Behind Closed Doors

Richt closes practice to the media, much to his delight

College Football Preview: Week 4

> The Red Zone  |  Tape It Up  |  Strike The Pose  |  Breaking The Code
> Amsinger: Picks  |  Sorenson: 10 Questions  |  Braff: Tebow Up, McCoy Down
> Hart: Behind Closed Doors  |  Curtis: Crystal Ball Blitz  |  Alberts: Blackshirt Blues  |  Worst BCS Conf.
> Williams: Michigan Barely Has A Chance  |  B.J.: An Open Letter To Karl Dorrell
> Caparell: Honest Steve Spurrier  |  Blackburn: Alridge About The Bling  |  Crystal Ball: Predictions

Sept. 19, 2007

By Tom Hart

Special to



Tom Hart calls football play-by-play for CSTV and is a contributor to
E-mail here!



What do you mean you don't really care?  If you're a Georgia fan, don't you need daily updates on the development and cohesiveness of the unproven offensive line?  What about Matthew Stafford?  Isn't it important that you know how many passes he completed in Tuesday's practice?  How does Knowshon Moreno look? 




If you're a Georgia fan, you probably are anxious for all of that information and more.  But you're also anxious for a win at Alabama, which has only happened once before.  If you're a true Georgia fan, you understand that what's best for the team this week is that you (and all of those snooping `Bama fans) are kept in the dark.


A win in front of 92,138 maniacs at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and there isn't a game left on the schedule that is un-winnable.  A loss, and young psyches may be shot.


In Tuesday's press conference the local media spent more than 20 minutes asking Richt about the decision to close his practices.  I'm sure they felt slighted, since it's the biggest week of the young season and their editors want inches they won't be able to provide.


But what happened over a 30 minute Q&A with Richt showed why he is one of the bright minds in college football.  Richt answered every question confidently.  Sometimes he responded with a laugh, and always with a smile.


About midway through I realized this was exactly the line of questioning the coach wanted.  He wasn't asked about the gameplan for Alabama.  He wasn't forced to address his offensive shortcomings or Mike Bobo's play calling.  Instead, he used the term "Loose lips sink ships" to explain why he can't afford a Titanic.


Who says coaches aren't teachers?  Mark Richt just taught a roomful of reporters PR 101. 


Everybody closes practice at some point or another.  Even with a credential, you might be able to witness some stretching at most major schools. When Watson Brown was at UAB he couldn't close practice because the school's faculty needed access to the walking track. The practice field isn't even fenced off.


Pete Carroll doesn't close his practices in L.A.  Richt opined that with USC's talent, it doesn't matter.  The Trojans did, however, have to hide on the baseball field of a high school for their Friday walk through in Nebraska when hordes of `Husker fans showed up at the local football field.


Closing practice matters to one group:  the media.  At Georgia they're so upset they couldn't focus on their job today, instead letting a smart coach lead them down a road to nowhere.


Poll Position


For the first time this season I realized the duty of filling out my AP Top 25 poll is hard work.  Just like preparing to call a game, most of the work occurs during the week before any games are played, but that doesn't make Saturday any less busy.


In Oklahoma to call a Saturday night shootout between BYU and Tulsa, my headquarters for the weekend was the Tulsa Doubletree.


Here's the timeline, central time zone:


11:00 am:  Our production crew gathers for a mid-morning production meeting.  The hotel bar is closed, so we sneak in to the only part of the hotel with Direct TV and put CSTV's Chick-fil-A SEC Football Tailgate on while we meet.  Those guys have an RV.  We're driving around Tulsa in a pickup truck.  A couple of Arkansas fans have the same idea and have commandeered the other bar TV to watch some early games. 


Noon: My partner Trev Alberts and I hit the Brookside area for a relaxing lunch surrounded by TVs tuned to the early games. There are a ton of football fans with the same idea, and one gives Trev a USC salute as we leave.


2:00-6:00 pm: My hotel TV features Florida-Tennessee for the better part of the afternoon. It seems this game is over when Britton Colquitt outkicks his coverage and Florida returns the punt for a 7-0 lead two minutes in. 


I soon opt for Washington-Ohio State.  I've had my eyes on the Huskies, and if they can win at home they'll take a significant leap in my poll - or at least confirm they belong in the Top 10.  I'm not so sure about the Buckeyes - or the Big Ten as a whole - but they answer the road challenge in front of a boisterous crowd. 


6:00 pm: Time to head to Skelly Field for this Tulsa-BYU shootout. On the field before the game we're greeted by BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl. The Cougars lost to UCLA the week before, and now the team that beat them is getting smashed by the Cougars' bitter rivals. We share the score with Kehl, and he isn't sure how to react. 


8:00 pm:  Kickoff in Tulsa, and before we know it both teams have traded a pair of touchdowns. I overpaid for my cell phone, but at least I can get scores. For some reason Trev wants updates on USC-Nebraska. I can't afford to blink, though, or I'll miss another score in this game.


Midnight:  It was a four-hour game, and the only place to eat in Tulsa at this time is a place called Taco Bueno. It is not bueno. I go in with a few guys on the crew and we return with some cold beverages and a sack full of tacos.


We stay up late watching as many highlights as possible, but I have a flight in the morning and need to get my poll in by noon. Here's what I came up with:


LSU's win over Virginia Tech still resonates, so I keep them at the top.  I'm not sure why so many experts thought Nebraska was going to give USC a game. 


Boston College's win on the flats was impressive.  I realized at about 1:00 am that I need to learn more about Oregon.  Their game wasn't televised in Tulsa, but I have it DVR'd and will watch it when I get home.  No. 12 is more than fair for this squad.


I rewarded Jim Leavitt's USF team last week when they won at Auburn by putting them in my poll.  What I'm seeing though, is that most teams make their debut in the polls only after a week of national media attention. 


Nick Saban just guaranteed the insanity will continue in Alabama with a wild win against Arkansas. I put the Tide at No. 17. I kept tabs on that Wisconsin-The Citadel game while dining on a fried chicken sandwich and was fully prepared to dump the Badgers from my poll. Listen, the Big Ten has had enough trouble with the SoCon - at least Michigan lost to the best team in that conference.


The most difficult part of my poll this week is the final five. I'm not sure the Hokies deserve to be here, but I'm also not sure this is real ground beef in these tacos. Hesitantly, I choose to believe both.


I was happy to put Air Force in my Top 25. Troy Calhoun's team scored a program defining win Thursday night on CSTV against TCU. They also beat Utah, and we know what the Utes did to UCLA. 


This week I added Alabama, Oregon, and Air Force. I dropped Nebraska, TCU and Washington. 


I promise to take a closer look at Texas A&M, Oregon, Virginia Tech and Boise State this week. 


I'm coming closer to setting this thing in stone.  What I mean is I feel that after this week most teams will be pretty well defined. We'll soon get to the point of judging all teams on more than the outcome of their games, but also the strength of their competition.

1.       LSU

2.       USC

3.       West Virginia

4.       Oklahoma

5.       Florida

6.       California

7.       Penn State

8.       Ohio State

9.       Rutgers

10.    Texas

11.    Boston College

12.    Oregon

13.    South Carolina

14.    USF

15.    Missouri

16.    Clemson

17.    Alabama

18.    Kentucky

19.    Wisconsin

20.    Arkansas

21.    Virginia Tech

22.    Air Force

23.    Louisville

24.    Georgia Tech

25.    Texas A&M