Coaches won’t forget Sept. 11

Big 12 coaches take a time out to reflect on life outside football.
Tuesday, September 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:58 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Coaches live in a small world. Wins and losses are most important, along with how to correct problems from one game to the next.

As the Big 12 Conference coaches prepare for games this Saturday, the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, they still carry vivid memories of the tragedies and the importance of events outside the sports world.

Three years ago, Iowa State was preparing to play Iowa when the attacks took place. Cyclones coach Dan McCarney said during Monday’s teleconference that before the NCAA announced games would be postponed, he had discussions with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz on how to honor the victims.

“I talked to Coach Ferentz on Tuesday about how to honor those who died in the tragedy, how to get everything lined up so we could best show respect,” McCarney said.

Two days later, the NCAA postponed all but a handful of games.

Kansas State’s Bill Snyder said after the shock of the events wore off, the emotions of whether to play took over.

“It was a difficult week,” Snyder said. “We were urged by the President not to allow the enemy to know that they caused as much concern as they hoped. Fortunately the decision was made for us.”

Snyder said he remembers being distracted from football by the scenes on television.

McCarney said it gave him a different view.

“Those tragedies put everything back into perspective,” McCarney said. “Everybody wants to win and help these young people, but it puts in perspective there are more important things than football games. We live in a small world of football, but we have to be cognizant of them.”

Many of the coaches try to know what happens outside the football world, whether it is Hurricane Frances, the war in Iraq or the upcoming election.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he struggles to stay current on the news, with the demands of his football program taking most of his time.

“I’m focused on winning games, that’s my job and what’s important,” Pinkel said. “It’s tough to get off your mind. I do know the war and the difficult things in Florida are more important than what we do, but my focus is on winning.”

Colorado’s Gary Barnett also has problems getting news updates. He said once he leaves for work in the morning, he will not hear any news until he returns home at night.

Those struggles also affect Baylor’s Guy Morriss, who admits that he can’t catch every news item, despite his best efforts.

Snyder said while it is difficult for coaches to know the news, it is important for the players to be aware of major events.

“I think it’s important for youngsters, world events are important for them,” Snyder said. “They are well informed and we try to keep them informed.”

BIG 12 AWARDS: Oklahoma State’s Vernand Morency was named Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Week following his 261-yard performance in the Cowboys’ 31-20 win against UCLA. Morency scored two touchdowns.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson of No. 7 Texas was named the Defensive Player of the Week after forcing three fumbles and making nine tackles in the Longhorns’ 65-0 win against North Texas.

Texas coach Mack Brown said Johnson deserves to be honored.

“He should be,” Brown said. “… he is the best linebacker in the country from where I’m sitting.”

Senior Brandon Rideau of Kansas earned special teams honors after he blocked two punts in a 21-3 win against Tulsa.

Kansas coach Mark Mangino said Rideau showed his leadership ability.

“We’re real proud on Brandon’s effort on the punt block team,” Mangino said. “He gave a real good effort and he showed why he is one of the captains.”

FRESMAN THOUGHTS: Though perennial powers Tennessee and Michigan began the season starting true freshmen at quarterback, Morriss said he does not see the benefit in playing true freshman at Baylor.

“To be honest, I believe every true freshman starter on the field will cost you one victory,” Morriss said. “But that’s something you have to deal with.

“If I was in a position to have the depth that many of the programs we play have, I would redshirt the entire freshman class.”

While Morriss does not want to use freshmen, McCarney used five first-year players in the Cyclones’ win against Northern Iowa. He said they all made significant contributions.

“Maybe it was because of mistakes in recruiting, it may be how good they are, it may be they are more mature than other true freshmen,” McCarney said. “I believe it’s a combination of all those. But I was pleased with the play of all of them.”

SHOE SUPERSTITION: Prior to his breakout performance on Saturday, Morency wore his football spikes to bed on Friday night. Oklahoma State coach Les Miles said he urged his running back to lose the shoes while he slept, but now he might urge more players to follow Morency’s lead.

“I told him to take them off, but he insisted that they needed warming up, that they were new and needed breaking in,” Miles said. “I said, ‘Mo, you’re sleeping, take your spikes off.’ But he insisted.

“I may make all the skill players wear them now.”

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