SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/05/2007 05:35:00 PM
Media Day Mayhem
Ohio State QB Troy Smith has gotten a bit tired of repeatedly answering certain questions.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- I just arrived back from Ohio State-Florida Media Day at University of Phoenix Stadium, the one event prior to game day that is held in the stadium. It was my first time getting to see the new, state-of-the-art venue, and I can tell you it lives up to the billing. Great site lines, very colorful throughout and easy to navigate. And the grass – which they roll in on a retractable track – is definitely natural.
Speaking of the stadium, the national title game, like the Fiesta Bowl last Monday, will be played with the retractable roof closed. While the original intent of the roof was to protect the participants from the hot Arizona sun, Fiesta Bowl p.r. extraordinaire Shawn Schoeffler said this decision is due more to the fact the temperatures here deviate drastically from sunrise to sunset (highs around 70, lows in the 40s) this time of year. “It’s for the comfort of the fans,” said Schoeffler. “A lot of them will be spending all day here [partying before the game], and we don’t want them to have to pack a parka and gloves for when it gets cold.”
∙ I’ve been to seven of these title-game media days and I’ve never seen a kicker get as much attention as Florida’s Chris Hetland. Unfortunately for him, Hetland has become a story going into this game due to the unsettling possibility that the national championship could come down to a kicker who made just four of 13 field goals this season. Hetland seems to be taking it all in stride. “Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to redeem myself,” he said.
Hetland seems to be taking some confidence from his successful 34-yarder in the SEC championship game. “After I made it, there was quite a celebration for a 34-yard field goal,” he said. “It kind of felt like I’d won the national championship.” He shouldn’t expect too many opportunities Monday night, however. While head coach Urban Meyer insists he’s still confident in the senior, he also said, “Right now I am saying the 20-yard line is the area where we will be satisfied with kicking the ball.” In other words, you could see Florida go for it on 4th and 2 from the 25.
∙ By BCS contract, the teams were required to bring every player on their roster to the event, but an exception was made for Florida safety Reggie Nelson. The All-American’s mother passed away Dec. 21 and, at the request of Nelson, he has been shielded from reporters ever since. Nelson’s no-show caused much grumbling among the Florida beat corps, which has been clamoring to talk to him all week. Call me a softie journalist, but if a 21-year-old kid who lost his mother less than two weeks ago doesn’t feel comfortable being interrogated about it for an hour, I respect his wishes.
∙ Example No. 487 why bowl games are so different from the regular season: The two teams’ coaching staffs had dinner together Thursday night. There’s actually quite a bit of familiarity between the two staffs due to the fact Meyer and so many of his assistants have Ohio and/or Midwest backgrounds and because Buckeyes cornerbacks coach Tim Beckman worked for Meyer at Bowling Green.
∙ You knew someone was going to ask...
An exchange from Jim Tressel’s press conference Friday:
Reporter: How many vests do you have?
Tressel: How many vests? Sweater vests? Gosh, I don’t know.
Tressel: Whatever is in my locker. I don’t know. They put them in and I put them on.
∙ Providing a pleasant diversion from the sight of several hundred, mostly male sportswriters at Friday’s festivities was the presence of the Fiesta Bowl’s Queen and Court. As a diligent journalist, I felt I had no choice but to ask the Queen, University of Arizona senior Stephanie Holland, her prediction for Monday night’s game, but unfortunately she’s gone through too much darn media training. “I think they’re both great teams with great coaches and great players,” she said. I informed her that with answers like that, she’s already well on her way to becoming a head coach.
∙ Heisman winner Troy Smith seems to be holding up well under the media crush that has followed him all week, though I’ve noticed there are certain, frequently repeated questions that irk him a bit. Most notably: The “How will the 51-day layoff affect you guys?” question. “For everyone who thinks it’s a layoff, I wish they could come work with us,” said Smith. “What people don’t realize is that practices are more brutal than the games. We worked right up until Dec. 23 [before breaking for Christmas]. So it definitely wasn’t a 51-day layoff.”
∙ Much to my disappointment, Tim Tebow told me he did not watch the MTV show Two-a-Days (he had seen the advertisements), which means he did not see the famous episode where Hoover (Ala.) plays Tebow’s 2005 Nease (Fla.) team, before which one of the cheerleaders says at the cafeteria, “I heard their quarterback is, like, really good.” Said Tebow: “I heard it’s more about romance than football, anyway.” Indeed -- the same cheerleader and her football-playing boyfriend broke up right after the game.
∙ So what do you do at a bowl site when not interviewing people and writing articles? Mostly, eat. It’s something we writers do well. There is a hospitality lounge at the hotel that is constantly stocked with hot appetizers and, of course, bags of Tostitos. And last night a group of us went to one of those Brazilian steakhouses in Scottsdale. If you’re not familiar with the concept, basically, the waiters keep bringing you meat until you tell them to stop. I felt like I lost a contest or something, because in a group of seven, I got full first -- and some of those guys kept going long after I stopped.
One of them didn’t make it to Media Day this morning. Very mysterious.
∙ Finally, I’ll tell you what feels weird about this game: The fact that there’s basically a weekend off right beforehand. Friday was the last opportunity to interview players. There are no press conferences Saturday and only the head coaches on Sunday. Not that I’m complaining. I can see the pool from my window and I haven’t been yet.
Stephanie's a brunette. Surely, this quality merits a more in-depth interview. Perhaps, you could have demonstrated the latest airport security techniques with her or a member of her court as your willing volunteer accomplice.
You suck Mandel. Giving the five reasons why Ohio State is going to win, and not even mentioning how Florida could win the game? You can blame Ohio States lose on anything you want (Ted Ginn Jr. being hurt, Ohio State resting 50+ days). When it came down to it, the better team won the game. The Big Ten is overrated - Ex: Michigan getting their asses handed to them. Give some respect to the SEC, and this is coming from someone living in Southeastern Michigan.