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Bielema Says Strength At The Top Is The Difference Between The SEC And The Big Ten

ARKANSAS MEDIA DAYSNew Arkansas coach Bret Bielema sat down with ESPN for a quick chat before entering the main media room in Birmingham.  Having moved from Wisconsin this past offseason, he was naturally asked to compare the Big Ten to the SEC.

 

“There are a set of teams who have won national championship after championship.  They’re in the running.  There’s probably four or five teams last year out of the SEC that could have argued they could have done just as well in that national championship game (against) Notre Dame.”

 

Bielema was also asked about the comment he made a year ago while coaching at Wisconsin that the Big Ten didn’t want to be anything like the SEC.  The remark was made because Urban Meyer — new to Ohio State — was recruiting players who’d already committed to Big Ten schools… which was a violation of a Big Ten gentleman’s agreement.

Bielema quickly pointed out the differences between the two leagues and then he backtracked from his famous quote:

 

“A broader national exposure… the SEC label and what that means.  The incident you’re referring to really it didn’t have anything to do with the truth of what was reported and I don’t think that guy (Meyer) has changed that league in anyway.”

 

Bielema will likely be asked about that comment a few more times this afternoon.

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SEC Top Cop Shaw On New Ejection Penalty: “Most Significant Rule Change In My Tenure”

gfx - they said itLast week it was widely reported that Big Ten officials had been given instructions regarding the NCAA’s new ejection-for-a-helmet-to-helmet-hit rule: When in doubt, kick ‘em out.

Now the fact of the matter is that there will be a review via replay to make sure that the officials on the field saw what they thought they saw.  So if a kid drives helmet-to-shoulder on tape, the ejection order can be rescinded.  Still, this attempt to curtail head injuries in college football is going to be very, very controversial.

Coaches will hate the rule when it goes against one of their players.  Fans will abhor the rule, period.  But it’s coming this fall anyway.  And current SEC head of officials Steve Shaw says the new rule is “probably the most significant rule change in my tenure.”

Speaking this morning at SEC Media Days, Shaw said:

 

“Instant replay has continued to evolve over time, but instant replay is going to play a big part in this.  We have to right 100% of the time.”

 

Newsflash: Nothing will be right 100% of the time.  Shaw said that coaches and players need to be aware of and prepared for the rule to enforced.  “Coaches have to teach head-up tackling.  Players have to execute what they’re being taught and if a player doesn’t execute it properly, the official has to have the courage to put the marker on the ground.”

The irony is that for all the grief officials will catch over this rule — and there will a whole lot — most referees would tell you that they do not want any more judgement calls added to a game that’s already being played at a faster pace than ever before.

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SEC Headlines 6/28/2013

headlines-friSEC Football

1. Kentucky is reportedly an option for former Pitt running back Rushel Shell (not to be confused with a “a young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.”

2. Here are 12 newcomers to the SEC expected to make an impact this fall.

3. Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson gets a $60,000 raise.

4. Georgia defensive end Garrison Smith: “I’m not in jail and I’m not dead. You feel me? So I’m just thankful to be alive and be here.”

5. A 96-year-old Georgia fan gets a surprise visit from quarterback Aaron Murray.

6. There’s more to the Texas A&M offense than quarterback Johnny Manziel.  Sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans ”could truly be one of the best in the country.”

7. Here’s a roundup of early Heisman odds.  No surprise that Manziel is the favorite in all of them.

8. One man reading of preseason magazines.  They “remain in love with Alabama despite the Tide’s key losses on the offensive and defensive lines.”

9. Michigan State AD on the planned upcoming series against Alabama starting 2016: “We have a contract to play and we’re excited to come down there and excited to have Alabama in East Lansing,”

10. Why August practices are so important for South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson.

11. ESPN’s Colin Cowherd is bullish on Ole Miss.

12. Ranked as the nation’s top punter in high school, Jimmy Hutchinson was expected to enroll at Auburn in January of 2014.  He’s now enrolling August 1. Where Auburn’s early enrollees fit in the big picture.

13. Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs is optimistic about the Tigers this fall under Gus Malzahn.  ”I do believe that what we’re going to see this fall is exciting for our fans and I think it’s going to rejuvenate them.” Auburn adding more than 2,000 free parking and tailgate spots.

