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Greg Jones talks with NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann
Oct. 27, 2003
I have been interviewed hundreds of times as a player at Florida State. This summer I interned in the Sports Information Office and as part of that internship, I get to turn the tables and ask the media a few questions for a change. Each week I’ll interview a different writer or sportscaster for the game program. This week I spoke with Lynn Swann of ABC Sports.
How has the game of college football changed since you played?
I think the game has gotten faster and the players have gotten stronger. I think the trend in college football has been to recruit athletes at every position instead of positional players. With that in mind the science of sport has also changed. Training techniques have changed and have improved along with conditioning and off-season programs. Many of those are programs that we didn’t have and weren’t involved in when I was playing. You can actually get a young man into a training program that might be 6-3 and 210 pounds when he comes to college but by his fourth year he will probably be 250-260 pounds and all muscle.
What is the most memorable game you have covered?
I have been fortunate enough to cover some really outstanding football games. I think covering a number of the Florida State games when they won the national championship in 1999 against Virginia Tech, for example, was a memorable game for me. I covered all three of Florida State’s appearances in all the national championship games against Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. I also had the privilege of covering the outstanding game with Florida State and Miami last year that, unfortunately, the Seminoles did not win. I also covered the Ohio State vs. Miami national championship game last year, which was phenomenal. Just this year I was fortunate to be able to cover Miami against Florida when the Hurricanes were down by 23 points at one time during the game. That was an outstanding game as Brock Berlin quarterbacked Miami to the win. I also covered the Michigan vs. Colorado game when Kordell Stewart threw the Hail Mary pass.
Do you prepare for both a close game and a possible blow out?
You really have to prepare more for a blowout when there is nothing going on because if the game is giving you a lot then the game carries itself. When the game is not giving you great drama and performance then you have to draw on more of the players and stories you have accumulated through your research. You have to try to make the game interesting for those people at home watching on television. You have to know things about the campus you are on and other interesting tidbits or trivia that will help you pull the viewer into the game.
Of all of the Heisman Trophy winners you have covered, who has been the best?
There have been some outstanding players and performers and certainly you have to be one of those to win the Heisman Trophy. Florida State is fortunate to have had Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke who have won the Heisman Trophy during their careers. I think probably, if I had to pick one, I might look at the defensive back from Michigan, Charles Woodson. He was outstanding because of his contribution to the team. He was also outstanding because he was primarily a defensive back who came over to offense on a few plays and ran special teams and punt returns and things of that nature. He lifted his entire team. Michigan won a national championship and I think they did it on the back of Charles Woodson.
Which is the greatest rivalry in college football today?
For any college football player or coach, the greatest college football rivalry is the one they are in. USC vs. UCLA. Florida State vs. Florida. Florida State vs. Miami. Ohio State vs. Michigan. Auburn vs. Alabama. Washington vs. Washington State. These mean so much to schools because of the history and tradition and how many people they have affected over the years. Every time a former player or alumni comes back to see a game and they are in the stands for a rivalry game, they are 20 years old again.
What is the most off-the-wall thing a coach has told you during your Friday afternoon pre-game meetings?
There have been some very interesting things some coaches have told us that I can’t tell you. I have been covering college football since 1983 and I think part of the reason I am able to get good information is that coaches trust me. They know that when they tell me sensitive things, they expect me to handle that information in a responsible manner. If I am told things off the record, that information stays off the record. If it’s something that is on the record, I make sure I report it accurately. If it is something about a game plan, I don’t divulge that information until I find an appropriate time during the game. So, have there been some off the wall things? Absolutely. Hilarious things. Funny things. Some have been sad and tragic. Talking to the coaches is important because you develop an image about a person as they move along the sideline and you think you know what that person is like. It’s very important in our job when you get the opportunity to meet these people that you have an open mind and really get to know them.
How do you decide what information you have learned to use during the broadcast?
The game will dictate what information we use. There are many games that we have information and stories we would like to tell but the game doesn’t allow us to tell them because the situation isn’t appropriate. If you want to tell a story about Kendyll Pope or Michael Boulware but all the action is coming up the middle and other players are making all the plays, the stories are out of context and not a part of the game. We don’t try and force a story in that just doesn’t fit.
What type of game do you hope for, offensive or defensive minded?
We hope for a game that gives you great drama all the way through. Broadcasting is our business and when we get higher ratings we can charge our advertisers more for advertising time and that’s the business side of it. We hope for that kind of drama. What entertains fans the most and allows them to stay with the ballgame? Probably more offense than defense. You can have the greatest defensive game with two teams going at it blow after blow after blow with big stops but the average fan is not entertained by that. The average fan is entertained by a pick that’s run for a touchdown or a punt return going for a touchdown or a kickoff return. The offense and watching the running back make a great move at the line for a big gain or a receiver making a spectacular diving catch. That’s the kind of drama and excitement the fans want. For players, it’s all about the team and winning the game. For fans it’s all about being entertained.