The love-hate relationship between media and coaches has been long standing. It has seen its fair share of fights, forgiveness and anything else you would expect from a dysfunctional friendship.
There’s a consistent recipe for a good ol’ fashioned media-coach standoff. Start with an unsatisfactory performance on the field, throw in an article speaking poorly of players and voila, you have all of the ingredients for a conflict at the press conference podium.
That’s what happened when Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy gave possibly the most memorable post-game press conference of all time in 2007. He declared that the media should attack him and not his players, since he was a grown man at the age of 40.
Gundy’s speech received more attention due to its emphasis on his age and manhood than the conflict at hand, but still, it made apparent the idea that coaches will passionately defend their players against media outlets.
Should coaches respond publicly to criticism from local media, though? Yes, they feel a need to defend their players; however, the response can generate even more negative feedback, ultimately escalating an issue that could have been discussed behind closed doors.
Recently, University of Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis took to Twitter after the school newspaper ran an article that wasn’t particularly supportive of his struggling team.
Responding to the lack of support for his program seen in the article, Weis tweeted, “Team slammed by our own school newspaper. Amazing! No problem with opponents paper or local media. You deserve what you get! But, not home!”
This statement quickly exploded across Twitter, receiving more than 500 retweets and resulting in a storm of ridicule sent Weis’ way, criticizing his unprofessionalism in handling the situation. Weis later tweeted again stating that he could care less and also asked, “if I don’t support the players good or bad, who will??”
Obviously a coach should support his players, but Weis could have accomplished that in the locker room, where such an insignificant problem as a negative college newspaper article won’t escalate into national attention.
The article itself isn’t insulting in any way; it is a fairly typical preview for a football game without any particularly controversial statements. However, it ran with a headline reading “Road Kill Ahead,” as well as the image of a helpless Jayhawk being attacked by a buffed out Willie the Wildcat and a swarm of purple clad football players.
Was running such an image in your own school’s paper a slap in the face of the football team? Debatable, but the way Weis handled the situation gave the impression that his team was soft.
Maybe they aren’t at the manliest age of 40, but college football players are still adults who should have thick enough skin not to take an article personally. Compared to what they likely hear from opposing fans during road games, do you really think a cartoon is going to deeply offend them?
Coaches should defend their players against media scrutiny, but it often does more damage than good for their program by making a passionate public display over minimal issues. If something needs to be addressed, it can be done privately and in a professional manner, otherwise it can make everyone involved look childish.
Donald Pepoon is a sophomore in business administration. Please send comments to email@example.com.