With April upon us, I’d like nothing more than to kick around some news from the Oklahoma Sooners’ spring practices.
Unfortunately, coach Bob Stoops has his squad drilling under radio silence. Media members and fans aren’t welcome. The best anyone can hope for are third-hand reports filtered through the coaching staff and the watered-down dress rehearsal that is the Red-White Game.
Just the latest in Sgt. Stoops’ war of paranoia.
I don’t follow any program in D-I football nearly as closely as the Sooners, but I have a hard time imagining there are many coaches who could match the OU coaching staff’s disdain for transparency.
I understand why a college coach would be wary of opening up his program too much to prying eyes. Remember when Florida coach Urban Meyer blew up at a reporter last week? Maybe he was out of line, but the whole incident was precipitated by a player’s poor choice of words and a reporter who I think was probably in the wrong, too.
Presumably, coaches feel like they and their players have better things to do with their time than playing games of gotcha with the press. Likewise, between blabbermouth Message Board Guy, Bill Belichick-ites and nutjob stalkers, limiting contact with fans doesn’t seem entirely ill-advised. Not too mention the possibility that an open-door policy could land your program in hot water with the amateurism watchdogs.
Whether or not Stoops enjoys dealing with the media, like Meyer, he needs the press as much as the press needs him. All that exposure gets big-money boosters to give to the schools and players to join the cause. For fans, treats like peeking in on practices and scrimmages keep them buying tickets, tuning in on TV and buying jerseys.
And all of that gets coaches those fat contracts.
Stoops isn’t the only one who could stand to benefit from more sunshine, though. Interacting with the press and building your personal “brand” are part and parcel of being a successful professional athlete. Think the Florida flap helped Deonte Thompson learn a lesson about choosing his words more carefully when the cameras are rolling?
To this point, Stoops’ success has won him plenty of rope to run his program as he sees fit. I doubt locking down his team has had much to do with all those wins, though.
No one is asking to know where the bodies are buried, coach. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.