Plenty to talk about during media days

Published: Monday, January 5, 2009 at 11:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 at 11:58 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Scenes from the BCS National Championship Media Day (and, no, every day is not media day even though we get paid to watch football and eat press box food) ...

The sun is beating down on the players and coaches. It’s so hot that Bob Stoops had to take off his jacket and Urban Meyer needed a make-shift shield to keep the sun out of his eyes.

Charlie Strong stands a few feet away from the field where he will go for his second national title in three years. Sweat glistens from his shaved head and the questions are flying.

But they aren’t about the Florida defense.

They are about him and the fact that, with all of the openings in college football this off-season, nobody called him.

“Zero interviews,” he said.

There are now seven black head coaches in college football, a positive step. But the mystery remains around Strong. He has interviewed for five head coaching jobs in his career and came away empty.

“A reporter asks me that and I say, ‘You guys have been reporting as long as I’ve been coaching so you know the issue.’ So ya’ll just write about it instead of asking me. Ya’ll know the answer.”

Yes, we do. But you’d think in a year where America elected an African-American president, someone would have called one of the most successful defensive coordinators in the game.

“You never thought it would ever happen,” Strong says about Barack Obama. “Who voted for that president? Who makes the decision on who gets the college jobs? The people have a say on the president but the people don’t have a say on the coach.

“A guy told me one day, ‘We look at you and hope you do well because if you don’t do well then we’re all measured up to what you do. I feel like it’s a lot of a burden because I gotta do well because the guys are looking to me to do well. If it doesn’t happen for me, I gotta do well so whoever is coming behind me it will happen for them.

“It is a positive step, you have seven now. Randy (Shannon) has got the good one in Miami. Where’s the next good one? You have to work your way up and I understand that. But why do we have to work our way up when we paid our dues?”

Earlier on the humid morning, Oklahoma players seem angry. They feel like the No. 1 team shouldn’t be the underdog in this game. They feel like their defense is getting disrespected.

“We’ve got a lot of guys with chips on their shoulders,” says linebacker Travis Lewis. “People are saying two offenses will show up but only one defense. You get tired of people dogging our defense.”

So I ask Tim Tebow about it, about how the Oklahoma players say their carrying shoulder chips.

“We should have chips on our shoulders as well,” he said. “If you don’t use everything to motivate you, that’s not very smart of them. You better come in with a chip on your shoulder. If you don’t, you can get blown away.”

You get the feeling after the two media sessions that the two teams, who have never played each other, don’t like each other. Maybe it’s the competitive spirit but this feels more like Florida-Florida State than Florida-Oklahoma.

Louis Murphy is talking about his mother, who passed away last year.

“I love her. I miss her,” he said. “I know she’s here with me.”

Brandon Spikes is talking about his brother, Breyon Middlebrooks, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2003 for murder.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him,” Spikes says. “My brother was a dynamic athlete himself. But he got kicked out of school and came back to the streets. He kind of made me want to be good at football and when he made that decision he got messed up and it kind of hurt him. I’m always going to take care of my family and he’s part of my family’s blood and that’s one reason I wanted to try to get the national championship.”

Sad stuff.

Sam Bradford is talking about superstitions.

“I’ve worn the same socks every game week,” he says. “You saw them, they’re really not like socks anymore. They’re like pieces of thread everywhere.”

Bob Stoops is talking about the perceived home-field advantage for Florida.

“I’m calling on all the Hurricane fans and Seminole fans that are down here to root for us,” he says. “That won’t be too hard I don’t think.”

Talk, talk and more talk. It’s part of the obligations for getting this far. Some of the players have fun with it. The reserves sit up in the bleachers getting an occasional reporter to wander their way. Players are asked about Ipods and singing talents and just about everything else. For reporters who have limited access during the season, this is a smorgasbord.

Eventually, there will be a game.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or at

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