As someone who graduated from the University of Arizona, what I'm about to say will surely have me branded in Tucson somewhere between lunatic and heretic.
College football will be in a far better place if Arizona State becomes a conference powerhouse.
The reasoning behind this hot take is that if a head coach that doesn't hide his players from the media nor suppresses personality is successful in one place, more will be allowed to follow suit. With logic, the 64-year-old Herm Edwards -- who is coming off his first season after a decade away from the sidelines -- needs to win in order to be the trailblazer we suddenly all need him to be.
Football is currently under the thumb of cold curmudgeons who keep personalities from seeing the light of day and use their gnarly glare from the view of the podium to keep the local press in line. Whether it's Nick Saban in college or Bill Belichick in the NFL, their dictatorial nature has been rewarded with championship dynasties that would make Genghis Khan blush.
Even coaches like Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, who seems fun from the surface with his hillbilly hairstyle and viral videos of him dancing in the locker room, also has a history from keeping certain players from reporters and threatening to restrict access if sensitive subjects are brought up, like transfer status.
Edwards isn't like that. Like an overconfident poker player pushing all of his chips in the middle of the table, he lets everyone be available to the press, players and assistant coaches alike. He has two press conference a week leading up to games and postgame. The starting quarterback has his own weekly press conference and assistant coaches are also available on a weekly basis. Everyone else is also available upon request.
This is similar to the media protocol in the NFL, where Edwards spent a decade as a player and eight years as a head coach with the New York Jets (2001-05) and Kansas City Chiefs (2006-08). Between coaching stints, he worked for ESPN and had a heavy exposure on the other side of the player-media relationship.
Because of this, Edwards believes that getting used to talking to reporters is part of the player's developmental process.
“You have to develop their skills, not only on the field but off the field,” Edwards said via AZ Central. “First game of the season, whoever the starting quarterback is, he’s going to have to step out there and do it.
“That’s part of the learning process, though. You have to trust them. These players know I trust them, and the coaches know I trust them. I have no hidden agenda. I’m trying to help them be good men, be a great student, and be a really good teammate. That’s the deal here.”
It also allows the players to share their stories with the community. While the entire country watches and follows college football, the sport is actually splintered into conferences and regions. While the games themselves are entertaining to watch on television, the players all seem anonymous and humongous. They all seem cookie-cutter with the exception of a few stars who seem destined for a spot in the NFL. By allowing everyone to be available to the press -- which in the case of many major programs consists of a few newspaper reporters and a handful of college students -- the players can learn how to speak while interviews and seem more human than machine.
Most major programs keep freshmen off limits to media, which seems ridiculous when considering the hype around National Signing Day. Arizona State's starting quarterback was a senior last year. Taking his place could be one of three freshmen. There won't be any hiding for them in Tempe, nor should there be.
Edwards is perfect coach to break the mold in this regard. He has always been a fun coach to talk to. His first season at Arizona State was filled with sound bites that could've been plastered on an entire clothing line filled with t-shirts. Nobody ever remembers a time where he had a Kevin Durant type moment with the media.
If he can build the Sun Devils into Pac-12 powerhouse, or at least be good enough to garner him Iowa-like longevity, then maybe his media method will spread across the country and lighten restraints everywhere.