV guys converge in a single location for two-to-three full days of press availability.
Coaches, shielded by a savvy media relations team, do their best to speak for a full day without actually saying anything. Members of the press goad them — looking for any semblance of news that could feed a nation of ravenously hungry college football fans.
There are no winners that come out of Media Days, only losers.
Take, for example, UNC coach Larry Fedora, who — after delivering some (perhaps poorly articulated) remarks on football and CTE that appear to align with the thinking in the scientific community — ended his day having to clarify those thoughts before certain national columnists concluded he might be “too stupid to coach college football.”
But you don’t have to make massive waves during Media Days to earn a column. On Tuesday, Texas coach Tom Herman responded to a loaded question from Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls regarding how many ‘elite’ players are currently on the Texas roster.
In traditional, Herman presser fashion, he paused and thought about the question before concluding “some.”
That 10-second pause? Boom. Column.
Earlier in the morning, Texas linebacker Breckyn Hager shared some candid remarks about A&M during a “word association” game with ESPN. A few minutes later, the tweet mysteriously disappeared from Longhorn Network.
A close call, because Hager’s A&M brush off was worth 400-500 word column about maturity from a reporter with a deadline had he/she found it quick enough.
The goal for media days is actually pretty simple: Don’t say anything that will make news.
Somewhere in Ames today, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is enjoying his day because he didn’t share an opinion on the current political climate, or Iowa State’s prospective chances against a future opponent or, god forbid, his official position on CTE and the war against football.
Media Days are for reciting the traditional preseason tropes. Make sure you let everyone know that you are excited for the upcoming season. Let your fans know that they are the best fans in college football. Tell a quirky, media relations-manufactured anecdote.
“You’ll never guess who on this team is killing it at ping pong in the game room.”
“Player XXX never eats the crust on a PBJ – this is bizarre.”
coach: “i’m not sure the changes we are seeing in football are good for the game”— curry (@willcurrys) July 18, 2018
media: “fire him into the sun”
coach: [panicking] ‘the uhh best way to eat a kit kat is to bite into the whole thing at once”
media: ‘...ok .. i’m listening’ https://t.co/tSLGjdioUW
I’m not anti-media at all. Far from it. The term “fake news” makes me cringe. But this particular media circuit creates such clear and avoidable traps.
Media Days once served a purpose — but with the 24/7 college football news cycle they have become antiquated. There is nothing to learn in Frisco at Big 12 Media Days that we didn’t already know.
If we are going to have them, at least push them into August. Right now, Media Days are all college football fans can chew on for the next 40 days. And if you don’t navigate it correctly, you could end up getting screwed.