There are no injuries at Washington State. Since just about Day 1 of the Mike Leach era, that's been the saying. It's somewhat of a joke, but it's also rooted in a serious policy. Nobody will talk about injuries, and the running joke is that there just are none. Everyone is always healthy.
I can live with that. It is what it is, and we won't know whether a player has a tweaked knee or three blown ligaments. Whatever. It's not real easy to work around, but it isn't the worst thing in the world.
But last night, word of Scott Wolf's ban from USC practices spread, and was met with a significant backlash, at least from reporters and college football media. Simply, Lane Kiffin was on some bull---t, and offering up punishments if anyone, anywhere reported on injuries was taking things a step too far. Wolf reported on a players injury using information gained outside of practice, he says, and was subsequently put in timeout for two weeks.
It's a dangerous precedent. It's a horrible precedent. I said it last night and echoed it again today, when Steve Sarkisian hopped on the bandwagon. Reporters covering the University of Washington football team are no longer allowed to write about injuries -- including whether players participated in practice. They can't write about strategy. Essentially, they can't do a damn thing when it comes to covering practices.*
*The strategy part isn't new. We all adhere to it.
Report on a player sitting out, walking in a boot or using crutches, and a reporter will face the consequences. Much like at USC, these guys can quickly see their access taken away, preventing them from doing their job. In fact, the restrictions already prevent them from doing their job -- the consequences just shut them out completely.
I do not care if coaches don't comment on injuries. It's fine. That's their right, and they can stay silent or brush of questions however they please -- and I've seen just about every way of diving, dodging and avoiding injury questions at Washington State. That's not threatening punishment for ... being a reporter. For reporting what you see. For informing the public, as is their job.
We're allowed to write about what we see in front of us, when it pertains to injuries. Jeff Tuel was wearing a large brace, watching practice and riding a bike on Monday. He was wearing a smaller brace, not riding a bike, and watching practice (while also throwing in certain drills) on Tuesday. I have no idea what his injury is -- other than something to his right knee -- and will not speculate.
That paragraph above would get credentials pulled at USC and, now, Washington. And it won't stop there. Sarkisian saw what Kiffin did and ported it over to his program. Odds are plenty of programs will follow. Because that's just how the world works -- coaches are a paranoid bunch and will take every perceived competitive advantage they can get while pushing things just about as far as they can.
If a coach doesn't want to talk, fine. But controlling what can and can't be written, above and beyond the standard strategy rules, about is pushing things to a new level. It's bullying, plain and simple. And until someone steps in, as Kevin Pelton mentioned, it's only going to get worse.
With these rules, everyone loses ... unless you really believe it's some massive competitive advantage.