Butch Jones addresses the media on Sept. 25, 2017
Phil Kaplan/News Sentinel
Rants at the media are a tried and true way for college coaches to rally the fan base and show players that Coach has got their backs.
Asked last week how defensive lineman Shy Tuttle suffered an eye injury, University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones pivoted to “what do we want out of our media.”
“Sometimes the negativity is overwhelming,” he declared at his weekly press conference. “Fake news” is affecting recruiting, he warned.
“We have to check ourselves.”
Some sports writers suspected Jones came into the media briefing looking for a confrontation after the Vols struggled against lowly University of Massachusetts.
Internet chatter had suggested that Tuttle’s injury had an extracurricular origin. When reporters sought to confirm or dispel the rumor, Jones saw his opening.
“This place with the drama,” he complained. “These are kids and I think we all have children and we’re all adults. … Are we in the reality world of TV?”
“You guys have a job to do,” Jones acknowledged, “but there comes a certain time where enough is enough.”
The rant was mild, as these things go, barely worthy of the genre.
A month earlier, Alabama coach Nick Saban showed his subtlety with the form when a reporter asked about the possibility of a back-up linebacker taking on a bigger role.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he responded. ”You guys got all the answers.”
“Why do we play? Why do we even have practice?” he asked.” “Because you guys have got all these conclusions … Why would you ask me?”
Indeed, how impertinent.
The mother of media rants came almost exactly a decade ago after a columnist for the Daily Oklahoman wrote that an Oklahoma State quarterback had been benched because coaches had doubts about his attitude and willingness to play through pain.
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Coach Mike Gundy opened his press conference waving the newspaper.
“I want to talk about this article right here,” he shouted. “It’s garbage. And the editor that let it come out is garbage.”
“Come after me!” he famously told the columnist. “I’m a man! I’m 40! I’m not a kid.”
Gundy finally stalked off, concluding: “Makes me want to puke.”
The rant worked. It became a YouTube sensation, and Oklahoma State recruiting picked up. The team went 9-4 the following year, and the program has finished in the Top 20 six of the past nine seasons.
Granted, college football is a game of passion, and even the mild-mannered might start ranting if their employment depended on the dependability, focus and health habits of college kids.
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You couldn’t pay me enough to do the job.
On second thought … Jones’s $4.1 million annual compensation is more than I’ve made my entire News Sentinel career (and I feel very blessed).
So maybe you could pay me enough – but just for one year.
Jack McElroy is executive editor of the News Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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