Big 12 Media Days are already half-over, but we’ve already seen lots of talk about true champions, dark days, cheaters, Britney Spears and a cross-country feud. Let’s take a look back at the best and worst of Day 1 at Big 12 Media Days.
Best overall performance: Art Briles.
Briles knows his way around a microphone, and his folksy Texas charm plays well to a crowd.
"I feel like I’ve been running sprints," he said as he sat down to open the coach interview portion of the morning. "I already got the cotton mouth."
He also had the perfect response to a question about Baylor’s new status as a Big 12 "heavyweight."
"Heavyweight? I try to eat as healthy as possible," Briles said.
He also showed a little self-deprecating humor when he chuckled at a question about Baylor’s Fiesta Bowl loss to UCF.
"I appreciate you bringing that up," he said.
Best quote: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
On his way up the escalator and into the main interview room, Gundy drew a large crowd of cameras.
"I felt like Britney Spears walking in today with the cameras," he said. "First year, I think a lot of people thought I worked at the hotel."
I don’t know why Spears was Gundy’s celebrity of choice (Johnny Depp? Brad Pitt?), but hey, whatever works.
Most questionable decision: Bob Bowlsby
Bowlsby spent most of the morning lambasting the NCAA, forecasting troubling change and reiterating its outdated, overwhelmed enforcement policies.
However, he made a whole bunch of headlines when he got frank and said "Cheating pays."
He’s absolutely right, but the sexier quote drew attention and distracted from his main point about the troubling direction of college sports. Two Big 12 coaches told me they didn’t appreciate hearing that from the commissioner, and felt it reflected poorly on them and birthed questions about cheating throughout the league and in college football at large they didn’t appreciate answering on Monday.
Saddest news: Gary Patterson’s Twitter habits
If you follow @TCUCoachP, you know the head Horned Frog is fond of tweeting out Earth Pics, photos from around the world that are syndicated on a handful of Twitter accounts.
He told a few reporters that though he joined Twitter to show a new side of himself and use the most effective way to recruit online, he’s made an effort to dial back how often he retweets the Earth Pics accounts.
I speak for all of college football when I say: "Noooooooooo!" Patterson has the most entertaining Twitter account in the Big 12, with apologies to new ESPN employee Mack Brown.
My personal favorites are when he tweets photos of animals and their corresponding positions on the football field. Here’s hoping he gets a chance to recruit a whale as his left guard or a cheetah as his wide receiver.
Worst dodge of a question: Bob Bowlsby on co-champions
You can’t go far at the Omni Hotel this week without hearing about the Big 12’s "One True Champion," but the slogan feels pretty silly when the 10-team league handed out two trophies in 2012: One to Kansas State and one to Oklahoma, who lost at home to the Wildcats that season.
The Big 12 has continued to drill in the slogan, but Bowlsby was asked if the policy of co-champions would continue.
"Even though the records may be exactly the same, there’s either a head-to-head competition with the same record or there’s a tiebreaker imposed," he said. So we’re always going to get to the point of a true champion."
So then why do you hand out two trophies?
Second-worst dodge of a question: Kingsbury on Mayfield
Baker Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech, won Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and promptly transferred to Oklahoma after the regular season.
Texas Tech wouldn’t approve Mayfield’s release to OU, meaning he’ll have to pay his way to Oklahoma in Year 1. Kingsbury was asked about the reasoning for denying the release and cited "team policy."
"NCAA has that in-conference policy for a reason, and that was it."
Plenty of coaches would have done the same thing Kingsbury did and not allow an outstanding player to transfer to a conference rival, but it’s silly to suggest "team policy" handcuffed him from either elaborating on the "why" a bit without criticizing Mayfield or making an exception for his former QB.
He wasn’t surprised that the Sooners got the nod over Baylor as preseason favorite, despite Baylor’s 29-point win last year.
"That comes with being Baylor," he told the paper. "Life’s not fair. Life’s not fair at all, you know? To live is to struggle. To survive is to find meaning in the struggle. That’s all it is. We’re gonna be great one day, and y’all are gonna notice."
But what about Oklahoma’s win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl?
