Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, April 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 51° Clear

SportsLink

What type of example is being set here?

Idaho head coach Paul Petrino looks to improve on 1-11 record of last season – his first with Vandals. (Associated Press)
Idaho head coach Paul Petrino looks to improve on 1-11 record of last season – his first with Vandals. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • What do you want out of a college football coach? Most fans would say wins. Or an entertaining team. Others at a university might cite academics and a commitment to same. But I’m sure all would agree the one thing they don’t want is bad publicity. Read on.

••••••••••

• Robb Akey didn’t win every game as Idaho’s football coach. In fact, the former Washington State defensive coordinator was just 20-50 in his five-plus years in Moscow (Akey was fired two-third through his sixth season, with UI struggling at 1-7). But he did take the Vandals to a bowl in his third season, the only one with a winning record. But since athletic director Rob Spear decided to fire Akey in 2012, the Vandals haven’t won at all. OK, that’s an exaggeration. They won once in 2013 and once again last season. That would make current coach Paul Petrino (pictured) 2-21 in two full seasons. In his defense, that’s only a half-game worse than Akey’s record (3-21) in his first two years. Of course, that Humanitarian Bowl bid and an 8-5 record came in Akey’s third, so the comparison may end now. Or maybe it already has. See, Akey was relentlessly positive. Still is. A big man who greeted everyone with a grin and called them “bubba,” even if he knew their name. Petrino’s personality is different. So is the way he deals with people. His tenure at Idaho has been notable for a couple of confrontations. The first came in his first season following the WSU game. Just Google “Paul Petrino and Mike Leach” – make sure there are no lip-reading 8-year-olds near the screen – and watch the two coaches exchange pleasantries after WSU’s 42-0 win. The Vandals tried to score at the end of the game, the Cougars re-entered a few starters to ensure that wouldn’t happen and Petrino took exception to it. The latest confrontation took place earlier this week. It happened at and after practice and it pitted an irate Petrino with two reporters. It was a confrontation Petrino said yesterday he wished he had handled better. You think? Yelling obscenities at the sports editor of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and a Lewiston Tribune reporter is an action most everyone would regret later. The incident came to light because the MPDN’s Michael-Shawn Dugar felt physically threatened by Petrino’s action and wrote about it in Thursday’s paper. Petrino and Spear responded in the afternoon, making statements – it was not a news conference; a news conference involves answering questions and, as far as I know, none were taken – that admitted Petrino’s language and decision-making process concerning the reporters was not appropriate, but denying Petrino had to be restrained from going after Dugar. (Yesterday a source told me the Idaho staffer who stepped between Dugar and Petrino described himself Wednesday evening as “the guy who held Paul back.” Sounds like someone who felt they restrained another person.) Petrino described himself as a passionate person who allowed his passion to spill over into the conversation. Spear said in his statement “I want to make it very clear at no point was coach Petrino restrained.” (Truer words were never spoken, if you use restrained as an adjective and not a verb.) Dugar stood by his story, as one would expect, and the world turns. Except one must ask what Petrino’s future is in Moscow. Wednesday’s incident was not only a regional affair. Not in this day and age. It became national news. Sure, it’s just a blip and will be forgotten soon. But the last two times the University of Idaho has been in the national spotlight has been for basketball coach Don Verlin berating an assistant on the bench at Northern Arizona – Verlin was reportedly disciplined for that, including having to attend a class and a being given a $5,000 fine – and now this. But that’s somewhat immaterial, other than how it could affect the Vandals recruiting down the road. The other, more important aspect of this is the example Petrino is setting, no matter whether or not he had to be held back from Dugar. Head football coaches are not just X and O guys, they are the face of the program and, often, the face of the university. And Petrino is a role model for his players as well as a representative for UI. Imagine a Vandal football player at a party next week. A student begins to disparage the team’s ability to run a vertical passing game. The criticism hangs in the air. What should the player do? Walk away, defusing the situation, or follow his coach’s example and start yelling obscenities? Tell the student he or she doesn’t know anything about football. End the rant, but then turn around and move toward the other student. Think that would end well? And can you imagine the player’s defense if the scene turns ugly? “I’m a passionate person.” That would go over well. Of course, if the Vandals win a few games this season, then all will be forgiven. It sounds as if it already has. Unless something else happens. Yesterday a UI staffer sent me a text message calling Petrino “a ticking time bomb. (I’m) surprised it has taken him so long to explode.” It’s possible it hasn’t. This was just the first time he’s done it in such a public manner. If Petrino is willing to act this way with a person peripheral to the program, in a somewhat public setting, just think how he must treat those inside it when the doors are closed.

•••

• WSU: Life was a lot less complicated yesterday eight miles down the road from Moscow. It was all about football. Jacob Thorpe has an interesting story today concerning safety Shalom Luani (pictured) and his pre-WSU history. Don’t miss it. ... Jacob also has his usual practice notes as well as a morning post with links. ... ESPN.com’s Pac-12 blog asks who will emerge as the conference’s alpha receiver. It also looks at the changes coming this year with the conference’s officials. ... There was a list out there this week saying no football has suffered more arrests in the past five years than WSU. They were some flaws with the list, as a couple of folks have taken the time to point out.

• Gonzaga: The Zags are picked to finish in the middle of the WCC volleyball pack.

• EWU: The area that is undergoing the biggest changes this season? As Jim Allen sees it, it just might be the special teams.

• Idaho: Sean Kramer covered the Idaho problems with this story and blog post.

• Indians: The Indians better turn it on if they want to make the postseason. That’s the thrust of Chris Derrick’s blog post after last night’s 6-3 home loss to Vancouver. Chris also has the game story.

• Seahawks: The Hawks are in Kansas City for tonight’s preseason game with the Chiefs. What should you be looking to focus upon? ... The preseason camp is over and just about everyone has their thoughts about it. ... The offensive line’s No. 1 priority is to protect the franchise quarterback, right? ... Earl Thomas (pictured) is fully healed. Now he just has to build strength before the season. ... Tonight’s game needs to be cleaner than the preseason opener against Denver. ... Tyler Lockett is getting a lot of ink.

• Mariners: The M’s were off yesterday but a lot of ex-Mariners were in action. ... Jack Zduriencik met with the beat people yesterday and expressed no worries about the rumors of his M's demise. Of course not. When you’ve built such an inexhaustible supply of talent in the farm system, you are golden. ... Jesus Montero is sticking to his nutrition plan. It’s worked for him.

• Sounders: It was a pretty easy day of training for the Sounders. And yet one of the newcomers couldn’t participate.

•••

• P.T. Barnum supposedly felt there was no such thing as bad publicity. His theory is being tested in Moscow, isn’t it? Until later ...




Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

Follow Vince online:






Looking for a Grip on Sports?

Vince Grippi's daily take on all things regional sports has been moved to our main sports section online. You can find a collection of these columns here.