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Perfect Semester Allows Tennessee To Avoid APR Penalties

a_plusWhen Butch Jones arrived in Knoxville last December he inherited a mess.  A total mess.  An on- and off-the-field mess.

Transfers, wash-outs and plain ol’ poor academic performance had left Tennessee staring down the barrel of an NCAA bowl ban if its football team didn’t improve in the classroom.  Yesterday, Jones announced that his squad had scored a perfect 1,000 for the spring semester, a score high enough to fend off any sanctions.


“It directly affects recruiting, it affects our football program and it’s something that we’ve been dealing with for a long time.  I think it’s probably one of the greatest victories we’ve had in Tennessee football…

This is an issue since Day One that we walked in here as a coaching staff that opponents have used against us in the recruiting process.  There’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of effort from individuals behind the scenes that have made this come to fruition.  I tell you what, I’m extremely proud.”


Now, the first thing that most of us think when we see a positive story about academics is: “Yeah, right… They were given those grades.”  Be honest, that’s what you thought.

But the fact of the matter is if UT wanted to cook the books it could have done so long before NCAA sanctions were thisclose to being dropped on its football program.  So kudos to Jones and his staff on this one.  From recruiting to academics to signs of improvement on the field, the Vols’ new coach appears to be the first right move made by the folks on Rocky Top in many a year.

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Mizzou WR Moe The Hit Of SEC Media Days

When it comes to Day One’s quote machine, it wasn’t a coach who took home first prize.  Nope, senior Missouri receiver TJ Moe was actually the man whose gums flapped loudest… and most entertainingly.  The clear message?  He’s tired of hearing about how great the SEC is:


“People talk about how good SEC defenses are but don’t take into account how good Big 12 offenses are…

I know they won the last six national titles.  But all 12 teams didn’t win it.  Just one did…

They’ve also got prettier girls, the air’s fresher and the toilet paper’s thicker.”


Sounds like that chip on Gary Pinkel’s shoulder is actually a message that he’s sending throughout the Mizzou program.  Moe — who draws a lot of comparisons to the NFL’s Wes Welker — obviously received his coach’s message loud and clear.

Now let’s see who around the SEC takes note of Moe’s many messages from Media Days.

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MSU’s Ray: “I Don’t Know How To Lose”

New Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Ray explained his background and rang the traditional cowbell at an introductory presser in Starkville yesterday.  As expected, after hearing him speak, State fans are feeling better about the hire (more in a minute).

Ray — who’s drawn positive reviews from those who’ve worked with him — opened with the usual “here’s what we’re gonna be” comments that all coaches use at their introductions:

“The program that I’m going to run is going to be a situation where guys are going to flourish.”

“All I ask you to do this whole time is, throw away your doubts, throw away your fears and get two feet into Mississippi State basketball.  Then see what happens.  If it doesn’t happen they you can start being judgmental, but don’t be judgmental right now.”

“I’m telling you this: We will be successful.  I don’t know how to lose.  The only thing I’ve ever done is win ballgames.  I don’t care if you’re an assistant coach or associate head coach — if you come from a winning program, you know how to win.”

“The system we will run is based on integrity.  I believe you win by doing things the right way.  I want to make sure we put a team on this court that you guys are proud of.”

“I’ve got to get our players believing this is the right way to play basketball, making them better as a basketball player.  Rest assured that all those things will happen.  It will take some patience, but it will happen.”

Ray also explained that he believes in a motion offense with a lot of “screens, moving, popping and cutting.”  He spoke of trying to keep Rodney Hood and the rest of his six scholarship players in Starkville.  He credited predecessor Rick Stansbury for giving him a program to build on and yet he also said the off-court shenanigans would have to stop.

It was a Day One win for Ray.  Of course, all but about 1% of opening pressers are wins.  “He has a commanding presence,” MSU president Mark Keenum said yesterday.  “He’s going to bring a high level of intellect and knowledge to the game.”

