Earlier this week, two Big 12 football coaches were asked about their names being associated with the soon to be open position at LSU, with Ed Oregon having agreed to step down at the end of the season.

(“Being associated,” of course, can mean as little as somebody using their Twitter feed to suggest hirings, though it rings more real when the speculation’s led by a hometown newspaper, ESPN or The Athletic, rather than, say, Barstool Sports.)

One of them, I think, thought he was emphatically denying all interest, but did it poorly. The other knocked it out of the park.

The two, as you may know, are Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher. Riley offered a statement that sounded convincing, yet fell short of the mark, while Fisher convinced everybody.

 Here’s what they said.

 Riley: “I coach the University of Oklahoma football team. You guys know how I feel about this place and this program. We’ve all been down this road many times before. You guys know where I stand on that and that hasn’t changed.”


Fisher: “We’re gonna recruit an unbelievable class this year. So, I’m the dumbest human being on God’s green earth to recruit all these guys to A&M so I can go across over there (to LSU) and go play against them.”

Only he’s not dumb.

Three things:

One, is Riley, in fact, interested in LSU, while Fisher clearly isn’t?

Two, why is it so difficult for coaches to make declarative statements?

Three, when truly caught in the middle, is it so hard to offer a plausibly honest statement rather than a tortured one?

I’m pretty sure Riley’s going nowhere and were he to go somewhere, it would probably be the NFL. But if you read what he said, he actually, possibly inadvertently, left all options open.

Fisher, on the other hand, was inviting the world to call him an idiot, deservedly, were he to leave College Station for Baton Rouge, which is even better than claiming to have no interest in the job.

In December of 2019, Riley’s name was being bandied about as one that might be on several NFL short lists and he actually came through with something the Sooner Nation was fine with, even while sounding honest.

“I’m not ever going to say never because I don’t want to be that guy,” he said, “but it’s hard to envision me wanting to leave this place unless something about our setup here has changed that I thought wasn’t good for the program or our future.”

So why couldn’t he be more clear this time around, when a simple, “I have no interest in becoming LSU’s next football coach,” would have sufficed?

You wonder if coaches ever work to become better communicators, or even see it as part of their job when it’s actually a huge part of their job, internally and externally.

In 2012, Norv Turner was on his last legs as Chargers coach and Steve Mariucci was asked about a report that claimed he was interested if the Chargers were interested.

“I would never comment on a coaching job where there’s a coach in place and the coach down there in San Diego happens to be a good friend of mine …” he said during an NFL Network appearance. “There’s no way I would ever discuss this right now. I don’t know where it comes from. Let’s just stop the nonsense, OK?”

He could have said the Chargers have a coach and should they not have one at some point, he’ll think about it then.


Another reasonable course no matter who’s doing the courting, Podunk State, the Cowboys, Yankees or Lakers, is to say, “Hey, I’ve got no intention of going anywhere but I’ll answer a call, there’s no harm in talking, but I love it here and I’m not looking to leave.”

Even when you really do want a change of scenery, a statement like that works, because when you leave you’ll be congratulated for feigning honesty when the topic first came up.

It’s funny, because I’m not sure what the pastime is any longer, trying to figure out which coaches are going where or simply charting the tortured language of those who’d rather talk about how badly their team’s playing, no matter how badly, than that.

The coaching carousel?

More like word salad.

Not that it’s not entertaining.

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