Pac-10 Media Day a light hearted affair

LOS ANGELES--History was made when the Pac-10 released their media poll at the annual Media Day on Wednesday. For the first time in the history of the conference, the Washington State Cougars were named the pre-season favorite to win the conference title. Here is a look at the goings on at Media Day.

The poll:
1. Washington State (17) 302
2. Washington (12) 296
3. Oregon (1) 272
4. USC (3) 243
5. Oregon State (1) 207
6. UCLA 178
7. Stanford 131
8. ARIZONA 107
9. Arizona State 87
10. California 47

WASHINGTON STATE

Mike Price and quarterback Jason Gesser were like a comedic duo bantering back and forth in front of the collected West Coast media.

"You finally got it right," Price said. "First time in 41 group. You must be smarter this year."

He turned to his prized signal caller and quipped, "How many points is this worth? Do we get an extra touchdown per game?"

The dean of Pac-10 coaches then ribbed Gesser about his inability to slide. He told the story of how he tried to get the baseball coach to show Gesser how to slide, and even brought out a Slip ‘n' Slide for him to play on.

Gesser mentioned that he never lost a game in high school and Price returned, "Yeah, I showed him something early on."

WASHINGTON

The toughness of Cody Pickett was a major topic. Coach Rick Neuheisel mentioned that Pickett is a bull rider and then discussed the injured shoulder that his quarterback had to play with all last season. They had a signal system where after a big hit Pickett would slyly give him a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If it was thumbs down they would run the ball. Pickett always went thumbs up, even while obviously wincing in pain.

"There were hits that would hurt healthy quarterbacks and here he was with a thumbs up," Neuheisel said. "That's a quarterback for you."

"I always want to throw the ball," Pickett said.

The Huskies had fifteen off-season surgeries, including at least six players with shoulder injuries.

"We had Husky Day at the hospital," Neuheisel joked. "They had streamers and balloons for us.

OREGON

For the second straight year an Oregon Duck will be emblazoned on the side of a building in Manhattan. Last year it was Joey Harrington, this year Harrington's favorite target Keenan Howry is the recipient of the hype.

"He isn't 15 stories tall, but he sometimes plays like it," head coach Mike Bellotti said.

Arizona coach John Mackovic believes that the billboard helps the conference as a whole by giving it exposure on the east coast.

"It made a statement," Mackovic said.

The Ducks are optimistic about finding a quarterback to replace Harrington. Jason Fife heads into fall camp as the number one quarterback and the team has rallied behind him, naming him one of the team's best leaders in the spring.

"People around here believe there is life after Joey," Bellotti said.

CALIFORNIA

New Cal coach Jeff Tedford had the unenviable task of telling his seniors that due to past rules infractions the team would not be eligible to play in a bowl game this season.

"It was a pretty bad day to hear that news," Tedford said. "It was tough to break the news to our 25 seniors."

One of those seniors is quarterback Kyle Boller who alluded to the fact that the change of coaches was a good thing for the program.

"The biggest difference is that the players respect coach Tedford," Boller said. "He came in and took care of business. He brought in a new staff and took care of some of the problems at Cal."

USC

Trojan coach Pete Carroll had the day's funniest story. While visiting the Coliseum in Rome, Carroll decided to snap a few comedic photos at the "50-yard line". Carroll had his shirt off and was flexing when a USC alum came up and asked for a photo.

"I'm sure those photos will pop up in the internet somewhere," Carroll said.

USC safety Troy Polamalu said he returned for his senior year because of one thing.

"A big bowl would be a nice way to end my career," Polamalu said. "Something better than the Las Vegas Bowl."

UCLA

After last season's collapse, the Bruins are looking for better things in 2002. Not only did the Bruins struggle down the stretch, but they had a few high profile discipline problems.

"I am so looking forward to this season," Bob Toledo said. "We want to put last season behind us."

Two players could see duty on both sides of the ball. Defensive back Matt Ware could see time at wide receiver, while freshman tight end Mercedes Lewis could get looks at defensive end on passing downs. Lewis will also compete for the Bruins' basketball team.

STANFORD

New coach Buddy Teevens is promising a lot of passing for the Cardinal offense. He said that it is possible that they could throw 50 passes a game. He mentioned that three running backs came to his office after the introductory press conference to make sure that they would still run the ball.

Defensive lineman Matt Leonard explained the difference between Teevens and old coach Tyrone Willingham.

"You wouldn't bring him home to dinner because he scares you," Leonard said of his former coach. Holding his hand chest high he said, "He's this tall and he still scares you. He was like the general of his squad. Coach Teevens is more like a father figure to his team."

"Matt will definitely start this year," Teevens said laughing.

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E-mail Brad at Heymtymte@cs.com


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