Flashing Texas

By Jerry Palm - April 05, 2008

SAN ANTONIO -- Yesterday was the day of the open practice session, which I was hoping to attend, but first, I had to go fight off the challenges of the credential disappearance system and see if I could actually acquire mine (click "more" for, um, more).

It wouldn't be easy. Since our pictures seemed lost, it meant going to the dome and waiting in a line that would make customs officials jealous for a re-take, provided the one camera worked.

However, my media notes said that there was a place at the Marriott Riverwalk (the other media hotel) where pictures could be taken and credentials created. We checked Thursday, and found no such place. I looked around and asked around once again Friday morning, to no avail.

My cohort, David Scott, beat me to the dome by 45 minutes and texted me (prior to this weekend, I probably sent four text messages ever - this weekend, it seems like 4 per minute) that our credentials weren't there and I better get my ^&$* down there if I want to have any chance of getting this done that morning.

On my way to the dome, I get running text updates filled with words like #%^& as David waited in line and gave the NCAA staffers there (who are blameless in this mess, by the way, they're just the worker bees) a piece of his mind. As I arrive at the dome, David is getting his picture taken and a staffer informs us that our credentials in fact exist, and were taken over to the Marriott, so we could find them there. Specifically, we are told that they are at the other Marriott, the Marriott Rivercenter, not the Riverwalk - there are two Marriotts right next door to each other here. Meanwhile, David has his shiny new credential.

So, off we go to the Marriott Rivercenter looking for the Milan room, the safe house where our credentials are hidden, and find out that the hotel does not have a Milan room and to try the one next door. Off we go again, and sure enough, tucked away in a corner of the second floor, with no signage whatsoever, is a little meeting room where TWO people sit with cameras waiting to take pictures and create credentials for folks who need that service. All those people who meandered to the dome to wait a ridiculous amount of time in line to get a picture taken by one lonely camera operator with faulty equipment could have relatively quickly been served back at the Marriott, but NO ONE KNEW THEY WERE THERE. All of the signs, and all of the people, directed folks to the dome for credential mismanagement.

Our credentials ended up at the Marriott because they were sent over with the pile of CBS credentials for group distribution. Someone from CBS picked up the ones for CBS proper, someone from CSTV (now CBS College Sports) picked up those for the on-air and production folks, but nobody picked up the CSTV.com credentials, and nobody, either internally or at the NCAA, even knew they were at the Marriott until we were finally told Friday morning.

Now finally fully credentialed, I was off to radio row in the coaches' hotel to make the rounds. Getting into the hotel was harder yesterday because two rent-a-cops were checking for room keys or coaching convention badges, neither of which I have. They let me in when I told them I had to do radio though, so they weren't as tough as the Canadian immigration or credential distribution folks.

I taped something for the Buzz in Raleigh, a station I make weekly appearances on during the season, but couldn't work out the schedule for my weekly appearance on Jerry Tarkanian's show on Sirius because I had to go to the Kansas practice session. I did sit in for a few minutes on Bill King's Rivals radio show on Sirius though.

I ran into Purdue coach Matt Painter a couple more times. He probably thinks I'm stalking him, but I'm really after Scott Drew of Baylor, who is doing a good job of avoiding me so far.

I did get to say hello to Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who remembered that I'm a Region Rat (resident of NW Indiana), and specifically from the same town as his stud center, Luke Harangody. He says, "Think about that, the Big East player of the year and the best numbers guy are both from the same little town." I'm not sure Schererville is all that little anymore, but that is kind of funny. I've never met Harangody one-on-one, although I have covered a few of his games.

I also met Steve Lavin (a former Purdue assistant before heading to UCLA) and his wife. Mary. They were both very nice, and I actually chatted a little more with his wife than with Steve because he would get pulled away as other people came by. I found out later that his wife is an actress.

After the open practice session, I headed back to the Riverwalk, which was now pretty full as the fans arrived in town. I saw more Kansas fans than anything else, but I also saw a guy with a Billy Goat shirt on. That's the Chicago dive (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) made famous by the Saturday Night Live "Cheezeborger, no fries, chips..." skit.

While down there, I stopped by the Fox Sports Radio show that Chris Myers and Sean Farnham were doing from Mad Dogs and sat in on that for a few minutes.

I also spent a couple of hours in and out of the WGN radio coaches' show that night and got a chance to chat with some of the coaches like Ronnie Arrow of South Alabama, Texas-Pan American's Tom Schuberth, and Ernie Ziegler of Central Michigan. Ziegler is a former assistant to Ben Howland of UCLA, and he seemed particularly impressive.

While at the WGN remote, I got a flashing Texas necklace from the bar girl, which ended up being a conversation piece all night.

If you see this flashing in the river, please pull me out.

I liked to think of it as my homing beacon. Lord knows, I need one. At the CBS party, Dana O'Neill of ESPN tried to turn it off, but as I write this Saturday morning, it's still flashing in my briefcase. Maybe I'll wear it during the games today.

I'll let Scott, our Party Beat Writer, cover the CBS event, but I will say that I technically crashed that party since I didn't have a ticket. The bouncer lady let me in because I had still had my CSTV credential with me.

I didn't want to end up like the legendary Jerry the Gate Crasher, who is also from the Chicago area. At the party, Mountain West's Media Dude Javan Hedlund was wearing a home made badge (a gift from Big 12 Media Dude Rob Corolla) saying something like, "I kicked Jerry the Gate Crasher out of my arena."

A good time was had by all, and if Scott can remember any of it, I'm sure he'll regale you with tales of the event, most of which will probably be true.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 08:43 AM on April 05, 2008

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