14. John Clay critiques MrSEC’s story about the four new coaches in the league and what it means for Kentucky.

15. Arkansas’ uniforms getting an update – numbers now solid white.

SEC Basketball

16. 18-year old Archie Goodwin was the youngest player taken in the NBA draft.

17. His former teammate, Nerlens Noel, went from jitters to dejection, according to USA Today’s behind-the-scenes report.

18. Since 2006, 32% of early entrants in the NBA draft have gone undrafted. One of those players is former Mississippi State Bulldog Renardo Sydney.

19. With five draft picks, the SEC had as many selections as the Big Ten.  ACC and Pac-12 tied for the most with seven.

20. “If ever there was a concrete indictment of the AAU summer basketball system, this draft was it.”

21. Former Auburn guard Jordan Price is reportedly transferring to La Salle.

22. Auburn’s point guard of the future is freshman Tahj Shamsid-Deen.

23. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on freshman Darius Thompson: “He has every opportunity to be a starter in our program.”

Extras

24. For the 18th straight year, LSU No. 1 in college baseball attendance.

25. Bill Raftery reportedly teaming up with Gus Johnson for college basketball coverage on the new Fox Sports 1.

26. Big Ten plays more BCS games than any other conference.

27. Another waterfall - this one at Oregon.

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WOW Headlines – 6/26/13

Former Alabama TE Brent Calloway will transfer to a junior college after being dismissed from the Tide football team
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw says his surgically-repaired foot is doing so well that he went skydiving last weekend
The NCAA has officially reprimanded Ole Miss G Marshall Henderson for making obscene gestures toward fans during this past year’s NCAA Tournament
The Gator Bowl is expected to pair an SEC team with either a Big Ten or ACC team in the upcoming six-year bowl cycle
There’s debate whether former Kentucky C Nerlens Noel will be the first pick in Thursday’s NBA draft
Former West Virginia F Keaton Miles is transferring to Arkansas
The NCAA has granted Mississippi State F Wendell Lewis an extra year of eligibility due to medical hardship
Follow all the SEC’s team every day at MrSEC.com

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Gator Bowl Expects A Deal With The SEC And Multiple Conferences

gator-bowl-logoSince January of 2011, the Gator Bowl has been an SEC bowl partner.  With a new series of contracts being drawn up and signed, it looks like that partnership will extend for a new six-year window between 2014 and 2019.

According to Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett, the current SEC versus Big Ten matchup will likely be tweaked moving forward:

 

“I believe we will have a deal with the SEC and we’re looking to create a relationship with multiple conferences.  We’re focusing on the Big Ten and the ACC and Notre Dame.  I feel like we’re really close…

The SEC will be our anchor conference and the team we get will be our home team each year.”

 

At MrSEC.com, we have stated that we would have like to have seen the SEC go a bit more national with its bowl schedule.  Big Ten teams, for example, will take part in bowls from New York to Florida to California.

We are also in favor a bowl “draft” that would allow SEC fans to see their teams battle teams from conferences they don’t often play (cough, cough, the Pac-12, cough).

Unfortunately, this appears to be more of the same.  We suspect when the SEC announces its new lineup of bowl partners, you’ll see a whole of SEC versus Big Ten and SEC versus ACC matchups.  A couple of bowls will likely feature games against the Big XII as well.  So much for variety.  Hey, we’re glad the Gator Bowl is branching out, but replacing a Big Ten team with an ACC team doesn’t do much for variety when it comes to SEC bowl foes.

Ultimately, the league is going in the complete opposite direction of the Big Ten.  Jim Delany’s league is going coast-to-coast in an effort to get more national attention and be seen in front of recruits from multiple regions.  The SEC is happy just to sit in its own backyard.  The best recruiting zone in America is in its geographic footprint and currently the league rules the national roost in terms of football and media hype.  League officials apparently feel no need to change.

That’s too bad for SEC fans… unless you enjoy seeing umpteen SEC/ACC and SEC/Big Ten matchups every December and January.

Personally we would have liked to have seen the SEC worm its way into the Las Vegas Bowl against the Pac-12.  Call us crazy.

