CULVER CITY, Calif. – Before Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott took the stage at media day on Friday, a highlight video – or “sizzle reel,” as the cool kids are calling them these days – was projected on the giant flat-screen at the head of the room.
Among the look-at-us moments: a series of big-time, bone-crunching hits by defenders, the kind that could be met with punitive judgment from officials this season.
Shortly afterward, Scott outlined the Pac-12’s new student-athlete health initiative, which limits each team to two full-contact practices per week during the regular season. That’s a stricter guideline than that of the NCAA.
Scott said input was sought from conference players and coaches, and that the policy will go into effect once it is approved by the Pac-12’s athletic directors in August.
“Our conversations with the student athletes and coaches reinforced the need to design a rule that struck a fine balance between staying healthy and staying sharp,” Scott said.
That portion of Scott’s lengthy opening address provided a fitting transition into Washington State coach Mike Leach’s podium segment.
The first question he was asked, of course, was in regard to the NCAA’s new rules against targeting. Hits that were legal a year ago may now result in ejections and suspensions, and Leach was outspoken earlier this week when asked about the subject.
He was outspoken Friday, too, again citing the now-famous hit by South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney in last season’s Outback Bowl.
“If I get these guys across the room and I have them run full speed at each other, and I ask you in a split second to tell me which one lowered their head first, I bet you can’t do it,” Leach said. “So I think that is a huge problem. The other thing is, you know, one of the plays that’s getting criticized is the Clowney hit. The Clowney hit is why they have football. That’s why football was invented.”
WSU safety Deone Bucannon, known for the punishment he occasionally applies to ballcarriers, said he’ll be mindful of the new rules but doesn’t want to change the way he plays.
“The only way that you could fully abide by that rule is if you totally paddy-cake the guy,” Bucannon said. “If I’m going full speed and he’s going full speed, chances are one of us is going to duck our head. It’s kind of hard to ask somebody to slow down or try not to put as much force into it to prevent injury. If anything, if I do that I’m going to get injured, because I’m going to take the brunt of the hit.
“So it’s kind of hard. It’s a sketchy situation. But at the same time you’ve got to abide by the rules and I’m going to do everything in my power to make tackles aggressively in a fair manner.”
Leach swings a pen
Leach also discussed how he spent part of his summer writing a book about Apache leader Geronimo with WSU professor Buddy Levy.
“Books are funny things,” Leach said. “They’re very satisfying ultimately, but then there’s a point where it gets kind of tedious and you get tired of the same stuff over and over. … Books almost go a little beyond even the confines of, say, a marriage. You write a book, that’s there forever. There’s no divorcing a book.”
Oregon picked No. 1
Chip Kelly is gone to the NFL, but the Oregon Ducks were still selected by media to win the Pac-12 championship this season.
Oregon received 14 of 26 votes to win the conference championship game. Stanford (8) and UCLA (4) also received votes.
New coach Mark Helfrich, who had been Kelly’s offensive coordinator since 2009, said he doesn’t worry about the pressure of replacing such a successful coach.
“We don’t look at it as someone replacing someone,” Helfrich said. “We look at it as ‘the next guy up.’ And we were just talking this morning – if the guy that followed John Wooden quoted him every once in a while, would that have been a bad thing?”
Drop DirecTV, Scott says
The Pac-12 Networks long ago took public its battle with satellite TV provider DirecTV, which still has not agreed to terms to carry the channel.
Scott only fanned the flames on Friday, as he endorsed the idea of fans ditching DirecTV for another service.
“I urge our fans that are intent on not missing their team’s games this fall to drop DirecTV and switch to one of the many providers that have it,” Scott said, adding that the two sides are no closer to a deal than they were a year ago.