One of the most frustrating things for reporters is not being allowed to talk to the breakout players, the game-changers, the ones making the electric passes, catches, runs or tackles that made the difference in the game.
Recently for Alabama, the two stars have been true freshmen wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon. They combined for 291 yards and four touchdowns on 22 touches against Tennessee and have been wowing fans and media alike all season. Cooper leads the team in receiving yards (425) and Yeldon is just six yards short of passing Eddie Lacy to lead the team in rushing (565).
But per head coach Nick Saban’s policy, reporters aren’t allowed to talk to freshmen. Several coaches have similar rules, but Monday morning, Saban was asked why he implemented these media restrictions.
A question like that could easily lead to an outburst, but instead, Saban laughed and told a story about Plaxico Burress trash talking when he was a freshman at Michigan State of all things.
“I guess I can tell you the story,” Saban said, smiling. “We were at Michigan State and Plaxico Burress was a freshman and I love Plaxico, don’t get me wrong. He was a great player for us. We were going to play Michigan at Michigan, which is the biggest game of the year. I let freshmen talk to the media. He says, “Yeah, going down there will be like taking candy from a baby.’
“So, he just about got killed. They tried to kill him down there for 60 minutes in the game. We didn’t win the game.”
And that was that. Saban learned a lesson that day and said no more freshmen for reporters.
Saban said Alabama has a public relations program the players have to go through starting on the first day of fall camp every year where Sports Information Director Jeff Purinton teaches them how to represent themselves positively while being interviewed, etc.
“We’re not trying to hold them back from anything,” Saban said. “We want to help them develop the skills necessary that they need to represent themselves in a first-class way.
“I think it takes a little pressure off them when they don’t have to talk to the media. Because they worry about it…especially if they’re not prepared for it.
“I know in some cases when you have a guy that has a lot of success as a freshman, the media would like to have the opportunity to talk to him. But I’m for protecting our players and helping them develop. We eventually want that guy to be able to talk to the media and do a good job with it.”
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