Mark Richt’s decision to close practice this week has drawn a lot of reaction from the indignant to the indifferent. I agree that it’s really not that big of a deal. The only thing the media is losing is the opportunity to watch or photograph stretching and positional drills – there is still access to the coaches and players following practice. It’s not just the media being singled out. The rule extends to "any face that we don’t really recognize."
Even the tightest security can be thwarted from within. Perhaps the "closed practice" mentality will give some of those people who like to impress their buddies with inside information a hint.
You’ve got student assistants this and student assistants that, and they might want to tell dad something. (People) might see something and want to say it to a friend, and the friend puts in on the Net, and it becomes clue for someone.
I do have a bit of a problem with those framing Richt’s decision completely in the context of the New England Patriots /Belichick / Saban stories. Reporters in the local media should know better – they were there over a month ago before the season when Richt spent a long time on the subject.
The roots of this decision go back to early August. You might remember that Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer closed preseason practices (ironically enough, there were vague accusations that Georgia had spied on VT practices). When you read Mark Richt’s comments related to Beamer’s decision, those quotes lay the foundation for Richt’s decision this week.
"I wish I could close it down completely, but it is kind of hard to do with our set up. I can see why any coach would want to close everything that they do, especially with the Internet…."
"…Even if we let our fans come in who love us, they would just talk about everything that happened and then people would read it and be able to find decipher some things that would help them win…."
"…I have seen enough things and people cannot help themselves. Like if you (TV) guys had a camera rolling on stuff all day long, you would be thinking that you are getting b-roll (footage) for the eleven o’clock news, but when you show the b-roll, you show something a good defensive coordinator could say, “oh I like that. I did not know they were doing that. They did not do that last year.” I do not think anyone is purposefully trying to sabotage Georgia."
Don’t those sound as if they could have been said this week instead of at the beginning of August? Richt’s view on the issue hasn’t changed much. Were current events a catalyst for the move? Maybe, but more likely is Richt following through on a decision that was 95% made several weeks ago.
I will give him credit for being very frank with this statement:
"The reality is what we do is big," he said. "People care about winning, and losing has a profound effect on peoples’ careers and everything else. The saying is, ‘Loose lips can sink ships,’ and it’s true."
People, especially the media, might feel inconvenienced and unfairly accused of spying, but if Richt feels that he can better do his job and prepare his team to win if there are not a few dozen strangers standing around practice, then he should do it.