Clark: FSU fans should enjoy Norvell's throwback approach to media access
There are two things in this world I believe in more than anything else.
One: Peas are completely and utterly useless and would not be missed by anyone if they disappeared from the face of the earth.
Two: Restrictive media access has absolutely no impact on the success of a college football team.
For the sake of Warchant.com, I'll focus this column on the second item (trust me, though, one of these days I'm going to get that pea blog going, and it's going to blow your mind).
Truthfully, though, media access is something that really does mean a lot to me. For obvious reasons. And I hope it means a lot to you. For obvious reasons as well.
I grew up on Florida State football. I was in middle school when the Dynasty started. I was out of college by the time it ended. And in those 14 years, the Seminoles had the most open media policy of any program in the country.
Bobby Bowden believed in it. He wanted his players and assistant coaches to be interviewed. He didn't care if his practices were watched. He didn't view the media as something to be avoided at all costs. He understood, maybe better than anyone, just how valuable it could be in building interest and excitement for his program.
He certainly didn't view it as a detriment.
And thankfully, refreshingly, neither does Mike Norvell.
I hope Florida State fans have enjoyed and appreciated the access Norvell has given the media this spring. Heck, if you were in town, you could have watched either of the two scrimmages the Seminoles had this spring as well.
I can't stress to you enough how rare that is.
As far as I can tell, Washington and Arizona are the only other Power 5 programs opening up practices and scrimmages to the media right now.
The rest are seemingly hell bent on continuing the Nick Sabanization of college football. Without, you know, the championships.
Speaking of Saban, I always find it comical how some fans (especially ones wearing Crimson and overalls) will point to Alabama's domination of the sport as proof that limiting media access, keeping freshmen and assistants from being interviewed, letting no one watch any drill, ever, is a key to the Tide's success.
Limit those distractions!
Here's the truth: Alabama could have built a fully-functioning Hooters in the middle of the practice field this fall, and it still would have won a national championship. Landon Dickerson could have recorded podcasts in the middle of practice, Devonta Smith could have done daily Instagram updates in the locker room, sportswriters could have slept in the Alabama football facility, it wouldn't have mattered.
Alabama was winning the 2020 title no matter how many distractions it had to overcome.
As I've written and said repeatedly on this topic over the last few years, I get paid whether practices are open or closed, if freshmen are allowed to talk or not, and if assistant coaches ever step foot in front of a microphone.
Either way, I'll report and comment on Florida State football the best I can.
But, man, this makes it so much more fun. For all of us.
Instead of watching three stretching drills, being ushered off the practice fields, and then asking Willie Taggart two hours later who is standing out, we actually get to watch every single drill, and then tell you who we believe is standing out.
We get to observe who looks best in the QB race, which receivers are making plays and which ones aren't, which segment is improving and which one still has a lot of work to do.
Now, these are all subjective opinions of course. But they're made with real eyesight, not having to trust a coach or a source about who's looking the best, but actually using our own vision (or, in my case, binoculars) to make that determination.
For the last three weeks, at every practice we've attended, the Warchant staff has been allowed to chart every throw that was made. To witness every rep. Then give you the stats and tell you what we think.
And guess what? The world hasn't imploded! It's still spinning.
Just like it did during the Dynasty.
With that in mind, I asked Norvell last week why it was important to him to open up practice like this.
"I understand who we are and what we're about," the second-year head coach said. "I get to coach some incredible young men. And for their story to be told, for the best illustration of what they go through and how we do what we do, and I believe in development. I've always had that mindset. I think the job the media does in helping to tell our story is something that can be a great benefit for us."
I remember last preseason, I tweeted out that we had talked to about 40 players and all the assistant coaches through the first few weeks of practice. Fellow reporters around the country were stunned. They couldn't believe the kind of access we were getting (even if it was all on Zoom).
It's kind of sad, right?
That getting to talk to the actual players on a football team would be like spotting a flock of unicorns. It couldn't possibly be real.
There was one journalist at another school who told me the only person they got access to in preseason was the head coach.
Imagine if you only got to read Norvell quotes. Day after day after day.
You might not always like what defensive coordinator Adam Fuller has to say -- I know you didn't like what you saw in Year 1 -- but at least you get to hear from the guy.
Because he's not a CIA operative. He should be allowed to talk.
And these practices aren't special forces training. We should be allowed to know what happens.
It's college football.
And you would hope more coaches would understand that their fans love, love, love reading about their teams and getting to know the players they cheer for. That assistant coaches being off-limits is completely pointless. It has zero bearing on anything.
Case in point: Jimbo Fisher didn't allow his assistants to talk either. Because, you know, he drinks from the Fountain of Saban. Can't let 'em talk! One voice! No distractions!
But what's funny is that at many bowl games, at least one offensive and one defensive assistant HAD to talk with the media. It was part of the deal.
And at the national championship games, all the assistants and players have to be made available.
Guess what? Jimbo's program somehow overcame those impossible distractions to go 5-2 in bowl games at FSU. What a miracle!!! Granted, one of those wins was against a Jabril Peppers-less Michigan team (did you know he didn't play?!), but we're still going to count it.
It's almost as if assistants being interviewed didn't matter one little bit. Just like freshmen being interviewed doesn't matter one little bit.
"As far as guys coming here, and recruiting, we want to help them build their brands, build their identity and help share that message," Norvell said. "I've just always thought (media access) has been a critical piece to telling the story. Because these guys work extremely hard. And our coaches put in so much time.
"We're very open with our assistant coaches in all aspects because there's quite a few coaches on my staff that I think will be head coaches. And to help prepare them for that moment. ... And if a recruit does happen to watch (practice), they get a sense of who they're going to play for. I just think it's a remarkable opportunity for everybody involved."
Truthfully, I was wondering if we would actually get to watch any practices this spring. I know Norvell opened up his practices at Memphis, but come on, that's Memphis. You want all the publicity for the football team you can get.
And I know he opened it up last spring for those first three days. So, that was a good sign for all of us. But then he went through a 3-6 season and experienced the pressure that exists inside the high-pressure world of a college football powerhouse.
He also was going to have a true quarterback competition this spring. So I wondered if he would actually open practices back up.
And now you're getting more information about FSU spring football than you have in two decades.
We should all rejoice.
Please understand: I don't think open media access is the key to the Florida State turnaround. Getting players like they used to have in the '90s is much more important than having a practice policy like they used to have in the '90s.
And I'm sure some of you will contend that you don't care how much access you get as long as the team wins. Roger that.
Just know there is zero correlation between the two.
Pete Carroll and Bowden let the media watch everything. Saban lets the media watch nothing (he barely allows them into the games). No championships are won or lost based on an assistant coach being interviewed, or a spring practice being open to fans and the media.
And there are going to be instances where Norvell has to make decisions about when to close it down or when to tell us not to report on something (trick plays, formations, injuries, altercations, etc.). That's part of the job. Not every spring practice has been open.
But again, win or lose, Dynasty or not, it's just so appreciated that we get to watch practices and scrimmages. Because Florida State fans, really all college football fans, don't deserve to be treated like annoying bystanders.
Their interest is the lifeblood of the sport.
Letting them know what actually happens at practice, as long as we're not giving away that one cool formation where Travis Jay throws a pass off the triple-reverse, does absolutely nothing to hurt the program.
"I like the fact that people got to come watch us practice," Norvell said. "And so we opened these last couple [scrimmages] up. And I think it's been really good."
It has indeed.
Contact senior writer Corey Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.