Why coaches close practice to the media and public

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Will Muschamp does it. Gus Malzahn will follow suit after Gene Chizik already started it, and Bret Bielema recently initiated it at Arkansas.

Head coaches on college football’s biggest stage are closing more practices and scrimmages and making information less available to the media and the public than ever before.

Why?

Not only is there pressure to win now, as coaches are given minimal time to rebuild their teams and programs in today’s college football era, but the increasing realization of news like Johnny Manziel’s ‘shove heard round the world’ only escalates the probability that other than a couple hand-selected, dumbed down walkthrough practices and spring games, no information will be released other than through the head coach – in the spring or fall.

“To be honest with you I didn’t see it — I heard about it,” Sumlin said to the San Antonio Express News in respect to The Shove. “People make a big deal out of stuff like that. But things happen all the time in football. I don’t think it’s that big of a story.”

To keep ‘things that happen all the time in football’ out of the media, coaches have no choice to make it unavailable to the media. It’s a necessary evil.

The media hates limited access, but secrecy and keeping all aspects in-house, especially away from the Twitter-verse, has become a massive factor in today’s college football game. Everyone is a reporter, all the time.

Beat writers  love to gain an intimate knowledge of the upcoming team by witnessing practices and scrimmages – not to mention it’s their job and their passion. But allowing very select access other than the spring game is the only way to conduct business as usual in today’s rapidly evolving world of college football.

Not only do coaches have to protect crucial details surrounding players, personnel packages and groupings, but they now have to shield their players at all times, especially their Heisman winning quarterbacks, who at times gets the unfair TMZ-like treatment. (It’s also important to note that players have a hand in the TMZ-like coverage via Twitter and Instagram).

And players fight during practice, and things get heated when pads start popping; that’s college football and part of being a 20-year-old testosterone-pumping young man. Football is a passion unlike any other sport, and coaches have to protect their players – especially their star players – from anything like The Shove getting blown out of proportion or wrongful information being spread from ‘a shove’ to ‘a punch’.

Members of the media, big money boosters, die-hard fans and even parents dish out criticism and skepticism when coaches close practices, but when heated exchanges, fights or unnecessary information get leaked through the media, everyone starts to understand the reasoning and the foundation behind it.

All coaches may have different reasons for closing practices, but the one common theme is to limit the amount of information produced. Look for more coaches to move in this direction, if they’re not there already.

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

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