A few statements from Pac-10 coaches caught my eye yesterday and it raised an important issue. With fall practices underway, fans are getting a chance to see their team up close and personal for the first time this year. Pac-10 schools have the most liberal practice policies, with most schools being open to the fans. Only USC has truly closed practices right now, as far as I could gather.
After yesterday's workout at UW, Steve Sarkisian took the opportunity to chastise the fans for posting detailed reports online about the Huskies' camp.
"There's just been a few issues that have popped up, that have been brought to my attention, and it's not okay. It's not okay competitively for us that things are getting put out there of what we're doing specifically or the way we're coaching things specifically --- it's not okay. Hopefully our fans respect that and come out and enjoy watching our guys compete and battle and leave it at that, and we'll continue to leave them open."
I don't question his right to publicly admonish fans. It's his team and his policy, so he's well within his right to be upset about fans going into excessive detail about what they see. It's long been an unwritten rule that the media deals in generalities -- leaving out scheme and gameplan -- when discussing practices. Fans, on the other hand, play by their own rules.
Sarkisian wasn't the only one to crack down. Down in the Bay Area, Jon Wilner writes about Jeff Tedford and Jim Harbaugh's new media policies.
Mostly, I think restricted access is simply an unfortunate reality of today’s world, and that Harbaugh and Tedford have the right to do it. But I also wonder about the bigger issues at play with both teams
The trend in college football now is to close practices for a litany of reasons. Whether it be a fear of agents or otherwise unwanted contact with athletes or not wanting trade secrets to get out, coaches are looking for an excuse to close the doors.
What I do question is the validity of such worries. What's happening at fall camp around the country is nothing new. It's not like UW, Cal, or Stanford are doing anything so grounbreaking that it needs to be shielded from the public eye. Instead, it feels like misguided paranoia.
Does a random fan posting what they see on the internet compromise the integrity of the scheme a school runs? I sincerely doubt an internet post will help an opponent prepare for a matchup. If a school really wanted to get an early look, they could easily send in a booster to play scout for the day (as Jeff brought to my attention last night).
Besides all that, fall camp is simply a time to work on technique, establish the depth chart, and tweak assignments in basic schemes. None of what's going on right now has to do with gameplanning or installing game-specific plays. Fall camp is very bland in terms of scheme and drills. When it comes time to get into gameplanning -- typically the week before a game -- it will all be done away from the eyes of the public.
Personally, I respect the unwritten agreement about not going into detail about plays and schemes. It's a common courtesy when covering a practice or scrimmage. As a fan, I wouldn't want to create the appearance of helping an opponent, whether or not I feel it's valid.
However, this all has the feel of coaches walking around wearing tin-foil hats, though.