HANSEN

Greg Hansen: Cal, Colo. break pattern, open practice

2013-08-06T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Cal, Colo. break pattern, open practiceGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The upset of the Pac-12 football season is already in the books and it has nothing to do with Arizona over Oregon or even Washington State playing in the Rose Bowl.

The real shocker arrived on the day the league's two new coaches, Cal's Sonny Dykes and Colorado's Mike MacIntyre, broke pattern and announced that fans and media are welcome at their daily practices.

Smoooooch. They luv ya.

In a game given to isolation, distrust and suspicion, the Bears and Buffaloes are going to operate on the condition that we can all get along.

It's a victory for those who find the spy vs. spy nature of college football a bit distorted and pretentious. It's a victory for common sense, arriving just as I decided that putting college football behind a sports-type iron curtain isn't all bad.

My notion is that I would rather do anything than stand for two hours at another college football practice. I've not forgotten former UA coach Dick Tomey's admonition as I walked onto Arizona's sideline and began 90 minutes of trance-like, time-killing boredom, all in the name of waiting for a post-practice interview.

"Don't you have anything better to do?" he asked.

I just shrugged. No.

On the day I go to the Great Sportswriter in the Sky, I am certain I will be led to a room whereupon the final tally of time wasted watching college football practices will be noted on a large board. It will be the equivalent of spending three years stalled in traffic.

I bring this to your attention because Dykes, a former UA assistant, and McIntyre join Oregon State's Mike Riley) as the sole Pac-12 coaches who aren't caught in the contemporary what-we-do-at-football-practice-should-be-guarded-with-your-life drama.

At Arizona, Rich Rodriguez, much like his predecessors Mike Stoops and John Mackovic, allows the media to photograph and observe the first 20 minutes of practice. The warm ups. That's how it goes at Arizona State, Stanford and most other precincts. Washington and UCLA are a bit more accessible.

That's 21st century college football and I've come to accept it for one reason: It avoids conflict.

Before Mackovic closed his practices, I was standing near then-linebackers coach Scott Pelluer during a passing drill. Someone goofed up, and Mackovic ran to Pelluer and screamed, "Remind me again why I hired you!"

Pelluer yelled back. The two coaches shouted at one another as practice stopped. Was that news? Should I have reported it?

To gain access to practice, the media agreed not to report on personnel developments or game strategy. The Mackovic vs. Pelluer showdown was certainly a personnel development, one that would come to define the disharmony that ultimately led to Mackovic's firing.

I didn't report it and enormously disliked being stuck in such a no-win predicament. It was about then I decided that watching football practice was not my place. Give the coaches their privacy, even though the our-strategy-effects-world-peace approach is overblown.

In college football, progress hasn't necessarily harbored good will.

Twenty-five years ago this week I flew to Spokane, Wash., for the Pac-10 Skywriters Tour, a 10-day festival of college football. About 20 sportswriters spent a day at each school and the night partying with the coaches and administrators from those schools.

With the exception of the night Stanford AD Andy Geiger tossed the contents from a glass of wine into the face of Tacoma News-Tribune writer Don Borst, we got along. We learned about and reported upon as much Pac-10 football as anyone could wish.

Everyone seemed to benefit. The coaches and their bosses came to life.

Through those days, I am a life-long friend with former Washington AD Mike Lude and on a first-name basis with former Oregon coach Rich Brooks. Those retreats were also useful for the coaches, who got to know football writers and probably began to understand that they are not from the I'm-out-to-get-you brigade.

One night at the Tournament of Roses House, then-UCLA coach Terry Donahue introduced himself and began a 10-minute endorsement of Tomey, with whom he had coached at UCLA a decade earlier.

With that, Donahue excused himself, saying that his wife was waiting outside, and that this might be his only night away from football for the next five months.

"We're human, you know," Donahue said as he exited.

That's a side of a college football coach you don't often see any more.

I miss the camaraderie that developed from getting to know assistant coaches and support personnel, and from consistent access to players, although, honestly, about 90 percent of all post-practice football interviews are useless and about the same as time spent in traffic.

What I don't like, in 21st century college football, is the feeling that you are an enemy. Fans are locked out, the media is pushed away and it has become a game of us vs. them.

So thank you Sonny Dykes and Mike MacIntyre for restoring some humanity to Pac-12 football. It's a lot better than a glass of wine to the face.

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