If you detected a whine emanating from Neyland Stadium late Thursday afternoon, that was media at work. The sound was a predictable journalistic response to denied access.
In this case, the denial was historic. With rare exceptions, Tennessee football scrimmages have been open to the media, regardless of the coach in charge.
New coach Derek Dooley has changed that. Scrimmages, like the bulk of every practice, are closed to the media.
The reaction from UT fans was predictable. Thousands of them gathered outside the football complex Friday to protest the closed scrimmage.
Just kidding. Killer bees are a more pressing concern to the general populace, including casual and hard-core football fans who have figured out that media access has no correlation to winning or losing.
Accessible coaches like Bobby Bowden at Florida State and Pete Carroll at Southern California won multiple national championships. So has Alabama's Nick Saban, who, compared to Carroll, is downright reclusive.
Bill Snyder, whose rebuilding job at Kansas State ranks with the greatest accomplishments in college football, has run his program with a tight fist. Mike Leach, who had a successful run at Texas Tech, was as restrictive as any coach in the country. He didn't lose his job for locking out the media. He lost it for locking up Craig James' son.
You can find examples of success and failure on either side of the access issue. Whether Dooley puts his program in a compound with guards at the gate or declares open house for fans and media alike, it won't put the Vols one game closer to a bowl game this fall.
His media policy, which also limits access to assistant coaches, won't even have much impact on coverage. Only if a coach disallowed player interviews would you notice a significant change. Not even Saban does that.
Dooley's policy is revealing nonetheless, and the revelation has nothing to do with the media. It speaks to his flexibility.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton was wowed by Dooley's organizational skills in the interview process. As an inveterate planner, I can appreciate that. When you ask a head-coaching candidate to outline his grand plan, the last thing you want to hear is "Day to day, Dude; I roll with whatever they throw at me."
But sometimes, the grand plan needs editing. You don't have to stray far from UT's football office to find an example of that.
UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl took his team to the Elite Eight this season by eschewing the full-court, up-tempo game that he learned and embraced as an assistant coach under Dr. Tom Davis and later implemented as a head coach. But this team's personnel was better suited to a half-court game, so Pearl adapted and adjusted.
If you set aside your how-to-build-a-program handbook, you might conclude that the current state of UT football could be enhanced by more access, not less. I'm not talking about the media. I'm talking about fans.
And I'm talking about something as intangible as goodwill.
The best way to build goodwill is to win all the time, and by outrageous margins as often as possible. As you might have heard, that's not the consensus prediction for the next couple of seasons.
The next best way to build goodwill is to build a connection with the fans. So why not open all spring and preseason scrimmages to the general public and invite groups to practice? You could have student day, car dealer day, doctor day, and - if you're willing to risk the possible litigation that could ensue from someone tripping over a sprinkler head - attorney day.
Give the fans a chance to see how hard your team is working. Let them see how organized and up-tempo your practices are. Let them know that "we're all in this together."
What's the worst thing that could happen? It might slip out that the offense doesn't remind anyone of "The Greatest Show on Turf"?
When you're winning championships, you can kick the athletic director out of practice. In the meantime, if fans want to watch this team scrimmage, welcome them. If they're that invested, maybe they would be more apt to stick around in the fourth quarter next season when Alabama fans are threatening to take over Neyland Stadium.
And none of them could say, "I can see why they didn't want anyone to see their scrimmages."
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.