Bruce Plasket Interview, Part III

As a writer for the Daily Times-Call in Longmont, Bruce Plasket reported on the so-called CU recruiting scandal last year. Last fall, Plasket was granted behind-the-scenes access to the Colorado football team and wrote a series of stories for the Longmont paper. Plasket is currently writing a book about what he observed the past year. Inside, Part III of a three-part interview with the journalist, where he talks about how he gained exclusive access to the team and some of what he learned.

Bruce Plasket Interview, Part I

Bruce Plasket Interview, Part II

Bruce Plasket worked the past 10 years as metro bureau reporter for the Daily Times-Call in Longmont. After covering the so-called CU recruiting scandal last spring and summer, Plasket had the idea to go behind the scenes with the Colorado football team and write about what went on during the week leading up to the beleaguered squad's first game with in-state rival Colorado State.

That idea turned into a season-long series Plasket wrote for the Daily Times-Call called "Third and Long." (link to series at end of interview).

Plasket has also decided to write a book about what he observed in and around the CU football team over the past year.

"There's really two stories here," Plasket said. "There's the so-called scandal story and the football season story."

He's in the process of weaving those two stories together into a book, which he's given the working title "Three Hours on Saturday."

Buffalo Sports News: When did you approach Gary Barnett to see if you could follow the team and write your behind-the-scenes Third and Long series for the Times-Call?
Bruce Plasket:
In late August, probably a week or so before the CSU game, I got this wild idea and I pitched it to my bosses. Then I thought I'd pitch it to Barnett. I didn't know if either one would go for it.

There was a little bit of trepidation with my office. But then one of our assistant city editors said, ‘I not only think we should do it, we should do it for the whole season.' I said, ‘OK, let me pitch Barnett.'

I left Barnett a voice mail saying what I wanted to do, and I said, ‘If you're open to that, give me a call and we'll work out the details.'

I went somewhere and left my phone at home. When I got back I had a voice mail from him and it said, ‘Bruce, got your voice mail. Yeah, you're in. Bye.'

So I called him back and said, ‘Let's talk here. That's a pretty cryptic message.'

He said, ‘Yeah, bye.'

I said, ‘What do you mean, "Yeah, bye"?'

He said, ‘I mean, yeah.'

I said, ‘I'm talking about unfettered access to everything.'

He goes, ‘You got it.'

I said, ‘So this is our conversation about working out the details?'

He said, ‘Unless you have something else to talk about, yes.'

And I said, ‘Well, I guess we're done then.' And we just laughed about it.

That's how that went.

BSN: So what was the degree of your access to the team? What did you do with them and when were you around them?
I was frequently at practice, especially later in the week. As the week went on, I went to offense meetings, defense meetings, special teams meetings, the Thursday night meeting after practice. I went to the dinner Friday night. To the Friday night offensive and defensive team meetings. To the breakfasts on Saturday mornings, the chapel on Saturday mornings. Offense and defense team meetings Saturday.

On all road games, I road the bus with them (to the game). I usually rode in the offense bus with (offensive coordinator) Shawn Watson.

I also took the bus with them to the (home) CSU game because I wanted to see the response from them and the reaction. These kids had been chomping at that bit for so long, I wanted to see how they responded. See how the public responded.

I was in the locker room during all the pre-games, halftimes and afterwards. Just about everything you can think of.

I didn't fly with them because they use smaller planes and they did not sell seats to the media this year.

BSN: How long did it take before the players and coaches were comfortable with you being there?
I think the coaches pretty much off the bat because they're more experienced and they knew. And Gary told them, ‘I trust this guy, he's a fair guy, or whatever.' I think the kids were probably a couple weeks in or something.

You have to just kind of be polite and not get in their faces. I wanted to spend the first couple of weeks just trying to be part of the furniture. And after the first couple of weeks, the kids never batted an eye. They'd see me at chapel, they'd see me at breakfast.

I missed chapel when I slept in on the road once. One of the coaches asked me where I was.

I wanted to go through the same ritual as them. I wanted to replicate it as best I could.

BSN: What surprised you the most about the experience of seeing what goes on behind the scenes?
What surprised me was the absolutely overwhelming commitment that it takes to go to school, do your homework and play DI football. I know they're limited to 20 hours a week (of practice). But it's not that 20 hours; it's the going to school on top of it, it's the voluntarily taking tape home on top of it and watching it, it's the workouts, it's the my time.

On weekends, from Friday practice on you're with the team all Friday night, you don't go home, all day Saturday. It's awfully time consuming until Saturday night.

So I just think the overwhelming nature of it all, and how hard you gotta work and how little time you have for anything else (was a surprise). And, of course, the freshmen, they have to be at breakfast at 7 o'clock every morning. That makes it tough.

I was just impressed that these kids held up under this kind of load. I thought, not only do they not get in trouble, I'm not certain they could find the time.

The other surprise was probably the same kind of thing. People look at (college) football players as people who work for three hours on Saturday. And they kind of have fun the rest of the time. But they work really, really hard for that three hours on Saturday. Of course, that's the best time of the week, but it's also the tiniest part of the week, physically.

BSN: What makes you think the book will have national appeal?
I think because most people have very little idea of the true nature of what happens inside a major college football team, whether it's written about Miami or Oklahoma or Texas or whoever. Among college football fans, that's a unique thing.

And I think going not just inside any college football team, but a team that's got this giant gun to its head and has all this stuff to overcome – I think that (will have appeal).

But I think most of all what makes it national are the issues of gender and race. If this happens in the most liberal town in America, what's going on everywhere else? What do we use these young African-American men for? Are they for three hours of entertainment on Saturday? Is this how they're treated everywhere? Or is this just Boulder?

If it's just Boulder, it needs to stop. If this is systematic throughout the country, it needs to stop.

Everyone needs to know what happened here. And everyone needs to know what kind of people — the football players, the coaches, the staff, the secretaries, everyone up there — what they're all about. I think (much of the public has) an erroneous view of who those people are and what they're like.

Third and Long Series

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