- Greg Katz, Columnist, WeAreSC.com
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Didn’t get your Pac-12 Media Day credential for Tuesday’s Gibson Amphitheatre event at Hollywood Universal Studios? No problem, you can join the WeAreSC carpool and away we go.
6:30 a.m. PT: Depart Orange County and there’s nothing like the diamond lane to help beat the traffic going across town while listening to Ricky Nelson and the Lovin’ Spoonful.
8:40: Arrive at Universal Studios and park in the Frankenstein lot. How appropriate.
8:55: The Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl trophies are on display in the entrance area of the Gipson Amphitheatre. We pick up our team media guides and “gifts”, which include a Pac-12 backpack, sunglasses, a Rose Bowl notepad, and thermos. Players and coaches are taking pictures in front of the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl trophies.
9:00: The Trojans are picked to win the South Division and the Pac-12 title. Not exactly a shock, but it’s official. No, Lane Kiffin, you aren’t dreaming. The expectations are officially here.
9:15: Media Day opens with a slick Pac-12 promo video pumping the conference, the new Pac-12 network, and the coming football season, which also includes the “Return of USC.”
9:18: Commissioner Larry Scott provides a welcome and gives a rundown of athletes in the London Olympics and again promotes the new TV network.
9:29: Gary Stevenson, president of the Pac-12 Enterprises, says 35 football games will be televised on the new network. Former Trojans Ronnie Lott and Curtis Conway announced as Pac-12 analysts.
9:38: Colorado head coach Jon Embree says, “We’re just trying to find a way to get to a bowl game.” The Trojans are trying to find a way to make it to the BCS title game. What a difference in perspective.
9:54: First-year Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez reveals the “first time I visited Tucson was the day of my press conference.” Sounds like a blind date. Rodriguez doesn’t sound like a guy that was run out of Michigan, and he comes across as very folksy and easy to take.
10:09: Notice that each end of the stage is adorned with roses, an obvious symbol of The Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl.
10:12: First-year Arizona State head coach Todd Graham says, “I am very happy to represent the Sun Devils nation and to be at a place that Frank Kush built.” How many times do we have to hear a coach refer to his fan base as a “nation”?
Graham adds, “We’ve won Rose Bowl before.” For the record, the last Sun Devils trip to Pasadena was 1997, a loss to Ohio State.
10:27: So far, nobody has asked about the South Division race and very little mention of the Trojans.
10:31: Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is asked about the titanic South Division game against the Trojans and Whittingham replies, “Obviously we know the game is out there, and it’s going to be a huge event -- Thursday night, national TV, the whole nine yards. USC may be ranked No. 1 in the country by then, so we know it’s out there. It could be one of the biggest home games ever to take place at the stadium.”
10:50: First-year UCLA head coach Jim Mora is asked about “that school across town.” Mora replies, “When we get to that game where we play Southern Cal, we will do that.” Oh boy, calling the Trojans “Southern Cal” is fightin’ words.
11:10: Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin says his program is in a positive “perfect storm.” He seems more self-assured of himself and his program than in his two previous media days. Kiffin mentions how everybody gave USC up for dead. Quarterback Matt Barkley reveals he was headed to the NFL after the big win against UCLA, but “I just wasn’t thinking right.” The rest is history.
11:32: A 10-minute break intermission in the proceedings. Canned music filters throughout the Gibson.
11:46: First-year Washington State head coach Mike Leach is quite a character. A media member asks “Coach Price” what he thinks on a particular subject. Mike Price hasn’t coached the Cougars since 2002. Leach sounds a lot like basketball’s Bobby Knight and compares quarterback Jeff Tuel and defensive end Travis Long to Civil War generals. This guy would be fun to cover.
12:12 p.m.: Oregon State head coach Mike Riley is not wearing his traditional baseball cap. Riley, a former Trojans offensive coordinator, remarks that the Pac-12 conference got better because of what the Trojans did under Pete Carroll.
12:30: California head coach Jeff Tedford says if you ask Cal fans whether they’d rather be in the national championship or the Rose Bowl, the Bears fans would take the Rose Bowl. Don’t even ask Trojans fan the same question.
12:44: Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian is asked about the pressures for USC being No. 1 this season. Sark remarks, “I don’t know how they’ll handle it, it’s a different staff (than when I was there). Lane knows you have to play week to week.” Talk about politically correct.
1:04: Stanford head coach David Shaw is very positive about his team, and standout senior linebacker Chase Thomas says, “I think our front seven are as good anybody in the nation.” Are you listening Trojans offensive line?
1:12: Oregon head coach Chip Kelly says sophomore tailback/receiver De'Anthony Thomas will have a more prominent role this season. A media member asks about what new uniforms are planned. Senior running back Kenjon Barner answers, “Who knows what to expect, it’s Oregon.”
1:30: Lunch is served and it’s a sandwich buffet with potato salad and coleslaw. What, no dessert?
And with that brings the end to Pac-12 media day for 2012.
5dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller