By Jonathan Harvick
Walt Anderson, the coordinator of the officials for the Big 12, led off the day updating the media on the new rule changes. Now there was a lot of great content from Mr. Anderson and the truth is, he could have very easily gone all day on just one of the four points he brought up, to the point where myself and several other media members followed him off stage to follow up with him further. But right now I just want to highlight the updates.
First and foremost, half times will be strictly limited to 20-minutes. In the past, this rule hasn’t always been regulated as much as it should have been and in the case of special events or ceremonies, extensions would be granted. Going forward there will be no extensions and no exceptions.
Secondly, this will be the first year the Big 12 will implement an instant replay with the newly constructed Replay Command Center. Every Big 12 game will be monitored at the Command Center and will be watched and reviewed in real time. This topic alone took upwards of an hour to get through.
Third, flags for coaches who come on to the field of play will be more readily applied this year. He showed a quick video of how often coaches come onto the field to “talk” to a ref and in some cases how far out onto the field they go. It’s something that officials feel has gotten out of hand and will be enforced much harsher, or to the standard, this year than in years past.
Fourth, was an update to the horse collar tackle. In the past, a player had to actually get in the pads and pull down. This year horse collars will include the jersey anywhere near the nameplate.
Walt Anderson went on for over an hour lecturing and answering questions and it was very educational. I hope I get the opportunity to speak further with him because it was all great information and it will likely be when the Replay Command Center is finally open when we try to get a tour of the facility. But well after he was done we got to hear from the Head Coaches. In order, it was Texas, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State, easily the most anticipated day of the event, and they did not disappoint.
Texas fans rejoice! A new era of Texas football is on the horizon and it looks to be a bright one. 2017 is in with the new, new facilities, new leadership, new attitudes and a blank canvas for Tom Herman. In his short time as Head Coach, he has already made strides in building relationships with his players. Herman bragged about how “the spring was very successful in terms of learning how to practice” and how “we’ve grown immensely as a team, and we’re continuing to grow, even more this summer.”
He spent little time on the past and acknowledged that in his time at Texas they were a dominant force in college football, whereas kids being recruited now can count Texas’ winning seasons on one hand. And while you can compare Herman’s situation to Texas coaches of the past, the measuring stick with which we grade his success cannot be the same or even held to the measure of another. Tom Herman is a good coach, the roster is far better than when Mack left, and Texas will return to its former glory, but not over night.
Coach Holgorsen didn’t have a lot to say, but what he did was profound. This will be the Mountaineers sixth season in the Big 12 and for the first time they truly feel like a full-fledged member of the conference. “All the programs, not just football, but all the programs have stepped up and been incredibly competitive in a very competitive league. It’s a tough league to win in, and I think there’s a lot of excitement right now with the Big 12.”
What stood out the most from Dana was the new approach they are taking in recruiting, that new approach being less. They will obviously continue to recruit players, but they aren’t going to rely on it as they’re means of building a top end team. West Virginia over the four-five seasons has found success in focusing on transfer students. “They’ve just worked out for us. I used to get nervous on Signing Day when we missed out on a couple of high school kids. Now I don’t really — it doesn’t bother me. Not that I don’t care, it just doesn’t bother me because we can find guys later on. We took three or four transfers here in the last couple of months that I think are going to end up making our program better.”
This is a perfect example of a coach willing to adapt to the landscape and find success in a game where the odds are stacked against him. This is Dana Holgorsen’s Moneyball, and I’m so glad West Virginia stuck with him.
While Coach Rhule definitely spoke on the status of the team and football issues concerning The Bears, he mostly spent time fielding questions about the situation he walked into; and credit where credit is due, he took the issue head on even bringing it up in his opening statement to set the record straight. He could have dodged questions, given vague answers, or even just say no comment, but he didn’t. At no point did he shy away from any questions that came his way. In his own words “that which we don’t acknowledge, we’re doomed to repeat” and he’s very aware that “this is not just a Baylor and this isn’t a college football issue, it’s an every one — it’s a higher education issue” and he is adamant about being apart of the solution.
Ultimately he said all the right things and he talks a great game, someone even referred to his mic-presence/interview skills as a “charm offensive” but when it comes to walking the talk, only time will tell.
There were two important takeaways from Bill Snyder yesterday, One, his recovery is ongoing after his cancer diagnoses over the summer. He says he feels fine and that he’s doing fine, and for a 77-year-old coach of a major football program who was recently diagnosed with cancer, I’d say he looks pretty damn good.
The second was about OL Scott Frantz, who made the AP All-Bowl team for keeping Myles Garret to zero sacks and one assisted tackle. During the offseason, he came out as gay and Coach Snyder discussed what all went into the decision behind opening up, both to the team and to the public. To start, Snyder said he came out to his team last year and is “proud of him and, proud of our players for the way they handled it”. Teammates took the news like it was just another day at the office. After coming out to his teammates the next step was to come out to the public. According to Snyder, there were several discussions and meetings to make sure they did it right, and for the right reasons. “Number one, it wasn’t about exposing himself to the media as such or making himself a national figure. What he wanted to do was help others, number one. That was important to me.” Snyder went on to say, “Number two, he wanted the opportunity to feel free to live his life as he would like to do so, and he felt hindered prior to that being able to do so.” If there’s one thing Billy Snyder preaches, it’s family, from the name of the Stadium “Bill Snyder Family Stadium” to the motto, “it’s all about family”, and he took this as if it were a real concern inside his family and handled it the absolute best way anyone could. Bill Snyder is a Hall of Fame Coach and a Hall of Fame person.
Mullets, Trendsetters, and James Washington
He’s a man that’s going to turn 50 in a couple weeks, and he rocks a mullet. He trimmed it up a couple of weeks ago after it had reached ponytail potential. The only reason it’s worth noting is because it came up… again. The question was, what’s the value and how much does it help Oklahoma State. Everyone got a good chuckle and in a light hearted way Gundy said if he had to put a dollar amount on it, it’d be somewhere in the millions for all the attention it’s gotten, “I was very fortunate to get a new contract and should probably get an extension and a raise for that free marketing for the university.”
Less pleasant was the talk about how Oklahoma State has come up short the last few years, and for the most part completely out of their hands. He said “we’ve been trendsetters in a lot of different ways at Oklahoma State. We went to a four-team playoff, maybe based on what happened with our team years ago. And unfortunately, we’re going to maybe a different replay system based on what happened to our team a year ago.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I tell you coach Gundy is in support of the replay, it’s just unfortunate that it’s taken so long to implement.
A final note on Oklahoma State: James Washington got a lot of attention from the media. He embarrassed guys who drafted last year, NFL ready DBs, and Gundy was asked where he fits among the all-time OSU great wide receivers to which he responded, “James Washington is up there with the Dez Bryants’ and the Blackmons’ and the Rashaun Woods’, the guys that have been terrific football players. I think James is just scratching the surface.” Washington is going to set the Big 12 on fire, and it’s going to be so exciting to watch.