Hello friends, and welcome to no one’s favorite time of year: you guessed it - media days. These are a couple days in the summer where normally sane individual’s whose common sense, willpower, and all around sense of what’s important in the world are all worn so thin by lack of actual college football that they push and shove and gather around coaches, players, and commissioners, hanging on to every possible double meaning, and kind of hint or tell, just anything about what might happen on the football field this fall.
The Big 12’s iteration of the festivities commenced today in Arlington at
the Space Ship ATT Stadium. It was quite the spectacle, and today we heard from five teams - Kansas, TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. Many things were said today, and few of them meant much, but here’s a list of ten things I noticed while drinking free Dr. Pepper and talking to some of my sportswriter pals.
10 Things That Happened at Big 12 Media Days
- I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way first: Bob Bowlsby and then Les Miles both passed the buck and equivocated regarding Pooka Williams’ measly one games suspension for domestic violence. Bowlsby, in his remarks, highlighted the investigation process and how that process happens “outside of the academic department”. He gave no good answer about Williams, and his comments amounted to little more than dodging. Les Miles came out and started with the Williams situation, and his remarks didn’t get much better. Les started strong, saying “Violence against women will not be accepted”, but then he continued with vacuities regarding Williams’s inability to go to the weight room and be with his team. Miles continued with vague talk about Williams “going through procedures”, “meeting criteria”, and “taking responsibility”, and then he stalled for a second, seemingly unable to further spin the situtaion. Les Miles crowned his Big 12 reintroduction by saying, “ I did not make this decision, but I stand by it, and I think it’s the right one.” Yikes.
- Ok, back to the football. Bob Bowslby started the day by announcing the Big 12 Now network. That’s right, programming for the Big 12 (besides Oklahoma and Texas, of course), is going behind the ESPN+ paywall. What does that mean, exactly? Well, you’d think football will stay available, but Bowlsby mentioned that content you had seen on ESPN News and ESPN U will now be on Big 12 Now. We’re currently unsure of the football impact, but you have to imagine that basketball is going to be an entirely different viewing experience this coming season.
- Bowlsby gets asked about expansion. Bowlsby was asked about conference realignment, to which he responded unequivocally that the Big 12 wasn’t considering it, and that he “liked our ten teams.” Bowlsby’s exact quote: “We have had zero discussions of expansion at any level... We are distributing record revenue, and I don’t expect [realignment] to be an active topic in the future. Regarding playoff expansion, Bowlsby said that as he was a part of the task force, he wasn’t allowed to say too much, noting that College Football Playoff Committee Grand Poobah Kirby Hocutt was in the back, nervously awaiting his answer. The Commissioner did say that the Playoff system was an “unprecedented success” and they were very proud of how it’s worked out so far.
- Various and Sundry Bowlsby Comments: Bob was subject to a volley of questions about minor topics, and I’ll address some of those here. First, he talked about the “bad message” the transfer portal was sending by allowing “kids to have a bad practice” and “just walk out and put their name in the portal without talking to their coaches.” In fact, he called that bad message his Gospel According to Bowslby. He affirms that sitting for a year after a transfer seems like the best solution, but getting that year of eligibility back may help student-athletes. Regarding gambling, Commissioner Bowlsby said that mandatory participation reports weren’t on the horizon - mostly because he didn’t believe coaches would like it, and also because he doesn’t want to “do anything that might encourage gambling.” In his comments, the Commissioner also lamented schedule imbalances, and while he doesn’t want to impose on “how other conferences decide their championship”, he did suggest a minimum of autonomous opponents may help to balance the national landscape, especially with a resume-driven playoff selection. Finally, Bowlsby told an interesting story about the league and insurance - given the prevalence of concussion lawsuits the league is dealing with, the Big 12 was actually turned away from multiple insurers in trying to secure concussion insurance. They have since found a policy, but Bowlsby said it was a struggle.
- Les Miles is going to do things at Kansas. Maybe not good things, but definitely things. In his short remarks, aside from stumbling over the Pooka Williams question, Miles affirmed his situation coming in, saying “I like my team”, and that he inherited more at Kansas than he did when he started at Oklahoma State, whatever that’s worth. Miles, wearing his 2007 National Championship Ring, noted that his defense was turning “high-speed”, switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and championed his planned offensive “balance” between run and pass. Les was also asked a hilariously optimistic question about how soon he expects to be in a NY6 bowl, and the Mad Hatter, true to form, talked about his national championship.
