What do opposite approaches of Gus Malzahn, Bruce Pearl mean for SEC Country readers?
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Gus Malzahn and Bruce Pearl appear to be totally opposite as to how they approach media obligations, closed and open books, respectively. Does that cause you to approach them differently for your job? And how?
CGM and CBP appear to be totally opposite as to how they approach media obligations, closed and open books, respectively.
Does that cause you to approach them differently for your job? And how?
— Ryon Register (@Ryon_Register) March 7, 2018
AUBURN, Ala. — Ryon is one of the many people who have noticed the different approaches Gus Malzahn and Bruce Pearl take when it comes to their media interactions.
This is a great question. Probably one that reporters from various outlets would give you varying takes on. I can’t speak for everyone (not even my colleagues Justin Ferguson and Benjamin Wolk), but I can tell you my experience and opinion.
You’re correct that the styles of the two coaches cause us to handle football and men’s basketball differently. First, I think it’s important to understand the relevance of the two programs.
In the Southeast, no matter what school, football is king. That’s the way it’s always been and likely how it always will be. In a state like Alabama, where there’s no pro teams, that’s especially true.
Before Auburn basketball’s NCAA Tournament run this season, the Tigers had gone nearly two decades without a trip to the Big Dance. Basketball — outside of the occasional mention from Charles Barkley — was irrelevant.
Pearl, who I believe is one of the smartest college coaches in the country when it comes to marketing his program, did everything in his power to showcase his players and how much work was going into the turnaround in Auburn Arena.
It’s why you saw Pearl going into classrooms with the marching band, stopping by lunches for students and suggesting his players stand at exits to say hello to fans after certain home games every season. Any chance Pearl had inject personality, fun and life into Auburn basketball’s brand — he’s taken it.
There are a couple of reasons why Malzahn doesn’t have to be as open. First, he doesn’t have to. It matters little if the head football coach interacts with students or shows his sense of humor. Fans will still pile into Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturdays in the fall. Say what you want about Auburn football’s success since 2013, but the last few years a conference championship, and by effect a national championship, has been well within Auburn’s grasp.
Secondly, Malzahn has reason to be more cautious. In some cases, I would argue that it actually hurts Malzahn to be more open with outsiders. While the cautiousness at times seems a little overboard, and less of it would make my job a lot easier, I understand the thinking that he has to be careful.
Every single move he makes, and every step his program takes, is compared to Alabama, Georgia, LSU and other college football powerhouses. Every action impacts recruiting. Everything is under insane scrutiny. No matter what Auburn does, it’s always trying to earn more respect on a national level. That’s the deal when the initial comparison is Alabama.
Directly as it relates to our work at SEC Country, football generally means more standard news and stories. Not being able to talk to players means we have to seek out their families, friends and high school coaches for feature stories. It means prewriting news that we know is coming, but waiting on for official confirmation.
It means that when it comes to football, we have to work much harder to come up with creative stories and angles. Unfortunately at times, it means writing about even the most insignificant piece of news simply because it qualifies as news and we have a job to do. Often times, it means historical pieces. It means developing relationships with former players. Quite honestly, sometimes it means more frustration and less fun.
There are stories that we would like to tell, but won’t be able to. Players we would like to talk to who won’t be brought in front of media enough during their careers. The way Malzahn approaches things is his way of protecting his players and his program. The flip side of that is that it prohibits some of our options and likely best work.
It means that reporters seek out information from sources that Malzahn doesn’t appreciate. It creates conflict directly and indirectly.
Every college sports beat in the country is unique, but at Auburn that’s especially the case. Knowing what to expect and how to go about your work is critical, and a lot of that has to do with the two men in charge of two programs on the Plains.