The Pac-10 Conference held its West Coast Media Day Thursday at the Rose Bowl, and everywhere you looked, the Pac-10 branding was in full force. An East Coast version was held Tuesday in New York, as part of Commissioner Larry Scott’s plan to give the conference more national visibility.
On a warm, sunny Southern California day, Pac-10 staffers wore blue shirts with the new Pac-10 logo and "Ask me" buttons, red roses were on every table, and the media were handed Pac-10 logo pens, flash drives and media tablets.
So everything was rosy, right? You be the judge, as we debunk some myths on Pac-10 Media Day.
1. Lane Kiffin is not very media-savvy
Sure, the head coach at USC has been described as somewhat robotic, unpolished and uncomfortable when dealing with the press — especially when you compare him to UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel, who is completely at ease with a microphone in his face. But Kiffin did show his sense of humor when I asked him to debunk one myth about himself.
"Wow," he replied, looking stumped. He looked to his right, eyes searching for his school’s sports information director, then laughingly responded, "Where’s my SID? (He) didn’t prepare me for that one. After asking his sophomore quarterback for some help on the question, Kiffin finally declared, "What would be one myth? I’m gonna have to think about that. There are a lot of them out there."
2. Now that Pete Carroll is gone, the USC-Stanford feud will die
After watching Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Kiffin sit side-by-side for an interview in New York City a few days ago, if anything, I’d say tensions are higher. Get ready for a "Trojan stomp" and more two-point conversions.
3. The Pac-10 coaches really don’t like each other
When a reporter asked him about his Pac-10 Media Day experience in New York City, Washington State head coach Paul Wulff responded, "You find out all the coaches are pretty good guys, even though you don’t think they are." Obviously, a follow-up question should’ve been asked.
4. Washington State will improve this year
Since the Pac-10 usually has coaches take the podium in reverse order of how their respective teams were ranked by West Coast media members, it’s got to be a little depressing going "first" for two consecutive years. It’s also depressing when the media starts worrying about the proverbial crickets chirping following the moderator’s announcement to open up questions from the media. Props to Seattle and Tacoma sportswriters for saving the day with questions, but Washington State still looks like it will end up in last place, and that’s not an improvement.
5. UCLA is still not at that contenders-for-the-Rose-Bowl-crown level yet
Au contraire. One West Coast media member voted UCLA to finish first in the Pac-10. Hey, if the Bruins can go through one of the toughest schedules in the country (ranked No. 3 by one national publication), I’m officially on their bandwagon. Unfortunately, they don’t have an SEC team on their non-conference schedule this year (the Bruins are 2-0 vs. the SEC the last two seasons), and instead have to play Texas, Houston and Kansas State.
6. The Pac-10 is too top-heavy
In a media poll, Oregon received 15 first-place votes, USC 12, Oregon State 3, Stanford 1, Arizona 1, Washington 1 and UCLA 1. In other words, no one knows what to make of the Pac-10 this year thanks to Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli’s exit, USC’s sanctions and Oregon State’s September schedule. TCU (at Arlington), Louisville and at Boise State could possibly knock out the Beavs’ two front teeth before they get into conference play.
7. The ratings from recruiting/scouting services are highly regarded by every coach
When asked how he does more with less [lower-rated recruiting classes], Oregon State’s Mike Riley set the record straight. “We don’t feel like we do more with less," he said. "We think we do a good job of evaluating players. We don’t care about the number of stars when coming in, but about the number of stars they have coming out."
8. The most feared passing attack is in Southern California
I asked Lott Trophy candidate Rahim Moore (UCLA), one of the premier free safeties and class acts in the nation, which team had the most challenging passing attack. His answer? "Washington and Arizona. They do a good job with route recognition." Moore then added, "What I have been doing is preparing our secondary as much as we can and be prepared to face those offenses to help our team win. I am looking forward to it. When that time comes, may the best man win.”
9. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles’ numbers will be down this year
The Wildcats lost some big targets (wide receiver Delashaun Dean was dismissed from team, Terrell Turner graduated and tight end Rob Gronkowski is now a New England Patriot) for Foles, but coach Mike Stoops doesn’t seem that concerned . “Juron Criner is the number-one guy," he said. "He has to be that beast of a receiver outside who can make all the plays. I think he is just starting to scratch the surface of being a true number-one player on any level." Criner caught 45 passes for the Wildcats last season, nine for touchdowns.
10. The Rose Bowl is the perfect place to hold Pac-10 Media Day
Sure it’s a beautiful setting, but in late July, it’s a sweat box. One reporter and his laptop were completely covered by a Gatorade towel while he was typing his notes. Two announcements were made during the event encouraging media members to take advantage of the sun block available. There reportedly was a misting tent (I never saw it), and many laptops were so hot they had to be closed down by the time Oregon State’s Mike Riley made his way to the podium. But hey, it’s a dry heat, right?