College Sports

How media day gave some Pac-12 coaches a chance to speak on more than football

Washington State coach Mike Leach speaks during Pac-12 Football Media Day on Wednesday in Hollywood.
Washington State coach Mike Leach speaks during Pac-12 Football Media Day on Wednesday in Hollywood. The Associated Press

Some coaches see Pac-12 Football Media Day as a chance to speak freely and off the cuff.

No one does that better than Mike Leach.

The Washington State coach was in his element, talking about serious matters such as quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide in January. He was later tied to the degenerative brain condition CTE.

Mostly, Leach drops a lot of funny lines to ease what can be an otherwise tedious question-and-answer session that can bore some coaches into something of a stupor.

He talked about recruiting players to Pullman, part of the wide-open Palouse in the Pacific Northwest, which could never be confused with the congestion and stucco of Los Angeles.

“We’re a college town and we offer something (other cities) don’t,” Leach said. “You guys might love the traffic in LA. A lot of great things about LA. You might sit in the car, listen to the radio, look at the person beside you, get flipped off. You know, wait in line for stuff.

“Well, you don’t get that in Pullman, Washington. So there are sacrifices you make to come up there to Pullman, because you don’t have to plan ahead.”

He was asked about Chip Kelly returning to the college game (he coached at Oregon before heading to the NFL): “We don’t play them for a year, so, I’ve got two years to obsess over the return of Chip Kelly.”

Love for Love — Stanford coach David Shaw raved about Cardinal running back Bryce Love, who returned for his senior season despite a promising NFL future to bulk up and ready for medical school.

Love was the Heisman Trophy runner-up after rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns. His position coach at Stanford is Ron Gould, the former UC Davis coach.

“I know he wanted to get stronger and be a little thicker, more prepared physically for the pounding of the NFL and, at the same time, I know what he wants to do off the field in his desire to go to medical school,” Shaw said. “He’s ahead, way ahead academically to the point where he’s got a chance to graduate ... the fall quarter of his senior year, which is amazing to be in human biology at Stanford University and graduate two quarters early while playing football.

“That’s amazing. I know he takes both of those very seriously.”

Offensive offers — Shaw spoke on the notion that some colleges offer a staggering 250 to 300 high school prospects a scholarship each year, though programs generally only have up to 25 a year to really offer. The intent is to get that college program’s name out there.

Asked if it devalues a real offer, Shaw said, “100 percent, because they’re not real offers. If you’ve got 20 spots and you offer 300 kids, what have you done? I still don’t know. I don’t understand it, because that tells me that 280 of those kids can’t commit. I ask (prospects), ‘Are they real offers because those other schools have offered 299 other guys. Are you sure that’s a real offer?’”

UC Davis way — Washington coach Chris Petersen got his playing and coaching start at UC Davis, a place he still holds dear to his heart, including his coach, the late Jim Sochor.

The staff also included Bob Biggs, who replaced Sochor, and Fred Arp, who died July 4.

UCD coaches believed in the power of positive thinking, Petersen said, and that’s why you won’t see Huskies coaching barking or spewing F-bombs at players.

“The main thing (about a healthy program) is the whole vibe and demeanor,” Petersen said. “One, (UCD) coaches were unbelievable teachers of football. It was finally the first time that football really started to make sense.

“They were unbelievable people in how they treated us, how they spoke to us. I don’t remember anybody — nobody was ever in kids’ faces or yelling at kids. If there was yelling on the field, out of excitement and having fun. That sets a cool foundation.”

Chip change — Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert grew up in Eugene when Chip Kelly coached the Ducks to national success. He was star struck then and a bit now.

Kelly is now in his first season at UCLA.

“I think I actually saw him at Walmart once when I was a kid, but I was too nervous to talk to him,” Herbert recalled.

What, me worry? — Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott downplayed his conference’s 1-8 bowl showing last season.

“From our perspective, a handful of season-ending games are not an indicator of a conference’s overall strength and competitiveness.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee