The college football offseason is the best of times: Coaches love to tell you they’re all undefeated, the new recruits arrive to add some juice, and the strength coaches have everyone in the best shape of their lives. Meanwhile, the defenses are multiple and the offenses all have new wrinkles.
The offseason also is the worst of times: There aren’t any dang games, for starters, and nobody knows that if the offense lighting it up in the spring game means it’ll be great when it counts — or if your own defense is just bad.
In the 230 days since last season ended, an entire conference on the West Coast evaporated, the entire Colorado Buffaloes team was encouraged by Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders to “jump in that portal” — and, boy, did it — and Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin called the entire sport of college football a “disaster.”
So there is some history to recall. Let’s relive it in the words of the people in the middle of it all.
The Pac-12 soap opera
“It’s not a concern. Our schools are committed to each other and to the Pac-12. We’ll get our media rights deal done, we’ll announce the deal. I think the realignment that’s going on in college athletics will come to an end for this cycle. The truth is we’ve got bigger fish to fry.” — Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, at the conference’s media day on July 21, on any worries about the Big 12 potentially poaching teams
“What we’ve seen is that the longer we wait for a deal, the better our options get. … There’s an underlying shift in the media market that’s happening and we’re long-term taking advantage of that, but short term may have provided some hiccups.” — Kliavkoff, at media day, on a potential new television contract
“They’re back.” — Michael Jordan-style statement issued by Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, announcing Colorado’s Big 12 return on July 27
“I’m trying to remember what they won to affect this conference and I don’t remember. Do you remember them winning anything? I don’t remember them winning anything.” — Oregon Ducks coach Dan Lanning on Colorado
On Aug. 1, Kliavkoff ended up presenting his league schools with a primarily subscription-based Apple streaming deal that expired after this school year. Shortly after, Oregon and the Washington Huskies joined the Big Ten, while the Arizona Wildcats, Arizona State Sun Devils and Utah Utes joined Colorado in the Big 12. The Pac-12 was left with just four teams: the Cal Bears, Stanford Cardinal, Oregon State Beavers and Washington State Cougars.
“I think it’s been well documented that the last couple of weeks was a culmination of years of failed leadership, vision, failed implementation. It isn’t one singular thing that led to the destruction of the Pac-12 as we know it. It was a bunch of decisions and failed strategies that put us in this place.” — Washington State athletic director Pat Chun, whose school was left out of the realignment derby and remains as one of the four Pac-12 schools in limbo
“It just wasn’t one of those great feelings to work in college sports, in my experience. I take responsibility where we’ve made moves. But there was something different last week about the questions around the existence of the Pac-12 Conference, given its long and storied history.” — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, on the Paul Finebaum show
The ACC’s soap opera in development
“My current assessment of the situation after very deep analysis is I believe FSU will have to at some point consider very seriously leaving the ACC unless there were a radical change to the revenue distribution.”
— Florida State president Robert McCullough, in a board of trustees meeting on Aug. 2
“What they want to do and how they want to go about doing their business, that is their business but it does have an impact on us. And quite frankly, I don’t think it’s good for our league for them to be out there barking like that. … Pay for the exit fee, wait for your grant of rights that you’ve given and then in 2036 when those rights return to you, do whatever you want.”
— North Carolina Bubba Cunningham, of FSU, on the Adam Gold Show.
“The timing for us to do something radical is not known, but it’s not 2036.”
— FSU AD director Michael Alford, to ESPN, about the Seminoles’ desire to leave before the school’s ACC grant of rights are up, because they say they’re falling financially behind SEC and Big Ten teams
“We are where we are, and we have to try and make it work. I mean, we’ve been pretty vocal in the past month about, we need to find a home for Stanford and Cal. You can’t have two of the great academic institutions in the world not have a place to play.”
— Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, on the Dan Patrick show, about the possibility of the two institutions joining the ACC, which Notre Dame belongs to in all sports except for football and ice hockey
“People used to have to come across the country in a covered wagon — it would take them months and they’d be completely different people by the time they got there. We get on a plane for five hours, six hours, that’s not the end of the world. You get drinks served to you and some snacks, and it’s not that bad.”
— Stanford coach Troy Taylor, about potentially having to travel to the East Coast for ACC games.
“Starting to think about the next one, I do think it’s going to be much tougher. And I do think we’re going to have to reinvent ourselves next year because you can’t just stay the same.” — Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, the morning after Georgia’s 65-7 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game
“No offense to the Minnesota 1935 team, but I don’t know if it’s going to resonate with my audience.” –– Smart, at SEC media day, on examples of three-peats in history he uses to talk to his team
New faces in new places
“He’ll call a lot of — hopefully he’ll call the game. We’ll have suggestions on things we do, whether it’s offense or defense. Every coach is always involved. It’s a more collective thing than people want to give it room for.” –– Texas A&M Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher, at SEC media days on July 17, on new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino and if he’ll take over playcalling from Fisher
“I’ve read or heard, or I’ve had people send me things about [Petrino] and Coach Fisher getting along. That’s not really how it works, OK? Coach is the boss, all right, and my job is to try to keep him happy and make sure that everything works the way he wants it to work.” — Petrino, at his Texas A&M media day news conference on Aug. 6
“Here’s what I really believe: I love our team — they’re my team, they’re Auburn’s team. We’re going to coach the heck out of them. Does our roster from top to bottom look like Alabama’s, Georgia’s, LSU’s, Florida, A&M, Ole Miss? I don’t know yet. I know a couple they don’t because I’ve watched the tape. Do I think we’ve improved Auburn with the additions that we’ve had since I’ve been there? Yes. Does that mean we close the gap at all? I have no clue.” — New Auburn Tigers coach Hugh Freeze, at SEC media days
“I never could have imagined, nor did I desire, to become a head coach under these types of circumstances. That said, I’m honored to lead this group moving forward.” –– David Braun, who was elevated to interim head coach at Northwestern after Pat Fitzgerald was fired amid allegations of widespread hazing in the football program
Braun was hired as defensive coordinator in January from North Dakota State.
“Being an independent, I wasn’t able to experience this as a head coach, so this is my first time. I was actually getting some pointers and some tips from Kedon Slovis. He’s been through more media days than I have.” — BYU Cougars coach Kalani Sitake, at his first Big 12 media day appearance since BYU joined, on his quarterback, who previously played at USC and Pitt
“There was a time when Nebraska football was feared, and we certainly want to get back to that. We want to be a team that you say, ‘You know what? That team’s feared.’ But we’re not at that point yet. We’re at a point where I believe we have to take back the respect of what it means to play Nebraska and to be at Nebraska.” –– Matt Rhule, on rebuilding the Nebraska Cornhuskers program
Jim Harbaugh returned — again
I just got off the phone with Coach Harbaugh and Jim shared with me the great news that he is going to remain as the Head Coach of the Michigan Wolverines. That is fantastic news that I have communicated to our Athletic Director Warde Manuel. #GoBlue! pic.twitter.com/3LJzsv4zN9
— Santa Ono (@SantaJOno) January 16, 2023
Then he got back to work:
“Like our good friend Ric Flair said, ‘If you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.'” — Harbaugh, on why he created a “Beat Georgia” drill in practice
Missing Mike Leach
“You know Texas Tech is going to put [Leach] in the Hall of Fame there [with former Tech QB] Kliff Kingsbury and they picked the Houston game to do it. I’m going to be on the other sideline when they do it, and I think that is probably going to put me in a dark spot briefly when they do it. I’ll have to hurry up and get out of it.” — Houston Cougars coach Dana Holgorsen, who played for Leach — who died in December — at Iowa Wesleyan and coached under him at Texas Tech
DTR MIA at UCLA
“The quarterback spot, I think we have to replace a quarterback for the first time since George Bush was president. I mean, George Herbert Walker Bush, not the other one. We had Dorian for 48 games. I started my career (at UCLA) with Dorian. I anticipate going to fall camp and him still being there because he was around so much.” — UCLA Bruins coach Chip Kelly, on finding a new starter after the graduation of Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Biff checks out
New Charlotte 49ers coach Biff Poggi didn’t appreciate being asked only three questions at AAC media day.
— Coach Oz (@CoachRyanOsborn) July 25, 2023
It’s Prime Time at Colorado
“We got a few positions already taken care of because I’m bringing my own luggage with me and it’s Louis [Vuitton], OK? … Ain’t gonna be no more of the mess that these wonderful fans, the student body and some of your parents have put up with for probably two decades now. I’m coming. And when I get there, it’s gonna be changed, so I want y’all to get ready to go ahead and jump in that portal and do whatever you’re gonna get because the more of you jump into [the portal], the more room you make because we bring kids that are smart, tough.” — Deion Sanders, in his first meeting with his Colorado team after being hired
“Quarterbacks are different. We want mother/father. Dual parent. We want that kid to be 3.5 [GPA] and up. Because he has to be smart. Not bad decisions off the field, at all. Because he has to be a leader of men. … Defensive linemen is totally opposite. Single mama, trying to get it, he’s on free lunch. I’m talking about just trying to make it. He’s trying to rescue mama. Like mama barely made the flight. And I want him to just go get it.” — Sanders, on what attributes he looks for in recruits, from “The Rich Eisen Show”
“If one fights, we all fight. You understand that? I don’t want to see you all walking off when somebody’s fighting. Never again!” –– Sanders, on players sitting out a shoving match between teammates in practice
The always-introspective Dave Aranda
“I think I probably was too lenient with guys, and I think I probably tried to help too many guys that I think probably needed a tougher version of me. I probably gave too many guys chances that were probably taking advantage of me, or those chances.” — Baylor Bears coach Dave Aranda, on why the Bears struggled last season after winning the Big 12 in 2021
Sooner or later?
“A year ago, I challenged the guys. I wasn’t like Deion that gave guys a bunch of pink slips.” — Oklahoma Sooners coach Brent Venables, to OUNightlySports, on working to reshape Oklahoma’s roster, which had 21 players leave this year after Venables’ 6-7 season in Year 1
“I had a rocky start to my college career. I chose the wrong school.” –– Kyler Murray, who transferred to Oklahoma from Texas A&M, at OU’s spring game where his statue was unveiled at Heisman Park
A new frontier in recruiting
“I think AI has an opportunity, maybe to create that kind of model for us relative to who is that kind of player out there all over the country, without making a mistake. I think that there’s going to be room for it, and I think it’s exciting and something that we’re about to venture into.” — LSU Tigers coach Brian Kelly, on using artificial intelligence in recruiting
And a new voice in recruiting
“I think my accent is pretty good and has gotten better throughout the recruiting process. It depends on if I’m in northern Louisiana or southern Louisiana. Sometimes I get over to Lake Charles, it’s got to change a little bit.” — Kelly, on his newly acquired Southern drawl
Money is the problem, you say?
“You have to be careful what you create as the monster that is college athletics. … Unfortunately, we’re in a time now, everybody’s fighting over the dollar.” — Fisher, whose contract would pay him $95 million through 2031, on realignment and schools being spread apart in different conferences
Divine design intervention
“If God wanted a [multicolored] sunset, He’d have made it purple, green, yellow, black, red. He made it orange. When the sun rises, it’s burnt orange. It’s perfect.” –– Texas Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte, on if Texas will have alternate uniforms
One last year of Big 12 hate
Big 12 commish doesn’t hide rooting interests in Texas Tech vs. Texas
Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark tells Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire to “take care of business” against Texas before the Longhorns go to the SEC.
