KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Scratch two Heisman candidates?
This is nothing personal against Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree. Both are part of a bumper crop of Big 12 award candidates this season. But their trophy chances had to dim when they didn't show up Monday for the beginning of the conference's preseason media days.
It wasn't necessarily their choice.
Coach Mike Leach decided that the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner (Crabtree) and a guy who could become the leading passer of all time (Harrell) weren't worthy to be interviewed by us media types during a pre-arranged media session on football media day. Leach threw out something about football being the ultimate team game when I asked him why on Monday.
I'm not saying Harrell and Crabtree are out of the Heisman race before it begins. I'll leave that to the other Heisman voters whose companies spent money and resources for them to get here. Let's just say stiffing the Big 12 (and national) media doesn't help.
Leach is quirky that way. He doesn't do things conventionally all the time. Sometimes that's charming. Sometimes it's downright unprofessional. A person with knowledge told me that the Big 12 asked to Leach to reconsider bringing his two stars, but that he refused.
To reporters Monday, Leach flippantly said that any of us are welcome to interview his stars "in their natural habitat" in Lubbock. That's great except there is a reason these media days exist, so we don't have to go to each individual school. Especially when Lubbock is so far from anywhere it can see the end of the earth in any given direction.
"A lot of times there are so many guys who play football, there is a temptation to isolate the attention around a couple of guys," Leach said. "Our team is far more than a couple of individuals."
Oh yeah? That would make a shred of sense if it weren't so hypocritical. In Texas Tech's own media guide Crabtree has a page to himself. Harrell has two. Every other player in the guide except one (running back Shannon Woods) gets half a page. So much for not isolating the attention around a couple of individuals.
If this was a high school team before a state championship, I'd kind of understand it. This being a major university (according to some) with major aspirations taking in major public dollars, it is short-sighted. Tech SID Chris Cook told me an interesting story about Crabtree working out in Dallas with the likes of Deion Sanders and Pacman Jones. Sure wish I could have fleshed that one out. It sounded neat.
Leach wants to send the message of teamwork. Here's another message Leach is sending: Attention, recruits. Don't come to Texas Tech. We won't promote you. You'll have a tough time winning national awards, never mind competing in a Big 12 South Division Tech has never won.
This is not just me on a rant. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel woke at 4:30 Monday morning to fly from Los Angeles to be here for interviews. Daniel is currently an instructor at the Elite 11 quarterback camp in Southern California. After a couple of hours of answering questions, Daniel was right back on a plane back to California.
He seemed to be slightly upset that the Tech guys weren't here after the effort he had made.
"You've got to bring your best players here," he told me. "It's the best thing to do. Coach Leach is a smart guy. He's been in this business a lot longer than I've been alive. He can do what he wants. (But) you look at it: You have a guy like Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, both are legitimate Heisman candidates. You've got to get them both out in the limelight."
The trend continues here. Oklahoma redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford won't be making an appearance either on Wednesday.The nation's pass efficiency leader last year is old enough to go to war, own a house and vote but apparently not mature enough to handle a few media questions.
It's not like we're going to grill him. After the season he had, we want to say good things. Start with the fact Bradford is an inspiration on the field and to the Native American culture he represents.
Maybe there are extenuating circumstances. I doubt it. I'm tired of it, anyway. These kids aren't the property of the football program. They are students with lives to lead who might want to see a different part of the world than their own. In essence, they are promoting the school, before themselves, at these media days.
In that case, what the hell is wrong with being an individual?