Twenty years have passed since the last Skywriters Tour DC-3 chugged down the runway in Stillwater.
Nowadays, to gather the conference’s preseason football scoop, the media convenes in ballrooms at a fancy hotel in Dallas or Kansas City and the coaches go to them.
They travel lightly, as it turns out.
Some head coaches — ahem! — don’t even bring their starting quarterback. Others conveniently forget to pack recollections of their players’ off-season mischief.
It’s all too slick, too structured, too digitized these days at the Big 12 media days, which begin anew Monday in Dallas.
Forgive the nod to the old days, but once upon a time, when the writers and broadcasters traveled by plane and/or bus to each conference school, the coaches spent the entire day visiting and socializing with the media.
By contrast, TCU’s Gary Patterson is scheduled to hit the podium at 10:05 a.m. Monday. He’ll get 30 minutes.
The old Southeastern Conference Skywriters, a group of 40 or so, used to end their visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala., with whiskey at Paul “Bear” Bryant’s house. Florida coach Charlie Pell used to throw a pool party.
Nowadays, with only 30 minutes to filibuster, a nimble-tongued coach can dodge prickly media queries and easily shift his team’s narrative to an offensive lineman’s summer religious mission.
It’s all about the sound bites.
Patterson is one of two coaches — Texas’ Charlie Strong being the other — who won’t be taking his starting quarterback to the media days. Patterson hasn’t named his starter yet.
Chronically guarded in his public words, Patterson does take the Big 12 gathering seriously. He wants the four players who will be accompanying him — defensive end Josh Carraway, running back Kyle Hicks, center Austin Schlottmann and linebacker Travin Howard — to represent the university well.
History tells us that Patterson’s 30 minutes can venture anywhere.
Herewith, therefore, is a guide to the visiting Big 12 media for interviewing the man the Horned Frogs call “Coach P”:
1. Don’t ask him how he feels about the Frogs being picked to finish second in the Big 12’s preseason media poll.
He doesn’t like it. He’d rather be picked to finish seventh.
Patterson likes his team to consider itself Underfrogs. It gets their attention, which makes it better to prepare for ...
2. Don’t ask him about Oklahoma.
Patterson will tell you that he’s only thinking about the season’s first game, which is at Amon Carter Stadium against South Dakota State. In fact, Patterson will certainly say that he’s been preparing for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits since the final whistle of the Alamo Bowl.
3. Don’t ask him about replacing Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson on offense.
In fact, don’t ask him about the TCU offense, period. He’s too busy reformulating the Frogs’ always-tough defense.
So he doesn’t have time to watch the offense, leaving those details to co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.
If you insist upon asking him about the TCU offense, don’t be surprised to hear Patterson begin the answer with, “Well, what I’m hearing is . . . .”
4. Don’t ask him to single out any players worthy of stardom.
There are no stars — yet — as far as the Frogs head coach is concerned. The four-star recruits are two-stars, until they show otherwise.
Did he even bring Andy Dalton to the Big 12 media days in 2010?
5. Don’t dare bring up the B-word. Patterson likely will have no comment Monday about Baylor or (Art) Briles. He shouldn’t have to explain why.
6. Do feel free to ask about Big 12 expansion.
Patterson doesn’t seem overly in favor of it, but not for the reasons you think. He just doesn’t want the Big 12 footprint expanded into adjoining time zones. The Frogs have already been there and done that during their vagabond Mountain West and Conference USA days.
7. Definitely ask him about his summer vacation.
An avid scuba diver, Patterson and wife Kelsey visited the Galapagos Islands and swam with the sea lions and sharks. He probably has photos. Ask him.
8. Finally, if you really want to ask Gary Patterson the right thing, don’t ask about Arkansas or Bob Stoops or who’s going to replace NFL first-rounder Doctson.
Instead, ask about his son Josh’s baby. Patterson is a grandfather.
He could give you a good 30 minutes on that. Photos, too.
See you at the fancy hotel. Happy sound biting!