Media days are known for many things, but honesty is not high on the list.
This is spin season, when everyone has added 10 pounds of muscle and every team is working harder than it did last year. Before the harsh realities of fall set in, this is the time when everyone is undefeated and every backup is a star-in-waiting.
Just once, I’d like to spike every coach’s Gatorade with truth serum and find out how they really feel. No boilerplate, no coach-speak, just unfiltered honesty.
Assuming everyone is required to tell the truth, here’s what I would ask every coach at Pac-12 media day.
Chris Petersen, Washington: Two years from now, Pete Carroll retires from the Seahawks. You interested?
Seattle already hit the jackpot with a college coach from the Pac-12. Petersen seems to have the perfect demeanor for the NFL, and he’s getting close to the now-or-never age. I have no idea if he’d consider an NFL job, but I’d like to hear his honest thoughts.
David Shaw, Stanford: You ever feel a little under-appreciated?
Shaw has won more games than anyone else in the Pac-12 era, and he’s the only Pac-12 coach to take his team to a bowl game every year since the league expanded. He’s widely respected around the league, but in a era when coaches are judged by their ability to reach the College Football Playoff, I wonder if Shaw gets his due for what he’s accomplished at a tough place.
Mario Cristobal, Oregon: How do you really feel about Willie Taggart?
Cristobal has had nothing but good things to say about his former boss, and you can’t blame him for that. If not for Taggart’s departure, Cristobal’s chances of landing a head coaching job — and certainly one as attractive as Oregon’s — would have been uncertain.
Still, I wonder how Oregon’s new coach felt about how Taggart handled his exit, and if he had to smooth over any resentment from other members of his staff who were passed over for the job.
Justin Wilcox, California: Are we expecting too much, too soon?
Picked last in the North a year ago, Wilcox surpassed expectations by leading Cal to a 5-7 finish in his first season. The expectation is that the Bears will keep climbing and get back to a bowl game this year. But after the transfers of running back Tre Watson and wide receiver Demetris Robinson, two of Cal’s top offensive talents, I wonder if those predictions are a year or two ahead of schedule.
Mike Leach, Washington State: What’s your deal, dude?
I’m not sure if Leach was being sincere when he tweeted a doctored clip of a Barack Obama speech. For a guy who fashions himself a scholar and a history buff, Leach sometimes comes across as more of a troll or a nutjob.
Goodness knows college football could use a little more personality, but I wonder if Leach knows when he’s crossing the line between quirky and distasteful.
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State: How did you feel about Mike Riley ditching Oregon State for a start-up football league?
I understand why Oregon State wanted to bring Riley back into the fold after he was let go at Nebraska. Still, I wondered how Smith would feel about having OSU’s former coach twice-removed looking over his shoulder. I’d love to know if Smith was disappointed or relieved when Riley signed on with the new Alliance of American Football.
Clay Helton, USC: How nervous are you about starting a true freshman quarterback?
JT Daniels is no ordinary quarterback recruit, but USC is talking about putting its CFP aspirations in the hands of an 18-year-old freshman who played only three years of high school football. I doubt it would take large dose of truth serum for Helton to admit that’s a dicey proposition.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah: Have the Utes hit a plateau?
Whittingham’s teams are always intense, physical and well-coached. But the Utes have yet to win — or even play for — a Pac-12 title, and I wonder if they’re destined to be a solid bowl team that never takes the next step.
Kevin Sumlin, Arizona: Do you miss the SEC?
Sumlin had a tumultuous six-year run at Texas A&M, one of the most demanding schools in college football’s most insane conference. Now he’s at Arizona, a decidedly less pressurized environment. I wonder if he misses the SEC spotlight or if he’s glad to be out of the fishbowl.
Herm Edwards, Arizona State: What’s the difference between coaching and being on television?
Though he wasn’t coaching a team, Edwards said he’s been “coaching America” for the past nine years at ESPN. You get the sense that he still feels like he’s constantly talking into a camera — which, to be fair, is a big part of being a modern-day college football coach.
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado: How warm is that seat?
It’s been downhill for MacIntyre at Colorado since he led the Buffaloes to the South Division title in 2016. One of his assistants was charged in a domestic violence case, and CU is coming off a last-place finish that dropped MacIntyre’s Pac-12 record to 12-33. Goodwill from 2016 only goes so far.
Chip Kelly, UCLA: How close did you come to taking the Oregon job in 2016?
The hot rumor at the time had Kelly leaving the 49ers and coming back to rescue Oregon football after Mark Helfrich’s dismissal. Instead, Kelly was fired by San Francisco, did a year of TV with ESPN, then accepted the UCLA job last November.
I never thought he was coming back, but I’d love to know how strongly he considered it.
Follow Austin on Twitter @austinmeekRG. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.