As noted above, State fans are gradually getting onboard with the hire.  Especially that, “The only thing I’ve ever done is win ballgames” line.  That’s quite a statement.

The Bulldog fansite — great name, by the way — now gives a thumbs-up to the man they’d likely never heard of a week ago:

“… I think Rick Ray will be a great fit at State.  He isn’t who was most wanted, but in the end none of the candidates, wanted or unknown, were guaranteed to come in and be successful… The sky is the limit (with Ray), he’s sitting at 0-0 right now.”

True enough.  Ray may turn out to be an A-1 head basketball coach.  But for now he’s a lifetime assistant who’s never run his own program.  He steps into a 14-team league that features coaches like Billy Donovan, John Calipari, Mike Anderson, and Frank Martin.  Oh, and Frank Haith, the reigning National Coach of the Year is coming in, too.  Ray’s taking over a program that will have serious depth issues next year and he’ll have to replace a guy who — even though he was the winningest coach in school history — was forced into very early retirement.

That won’t be easy.  Now, that doesn’t mean State fans shouldn’t be hopeful and supportive.  But buying in hook, line and sinker?  Everybody does it right after a coach is introduced.  But, boy, there sure are a lot of coaches introduced each year, aren’t there?  Not every guy who wins the presser by telling the fans exactly what they want to hear goes on to win enough games to keep his job.

So the jury is still very much out on Rick Ray, the only SEC coach who’s never run a program before.  We wish him well.

His deal: four years, $1 million per year plus incentives.  He also announced that he will retain at least one Stansbury assistant.

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SEC Headlines – 3/26/12 Part Two

1.  Could this be the year Florida receiver Andre Debose finally has luck on his side?

2.  The basketball Gators grew up on their way to the Elite Eight, but will Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton return?

3.  Kenarious Gates opened spring drills at Georgia at left tackle.

4.  Linebacker Jarvis Jones likes the look of UGA’s defense.

5.  Everyone’s saying Frank Martin will be introduced at South Carolina tomorrow.

6.  New coaches and plenty of change are headed Tennessee’s way this spring.

7.  Derek Dooley says his team was a little too sloppy on Day One of drills.

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Freeze Takes The High-Road With Mullen

On signing day, Dan Mullen told a Mississippi State video crew that he doesn’t just preach values, he lives it every day in his program.  Ole Miss fans — familiar with Mullen’s many shots at the Rebels over the years — took his comments to be a thinly-veiled reference to new UM coach Hugh Freeze, a man who speaks often of his faith.

Asked about Mullen’s remarks by The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Freeze took the high road… as Houston Nutt often tried to do before him:

“I’m sure that all of us express our faith in different ways.  I have said from Day One that I’m far from perfect and do not claim to be and certainly don’t judge others.  I have said from Day One also that I have great respect for what he’s done there.  I give credit where credit’s due.  I look forward to trying to increase our momentum against them, but whether or not he meant that toward me — I don’t know why he would, because I will never.  I’m not going to talk about something I don’t know, Number One, and have no reason to think anything about me.

We’re not going to enter into negative recruiting.  It’s just not what we’re going to do. … Will we be 100% in that?  Probably not as a whole staff, but I don’t think that’s going to be the practice we adhere to…

I look forward to talking with him.  I do.  I know how we feel about that rivalry and I certainly understand it and I get it.  I’ve lived here.  But at the end of the day, I don’t know that it has to be a rift between the coaching staff because of it.  I’m going to want to beat them as bad as we can and he’d going to want to do the same, but I still think you can have a professional relationship.  I hope.

I don’t think he in any way in recruiting tried to do anything that was hurtful towards me personally or say anything about me.  And I know I didn’t him.”

Mullen is a needler.  He’s got a touch of Spurrier and a dash of Kiffin about him.  (Cue the “he’s a sweetheart” emails from MSU fans.)

We’ll see how long it take for MSU’s coach to get under the skin of UM’s new head man.