"You realize if it’s not the national championship, Alabama don’t even care who they play," Oakman said.
Oakman may have a point in arguing that the Sooners didn’t have Bama’s full attention, but I bet a few folks in Auburn, Alabama might disagree with his quote.
Second-most head-turning quote: Patterson on Fields as DPOY
Devonte Fields only played sparingly last season because of a suspension and a foot injury, but that didn’t stop the Big 12 media from crowning him preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
"Terrell Lathan was as good a player as he was when he was as a freshman," Patterson said.
It’s a calculated move from Patterson. Fields struggled to show he was motivated after his strong freshman season, and for Patterson, the last thing he wants for Fields is to hear people tell him how good he is.
That said, Fields is really, really good.
Oddest feud: Art Briles vs. Jimbo Fisher
This one didn’t spark until the afternoon, when word got to Briles that Jimbo Fisher said it was "ridiculous" that the Big 12 didn’t play a championship game.
"Don’t come down here to Texas and try to tell me how to do mine," Briles told reporters. "Jimbo Fisher needs to worry about the ACC. That’s what he needs to worry about. I’m not telling him how to do their business."
Even West Virginia QB Clint Trickett weighed in on his former coach’s comments.
“@BruceFeldmanCFB: Jimbo Fisher says every conference should play title game. "I think it's ridiculous." #big12”hey, mind ur business jimmy
The Big 12 debuted a PSA during Bob Bowlsby’s session with the media, including one that featured Big 12 coaches reading a script and morphing into one another, a la Michael Jackson’s "Black or White" video.
It was pretty weird.
Kliff Kingsbury morphing into Charlie Weis earned plenty of buzz early in the day.
Watch it here, if you dare.
Best facial hair: Ben Heeney
James Harden: Ben Heeney is coming for you, and he is picking up steam.
KU linebacker Ben Heeney speaking with confidence "We want to win the Big 12. We've got a chip on our shoulder.” pic.twitter.com/HlqKDwkAmm
Charlie Weis’ response: "I’ll try to watch my language. I believe in the oldâfashioned way. So I’ll try not to use as many bad words. But it means nothing to me," he said. "It’s great that a woman is put in a position where she can be put on equal footing with the men."
So, she’s on equal footing, but Weis will treat her differently? I’m betting Cat would much prefer Weis let the expletives fly if he’s going to do it to every other official in the league.
Riskiest strategy: Baylor’s schedule
Baylor earned criticism this offseason when it scheduled Incarnate Word for its 2019 schedule, but the Bears don’t plan on changing their practice of soft nonconference scheduling, even in the playoff era.
The selection committee has maintained it will emphasize strength of schedule, but Briles doesn’t sound worried.
"You go 9-0 in the Big 12, you’re going to be in the Final Four, because you’re probably going to beat two top 10 teams, probably two others in the top 20, and maybe another top 25," he said.
Well, that’s easier said than done.
No team has gone 9-0 in the Big 12 in its current 10-team, round-robin format. The last team to finish its Big 12 schedule without a loss was Texas in 2009. Before that, Texas in 2005.
Good luck getting the benefit of the doubt from the committee if you’re 11-1, Baylor. Oakman had one point in his critique today: Baylor isn’t a national brand alongside Alabama, Ohio State or USC. If they get left out of the playoff, especially with a soft nonconference schedule, nobody will be in its camp.
Best criticism: Briles
Baylor coach Art Briles had the Bears’ chrome helmet in front of him on the dais Monday morning as well as a helmet with the Big 12 logo that looked like you might not want to use it in an actual game.
Briles, well, he had an unprompted opinion about that.
"His mind wandered in the middle of the large group session, and he wondered what happened to the Big 12 helmet that resided across from Baylor’s chrome helmet on the dais.
"I guess they went $59.95 for the Big 12 helmet up here," he said. "They need to shine it up a little bit."
Biggest company man: Patterson.
One True Champion? Patterson’s got it covered. He dropped "true champion" in regards to the Big 12 title race twice in one question during his time at the microphone monday Morning.
In case you hadn’t heard, TCU is seriously big fans of being Big 12 members.