LOS ANGELES -- Oregon and Stanford. Stanford and Oregon. They were the two Pac-10 powers in 2010, and they are expected to be so again in 2011 in the new Pac-12. Both finished in the top-10 last winter and are nearly certain to start there this fall. But they had a decidedly different feel at the inaugural Pac-12 media day.
After a tumultuous offseason, the big news for Oregon was no news, which inspired some grumpiness among scribes gathered to hear at least some updates on various off-field issues, including the NCAA inquiry into scout/street agent Willie Lyles.
Stanford was a different story. The Cardinal, picked to finish behind the Ducks in the North Division, showed up with a pair of national celebrities: quarterback Andrew Luck and his new beard.
"I'm hesitant to call it a beard," Luck said mysteriously. "I don't think it's quite there yet. I'd never done it before, so why not try. We'll see if it lasts. When I get annoyed with it, I'll shave it."
A minor surprise: Ducks coach Chip Kelly didn't appear annoyed at any point during his first session with reporters since spring practices, though he was repeatedly -- and once pointedly -- quizzed about the the Lyles-NCAA imbroglio. Kelly, who is known to be just a bit standoffish at times, was beyond pleasant while he refused to comment.
"As head coach of this football program, we're held accountable for everything we do," Kelly said. "So we look forward to when we can [comment]. I'd love to talk about it. There are a lot of answers I'd love to make sure we can get out there."
Kelly, who never showed up for his one-on-one sessions with print reporters afterward, did offer one minor insight: "There are a lot of misconceptions," he said.
Toward the end of his session, Oregonian columnist John Canzano asked a pointed question -- "You paid $25,000, presumably, for garbage information that we've all seen. I've seen the phone records …" and event moderated Dave Hirsch tried to cut him off.
But Kelly calmly answered, "I can't speak to what any other school has done with [Lyles]. I know he deals with 80-some odd schools and what other services he's been involved with. But I know how we dealt with them. But again, I've got to defer to … I'd love to talk about it."
Oh, you could see for a moment that Kelly did have something he wanted to say. Only he was bound by a statement the school released before the press conference that it "continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA's ongoing review" and the requisite cone of silence that includes.
Kelly also was completely affable -- and opaque -- when he refused to provide an update on the status of All-American cornerback Cliff Harris, who was suspended for at least the marquee opener with LSU due to being cited for driving 118 mph on a suspended license in a rental car in June. Kelly was also chipper while opting to not enlightened reports on the status of likely starting middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is on indefinite suspension for a criminal mischief arrest in May.
"They have academic and behavioral things that they have to get accomplished and we'll deal with as it comes," Kelly said. "I really can't tell you at this point in time what their status is except they're working out with our team and doing things right now. We'll figure out where that fits as we move forward during the season."
Stanford is not without issues, of course. They just didn't invite an inquisition. The biggest is new coach David Shaw replacing the fiery Jim Harbaugh, who is off to the San Francisco 49ers. Shaw is not unaware that some wonder if his easy-going manner won't match the motivational intensity of Harbaugh, who seemed to connect with his players with his often eccentric ways.
"We have different personalities, but at the same time you can ask the guys when somebody crosses the line, I'll be nose to nose with them," Shaw said. "I might not be yelling, but I'll be dead serious."
Dead serious news? How about this from Luck, the 2010 Heisman Trophy runner-up who opted to return for his redshirt junior season instead of entering the NFL draft, when he likely would have been the top overall selection: "I'm doing this as my last college football season and approaching it like such."
So no fifth year of Luck. Sorry.
And so were the Pac-12's two top dogs as the calender begins its charge toward the regular season. One with high expectations and lots of questions. One with high expectations and Grizzly Adams at QB.