On a hot Tuesday afternoon, members of the media gathered at Matthew Knight Arena for the NCAA Championship press conference. Four coaches from the top track and field programs took the time to speak to the assembled reporters a day before the start of the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Attending were Robert Johnson of Oregon, Mike Holloway of Florida, Mario Sategna of Texas and Pat Henry of Texas A&M.
The press conference’s mood was light as all four coaches sent several light-hearted jabs as they discussed their teams’ chances at taking home a championship.
The question that sparked the most conversation was how they felt about Oregon hosting the NCAA Outdoor Championships yet again. This is the second consecutive year of an eight-year deal struck between the university and the NCAA to send the meet to Eugene. The media questioned whether track and field was ready to be like baseball or softball and have a permanent location for the championships.
All four coaches had different thoughts and opinions on the matter.
“I’ll be brutally honest. I am really happy for Robert and his team, and I know that they will do a wonderful job. I have no trouble with that. I am not necessarily sure that I am a 100 percent on board with it being here as a permanent site. As a team that is coming here to compete against Oregon, who is one of the best teams in the country, it makes it a little bit more difficult. I have to travel further than anyone one else here. If we go commercial it takes us almost 16-17 hours to get here. Don’t get me wrong, I have never been to a bad meet here, but I am not sure it is the best for the sport.”
“You know they are going to put on a phenomenal competition. They have shown that with the trials and previous championships. Along the same lines, would it be easier if Robert’s team was maybe ranked 25th instead of vying for national titles? We would love to host the Championship in Austin, Texas, but right now it is probably 98 degrees and that is at eight at night. You know when you come down here to Eugene, whether it’s the venues or the crowds, it’s going to be a great experience.”
“I think it is very good for the sport. Having a meet more than one year at one place, and especially here, is really good for track and field. I think somebody else has got to step up to the plate and say we can copy or we can do something similar to what they are doing here in Eugene, but I don’t know who that is. Somebody has to prove that they can do that. I wish the site didn’t have a horse in the race. When the fans turn their TVs on and see people sitting in the stands, that is what we have to do for our sport right now.”
“The meet is for the student athletes. We as coaches sometimes get set in our ways and like things our way. You heard Mike reference traveling the furthest. Well if that is what’s good for the kids, lets travel all the way to Asia if that’s going to give the student athletes the best opportunity. I don’t see how you find a better place to do that than Eugene. Pat makes a good argument that if you don’t want it here, someone else step up to the plate and do it better. I’d be more than happy to go somewhere and have an experience like this, because once again, it is for the student athletes. But until then, you can’t get any better than Eugene, Oregon.”
“There is one other issue. It is a $900 plane ticket from Houston. That is tough on parents, tough on fans from around the country too. So there are some issues that need to be addressed. But this is a tremendous venue.”
“I don’t want to be used as the Grinch that stole Christmas. I think Eugene is a wonderful place. But as Robert said, if the best place for the meet is in Asia, then lets have it there, because then everyone would be traveling the same distance. It’s just harder for some people to get here.”
“And Mario said its 95 in Austin, which it might be, and everybody thinks that’s a negative? Well we run pretty fast in Austin, so it doesn’t really make that much of a difference.”
The NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships are set to begin Wednesday, June 11 at Historic Hayward Field. The first meet of the day will be the decathlon’s 100.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur