Leach prepares for war at Media Day

Mike Leach

The Pac-12's coaches got their chance to shine in front of the media Tuesday ... and Mike Leach stole the show.

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — The Pac-12 Conference kicked off its 2012 Media Day at a venue known for great entertainment. For one day, however, Universal Studios' "Transformers: The Ride 3-D" took second billing to college football head coaches and players.

We got some smack, a 2012 fashion teaser, a shot at an unidentified team, bewilderment and a history lesson all from the coaches of the Conference of Champions.


Rich Rodriguez thinks his offense will fit just fine in the Pac-12.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez was an instant hit with his quick wit and seemingly genuine answers. Asked if he thought his offensive schemes would fit better in the Pac-12 than they did at Michigan, Rodriquez replied with a slight smile and indignation.

"Of course I'm biased, (but) I think it can fit anywhere," he said.

So there you have it, Wildcats fans. His offense is beyond reproach, so don't you dare question it.

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and his players were a tad tardy taking the podium, but they made up for it with snarky, fun exchanges with the media.

I asked Kelly and the players he brought with him -- Kenjon Barner and Michael Clay -- what new uniforms the Ducks had in the works. I also asked if they thought some other programs -- no names, please -- had taken the concept too far. Barner, elected the trio's spokesman, hinted there were new uniforms but wouldn't give away any top-clearance information.

"I will be careful when I answer this question," Barner said. "As far as the uniforms, who knows what to expect -- it's Oregon."

Then he addressed the second part of the question: "I look at (other) teams and kind of wonder what, exactly, was the reasoning behind it?"

UCLA head coach Jim Mora pretended to be a novice at answering questions in front of a large media gathering. Or was he just playing us? Asked by Dave Hirsch, the Pac-12's vice president/communications, to provide an opening statement, Mora responded, "What's that?"


Jim Mora's Bruins picked up two first-place votes for the Pac-12 South in the preseason poll.

It's worth noting that UCLA received two first-place votes in the Pac-12 South preseason poll of media who cover the league. If UCLA is starting a "Bruin Mystique" campaign, we're all for it. The Pac-12 just loves surprises.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach cruised in, docked his ship and swung his sword with a huge holler right before the first break of the media session. No words can capture the sheer genius of this man's answers -- they literally defy description. He's the perfect straight man in a comedy routine, but you do wonder if he realizes just how damn funny he is.

Leach is daring, as well. He brought quarterback Jeff Tuel and defensive end Travis Long to media day. Keep in mind, Long was arrested on a minor-in-possession charge (while reportedly with Tuel) this past weekend. Most coaches would make a last-minute substitution at the podium, but not Leach -- he brought that Pullman swag. And swung it.

SB Nation reporter Scott Enyeart might have asked the best question of the day. Leach's tales of recent bear hunting with Mike Pawlaski over the spring prompted Enyeart to ask Leach which Pac-12 coach would be the best bear-hunting or fishing partner. After the media's laughter ceased, Leach mulled it as if he was being asked to define a paradigm shift.

"Good question," he said in all earnestness. "Let's think about that carefully because we don't want to get this one wrong."

Leach then proceeded to think aloud while ticking off the list of Pac-12 coaches. Rich Rodriguez and Kyle Whittingham made Leach's final cut because Rodriguez "spent a lot of time in West Virginia" and there was "potential rub-off there."

Ultimately, Whittingham was declared the winner by Leach because, although he wasn't "sure of what his hunting skills are," he's "sandwiched between a bunch of mountains" and "he's a tenacious guy" who's been there awhile.


Mike Leach named Utah's Kyle Whittingham the Pac-12 coach he'd most like to hunt with.

Southern Cal's Lane Kiffin, for what's it's worth, was not considered.

While Leach was answering this question in great length, neither Tuel nor Long could contain their amusement. But the fun was just starting. A question was posed by a fan via social media: Which military leaders or generals would you compare Jeff (Tuel) and Travis (Long) to?

Prepare yourselves. Here's Leach's answer, and it's priceless:

"Jeff and Travis ... let me think about this. I'm really more of a Civil War guy ... if I were to select wars. Let me think here. ... You know, I would have to say that Jeff would be a little more like Stonewall Jackson. (Tuel) gets a hold of the play, attacks from different angles. The cavalry is over here ... no, we're here ... he's not afraid to split the force and (have the offense) attack from different angles."

As for Long?

"Travis is more of a Ulysses S. Grant guy," Leach said. "He's in the trenches, and if it requires bombarding Vicksburg for a month, he's fully prepared to do it. Gets down in the stance, going to guard the river, going to bombard them till they bust, providing he keeps his pads low and," Leach turns to Long, "we're going to focus on that, right?"

Leach isn't done yet. And we want more.

"Of course, the bombardment will be shorter and just 'bash ... bash.'"

If Leach had a sword, it would be swinging like a pendulum.

"(Long is) the quieter guy. So you know, (he's) just kind of steady. Quiet, steady persistence. So I guess that's how I would split them up."

The Pac-12 is officially at DEFCON 1.

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