Ahh, a sight from last year's Big 12 media days: A horde or reporters, interviewing Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, with worries of a COVID-19 pandemic a long, long way off. (Associated Press photo)

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Big 12 media days were virtually impossible to duplicate

Just because the Big 12's annual media gathering was called off — twice — doesn't mean we know what coaches would have said (and meant)

Posted August 8th, 2020

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The question would usually come up every Mother’s Day or Father’s Day in our house.

Honoring your parents is an important day, moreso once you become a parent and want to reserve the remote for your favorite television channel and spot on the couch. But whenever those days approached, this inquisitive teenager would come up with his own pestering inquiry.

So when is Kid’s Day, I’d ask?

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Invariably, Leon Bohls would offer a stern look and answer exactly the same way, proclaiming, “Every day is Kids Day.”

End of discussion. Now take out the trash, kid.

That said, when are Big 12 Media Days no longer Big 12 Media Days? They’re certainly not every day. Twice this summer in July and August, those events signaling the start of the official countdown until football season have been abruptly canceled or at least pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving a gaping void of, uh, valuable information from league head coaches.

The Big 12 first switched its annual media days gathering of the conference’s coaches and select players to a virtual-only format. Then it postponed them. Then it canceled them altogether. Concerns over the coronavirus pandemic caused the physical cancellation. (Matt Strasen/The Associated Press)

About 28 of us in the media brushed up on our skills Friday on a Zoom call with Texas coach Tom Herman. His Longhorns had their first practice Friday, and he called it both “cathartic” and “therapeutic.” Just asking football questions was the same for us.

Until Big 12 media days are reinstated — and we’re hopeful they will be later this month — here’s pretty much what the fans missed out on. In their place, we offer a cyber-Media Days. Virtual answers to a virtual press conference.

So let’s go to questions from the esteemed members — and the rest of us — of the Fourth Estate and begin with the head coach of the five-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners.

Lincoln Riley, for the first time in six years you’re without a starting quarterback who has won the Heisman Trophy or been to New York City as a finalist; what can you reasonably expect out of redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler?

Riley would say, “A Heisman-caliber performance each and every Saturday. That’s what we expect. It’s what we do in Norman.”

Riley would mean, “We do not rebuild at Oklahoma. We dominate. And I want my quarterback, despite having thrown only 11 passes in three games, to think he’s the next Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray or Jalen Hurts. Got it?”

Herman, one smart-aleck reporter asks, how many elite players do you have this year?

The Texas coach would pause and then pause some more and then take a lunch break and then say, “More.”

Herman would mean, “If I say some, I’ll get raked over the coals. If I say 50, I’ll be crucified if we don’t win the Big 12. I’ll just go with more. Succinct. Accurate. And witty. I like being witty.”

Mike Gundy, say it ain’t so. You really lopped off the mullet? For Pete’s sake, why?

The Cowboys lightning rod coach would say, “It was time. The party in the back is over. Trying to stay on the cutting edge, so to speak.”

Gundy would mean, “I’m a man. At Stillwater, I’m still THE man. I used to be 40. And I can have any hairdo I want. Besides, I figure, given my offseason, I needed to change the narrative. Damn media.”

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy speaks on the first day of last year’s Big 12 media days in Arlington. (David Kent/The Associated Press)

Dave Aranda, you’ve not coached a single game as a head coach, you’ve lost the entire offseason and most of your defense; how long before your team becomes the next LSU, where you used to coach?

The Baylor coach would say, “Cart before the horse, gentlemen. Hey, Matt Rhule did a terrific job here, and I’m just trying to keep the continuity of a winning program going.”

Aranda would mean, “Give me a break. We’ve lost almost our entire defense with only three starters back, my quarterback has a history of concussions, and I just want to make a first down. Can’t I have a honeymoon beyond August?”

Matt Campbell, should Iowa State be the favorite, and is your quarterback better than Sam Ehlinger?

Campbell would say, “No way we should be favored. We just hope to contend. We love Brock Purdy, but Sam Ehlinger is a four-year starter.”

Campbell would mean, “Damn right we should be the favorite. We ain’t afraid of Oklahoma or anyone else. We’ve beaten every team in the league, including Texas and OU. Gameday’s been on our campus. We’ve had three straight winning records in the Big 12. If we don’t go 10-0, I’ll be disappointed. And then I’ll have my picks of jobs in the NFL or at Michigan or Notre Dame. I hope I didn’t say any of this out loud.”

Kansas’ Les Miles is entering his second season as the Jayhawks’ head coach. (David Kent/The Associated Press)

Matt Wells, how do you feel about being the new coach at Texas Tech?

Wells would say, “Come on, this is my second year. I know we’re out here on the High Plains, but we’re here. We are building for the long run in Lubbock.”

Wells would mean, “Go ahead. We’re taking down names. Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t coach here anymore. Maybe I don’t have as many hair products as he did, but we will get it done and actually play some defense. Never mind we ranked last in the league in defense last year and couldn’t close out a game. Might even make a bowl game one of these years.”

Chris Klieman, you beat the mighty Sooners in your first year, and Skylar Thompson returns for his 12th season as quarterback. How high are expectations this year?

Klieman would say, “Yeah, that was a wild game with Oklahoma and give them their only loss in the regular season. We were lucky to hold on at the end. We went 8-5 last year, but we’re not satisfied with that.”

Klieman would mean, “Yeah, that was a wild game with Oklahoma and give them their only loss in the regular season. We were lucky to hold on at the end. We went 8-5 last year, but we’re not satisfied with that.”

Gary Patterson, uh, yeah. Guess you’re wanting to talk music, we guess.

The embattled TCU coach said, “I’d love to. Released my new album and music video called ‘Take a Step Back’ about enjoying the little things in life, you know what I mean. We all need to take a step back once in awhile.”

Patterson would mean, “Please ask me more questions about my music. You know I’ve written 15 songs the last 30 years. Want me to play the guitar for y’all?”

Neal Brown, we almost forgot about you. How goes it in West Virginia?

Brown would say, “I had to let go my defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning, this summer, and K.J. Martin, our star safety, has opted out. That only leaves us with nine returning starters, no defensive coordinator and a practically new quarterback. How do you think it goes?

Brown would mean, “Can we just go straight to 2021?”

Finally, Les Miles, so tell us, when does Kansas basketball season start?

The Jayhawks coach would say, “We just want to have a football program that Bill Self can be proud of.”

Miles would mean, “Hey, if we win three games, I should get a lifetime contract.”

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