Idaho got its ass kicked on Saturday. The box score and the score itself is actually a poor way to depict how well Idaho played. But, it can’t hide the fact Idaho still got pummeled for a paycheck.
It sucked, but it didn’t matter. I’ll just get right to it, since there’s something else I want to discuss.
The result of this game is irrelevant considering Idaho got out of the game relatively healthy.
Two Pac-12 opponents in the heart of out of conference play was always going to be impossible for this team. Even if we competed it wouldn’t have made any difference in how the next nine games will go. Hell, South Alabama beat Mississippi State and is now 0-2 in Sun Belt play.
It’s all about getting six wins, and we already have one down.
Here is what matters: Matt Linehan threw 62 passes over the last two weeks, was hit almost a dozen times, and didn’t throw one interception. Not one bad pass that got tipped, not one fumble while being sacked, not once did he unnecessarily cough the football up. We’re talking about a UW defense with half-a-dozen NFL players and an athletic WSU defense with a couple of legit prospects in the secondary. Linehan threw for 359 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks, dealing with pressure, drops, swirling wind and tight throwing windows.
If we get this Matt Linehan next week, we win. If we had that Matt Linehan in week one, we win by three touchdowns.
The only thing I learned the last two weeks is we easily have a talented enough quarterback to go to a bowl game.
After the game, I didn’t get to hear what the starting quarterback had to say about the test he faced the last two weeks because he wasn’t made available to the media for the second consecutive week.
I almost didn’t get to hear what the head coach had to say because the media wasn’t accurately told where he would be after the game.
Petrino’s postgame interview didn’t happen where I was told it would, so it looks like I won’t have video as originally planned.
— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_Trib) September 17, 2016
This, of course, is the work of long-time Idaho football Sports Information Director Becky Paull.
For interviews after one of the most high profile games of Idaho’s season to be uncoordinated is unsurprising for this school, honestly. The stadium being unfamiliar is not an excuse. Nor is losing by 50 points. This should be planned in advance, and I know for a fact the other school’s SI department is competent enough to help coordinate this.
Directly impeding a reporter’s ability to do their job is blatantly unprofessional.
But this is the norm at the University of Idaho when it comes to how it handles the media coverage of its football program.
I spent four years covering football at the University of Idaho and in all four years I was treated to a consistently condescending tone and continued attempts to discredit my professionalism and impede in my ability to report on the team.
It all started on my first game on the beat in 2012, actually. My access was revoked after game one. We had just reported, via anonymous sources, Idaho starting QB Dominique Blackman was going to be suspended for the opening game. This angered Robb Akey, because it gave Eastern Washington something to game plan for. Eastern won 20-3, and Akey glared me down the entire press conference.
(They begged us not to move forward with the story because as a student newspaper we should perpetuate a positive image of the program).
The reasoning for revoking my access was a passive-aggressive Tweet I sent out saying how awesome it was I could read about Washington practice with Steve Sarkisian while Robb Akey closed practice all week. I was told schools in the Pac-12 wouldn’t credential me either.
That, of course, is bullshit.
My access was soon after reinstated.
I was often criticized (behind my back) because my choice of attire (for some reason she thought wearing a bright blue beanie in a town where the temperature regularly dips below freezing was just appalling), my ADHD fidgets at practice and my random personality on Twitter.
Being a student didn’t help matters. Many student reporters do their best to get their feet under them, but we all need a little bit of help on our way to learning the ropes. Many students for The Argonaut and Inside the Vandals are not ushered in the right direction, but rather judged.
Being a reporter and working with an SID isn’t supposed to be a relationship based on sunshine and rainbows. Often times our jobs call for us to be at odds. But it needs to be based on respect.
I know SIDs who don’t like particular writers. Yet, they still treat them with professional respect and gave them appropriate access to the program.
The foundation of respect around Idaho football is shaky at best, and the program particularly plays favorites with how it treats certain writers based on the SID’s and coach’s personal preference.
I had my practice access revoked my last season on the beat in 2015. Two reporters, one for the Argonaut and one for the Tribune, were able to view practices while myself and one from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News were not allowed to attend practice until post-practice interviews.
Idaho’s policy has been to do its best to control the media and dictate what we’re able to see and cover rather than to build the image and narrative of its own program.
I mean, shoot us some actual attempts at public relations. We’re not going to stop doing our jobs, we’re going to hold the program accountable. Give us something if you want us to have no choice but to start to nitpicking. Feed us a feature. Feed us access to other areas of the athletic program readers would be interested in.
It’s not like Idaho is saving all of these good feature ideas for its own content creation around this team. Idaho can’t even get game notes up in a timely manner every week. Let’s be real, Idaho isn’t pulling what the University of Washington is. Steve Sarkisian had his own website. Paul Petrino isn’t even on Twitter.
I know, I know. College football programs around the nation are restricting access. Reporters can’t attend practice. Freshmen are protected. Coaches are dicks everywhere. But at the very least – from every single instance outside of the University of Idaho I can recall – sports information directors are informative, helpful and generally good at their jobs.
That’s because it’s public relations, not the NSA.
Petrino has enabled this shell by not allowing nearly 75 percent of his roster available to the media. For example, I couldn’t do an in-depth story on the maturation and development of Jordan Rose because they were terrified of how he would talk to me about his high school altercations that got his Wazzu scholarship pulled.
I have never had a feature idea for soccer, men’s basketball or women’s basketball revoked. I’ve had half-a-dozen potential features killed based on limited access to players during the 2015 season and 2016 spring ball.
I must be clear, this is not an issue across the board in that department. Although, this does start at the top with athletic director Rob Spear, who has the power to dictate changes.
I honestly don’t know where I’d be in this industry without the amazing direction and help of many who worked in that office. You all know who you are.
But as for football, this is not likely to change any time soon at Idaho. It would have to be made voluntarily.
I guess the Big Sky drop will be good, since less people will care anyways.