I got my invite for Media Day by agreeing to interview as many coaches and players that I could for I-AA Waves, the only internet radio show devoted exclusively to national I-AA coverage. As I came into the reception area, I also recorded the opening comments from Patriot League Commissioner Carolyn Femovich for yesterday's I-AA Waves broadcast.
The big news for Lehigh was that the Mountain hawks were picked to finish third in the Patriot League preseason poll, finishing behind Lafayette and Colgate. Once the press was allowed to ask questions, a rush of reporters flocked to the Lehigh table. With several TV crews there as well, it was a challenge to talk to coach Coen, junior QB Sedale Threatt and senior C John Reese.
What I thought was funny was that Colgate's table, with the preseason players of the year on offense and defense as well as last year's coach of the year sitting there were not getting nearly as much attention as Lehigh and Lafayette. For all of coach Tavani's talk about the bullseye being on Colgate's backs, that sure wasn't the case at the media day. As a Lehigh fan, I always keep an eye on Lafayette, but you'd better believe I pay a lot of attention to Colgate as well.
Most of the local reporters seemed to be talking about Lehigh dropping to "underdog" status, but I think what they really mean is that Lehigh is ranked below Lafayette in the preseason for the first time in recent memory (though, with four points separating them, they're not separated by much).
After a dizzying couple hours, I finally got to talk to junior QB Sedale Threatt. My impression of this young man is that of an extroverted, confident, engaging sort of kid that really stood out at the media day. I realize that this in my "fair and balanced" opinion, but I'd bet other folks who interview him say the exact same thing.
If you spend a couple minutes with him it's no wonder that he was elected captain of the offense as a junior - he exudes confidence. Even around the media day he wasn't the type of guy to shrink into the corner and read a media guide - he was happy to be interviewed, even after spending hours being interviewed by everyone under the sun.
Likewise, coach Coen didn't flinch when I asked to interview him on the way out of the cool air-conditing of the reception hall to play golf in the broiling heat. It would have been easy to quickly fire off some canned answers to my questions, but even after a full morning his passion for coaching shone through. Everything about coach Coen, to me, exuded the word "passion". He didn't mind talking to me about Lehigh football or his team for this year, even in three-digit
Below I've tried to mash-up all the press coverage the best that I can, including some exclusive transcripts from my interviews with coach Coen and QB Sedale Threatt. (I missed C John Reese, sadly.) It also includes part of Sedale's online Q & A sponsored by the Patriot League website.
Lehigh Website: Patriot League Hosts Media Day Event
Patriot League Website: Online Q&A With Sedale Threatt
Morning Call: Lehigh Goes from Top Dog to Underdog
Express-Times: Leopards, Hawks Rank #s 2 and 3
Daily Item (Lewisburg): Bucknell to Finish Sixth
Coen offered his thoughts on his upcoming inaugural season. “It’s everything I thought it would be and more,” Coen said. “It’s certainly an exciting time of the year, once you get to early August, you know preseason camp is right around the corner and you start to build the anticipation. I’m happy with the way our team worked over the summer with so many guys staying on campus to get ready for the season, and we’re ready to get to work next week (with preseason camp).”
"When I was a line coach here, I used to tell the kids that early August to me is like Christmastime," Coen said. "I'm more excited, and also more nervous, than I've ever been. My wife will tell you I'm more nervous than excited. I was once a head baseball coach at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, but that to me was more like a job. Football is my love, my passion."
Coen on his coaching style: "I'm very honest with the kids, [and] I get excited about having good rapport with the kids I coach - that's very important to me. I'm enthusiastic, energetic, however you want to say it... sometimes a little louder than your average person, but that's been a pretty successful style [for me]."
"Around campus, the expectation is for the football program to be at the top," Coen said. "I don't see this as a pressure situation. This is the kind of thing I want to be involved in."
"The first thing he said to us is that we are here to win a national title," quarterback Sedale Threatt recalled. "That told me everything I needed to know. That got us all on board."
"You want to have challenges," the 42-year-old first-time head coach said. "We have a chance to reclaim the (league) championship. Last season didn't end well with the loss to Lafayette, with the league title on the line.
"I'm a big believer in taking one play at a time, one game at a time. But you can't not talk about the season and not talk about Lafayette."
The third-place ranking is bulletin-board fodder for first-year coach Andy Coen. [He] was hardly perturbed when he saw the poll results. "Maybe
they're looking at us as, 'Lehigh isn't what Lehigh used to be,' " he said. "It's my job, and the job of the coaches and the rest of the players on our team to make sure we get back to where we used to be."
"You can't vote for yourself anyway, and when you look at what Colgate and Lafayette did last year and the major contributors they have coming back, it makes sense," he said. "People look at us and see all of the offensive skill that graduated. I'm sure that's why they put us where they did.
"But it's good. I can't wait to go back and tell the rest of the kids."
"That's the lowest we've been picked since I've been here," said senior center John Reese, who joins Threatt and safety Julian Austin as a captain. "It's a little motivation for us. It's easy to say stuff before the season starts, but it's where you are after Week 12 that means the most.
"You don't want to reflect too much on the past with the new attitude we're trying to
develop, but those plays still sit in the back of your mind and haunt you," Reese said. "It's not just the Lafayette game that bothers us, although it hurts when you lose to rival two years in a row. We had leads in the fourth quarter against both Delaware and Holy Cross, too, and lost.
"This year, we want to finish those games out. In critical situations, we want to get the two yards we need for a first down to run out the clock. We want to run the ball more, be more physical."
Lehigh likes even less the gnawing perception that the program has slipped. "It's more of a motivational thing," Reese said. "With the great Lehigh tradition, we expect to be on top. But tradition's not going to put us on top. How we play is going to put us on top."
Jason: Sedale, as a freshman you were part of the offensive scout team. There were many times where LB #11 would pummel you into the ground. How do you contribute that learning experience to your success?
Threatt: You get banged up, but as long as you get up - that is what you learn. I learned a lot from good ole No. 11. I would say getting hit from in practice prepared me for the Patriot League's linebacker corp.
[Note: Readers out there, I've got to know... Who is #11? My bet is his first name is Jason...]
"You respond to the [third-place selection] by what you do on the field," quarterback Sedale Threatt said. "To be honest, based on what we did last year, we deserve third. We didn't go to the playoffs. Colgate and Lafayette did and we were home watching them on TV. So, I understand it. It gives us motivation. When I go back to campus and tell the rest of the guys, they're not going to like it."
"Colgate's getting two guys selected as preseason player of the year," Lehigh quarterback Sedale Threatt said. "As a competitor, I don't like that."
Chuck: "You're a finance major, how have you been able to balance academics and athletics at Lehigh?"
Threatt: "[Academics at Lehigh are] very rigorous. Our business school just got ranked top 30 in the nation overall, and it's very demanding, but I think I made a good decision in coming here because it's the best in the world playing at this level of football, but getting the kind of education that my Mom didn't get. A Lehigh degree, that looks good on a plaque on the wall!"
Bob Bevan: What was the most important lesson you learned in last year's Lafayette game?
Sedale Threatt: Finish the game.