“I think that they’ve kind of assumed this mentality of, ‘Embrace the hate.’ We get it. We’re the University of Texas, we get it. This is our last year in the Big 12. We can sit there and be a punching bag, or we can go attack the people that we’re going to play.” — Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian
“Are you basing that — it depends on what we’re basing that on. Are we basing that on history? Are we basing that on the last five years? Are we basing that on the last 50 years? I’m not sure how anybody really comes up with who’s a favorite right now. … I think one of the fun things about the Big 12 is we don’t really know who’s going to win based on what’s happening in the last few years.” — Oklahoma State Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, on if Texas deserves to be the Big 12 favorite this season
“The Bedlam game is over because Oklahoma chose to leave the Big 12, period. It’s got nothing to do with Oklahoma State.” — Gundy, on the end of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry
“Coach [McGuire], I’m not going to put any pressure on you, but I’m gonna be in Austin for Thanksgiving, OK? And you’d better take care of business like you did right here in Lubbock last year.” — Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, speaking at Texas Tech’s Red Raider Club in Lubbock, encouraging Tech to beat Texas for a second straight year in the Longhorns’ last Big 12 game before they depart for the SEC
“These so-called blue bloods — and I really question that. One of them’s really good in Olympic sports. … There is an opportunity to put the Red Raiders at the forefront of this conference, and I don’t want to wait ’til 2024 when it’s a new conference. It’s more important to do it in 2023 when those old two are still here so they can understand exactly who runs the Big 12.” — Texas Tech Red Raiders coach Joey McGuire, at the same event, on Texas and Oklahoma
“Bo’s not just our quarterback, he’s also my babysitter. I walked in the house the other day, and my wife was out with some of the other coaches’ wives, I believe, and Bo’s in the living room. And I’m like, ‘What are you up to, man?’ He goes, ‘Oh, the boys just finished basketball practice. They’re getting ready for bed.'” — Lanning, on his relationship with Bo Nix
Don’t make them angry
“It’s why we have Finebaum, so he can motivate him every other year and say, ‘Oh, his dynasty is over and this is the end of Saban.’ Then we’re like, ‘Hey, thanks a lot for pissing him off.’ Paul’s always wrong on this subject, and he just did it again the other day: ‘If he doesn’t make the playoffs, he’s not any good as a coach.’ So, thanks Paul.” — Kiffin, on the yearly speculation that Nick Saban might not challenge for a title
Bama’s success depends on coaching changes, QB talent
On “SEC Now,” Chris Doering says the Tide will be taking a backseat to LSU but feels that recent coaching changes puts them on the path for success down the road.
It just means more
“They stayed healthy, they had a lot of experience and they got to where they had to get to. And then when they got to the SEC, it changed, didn’t it?” –– Fisher, speaking to the Fort Worth Texas A&M Club about TCU’s season
“I know Jimbo well enough to know he’s a pro and he wouldn’t disparage anyone else’s success or a bunch of 18- and 22-year-old kids’ success, so I’m sure that was a small part of the comment that he made.” — TCU coach Sonny Dykes, to the Dallas Morning News
Oh, and by the way
“Missouri was playing in a lot of Big 12 championships. Haven’t seen that much in the SEC. A&M was a competitive program, not as often now. I don’t know about you, but UCLA and Rutgers feels like a natural rivalry to me.” — Dykes, at Big 12 media day on how realignment has changed college football
They know what they like
“I think the thing I love the most after my wife and my kids are slot receivers. They are typically one of the most productive positions in the offense.” –– New Wisconsin Badgers offensive coordinator Phil Longo, who will be running an Air Raid offense at the traditionally ground-based program, at the team’s local media day
“A lawnsman! That’s what I do. Mowing the lawn is one of the great feelings I have in life. It accomplishes three things: I’m clearing my mind or thinking of new plays; I feel good about what I accomplish; and I either make money or I save money.” — Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh, to Sports Illustrated, on what he would be if he wasn’t a football coach
Biff hates sleeves
Poggi made it clear what you see is what you get when it comes to his game-day attire.
And finally, on sleeves, or lackthereof, and Dante’s Inferno. pic.twitter.com/SAGttlZrY4
— Nick Carboni (@NickCarboniWCNC) August 4, 2023
Topics to avoid
“For a while there I thought it was interesting, but I’m almost considering the NIL and the portal like religion and politics where it’s not even worth discussing because we don’t necessarily have a rhyme or reason for what’s happening.” — Gundy, whose Oklahoma State team lost 17 scholarship players to the transfer portal this year
Hacking the transfer portal
“I have DMs, I have WhatsApp, I have text messages, I have IP addresses, and I am doing everything in my power to make sure they know — don’t screw with my roster.” — New UAB Blazers coach Trent Dilfer, on how he’s trying to protect his players from tampering
Words for all of us to live by this season
“I will continue to do what I always tell our players and my kids at home, ‘Don’t get bitter, get better.'” — Harbaugh, on Michigan’s self-imposed three-game suspension for him to begin the season after alleged NCAA violations during the COVID-19 dead period