Greetings, Husky Nation -
I hope you are enjoying this sunny moment in your program’s history. You’ve just hired one of the greatest football coaches in the country. On Monday at high noon you’ll finally get to meet him… Sort of.
Many of you will intently watch Chris Petersen’s introductory press conference -- and come away from it slightly unimpressed and somewhat uninformed. The man will seem pleasant enough; he’ll surely tell everyone - quite honestly- that he’s glad to be a part of the Washington Husky family… But he won’t knock anybody's socks off with his charm, or regale the gathered throng with colorful stories and quotes. In fact, it is likely that he’ll simply show up, make a very vanilla speech, politely handle the media’s questions with predictable answers, and then head off to his next appointment.
This is not to say that Coach Pete isn’t a people person. He is. In private settings, those who know him say he’s got a great personality. His players really love him, and his staff will tell you he’s a great human being to work for. There is no question that he is a truly good, kind and decent guy.
However, Chris Petersen is not a "media" person. He isn’t at his best in the spotlight. He has admitted that he doesn’t enjoy it. Personality-wise, he’d rather work in the background than stand on the stage. He is an introvert in an extrovert’s profession.
Additionally, Pete seems to divide the world into two categories: Things you can control, and things you can’t. If a goal lies within a person’s ability to influence the desired outcome, it deserves maximum attention and effort. If something lies outside of one’s control, the wisest course is to not fixate on it or waste undue energy.
Coach Pete knows the media is out of his control.
Journalists have a job, which is to write what sells newspapers and mouse-clicks. To that end, they’ll often stir up controversies, conjure up dire scenarios, criticize decisions and endlessly analyze everything – all in the name of having something to write or talk about. Those things are certainly their right to do – but Pete contends they can do them without needlessly distracting his football team of 18 to 22 year-olds.
And he knows how to cut down on distractions.
Boise is a small metro area (pop. 600K). Yet because of its isolation there are 5 local TV stations (one for each major network, plus PBS), two daily newspapers, and a host of radio outlets. Bronco football is by far the biggest thing in town, and thus commands almost constant, in-depth coverage from the area press. Coach Pete learned how to deal with this three ring circus. He gradually cracked down on access. Over the years Bronco beat writers learned to abide by his various restrictions. They weren’t happy about it, but what could they do?
In Boise, freshmen were off limits, as were team members embroiled in any sort of controversy. Players could not post on Facebook or Twitter. Journalists could only attend portions of some practices, and were under orders not to report on injuries or other sensitive matters. Usually only one or two position coaches and a handful of players were made available for comment during the week. Pete himself would hold a twenty-five minute session with reporters where he would speak quite affably – but the local press knew from experience which questions would be politely not answered…
Now this regime has come to UW. The Seattle media will likely have a lot less access to Husky Football. It seems the natives are already getting restless….
Yesterday morning I read an opinion piece by a Seattle Times writer who stated that it would be "foolish" for Coach Petersen to implement these same restrictive policies at his new job. He also said that the Huskies are covered like an NFL team (whatever that means) and, essentially, that Pete better get used to it. He also called your new coach "dour’ and "taciturn" – which tells me they’ve never met…
This seemed like the media’s first shot across the bow.
It will be interesting to see what happens on the access front (though I just checked, and the referenced opinion piece seems to have been removed from the Times web site). I suppose the writer (Steven Jacobs or Jackson) must have gotten a call from Mr. Woodward regarding his press credentials.
At any rate, Husky Nation, get used to seeing less hard information and more conjecture from your local media. I think you’ll find it a small price to pay for the upward trajectory of UW football. Your new leader is a truly fine man - He just treats the media with careful respect and keeps them at a distance…
Just like a hand grenade.