College football • Coaches find the comic touch in front of booster clubs.
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When coach Bronco Mendenhall addresses crowds of BYU followers this week during Cougar Fan Fest events in Spanish Fork and Sandy, he's unlikely to say anything memorable.
There's a lot of provocative material going around elsewhere in college football these days, though. And I love it.
Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis referred to Alabama's Nick Saban as "the devil himself." Michigan coach Brady Hoke spoke of Notre Dame's "chickening out" of the traditional rivalry. Davis' boss, Florida coach Will Muschamp, promised that Georgia's reign over the Gators is "not going to be a long winning streak, I can assure you."
That's good stuff. Look, I would be highly hypocritical to rip coaches for taking such shots at their rivals, when we're continually begging them to say something interesting.
Context is important here. These comments are coming in front of adoring audiences as opposed to news conferences or standard, post-practice interviews. These speeches are supposed to be entertaining, and enlightened people understand that.
This is the time of year when coaches loosen up somewhat, while engaging their fans. They ought to be able to get away with some clever comments.
I mean, the good folks of Grand Rapids paid $85 for lunch and the opportunity to hear Hoke during the West Michigan Sports Commission's annual fundraising event. He delivered, saying of Notre Dame, "They're still going to play Michigan State, they're still going to play Purdue, but they don't want to play Michigan."
Maybe the most significant, refreshing development in this discussion came when Notre Dame athletic Jack Swarbrick reacted rationally to Hoke's comments, saying he would "take no umbrage" at anything spoken in a booster-oriented setting. Saban, in contrast, was not happy with Davis' flippant remark about him, taking it far more seriously than it was intended.
Davis, who coached Utah's offensive line in 2011, is an outspoken, fun guy to interview. I can just picture him in front of the Space Coast Gator Club in Florida, talking about how he and Muschamp formerly worked for Saban with the Miami Dolphins.
Comparing the two, Davis said Muschamp is "like the other guy, only he's got a personality." That's beautiful.
Then there was Muschamp himself, assuring the Jacksonville Gator Club that Georgia's two-game winning streak in the rivalry would not last beyond October. What's wrong with that?
Now that he's at South Carolina, former Florida coach Steve Spurrier is fairly subdued. In his Gator days, Spurrier routinely fired away at his rivals at this time of year. Noting Tennessee's having to settle for mid-tier bowl games, he said, "You can't spell Citrus without UT." Allegations of impermissible benefits turned Florida State into "Free Shoes University." And the likes of Auburn and Georgia regularly played into Spurrier's punch lines.
Having some fun is perfectly fine, if you own it and can back it up. This, of course, was ex-Wyoming coach Joe Glenn's failing in 2007, when he guaranteed a win over Utah and his reeling Cowboys lost 50-0 while evoking famous responses from Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Glenn himself during the game.
Unlike these other coaches, who are willing to have their comments spread far and wide, Glenn somehow thought his words would stay in Wyoming. "You've just got to be smarter than I was," he said.
In any case, I can guarantee that Mendenhall won't say anything in Spanish Fork or Sandy about Utah's "chickening out" of the rivalry by playing Fresno State instead of BYU in 2014-15 or promising that the Utes' three-game winning streak in the series will end in September.
Sure would be fun if he did, though.