LAS VEGAS, Nev. – When Nick Suss, a Clarion Ledger college football reporter, addressed Jackson State coach Deion Sanders by his first name the coach took issue with it on Tuesday.
Sanders said he wanted to be called “coach.”
“You don’t call Nick Saban, Nick,” Sanders told Suss. “Don’t call me Deion.”
Suss again called him Deion and Sanders walked away from the virtual interview.
The majority of the coaches at the Mountain West Conference media days said they have no problem being called by their first name or as “coach.”
“It’s overrated,” UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo said of being addressed by his first name rather than “coach.” “What does it have to do with winning or losing? If that’s the worst thing you guys call me, I’ll be all right.“
University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales felt the same way.
“I don’t care what you call me,” Gonzales said. “I’m not your boss. I don’t think that’s disrespectful.”
Gonzales, however, demands that his players address him as “coach.” And they should never call him by his first name or even address him as such in media interviews.
Wide receiver Jordan Kress, who transferred to play at Colorado State, once referred to Gonzales as “Danny,” in a media interview and Gonzales said “that was addressed.”
“Brian Urlacher referred to Coach (Rocky) Long as ‘Rocky‘ in an interview when he was a player,” Gonzales said. “It was addressed.”
“My players are not allowed to call me by my first name,” Gonzales said. “Our players don’t refer to us in a first-name manner. I don’t like that. There is a distinct difference between coach and player.”
PICKED LAST: New Mexico was picked to finish last in its six-team Mountain Division in the MWC football media poll, announced Wednesday.
TUIOTI UPDATE: The status of UNM quarterback Tevaka Tuioti will be revealed when preseason fall camp begins on Aug. 3, Gonzales said. Tuioti has yet to be cleared after three reported concussions, the latest occurring last Nov. 7 at Hawaii.
Gonzales had said last month that he would announce before camp if Tuioti would be cleared or remain out. Tuioti, who won the starting job at the beginning of last season, will become a student assistant coach if he isn’t cleared, Gonzales said.
Tuioti hasn’t spoken to the media since before the game against Hawaii, a decision made by Gonzales.
During preseason fall camp, quarterbacks Terry Wilson (Kentucky transfer), Isaiah Chavez (Rio Rancho product) and Trae Hall are expected to compete for the starting job by taking the majority of the reps, Gonzales said.
AZTECS-LOBOS: Gonzales is looking forward to the Lobos’ season opener Sept. 2 at home against Houston Baptist. But he wasn’t shy about talking about an important game to him down the road against San Diego State.
“It’s targeted; it’s Oct. 9,” said Gonzales, who was an assistant at SDSU 2011-2017. “I know what date it is and I know where it’s at. I’m a little disappointed that it’s in Carson. That one will be emotional because San Diego State was really good to me and my family. Obviously, we won three conference championships in a four–year period there. We did some really good things. We loved living in San Diego, but I’m home.“
That game will also be important to UNM defensive coordinator Rocky Long, the former SDSU head coach who is also a UNM alumnus and former Lobo head coach.
Gonzales and Long have already talked about the game, Gonzales said.
Long retired from coaching while at San Diego State after the 2019 season when the Aztecs beat Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. He later went back to his alma mater to become the defensive coordinator.
San Diego State coach Brady Hoke wasn’t too surprised that Long went back to UNM.
“I could see it coming to some degree,” Hoke said. “It really worked out when we played in Albuquerque for the New Mexico Bowl. Him being back and around friends, him and Debby (his wife). I think that had a lot to do with it. Obviously, his relationship with Danny is important, and it’s his alma mater. It’s kind of cool.”