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SI’s Staples Weighs In On A&M, Mizzou Moves

missouri-texas-am-logoSports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has today ranked all of the major conference realignment moves that have taken place in the past three seasons.  The best move?  Texas A&M’s to the SEC.  Among the many reasons the Aggies’ move got an A grade from Staples:

 

“… this union was a perfect cultural fit.  Fans at other Big 12 schools considered the buzzcut-sporting, whooping Aggies a tad odd.  Most SEC fan bases believe there’s something wrong with a school if its fans aren’t odd.  The Longhorns, who have the quietest 100,000 fans in America on fall Saturdays, look down on the Aggies.  Florida, LSU and Alabama fans just said, ‘Welcome to the Party.’”

 

But Staples’ take on Missouri — he gave the Tigers’ move a C — is a bit more interesting:

 

“One bad football season does not make this a terrible move.  Remember, in the preceding five years, Missouri was much better at football than Texas A&M.  The Tigers certainly need to get better on the football field — because their new rivals in the SEC East aren’t getting any worse — but calling this move a mistake because of one lousy football season is premature.  If, in 10 years, Missouri has not moved out of the SEC’s cellar, then feel free to say that the Tigers traded a world of pain for the financial security of the SEC.

As far as the SEC goes, Missouri was the only choice everyone could agree upon in the situation the league faced in 2012.  Some presidents and athletic directors wanted Florida State, but they faced fierce opposition from a bloc led by Florida and Georgia.  The most logical additions would have been Virginia Tech or NC State — which would have been geographic fits that opened new television markets — but neither wanted to leave the ACC.  Missouri was geographically contiguous and added two decent-sized television markets (St. Louis and Kansas City).  It also gave the SEC another AAU member.  Of course, if (former Ohio State president) Gordon Gee is to be believed, the Big Ten will try to snatch Missouri down the road.  That would be interesting, but it seems highly unlikely.”

 

Technically, Gee said that he would have liked to have added Missouri and Kansas already and that he could see that “potentially” happening in the future.  Gee is also known for making bizarro comments from far out in left field.  We at MrSEC.com don’t believe he was anymore speaking for Jim Delany and the Big Ten with regards to Missouri than he was when he made a poor joke about Catholics.

To a more interesting topic, the SEC’s expansion plans post-A&M were and are still shrouded in mystery.  Word leaked out quickly that Missouri and the SEC were playing footsie (as we had suggested might happen way back in the summer of 2010).  As for all the other schools mentioned, well, that depends on each writer’s sources.

Oklahoma was mentioned as a potential candidate because Mike Slive had spoken with Sooner brass a year earlier.  We don’t believe there was much to that.

Folks close to West Virginia University will tell you that Slive and Mountaineer AD Oliver Luck were secretly hoping Missouri would pass on the SEC and leave the door open for WVU.  The problem there?  If the SEC wanted the Mountaineers why didn’t Slive and company just invite them in the first place?

NC State and Virginia Tech were kicked around by several websites as potential targets should the SEC drive toward 16 schools at some point.  But at MrSEC, we never heard much talk about the two — aside from fan chatter — during the push to 14.

Several sources have said that Slive has longed for North Carolina and Duke for ages.  One ACC source even claimed to The Sporting News that the SEC commissioner had been wooing those schools for several years.  Obviously, if wooing went on, that wooing did not work.

Florida State would have been a brand name “get” — much like the Big Ten’s addition of Nebraska — but the SEC was more interested in growing its footprint in 2011 and adding cable households to its portfolio.  Only this offseason have we learned that FSU officials approached SEC officials — in 2013, according to reports — to see if the league Florida State once spurned might still have an interest in the school.  That answer was no.

The fact of the matter is we’ll likely never know for sure just who the SEC did speak with — either officially or unofficially — during the summer and fall of 2011.  What we do know is that Texas A&M and Missouri were the final choices.  And it will take a number of years to determine whether or not the SEC, A&M and Mizzou are a good match long-term.

 

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Whoever Replaces Slive Will Face A “Larger” Challenge

mike-sliveLet’s start with the obvious: SEC commissioner Mike Slive is one of the most powerful men in college sports.  Along with Big Ten commish Jim Delany, Slive seems to always be a few steps ahead of pack.

