Never has the media — social or otherwise — been so expansive. Consequently, boundaries have been drawn.
Brian Kelly will remain the main voice of Notre Dame football throughout the season.
With each passing year, Notre Dame’s football program has pared down access to practices, players and assistant coaches. In recent seasons, the assistant coaches on offense were usually made available on Tuesdays, along with players on that side of the unit, while Wednesday was the day for the defense, and Thursday for special teams.
Also, team leaders such as the starting quarterback or receiver Michael Floyd were available weekly at a designated time on one day, and the same on defense for players such as former captain Harrison Smith or Manti Te’o.
This year, Notre Dame reduced its media access this season down to just Wednesday for players and no access to any of Kelly’s assistants.
“There wasn’t a grand scheme to protect anybody as much as I wanted to make sure that our players were focused,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “Their schedule is so long in terms of their academics and study table and all those things. We wanted to streamline it the best we could.”
As for the assistants, former Irish head coach Charlie Weis (2005-09) always had believed in the Bill Belichick school of “one voice” speaking for the entire operation. Upon taking the Notre Dame job, Weis laid out the ground rules that he had to approve beforehand the line of questioning a player would receive. Eventually, he softened his stance, and players and assistants were made available more than originally thought.
This year the Irish assistants were made available on media day (Aug. 16), but have been shut down since.
“They are 90 hours a week here, and I really felt like … I could take a lot of that that off their plate so the could focus strictly on, at the end of the day, our preparation,” Kelly explained.
Select players will always be available after games, and Kelly meets with the media each week at noon, on Thursday evening for an end-of-the-week wrap-up session, Saturday after the game, and then on Sunday afternoon for about a 15-minute update.
What more needs to be said, and how many ways can you say it?
Still, it’s almost comical to look back on the pre-Internet days, or approximately the mid-1990s, when print media still ruled. In those days, Blue & Gold Illustrated, the South Bend Tribune and the Notre Dame student newspaper The Observer were the mainstays of attending each practice and grabbing players randomly after practice for impromptu interviews on the field.
In the glory days of the late 1980s, we could even set up appointments right there to meet them the next day either in their dorm room or campus hangout, a much more relaxed setting for both parties. No computer, no twittering, no message boards.
Back then, it wasn’t uncommon to visit the football office during the off-season, ask a secretary if an assistant was available and be told, ‘Yeah, he should be around. Go on in.”
Folks, don’t try this at home today.
Times change, and the alterations that come with it are understandable. The media proliferation today prompts memories of Lou Holtz’s axiom of how “abuse leads to restrictions.”
That’s not to say there weren’t restrictions elsewhere in the past either. ESPN’s Beano Cook often stated that the only person in the Western Hemisphere who had better control of the media than the late Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Premier coaches such as Alabama’s Bear Bryant with one scowling glare could make the media putty in their hands — not unlike Nick Saban today.
Progress in some fields often necessitates change or restrictions in others.