Mike Leach has and always will do things “his way” unless a rule is put into place above him that he cannot ignore. This is especially true when other coaches in the conference hold advantages against him that he does not inherently hold himself. The recent threat to ban any reporter (or site) who comments on injuries received in practice is just that situation and it’s being laced with a lot of angry (ok maybe not angry, per se, but at least quite perturbed) Cougar fans and I can’t really figure out why.
First here’s the tweet from Christian Caple that put everybody into a mild tissy-fit:
Mike Leach said after practice today that access to the program will be denied to those who report about injuries that occur at practice.
— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) August 22, 2013
Coug Center then wrote THIS ARTICLE about the situation and the writer is clearly put off by Leach’s decision, as if the comments were directed straight at him (and many Coug fans react in the comments section with similar views). By the way this entire article is not directly related ONLY to that article, as there have been comments in twitter and all other Cougar outlets, including myriad facebook groups. Back to the discussion, I suppose in a way, they are by default directed at each and every reporter covering Cougar football, but let’s not forget that other coach’s in the conference do this. Yes that’s a competitive advantage and it’s much more than “perceived”.
Let me set a scenario; you have named your quarterback and he then gets hurt in practice on game week and won’t be able to play. The news of course comes out and your opponent probably gets word of this immediately, allowing them time to legitimately change their gameplan for your backup. Maybe their suddenly wanting to be more aggressive and can put in packages for their defense to run. Maybe they know that you now aren’t going to be able to throw the ball down the field so they hammer into their secondary not to worry about the deep ball and to take a lot of chances underneath.
Now granted, these are things that can be surmised at game time, but a lot of coaches develop special packages for certain players and having to adjust on the fly in a game is much more difficult to do. Usually that scenario results in defenses becoming more simple, at least for a stretch until they figure out the perceived weakness of the next player. With the absolute barrage of social media on today’s college football game, it’s easier than ever to get that information and turn it into an immediate advantage by already having a gameplan in place for that new player.
Think about this; Lane Kiffin at USC just said both of his quarterbacks will play against Hawaii. So (assuming they both come out of the game “healthy”) Washington State will likely have to prepare for both Wittek and Kessler equally. Kiffin doesn’t allow reporters to talk on injuries accrued during game week, so if one of them gets hurt for some unexplained reason between Hawaii and WSU the Cougars will be in the dark and won’t be able to curb their preparation to whichever Qb remains.
Is that not a competitive advantage?
Is it also not a disadvantage if a reporter says Connor Halliday or Darryl Monroe gets hurt and can’t play and USC knows about it but WSU doesn’t know about USC’s injuries? You think a team won’t attack the Cougs differently if they found out Deone Bucannon wasn’t going to be roaming the secondary because of an injury picked up on Wednesday?
You can say just worry about winning, but that’s part of it, isn’t it? What if a report arises that Connor’s left knee doesn’t look quite right and a player goes after it (dirty play or not) in the game because the other teams’ players know that? Just one late hit to the correct knee and there goes the veteran Qb, penalty be damned. That’s how some teams approach it. Remember Nick Fairley in Auburn’s championship season? He used to do that crap all the time.
I see the one side of “it just makes Leach look like more of a control freak” but at the same time, if others are doing it, it’s completely within reason (and honestly should be within our expectation as a fan base) that we use every leverage we can on our opponent when they are doing the same to us. Mike Leach doesn’t play to lose, he’s a damn good winner!
It actually somewhat puts me off that we have fans (or reporters) that would be so ignorant as to say that this is a “jerk” move by Leach, just because Sark did it at UW and they didn’t like it. That’s stupid! You can have your opinion and all that but when our coach (who is a proven winner and by all counts a genius in the football world) makes a decision to get that “perceived competitive advantage”, you have to look at what it’s going to do FOR the team before you look at the fact that you’re not able to “do your job” properly or have to wait till you turn on the game to find out your favorite Coug isn’t playing.
Speaking of reporters, fact is nobody is saying don’t do your job, just be discrete about any injuries you think you may have seen during the practice week. Why can’t you just leave that out of the discussion? Per Leach, injuries picked up in games are still free to discuss, even if you see something that nobody on television saw, so there’s a chance to get in on the action if you absolutely have to report it. If a guy is on crutches for the game then you can comment at that time in an article, just not during the week.
For what it’s worth I think there needs to be a ruling on the whole instance by the NCAA Rules Committee. Not sure what they’d come up with but an injury report should have to be filed two days prior to gameday, just like the NFL does it. False reports then need to be examined and dealt with by the NCAA, then this whole debacle would be a non-issue. But until that day I think criticizing our second year coach for doing something to gain ANY (legal) competitive advantage, and then in the same sentence tell him to “just worry about winning more than 3 games” or whatever, is straight baloney.
And I thought Christian Caple handled this correctly and adequately (and it probably “hurt” him as much as anybody since he’s always on top of that stuff), just simply saying “so for now, at least, there will not be any health/injury-related news from (WSU) practice.”
Let’s move on people, our coach is doing his job.