Random Thoughts From the Paul Bear Bryant Awards
By Michael Chung
HOUSTON — It was eventful day at the Paul Bear Bryant Award event here in Texas at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston. Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer was scheduled to appear but he was not be able to attend due to illness. In his absence we focused on the impressive group of other coaches present..
Penn State Head Coach Bill O’Brien was present and is a classy guy who has and will represent the Big Ten well. One can argue that his 8-4 record at Penn State, given the challenges in his first year, was every bit the 12-0 accomplishment Urban Meyer posted in Columbus. Some will disagree with that statement, but losing all those starters to other schools and having to follow the dark shadows of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno was no easy task.
They lost a few tough ones early, primarily because their kicker left to play at Texas, and that ship could have gone straight to the bottom of the ocean. It didn’t, and for that O’Brien was very deserving of the award, which he took home on Thursday evening.
O’Brien beat out Meyer, along with Stanford’s David Shaw, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M, to win the award. When asked about Urban Meyer the Penn State coach offered immediate comment and praise quickly oozed out of his mouth.
“I think he’s a fantastic coach, he’s a proven coach,” O’Brien told The Ozone.
“Right now in the Big Ten we’re all trying to catch up to them. They’re the undefeated team and he set the bar high. He’s done an excellent job there and I have a lot of respect for him.”
I also had a chance to ask coach O’Brien about Mike Vrabel and he had nothing but commendation for the OSU assistant coach and Buckeye legend. O’Brien was with Vrabel in New England from 2007-08 and he praised Vrabel as a player and called him a good friend. O’Brien thinks Vrabel is a great coach, has great knowledge of the game, imparts it to his players and is a proven leader.
Social Media and Playoffs
Two questions that were asked to almost every coach here in Houston were: 1. The use of social media and 2. The BCS playoffs.
On social media, the answers were similar. All the coaches seemed to be aware of the pitfalls and talk to their teams constantly about them. Standford Head Coach David Shaw said it is almost a daily thing for his team to make sure players are not saying things that cause misunderstanding in the public and to keep things within the team. All coaches shared something similar about the need to monitor and regularly communicate to the players the need to be responsible on things like Twitter and Facebook.
The playoffs were a different animal, with varying answers and opinions. On one end of the spectrum was Bill O’Brien. He told reporters that having come from the NFL, he was very excited about the four-team playoff and wants to see it expanded to eight. David Shaw also wants to see an 8-team playoff someday and stressed the need for a champion to be determined on the field and not by computers.
On the other spectrum was the anti-playoff crowd. These were held by the older coaches – LaVell Edwards and Bill Snyder. Snyder was strongly in favor of the bowls. He cited the usual issues: more games, physical pounding, less classroom time, but the most interesting point Snyder made was the issue of costs and travel.
The bowls have helped a school like Kansas State, as fans will save up all year so they can travel to whatever bowl game KSU is a part of. In a four-team playoff, fans of KSU would not be able to travel to both games. This issue would probably necessitate and first round on campus with the championship at a neutral site as KSU would not be the only fan base to experience this.
Edwards, a former BYU coach, also favors the bowl system but believes the playoffs are here to stay. He also believes the playoffs will expand to a larger pool and that there will be four super conferences someday. With the B1G and SEC already at 14 teams and the eventual dissolving of the Big East, it looks like LaVell is a prophet.
More Love for Meyer
Stanford coach David Shaw, who took over for Jim Harbaugh last year, also had very positive things to say about Urban Meyer. He and Meyer went to dinner during coach Meyer’s ESPN days and Shaw said Meyer imparted a lot of wisdom to him as prepared to embark on his journey at Stanford.
They have an ongoing friendship, and Shaw even texted Meyer after Ohio State’s 12-0 season congratulating him on a great job in his first year in Columbus. Shaw sees that Meyer can push his team to improve, winning games where they do not play their best. and believes 2013 will be a good year for the Buckeyes. Watch his interview here.
Kansas State Head Coach Bill Snyder offered some advice for coaches like Meyer on how to last in the coaching profession for the long haul. Snyder is 73 years old and has been the head coach at KSU for over 20 years (two separate stints). He did not offer anything earth-shattering but emphasized balance. That’s something Meyer has talked about a lot since his return to coaching after a year away. Watch my interview with coach Snyder here.
Maybe the most enlightening interview was with John Harris of Yahoo! Sports Radio. Yahoo has been synonymous with sports excellence in reporting so his opinion was greatly appreciated.
Harris is really excited about Braxton Miller and felt Miller was the front-runner for most of the 2012 season until Johnny Manziel had his breakout performance against Alabama. The overwhelming impression is that Harris does not think Manziel will repeat or break Archie Griffin’s record. He thinks Heisman voters will not be as excited to vote Manziel again unless he has a superb standout season.
Harris really likes Braxton’s chances in 2013 and thinks the OSU offense is tailor made for his skills. Harris believes Manziel could go early to the NFL which would also limit his chances at catching Archie, but the SEC gives Manziel an advantage if he can standout.
On the big story – Manti Te’o – Harris does not want to believe the Notre Dame linebacker was part of the hoax but seems to think he knew more than he has let on. He does not believe Manti started it but felt Te’o played it up after he knew the story of his girlfriend’s death was false. Rather than putting a stop to it, he felt Manti continued to let it pick up steam with the national media. Harris worries that NFL teams may worry about whether or not they can trust Te’o which could hurt his draft stock. See his full interview here.