Big 12 football media days roundup

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, July 25th, 2014

Big12_Conference_4.OneColor-A_Stacked

By Bo Carter

Probably the best part about college conference media days is that every team is undefeated and headed for a bowl game and maybe the inaugural College Football Playoff at AT&T Stadium on Jan. 12, 2015.
That was Florida State’s mantra “From Dallas to Dallas” on Atlantic Coast Conference media days earlier this week in Greensboro, N.C., as the defending national champs open the 2014 campaign against Oklahoma State in the Aug. 30 Cowboys College Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington and then hope to make a return trip to start 2015.
But locally the Big 12 Conference (still with 10 schools competing, go figure, but with the One True Champion round-robin slogan rolling) held its 19th annual media days last Monday and Tuesday at the Dallas Galleria Westin Galleria with optimism and justice for all.
Coaches coming off rebuilding years were cautious but positive; coaches with “retooling” programs such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State were not arrogant; and coaches from the “middling” programs projected postseason play and sellouts – mostly.
One of the most interesting aspects of the sometimes-droll media day necessities are how the coaches view their opponents – Big 12 and otherwise.
First, here’s defending champion mentor and 2013 Big 12 Coach of the Year Art Briles of Baylor.
“I appreciate the perception that Baylor has come a long way,” he began, “but it’s entirely different this year, and the thing that’s really good about it is I don’t know what the preseason polls have been. I haven’t looked.  I did notice we were picked second in the Big 12 (behind Oklahoma, which has won a record eight Big 12 football crowns in 18 seasons).  As far as national polls, I haven’t seen anything.I don’t know if they’ve come out yet.”
Coach Bob Stoops of favored OU also appreciates the balance of the Big 12 and had several observations about the quality of opposition, Oklahoma’s upset win over 2012 BCS champ Alabama in the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl and the upcoming conference race – especially facing new Texas coach Charlie Strong.
“It should be a great race in 2014,” he noted, “and Charlie Strong and I have known each other for a good number of years now being former defensive coordinators together and with our background back at Florida, we’ve had a chance hrough the years to get to know each other.  I think Charlie’s a great coach. He’s an excellent person. We’ve really enjoyed the times I have been around him, so I gotta be careful. I can’t wish him too much luck, but I know he’ll do a great job and he’s a great coach.”
Strong, making his Big 12 media days’ debut at the Westin, also related about the challenges of being a first-year coach in treacherous Big 12 gridiron waters. He also spoke of relationships with fellow head coaches in the circuit and the sense of rivalry but fair play among the current 10 taskmasters.
“When I was at the University of Florida, actually I was leaving and coach Stoops was coming in,” Strong said, “we had a chance to just visit at that time and meet one another. He ended up coming to Florida. I ended up going off to Notre Dame. But you have a lot of respect not only for those coaches, and you just look at the job. Oklahoma State, look what he’s (Mike Gundy) done. Coach Briles has done an unbelievable job at Baylor and look at his quarterback (Bryce) Petty and what they have. Coach (Charlie) Weis is getting it going there at Kansas. I also had a chance to visit with Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and he has done many great things there. But it’s unbelievable with the coaches within this conference, and we have a lot of respect. Not only that, just seeing the work and seeing the product that they’ve put on the field.  It’s all about the product you put on the field, and it’s a product that’s been amazing because you look at what Oklahoma did to Alabama in the BCS bowl game. The work from all these coaches and what they’ve done and the respect they have for one another is just truly amazing. I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Snyder, making his record 16th appearance at Big 12 media days after a three-year hiatus from coaching and the namesake of Snyder Family Stadium at K-State, had many of the same sentiments after taking on Big 12 and Big Eight Conference challenges for a total of 22 seasons since taking over a languishing program in Manhattan, Kan., in 1989.
One writer noted that there had been 48 head coaching changes among past and present members of the Big 12 family since Snyder left Iowa for KSU in ’89.
“Well, I don’t pay much attention to what the turnover ratio is from one school to the next,” Snyder noted, “and there’s a variety of different reasons. Sometimes people move on. The age factor, I can’t negotiate that.  It is what it is. And I’m as old as time and that’s not going to change. Where do you get those stats?
“I looked it up,” noted the writer.
“What was the end result you were hoping for?” Snyder quipped.
“I was thinking 75,” the scribe said with a grin.
“Okay,” Snyder replied to a chorus of laughter by the media. “Dig a little deeper; you might find it. I didn’t tell you anything, did I?”
While the venerable K-State coach was getting chuckles from the audience, other Big 12 mentors continued to cast a way glance at the 2014 competition.
“It’s a new one (season) for us,” said TCU’s Gary Patterson. “It was only the first time out this last season in 16 years we haven’t gone to a bowl game. For us, went back to work, but really hadn’t changed much. We changed offenses. We felt like the foundation was in place. The kids work hard. We’ve had a great summer.   So really excited about getting that taste out of our mouth. The only way to do that is to get back get going.”
And “going” for the Horned Frogs incidentally will be a visit on Saturday, Aug. 30, when former TCU head coach (1992-97) as well as 1971 Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan brings his Samford Bulldogs to Fort Worth for a 7 p.m. (CDT) lidlifter.
OSU’s Gundy, coming off eight consecutive bowl appearances, realizes the challenges ahead as well.
“We not only have a great conference race upcoming,” he stated, “but I think it’s always important for Big 12 teams when we play out of league like our opener in Arlington with Florida State and West Virginia playing Alabama in Atlanta. I would guess that most teams or coaches feel very similar that we do; that our job as
coaches and players is the preparation and the hard work and everything that goes into getting ready to play on that Saturday.
“And I don’t have any question in my mind that our team will compete and play very hard,” Gundy added. “We’ve always taken pride in the preparation. And I’m looking forward to seeing our younger players develop in August and taking the leadership role.”
Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, now in his second season at the helm and with a 37-23 triumph over Arizona State in the 2013 National University Holiday Bowl in San Diego, realizes that having his staff together in its second full year is a major plus in conference play.
“I think consistency as a program and particularly for myself are positive factors,” he said, “and each and every day making sure you’re bringing the same energy, the same positive message. You gotta provide the stability, especially when things aren’t going well. And year one I probably didn’t do a great job of that, and hopefully we learned from that and can build. I think our team learned how to handle adversity.  If you continue to work, continue to stress doing things the right way, then in the end you’re going to have success.  We had that success in the bowl game, and this was big for the 2014 season.”
Non-conference pitfalls notwithstanding, all 10 head coaches enjoy the complete, round-robin schedule for the Big 12 to comply with the One True Champion slogan parlayed by the conference for 2014-15.
And the best part about Big 12, Conference USA, American Athletic or all other FBS schools’ preseason gatherings is that it now is four weeks from Saturday when Division I football begins: Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington in a bout of perennial NCAA FCS contenders on Aug. 23, and the “bigger boys” follow with a plethora of Thursday night telecasts on Aug. 28.
Football is just around the corner, folks…

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