Outside, it was warm. Refreshments were laid on the shelf of the podium for each Pacific-10 Conference football coach and appointed player at the conference’ annual preseason media day Thursday at The Rose Bowl.
Steve Sarkisian calmly sat down, surveyed the lay of the land – in this case, the number of media members in attendance – and about the time it was time to talk, he glanced in front of him.
A Gatorade bottle.
And a specific color.
“Got us purple Gatorade,” he said, seizing the opportunity to slide into his presentation. “I like that.”
You never really know what you’re going to get at the preseason function. Coaches are generally cordial and accommodating, relaxed and friendly.
Sarkisian is just downright smooth, as was the case Thursday in talking about his program at the University of Washington.
He recognized all the right people. And when he speaks on a topic he is excited about, he has a way of drawing a crowd in to share that enthusiasm.
USC’s Lane Kiffin, amid the university’s sanctions, and latest issue – a lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Titans over the hiring of Kennedy Pola as the offensive coordinator – preferred to hide behind his shades.
Oregon’s Chip Kelly seems perpetually irritated by the thought of any reporter question (and mention of the media poll, which selected the Ducks No. 1 over USC).
Oregon State’s Mike Riley might be the nicest coach in America. Nice and somewhat bland.
California’s Jeff Tedford is just plain serious.
Every time Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh talks, the “Outer Limits” theme music hums along.
Sarkisian just knows what it takes to get his message out there. He’s mildly entertaining with corny jokes, which is good because he’s a football coach, not a comedian. He also laughs at himself, which lightens up the mood. And when he speaks about his program, whether it’s faint praise or mild criticism, he has a way of coming off optimistic, hopeful and straight-laced.
• After his team was selected sixth in the preseason media poll, Sarkisian seemed unbothered by the placement, joking “it’s better than last year. We were ninth.”
• The topic of Kavario Middleton, the UW’s recently-dismissed tight end for failed drug tests, came up. And Sarkisian was frank in discussing his decision to go a different direction.
“You hate to get into a situation where you feel like you’ve potentially can be viewed as giving up on somebody,” Sarkisian said. “But for the good of our football program, for the other 104 guys on our team, and our coaching staff, it was the right thing to do.
“I hope that’s (the best decision) for him. For us, I can’t put everything solely based on one individual. That’s not fair to the other guys who are putting in the blood, the sweat, the tears. That is why you have to make these tough decisions.”
• Then there’s Josh Shirley, who was released by UCLA over a theft charge. The Huskies signed him a week ago to be part of the defensive end rotation.
“(The) hesitation was making sure getting to the facts of the situations of the incident that occurred,” Sarkisian said. “But in knowing him through the recruiting process, getting to know his family, having him up on our campus on our official visit, being in his living room with his father, his grandmother on numerous occasions for our assistant coaches, we got to know the kid well enough to know that incident was not indicative of his true character. Putting him in an environment (here), he’s only going to come here and excel, not only on the football field, but in the classroom and in his personal life.”
• Linebacker Alvin Logan (knee), who has switched to a number of positions, and was in the running for one of the starting outside linebacker spots, is done with football. His chronic pain was too much to deal with.
• Sarkisian said he might have understated the impact of safety Will Shamburger during spring camp.
“He was impressive. He was more physical than I thought he would be,” the coach said. “Most guys, when they come off an injury, there is some hesitation – which he had – but he showed a real physical nature, not to mention the ball-hawking ability. Being in the box (against the run) … that was an area he was probably even better at than I gave him credit for initially.”
• All the spring-camp injuries that kept key performers out, including running back Chris Polk (shoulder), should not be issues starting Aug. 8 at fall camp.
• An announcement of a walk-on quarterback will come at Sarkisian’s press conference Thursday in Seattle.
• Sarkisian’s father, Seb, is coming off knee-replacement surgery a couple weeks ago. He was expecting to see him for the first time Thursday night in Torrance, Calif. – the family’s hometown.
• In-state media present included Jen Mueller of Fox Sports Northwest; Dave Mahler of KJR 950-AM; Vince Grippi of The Spokesman-Review; Bud Withers and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times; myself and Brock Huard and Mike Salk of ESPN 710-AM.
The UW got one first-place vote from the 35 reporters. It did not come from anybody in-state.