It appears a proposal to include the Washington State Cougars as part of a “Hard Knocks”-style show on HBO has come together, as the school seems to have confirmed its participation with a tweet this morning.
This should be fun! #GoCougs #JoinTheHunt pic.twitter.com/w08jW8IwkT— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) August 17, 2019
News that WSU was in the running for the show broke a few days ago, but sources told everyone who inquired that nothing had been finalized. But in the past couple of days, there were indications that some kind of agreement was imminent — first, representatives from the network attended Thursdays practice, then cameras and microphones showed up yesterday:
“Hard Knocks” has descended on #WSU. Sounds like a deal still hasn’t been finalized, but all signs are pointing to the HBO program featuring the Cougars this fall. pic.twitter.com/Lfv29xqDlT— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) August 17, 2019
Even as footage was being collected, the Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson said a deal still hadn’t been finalized. Perhaps it was a bit of a dry run to ensure that the network could get the kind of access it needed to produce the show. They must have liked what they saw!
This whole enterprise is sort of fascinating, particularly in light of Mike Leach’s famous public disdain for “distractions.” However, behind the scenes, Leach routinely invites outsiders into meetings and practices — I was invited to attend a QB meeting for a story I’m working on, and there was a small camera crew following Leach around at the spring practice I attended. Some of Leach’s former QBs indicated that players are actually fairly used to other people hanging around the program.
Right tackle Abe Lucas said, “I don’t care. It’s just cameras. Doesn’t matter to me.”
Leach, for his part, doesn’t seem to think HBO filming is going to be a big deal.
Mike Leach on HBO’s presence at #WSU practice this afternoon:— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) August 17, 2019
Leach would advise his team to “practice ignoring the cameras, because they want a genuine look and we’re not going to get our work done unless we effectively ignore one another.” pic.twitter.com/NRP7yc3FHw
Leach said he would tell his players to “just ignore them. Practice ignoring the cameras, because they want a genuine look and we’re not going to get our work done unless we effectively ignore one another.”
Linebackers coach Roc Bellantoni said the cameras “wouldn’t be a distraction at all. It’s good exposure for our program, it’s good for recruiting. They get to see us in a different light. They won’t be in our way. We just work.”
Bellantoni’s quote reinforces the idea that the benefits would seem to far outweigh the negatives here; the other schools reported to be participating are the Alabama Crimson Tide, Penn State Nittany Lions and Arizona State Sun Devils, and WSU’s inclusion in that group gives it another sort of validation of its ascension in the college football sphere.
The common thread is that all four programs have compelling head coaches — Alabama for obvious reasons, while the other three have leaders who should provide no shortage of excellent sound bites.
There also should be a financial benefit to this for the school, the details of which will come out at some point, given that WSU is a public institution and contracts are subject to FOIA laws.