An ex-ESPN employee who’s sat in on meetings with a number of conference commissioners recently told MrSEC.com that Slive and Delany are such strategic thinkers that they’re often operating on a completely different level from their counterparts in other leagues.

Slive hasn’t gained his power through bluster.  He works a room, calms conversations, keeps bringing all parties back to the topic at hand, and then manages to build a consensus without anyone realizing how exactly he’s done it.

Put it this way: If you’re traveling with two wanted droids on Tatooine, you want Slive in the brown robe talking to the Stormtroopers.

According to Eric Hyman – who has worked with Slive as AD at South Carolina and now at Texas A&M – it is Slive who makes the Southeastern Conference strong:

 

“I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a visionary.  He’s brilliant intellectually.  He’s got tremendous political acumen.  He’s adroit in what he does and how he maneuvers things.

He knows where he wants to take the league and he gets a consensus in that direction.  There’s no division.  We all say the things we feel (as individual institutions), but the conference has a bond and is as strong as it is because of Mike Slive.”

 

While Slive has mastered the role of calm, cool leader, he’s also benefited from the fact that the Southeastern Conference has long been an all-for-one, one-for-all kinda neighborhood, even before his arrival.  If there’s another conference whose member institutions have always marched arm in arm it’s the Big Ten.  So it coincidental that Slive and Delany are the best at what they do?  Obviously not.  Slive and Delany are excellent leaders, but their talents are enhanced by the esprit de corps that exists among those they are leading.

Slive recently had this to say to The San Antonio Express-News:

 

“One of the hallmarks of this league is the fact that we talk about being a family.  It may sound sort of naïve, but that’s the sense I got out of the (spring meetings).  It’s “This is tough, but we’re going to find a way through it.  We’re going to make a decision – as long as it’s thoughtful, reasonable and with an open dialogue – and, once we make it, we’ll move on.  That’s just the way we’ve always done it.’”

 

Ah, but here comes the rub.

The bigger conferences become, the more difficult it will be to keep everyone on the same page.  There are more voices in the room, more opinions on every topic.

The math is pretty simple, really.  If you and three friends are going to dinner, reaching a consensus on where to eat is one thing.  If you and 13 friends are going to dinner, good luck getting everyone to agree on a restaurant.

Slive is now 72-years-old.  Delany is about 65.  It won’t be too many years before new leaders have taken over the SEC and Big Ten.  Those leagues will no doubt try to find men – or women – who have just as much foresight and polical savvy as their current commissioners.

But whether those new leaders will have as much success as Slive and Delany will in part be decided by how well 14-school leagues – not 12- or 10-team leagues – can be managed.  The bigger the conferences, the bigger the challenge.

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Slive Has Already Accepted An Apology From OSU’s Gee; Columnists, Twitter Outraged

pointed-finger-accusationOhio State president Gordon Gee has once again botched a joke in a public setting.  Actually, he botched several jokes.  His attempts at being funny in front of an OSU athletic council meeting back in December have turned into a national scandal — what doesn’t? — and now he’s having to beg for forgiveness.

If you missed his comments, you can read them here.  Putting it simply, the ex-Vanderbilt chancellor fired a shot at SEC academics while also managing to insult Notre Dame, Louisville, the ACC, and Catholics everywhere.  And, yes, the Catholic thing is the biggie.

Being an ex-SEC man himself, Gee knows SEC commissioner Mike Slive quite well.  And according to Slive, Gee has already called him to apologize.  So has Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.  And Slive has accepted both men’s apologies:

 

“(Gee) called me a week or so ago and he said he said some things that he wanted to apologize for.  I didn’t know what they were, he didn’t say what they were and (he) said they might come out and wanted (me) to know he was very apologetic and very sorry for what he said.

Subsequently I got a call from Jim Delany the other day, prior to it coming out and not only did he apologize… he made it abundantly clear that he has great respect for the Southeastern Conference, enjoys the competitions and Gordon Gee was not speaking for him or the Big Ten and he apologized on behalf of himself and on behalf of the Big Ten conference.”

 

Enough.  End of story.

When I first read the Gee story I thought to myself: “What a stupid thing for a university president to say in public, even in a joking manner.”  Then I wrote that.  And then I moved on.