- Gary Patterson has cockroach DNA, and Gary Patterson loves grass. We got another round of classic “Gary” moments. (For the uninitiated, Gary Patterson has mentioned in the past that at media days he gets to be “Gary” with the media, whereas during the season he must be “Coach P”.) Coach Patterson did give his usual philosophy about doing things the right way, and about how he is so different from the typical college football mold in sticking around in Fort Worth for so long: “If you take the philosophy of you’re a coach, you want to be somewhere three or four years and you want to move on to the next place and that’s not our philosophy, it’s how we make everybody else better when you when you move you help yourself and when you stay you help others, and I have a little bit of cockroach DNA, and you can’t kill a cockroach. You just gotta keep moving forward. I started in fifth place with my wife. I just outlasted everybody else, so here we go.” Coach Patterson also got very excited about the new stadium - he cited specifically the new video screen and how the new design will make the stadium louder, saying that for recruiting and fan experience, it was the “right thing to do.” Lastly, GP got hyped up about grass - the Frogs will be playing on what they practice on in 2019, as the grounds crew will be matching the field with the practice field in terms of playing surface. Coach P says the Frogs play faster in practice, so he wants them to be able to play as fast as they practice on the grass. (Multiple media members confirmed that Coach Patterson will gladly tell you all you’ve wanted to know and more about grass in football fields.)
- Gary Patterson doesn’t know who the QB is, but he doesn’t seem worried. Or maybe he does. I don’t know. It’s a confusing situation. My favorite Gary quote from the day was his emphatic and swift “NO!” to a question regarding the status of Matthew Baldwin’s eligibility. GP was relatively tight-lipped when it came to the QB situation, highlighting how having so many quality options is increasing the competition, which will in turn, in his estimation, increase the quality of the on-field product. Coach Patterson didn’t seem too worried about which player ended up as the starter, although he spent time praising Delton, Duggan, and Collins by name. In fact, Coach Patterson talked about how confident he was in having his “whole offense” back, while at the same time insisting his defense needed to “grow up” from last year. It appears the “growing up” comment had at least something to do with physical maturity, as Coach Patterson mentioned that TCU’s secondary is all over 6’2’’ this year and touched on the size and bulk of linebackers Garret Wallow and Montrell Wilson. Whoever the quarterback is, the TCU offense has playmakers, and GP seems focused on ensuring his defense is up to its usual par this season. (Astute readers will note, nothing was said of TCU’s allegedly-revamped veer offense.)
- Mike Gundy’s mullet just won’t go away. Gundy was at media days, and he did Gundy media day things. Among the highlights from his comments, Gundy discussed cutting his hair (the barbershop was closed on Sunday, so he abstained), his quarterback battles (he hasn’t named a starter and doesn’t have a timeline because no one has “taken the reigns”), his new Ivy League offensive coordinator (“we are going to run the same plays and system”), the Cowboys’ improving defense (they are better suited this year to defend against offenses who are “trying to score every down”), and on running a program culture (“The win at all costs theory has never crossed my mind. that’s not something personally I believe in”), all while sporting that godawful fixture of college football lore, his mullet.
- Matt Wells thinks he can recruit to Lubbock. Hey, look - it’s not like Logan, Utah is exactly a booming metropolis. Yes, it has mountains and is unequivocally better that Lubbock by degrees of magnitude, but it shares that similar isolated quality that Lubbock does, and Wells was more than capable of drawing talent (compared to his conference peers). Wells said that he doesn’t feel any pressure from Tech’s recent basketball and baseball (and track!) success, but reiterated he was excited about the culture at Tech and being in Lubbock (the poor soul). Regarding on-field matters, Wells confirmed the health of breakout QB Alan Bowman and mentioned that the two had been studying Wells’s Utah State offense all offseason; between Bowman and four new grad transfers, Wells feels like he can compete this season.
- Lincoln Riley “hasn’t named a starter”. [Insert huge eye-roll here.] Riley played coy again this year, echoing his sentiments from last season, where he mentioned that Kyler Murray still had to win the job. This season, he kept up his pattern and suggested that Jalen Hurts had talent and experience, and the job was his to win, but he needed to win it. Riley’s comments also celebrated bringing in Alex Grinch to Norman, and how that will take the Sooners to the next level. Riley did pay the state of Texas a compliment when asked about the receivers he gets on his roster: I think the coaching in the state of Texas is extremely good, along with great athletes and great resources.
And there you have it; ten things that happened from Big 12 Media Days. Look forward to more content on the site over the next couple days as we digest the circus that is media days, and for live content and recaps you can always check us out over on Twitter, @frogsowar.