A Chat with David Ubben

With the upcoming release of the latest Art Briles book ""Beating Goliath", David Ubben received an advance copy. We asked him about his thoughts on the book and other news around college athletics.

BearsIllustrated.com caught up with David Ubben, FOXSports Southwest columnist and analyst. Ubben has been involved with the Big 12 for quite a while, previously with ESPN and the Big 12 blog.

---What was the most surprising thing you did not know that was in the book (outside of death threats)?

In recent years, Art has been more open about his parents' death, but as much as he's traveled and recruited across the state of Texas, I found it fascinating that he'd never driven the stretch of US Highway 380 from Rule to Dallas.

I could see how it might be painful, but I also wonder if it might be cathartic for him. Either way, I found it surprising. I wonder how much he has to adjust his routes to account for that if he goes home to Rule or if his travels take him that way.

Still, I found that surprising and a reminder of how real wounds like that can remain even decades later.

---What was your favorite or maybe most memorable part of the book for you?

Every coach says it, but I'm always intrigued when coaches live out about the very personal responsibility they feel for their players' lives. I couldn't help but think about the way Gary Patterson handled Casey Pachall in 2012 when Art talked about trying to help Josh Gordon out when he was kicked out of the university. Dino Babers helped him land at Utah, and even after he left that program, Briles incessantly beat down the doors of NFL staffs preaching just how good Gordon was.

The only reason? He knew Gordon was talented, and he felt like he would have failed him if he didn't get a chance to prove it. Briles kept telling teams that Gordon was a first-round talent if he hadn't struggled with off the field problems, and though those have still been an issue, his on-field performance backs up Briles' assertion.

---Have you read Briles other book "Looking Up" which was released last year, and if so, what is different about this new book?

I didn't get to read that book since it came out during the season and I was quite a bit busier, but this one is written in Art's voice, which I'm sure makes it a lot more personal.

---In your dealings with Coach Briles, what are your general thoughts of him?

His general openness and easy-going nature always make him a pleasure to deal with. So many coaches operate with the attitude that the media serves them no purpose and is out to get them, which leads to an unnecessary combative relationship, which doesn't make my job enjoyable and I'm sure it has a similar effect for them as well. That's never been the case with Art, and I appreciate that.

---Is Briles the great interview that he appears to be with his Brileism's and random hobbies?

Yeah, you're always going to get a lot of color with him. Other coaches do a little better job breaking down the Xs and Os in a way that's easy to relay to readers, but some of that might be strategic on his part. I don't know where he gets all the Brilesisms, but he needs to keep them coming.

---From the first time you visited Baylor as a reporter to now, what are some of the changes you have seen?

Well, there's that whole stadium thing you might have heard about, but on a basic level, the athletes on defense are the biggest thing that stick out to me every time I see a practice. It's night and day compared to what I saw when I first saw a practice in the spring of 2010.

One interesting note: The first time I ever came to Waco or Baylor was back in 2008, and I coincidentally saw Robert Griffin III's first-ever interception on what he hoped was a game-winning drive against Missouri. Mizzou didn't play a lot of nail biters that year, but covering that game was a lot of fun. Driving back to Missouri that night was less fun.

---What is the biggest difference between then and now?

The Allison Center and the facilities were always nice, but the obvious believability now when Art talks about doing big things makes everything he and his players say sound so much different. You knew RG3 was a transcendent player, but back then, they were just hoping to make a bowl, and who really knew if they could continue building after he left? Well, they did. Maybe you thought he was crazy when he was talking about Baylor winning a Big 12 title.

Now, anyone who did knows better than to think he's crazy when he talks about Baylor maybe winning a national title. It's not that insane.

---With the O'Bannon trial ongoing, what are your thoughts on paying players and the benefits that they are requesting?

It's a difficult debate. There simply shouldn't be a debate on cost of attendance. That needs to get done like, yesterday.

I do think players should be paid, but it probably ought to be some kind of open market system where players can earn outside of what the university gives them. That sort of opens up the problem of deep-pocketed boosters, but it needs to happen. There's zero reason Johnny Manziel should get paid the same as A&M's third-string center.

He's made the university millions upon millions of dollars, and sure, he'll be able to make a lot in the NFL, too, but what about guys like Collin Klein who make tons of money for the school and DON'T get an NFL career? He was one of the most popular players in the game when he played. He should have been able to monetize that somehow.

Considering how many athletic departments operate at a deficit, it may require some changes, but it should happen because it's what's right. Yes, a scholarship has value, and that's a big deal for some guys. Limiting it to that for other guys is legitimately criminal.

Trying to argue that guys like Klein, RG3, Manziel or other hugely marketable talents should not be paid something more than the cost of attendance is, quite simply, an indefensible position. Trying to make that happen is intensely complicated, and I'm glad I don't have to be on the ground level trying to sort out the details, but guys like that deserve more than 20 or $30,000 a year. That's absurd. In no other field or area in America is capitalism so callously cast aside.

---What are your thoughts on the playoff and how it is currently setup? Do you think it will expand sooner rather than later?

I like the playoff. I'm honestly shocked it's happening. I'd sort of given up on seeing it in my lifetime. The committee is going to be complicated and I'm not a huge fan of how imprecise the criteria for the playoff will be, but it's going to be a ton of fun and produce a ton of money and popularity for the game.

... which will lead to an eight-team playoff that will produce even more money and popularity to the game. I don't think we'll see it expand beyond that, however. If that happens, then you truly do run the risk of diluting the importance of the regular season. When CFB's powers that be talk about the game having the best regular season in sports, they're absolutely correct. It's worth diluting it a little bit to make the postseason a lot better, but you can't go 16 teams and make it too easy to crack the playoff.

---What's your take on all the changes Fox Sports has made in hiring people such as yourself and some of the national personalities like Bruce Feldman, Tim Brando and Stewart Mandel in the last few months?

It's great to see. Those guys are all knowledgeable, connected talents who are going to make Fox a great place to work this fall.


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