(Sidenote — Because MSU fans are already yelping we’ve changed the word “faith” above to “values.”  Mullen was referring to preaching about values, not preaching about faith.  This changes nothing, of course, as Rebel fans still took it as a shot at Freeze who is vocal about his faith, values, beliefs, etc.  And UM fans taking Mullen’s comment as an insult was what led the reporter from The JCL to ask Freeze his thoughts on the remark… and that’s what led us to post it here.

Here’s a link to the web clip.)

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Happy Memorial Day

First, Happy Memorial Day to all the SEC fans out there.  I hope you have a great day today wherever you are.

Second, many thanks to Mike and Josh for holding down the fort last week as I took a week’s vacation.  I can tell you I wish I was still in Charleston.

And third, we’ll once again be keeping you up to date on all things SEC this week and beyond.  Our goal from Day One of this site back in 2008 was to provide you with a site where you can keep up with all of the stories making headlines across the league.  Over the next few weeks and days you may see some new features and new some means of delivering that information, but the goal remains the same — If you come to everyday, you will become a Mr. (or Mrs.) SEC.

Today’s headlines and stories coming soon.  And again, have a good Memorial Day!

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SEC Shaky On Day One Of The Tourney

TGIF.  And boy do we mean that today.  We are most definitely ready for the weekend here at Headquarters.

TGFF.  And that’s what folks at the SEC offices in Birmingham must have been thinking last night.  As in: Thank God For Florida.

In case you weren’t paying attention, Day One — the real Day One — of the NCAA Tournament wasn’t pretty for the Southeastern Conference.  Only Florida lived up to its billing, which might not be a good sign for Georgia and Tennessee today. 

#4 Kentucky 59, #13 Princeton 57

Survive and advance.  UK survived and advanced.  But they also were taken right down to the wire by the Ivy League champs.  Brandon Knight hit a driving layup with 2 seconds to play — his first bucket of the game — to push the Wildcats through to the next round.  (Up next: Bob Huggins and West Virginia.  Gulp.)  Hopefully the close call with Princeton will serve as a wake-up call for the 11th-ranked Cats.

John Calipari said of his team: “I think they had the jitters at their first NCAA Tournament game ever that they’ve been watching since they’re 12 and all of a sudden starting in the NCAA Tournament that’s on television.”  A run-on sentence, but we get his point.

For all the whining about UK’s slot as a #4 in the tourney, if the Wildcats need seeding protection from the likes of #13 Princeton, their run isn’t going to last very long.

#12 Richmond 69, #5 Vanderbilt 66

A #12 beats a #5.  Vandy falls in its first game to a mid-major.  No shock here.  Other than the fact the SEC almost started off its tournament push going oh-for-two. 

The Spiders’ Kevin Anderson hit a floater with 18.7 seconds to play to send the ‘Dores home to Nashville… again.  In 2010, VU lost to Murray State and in 2008 they lost to Siena.  Think Kevin Stallings might catch some flak from fans over that?

“These teams are very, very close in talent and very close in ability,” VU’s coach said of Richmond.  “They have very good players, a very good system.”  True enough.  But try telling that to Vandy fans today.

#2 Florida 79, #15 UC-Santa Barbara 51

Just when the SEC looked to be staggering, second-seeded Florida dropped the hammer on its opponent from the opening tip.  Billy Donovan’s squad made 11 of its first 15 shots and at one point held a 43-18 first-half lead. 

Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton combined for 31 points for the Gators.

“They’re awful good,” said UCSB coach Bob Williams.  “They have accumulated a great nucleus of talent that should have an opportunity to take them a long way.  I mean, anybody that thinks they’re — in my opinion — overrated as a 2-seed, I think they’re wrong.”

Tennessee and Georgia are up next for the SEC.  With any luck they’ll play more like Florida and less like Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  If not, maybe those RPI rankings showing the SEC as the fifth-best conference in the country had things right all along.

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