Unfortunately half the folks in America are now out for Gee’s head, outraged — outraged!!! — over his comments.

Lighten up, Francis.

Gee was trying to be cute and as is usually the case when he tries to be cute — “I hope Jim Tressel doesn’t dismiss me” –  he failed miserably.

Sadly, as a society we no longer have the ability to move on from anything.  Take Florida assistant Tim Davis’ “devil” comment regarding Alabama’s Nick Saban.  It was a dumb thing to say in public, joking or not.  UF coach Will Muschamp and AD Jeremy Foley both called Saban to apologize on Davis’ behalf, though the assistant — the one guy who should have apologized — hasn’t.

But did we really need two full weeks of national stories on that topic?

Mention it.  Give an opinion on it.  Move on.

But that’s now what happened in Davis’ case.  And it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in L’affaire Gee, either.

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OSU’s Gee Takes Shots At The SEC, Notre Dame, Catholics, And Everything Else Under The Sun

gordon-geeSomeone might to check to see if Gordon Gee’s bowtie is tied too tight.  Ohio State’s president is acting like a man who’s not getting enough oxygen to the old noodle.

According to the Associated Press, OSU held a meeting of its athletics council in December.  Gee — who served as chancellor at Vanderbilt from 2001 through 2007 — fired off a number of jokes about various schools and conferences during the meeting.  He even managed to insult Catholics.

We know this because the notes from that meeting have now gone public.

A few of his inappropriate jokes:

 

*  On why Notre Dame wasn’t invited to join the Big Ten: “The fathers are holy on Sunday and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week… You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that.”  (Gee is a Mormon.)

*  On what the Big Ten looked for in expansion partners: “… institutions of like-minded academic integrity.  So you won’t see us adding Louisville.”  (He then said the Big Ten wouldn’t be adding the University of Kentucky, either.)

*  When asked how Big Ten fans should respond when SEC fans say people in a 14-team league called the Big Ten can’t count: “You tell the SEC when they learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing.”

 

Gee also said that the Big Ten made a mistake in not adding Missouri and Kansas when it had the chance, which could possibly be taken as an insult by fans of Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers.

Most of Gee’s remarks sound like the kind of thing a person would say jokingly to his peers behind closed doors.  But in this day and age there are no closed doors.  Gee, a university president, should know that and he should have been more measured in his comments.

As for joking about Catholics, well, that was just pure stupidity for a man in Gee’s position.  If he were hosting a late-night talk show?  Fine.  But a university president can’t say those kinds of things.

Ohio State — sorry, The Ohio State University — has called Gee’s statements inappropriate and said that their president is undergoing a “remediation plan” as a result.  Gee himself put out a statement apologizing:

 

“The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for.  They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate.”

 

Some guys just don’t know how to tell a joke.  They go too far, they joke when they shouldn’t, etc.  That seems to be the case with Gee.  After all, this is the same man who once joked during the Jim Tressel scandal that he hoped the coach wouldn’t fire him.

As someone who once lived in Columbus, I can tell you that fans of Ohio State athletics were very glad to see him leave OSU in 1998.  And after he did away with Vandy’s athletic department, Commodore fans were just as happy to see his taillights heading right back up I-65 toward Columbus in 2007.

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SEC Coaches Might Ruffle Some Big Ten Feathers With Quickie Comments

Kudos to Matt Hayes of The Sporting News for grabbing quotes from a pair of SEC coaches and getting up on Twitter before anyone else.  Here’s betting the quotes from Nick Saban and Bret Bielema won’t thrill readers in the Big Ten region, especially those in Columbus, Ohio.

We’ll start with the quote from Alabama’s coach.  While discussing the strength of the SEC’s top six teams last year, Saban wondered just how many of those teams unbeaten Ohio State might have been able to knock off:

 

saban quote

 

Hayes also caught up with Arkansas’ head coach to ask him about his year-old comment that folks in the Big Ten didn’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form.  Bielema — the ex-Wisconsin coach — responded as follows:

 

bielema quote

 

Those are hardly fightin’ words, but in this age of instant reaction you can be sure they’ll draw some sort of response by fans from the Midwest.  And how long before someone asks Urban Meyer for his take on Saban’s Ohio State aside?

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