Media training for college athletes is a common practice. Teams gather to hear an expert guide them through interviews, understand what type of questions to expect and how to best present themselves in the public eye.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for coaches.
This week, starting with a postgame news conference in Fayetteville, Ark., coaches and not kids said the darndest things.
One was amusing, the other unfortunate. Both involved Big 12 coaches.
After Texas Tech won at Arkansas, Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury was asked about pulling off the surprising result — Tech was an 11 ½ point underdog — and he wasted no time taking a shot at Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema.
Kingsbury reminded reporters of comments Bielema made at the Texas high school coaches convention last summer about Arkansas’ superior power brand of football.
“He said, ‘If you don’t play with a fullback, we’ll kick your (butt). If you throw it 70 times a game, we’ll kick your (butt),’ ” Kingsbury said. “He just got his (butt) kicked twice in a row and probably next week by Texas A&M.”
Bielema responded by pointing out Kingsbury’s average record. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin offered to officiate a throwdown between the coaches.
It’s probably the kind of trash talking coaches would prefer not to hear from their players, but all in good fun, and it’s probably the last we’ll hear of this feud because the programs aren’t scheduled to meet again.
That’s not the case with TCU and Baylor, the Big 12’s new elite that apparently get under each other’s skin.
Frogs coach Gary Patterson, addressing the suspension of defensive end Mike Tuaua, who was arrested on charges of robbery with bodily injury, didn’t condemn that act. Instead, he apparently took a shot at Baylor.
“In this kid’s case (Tuaua), we’ll find out what the facts are. It’ll all come out. I just hope when they all come out you report it just as strongly as what you’ve done here, because it’s not even close to what happened south of here.”
The apparent reference was to the Baylor case involving Sam Ukwuachu, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow student.
Bears coach Art Briles didn’t bite. “We’re playing football,” he said at his weekly news conference. “That’s where we take our shots, on the football field.”
In sticking up for his player, Patterson was wrong to measure the situation against another school. But it offered insight into the depth of feeling in the rivalry.
Perhaps Patterson carries some bitterness over how Briles conducted himself on the final day of last year’s regular season when both teams won to finish with 8-1 lead records and were declared Big 12 co-champions.
Briles confronted Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on the trophy presentation stage, unhappy that the league was declaring co-champions after Baylor had defeated TCU in the regular season.
Whether the jabs are fun, misguided or mean-spirited, we probably should grow more accustomed to them. In today’s social media world, rare is the thought that goes unexpressed, even by coaches who instruct their players to use their brands with caution.
That didn’t happen with Nebraska offensive tackle Alex Lewis after the Cornhuskers’ 36-33 overtime loss at Miami last weekend. Lewis was flagged for a personal foul that gave the Hurricanes better field position for their game-winning field goal. Lewis took heavy criticism from fans and fired back on his Facebook page.
“I’m done playing for the state of Nebraska!” Lewis wrote. “… So screw everyone whoever doubts me.”
Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley said he spoke with Lewis, a captain, and said the player knew he had made a mistake.
“You don’t need to gain your identity from social media,” Riley said. “And secondly, you don’t generalize like that about a group of people. He knows that.”
But Lewis and other players who were paying attention last weekend also know coaches can pop off, too, and some media training might serve everybody well.