In the early 1980s, Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson created a phenomenon that came to be known as Hoya Paranoia. In an
attempt to shield his players from the bright and presumably distracting glare
of the media spotlight, Thompson severely restricted media access to his
players and program. Thompson had his reasons, but be that as it may, the wall
he erected between his program and the media was an innovation. And
predictably, the media resented it.
In the intervening three decades Thompson’s restrictive--some
would say draconian--policies have become more commonplace, and perhaps
particularly so with football teams. Fortunately for fans of Texas Tech football
and the media who cover the program, Tech has hitherto been immune to the
cloaking tactics inaugurated by the legendary Georgetown coach.
Those days, however, have ended with the advent of one Kliff
Kingsbury. Word has come down from the mount that, with the exception of
photographers early in practice, media are barred from Texas Tech football
practice. Not just certain practices, not just certain portions of the field,
and not just certain electronic devices. Totally and
completely. And for good measure, freshmen are unavailable for
This is a radical departure from what has gone before. Spike
Dykes was laissez faire when it came
to media presence. Mike Leach, Kingsbury’s mentor, couldn’t have cared less
what the media did, just so long as they didn’t air footage of gruesome
injuries and their immediate aftermath. Tommy Tuberville was more restrictive
than Leach, but just barely. Heck, he was known to shoot the breeze with media
types during practice.
It is not clear why Kingsbury has reversed decades-long
policy and tradition. No explanation was given. And of course, nobody is
obligated to provide one. Still, the new policy is perplexing.
Can 10 dudes with cameras and another 10 with iPads and notebooks really be that
much of a distraction? Perhaps if we looked like Scarlett Johansson
and Kate Upton. Alas, we don’t.
Are media types a threat to leak vital information that will
help opponents beat the Red Raiders? That is difficult to believe. Even the
best informed among us do not have the necessary knowledge to disseminate
information significant enough to give opponents an advantage. And if leaked
photographic evidence is the concern, it would be easy enough to ban electronic
Perhaps the most logical explanation for Kingsbury’s stance
is that the media are a headache he simply doesn’t need right now. Running a
football program the size of Texas Tech’s is not unlike being the CFO of a
large company. There are a million and one things to deal with, lots of
problems to solve, and manifold obligations to fulfill. And Kingsbury, a young
man by any standard, is completely new to this situation. By banning the media,
he removes one bothersome item from his plate.
But there can be drawbacks to keeping the program aloof from
the media. First and most important, banishing the media means keeping
information-hungry fans in the dark.
For better or worse, keeping up with every little detail of
one’s favorite sports team has become a national pastime. Nursed on the
Internet, fans have come to expect a steady stream of juicy tidbits throughout
the year. And in football-crazed Texas, spring practice is seen as a gridiron
oasis in the desert that stretches from January to September.
The media serve as the conduit of information between teams
and fans. By barring media from practice, Kingsbury has all but shut down the
pipeline of information. Some fans will take this development in stride; others
Additionally, there is something to be said for cultivating
good relations with the media. Mike Leach knew this. In addition to his
intriguing personality, Leach’s media-friendly approach endeared him to the
press, and still does. Consequently, he became a figure of national
fascination. And even local media routinely gave him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps,
when he didn’t deserve it. It is human nature to be gentle to those who have
treated you well.
Taking the opposite approach to the media runs the risk of
creating an adversarial relationship between the coach and those who cover his
program. Reporters who would pull their punches with
Leach, might let fly with Kingsbury. This would be unprofessional, but it is a
distinct possibility. In larger media markets, running feuds between reporters
and coaches are not uncommon. That has never happened in Lubbock, but it is
Now nobody need throw the proverbial pity party for media
and fans. Perhaps we have been spoiled for too long. And Kliff Kingsbury
certainly has every right to run his program as he sees fit. But it is also
possible that Kingsbury has solved a “problem” that did not exist.