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SEC Media Days Lineup Set

With the Southeastern Conference growing, one thing we failed to think about was this: SEC Media Days — which has become a fan festival in recent years — will be growing, too.

Great.  Instead of 12 coaches, there will be 14 speaking this July.  And players?  You could no longer fit ‘em all on a Greyhound bus.

Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, July 17th
1st Session: South Carolina and Texas A&M
2nd Session: Missouri and Vanderbilt

Wednesday, July 18th
1st Session: Florida and Mississippi State
2nd Session: Arkansas and Kentucky
3rd Session: Auburn and LSU

Thursday, July 19th
1st Session: Alabama and Tennessee
2nd Session: Ole Miss and Georgia

The league two new partners get their official, eye-opening welcome to the SEC on Day One.

Day Two will be an absolute bear.  With more fans and more media at the event, coaches have fallen farther and farther behind schedule the last couple of summers.  Tossing two more schools into that mix could stretch Wednesday’s gathering from dawn to dusk.

Day Three used to end at lunch.  Now it’s scheduled to roll all the way through 1:30 — which likely means 2:30 in reality.

The league is growing.  Shoulda realized that Media Days would grow with it.

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The 2011 SEC Season In 25 Lines Or Less

Okay, we lied.  We lied right there in the headline.  There’s no chance of “less.”  We’re using 25 lines here to breakdown the 2011 SEC football season.  That’s two lines per team and one for, well, you’ll see.  The line “25 lines or less” just sounded good.

Everyone does a Power Poll and a “Fearless Forecast” at the start of a new season.  We expect to see a dozen or more regarding the SEC as this week rolls forward.  So we’re going to take a different tack.  One conference, one season, 25 lines.

Besides, we already posted our own predictions for the SEC season way back before Media Days.  (And long before Jordan Jefferson’s arrest, too.)

So without further ado, here’s what we’re thinking on the eve of a new season…

Alabama:  They’ve got the coach and the roster full of top recruits to win another national crown.  But the decision to rotate quarterbacks absolutely scares the heck out of us.

Arkansas:  Is a team really a darkhouse title contender if everyone says it’s a darkhorse title contender?  The Razorbacks can survive the loss of running back Knile Davis, but it’s gonna hurt.

Auburn:  The Tigers have too many new faces at too many different positions going against too tough a schedule.  That said, opponents had better hope they get this bunch early in the year and not late.

Florida:  Can Charlie Weis get more out of the skill position players around John Brantley?  If so, then the Gators have as good a shot as anyone at “pulling an Auburn” in 2011.

Georgia:  On paper, the Dawgs’ two toughest games come in the season’s first two weeks, so there’s no need to panic if they start slow.  Panic should set in, however, if either Isaiah Crowell or Richard Samuel get hurt.

Kentucky:  UK took a slight step backwards in 2010 and the sledding doesn’t look much easier in 2011.  Joker Phillips will have to right the Big Blue ship without Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline on offense.

LSU:  Team Turmoil has already lost quarterback Jordan Jefferson and playmaker Russell Shepard indefinitely.  If luck isn’t once again on Les Miles side, it’s possible the wheels could come off for a team that faces a deadly schedule.

Miss. State:  Dan Mullen has the Bulldog Nation believing in themselves.  Too bad then that we feel they’re destined to backslide a bit this fall.

Ole Miss:  Houston Nutt usually finds a way to move the football — even last year the Rebels averaged 30 points per game.  If the defense improves as it should, UM could surprise some folks.

South Carolina:  Don’t worry about Alshon Jeffery’s weight or Stephen Garcia’s behavior.  As long as Marcus Lattimore stays healthy and the Gamecocks handle the pressure of high expectations (for the first time ever), Carolina’s got the roster to finish in the Top 10.

Tennessee:  The Vols don’t have much depth, but they’re due a lucky break or two after last season’s LSU and North Carolina games.  If the Vols can develop a run game to take the pressure off Tyler Bray and their D, UT should go bowling again.

Vanderbilt:  James Franklin has created enthusiasm in Nashville and he’s done eye-poppingly well on the recruiting trail.  If he can now get some points out of Larry Smith and the offense he inherited… he really is a miracle-worker.

Line 25:  We’re betting on the SEC to win its 6th BCS Championship in a row… because — all thanks to Jeffrey Tambor in “The Hangover” — you never walk away from the table when you’re on a heater.

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Writer: Slive Needs To Clean Up The SEC Before The NCAA

While most in the media have been applauding the pro-reform message delivered by SEC commissioner Mike Slive last week at Media Days, David Climer of The Tennessean wonders if Slive was the right man to deliver such a message.  In his view, the commish needs to clean up his own conference before tackling NCAA issues:

“Suddenly, the nation’s cheatingest conference was taking the lead for reform.  Never mind that the bulk of the SEC can’t play by the rulebook as it currently stands, much less a revised version.

Personally, I like Slive and think he has done a very good job in nine years as commissioner.  The TV deals he has negotiated have brought a windfall to his conference.

And while I don’t doubt his sincerity, his statements come off as a bit self-serving.  If he’s serious about stiffer entrance requirements for athletes — a 2.5 grade-point average in 16 core classes instead of the current 2.0 — why not make that an SEC rule instead of waiting for the entire NCAA to adopt change?”

We think we can supply two reasons why the commissioner wouldn’t do that:

1.  Slive’s message was put together — in some part — with the help and/or go-ahead from NCAA president Mark Emmert.  Slive wasn’t speaking just on his league’s behalf last week.  He was putting forth a proposal that Emmert wanted to discuss at his upcoming retreat with 50-some-odd university presidents.  This was not Slive on a high horse — a horse that’s currently mired in some NCAA mud, mind you.  This was Slive tossing out a topic of conversation that Emmert wanted tossed out by the commissioner of the biggest, baddest conference on the block.  The fact that the “outlaw” SEC would propose such changes as higher entrance requirements sends a strong message that all the NCAA’s members want to do things the right way.

2.  Slive is also a businessman.  His job is to protect the image of the league — something he’d done spectacularly well until a year ago — and to keep the league profitable.  To be profitable, the SEC must be successful.  Setting a much higher academic standard for itself than all other BCS leagues would not be a good way to insure success and profitability.

As we heard Slive’s speech last week, we assumed that there would be some blowback.  The SEC has gone from a league that was recently probation-free in the major sports to a conference that’s been racked by scandal in the last 12 months.

But no commissioner would implement — on his own — the types of grand changes Slive proposed last week.  After all, many of those proposed changes would take place at the NCAA level… in areas where Slive has absolutely no control.  (For example, Slive and the SEC can’t just start handing out cost-of-attendance scholarships without NCAA approval.)

Slive wasn’t being holier than thou last week.  He was delivering a message that Emmert wanted delivered and that Slive happens to agree with.  Like the message or dislike the message, it’s hard to fault him for delivering a message that most NCAA presidents and administrators will support.

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Spurrier Sounds Off On Academics, Ohio State, Tennessee And More

Last summer at SEC Media Days, Steve Spurrier looked like a shell of his former self.  Gone was the bravado, the rapier wit and sharp tongue.  Instead, an aging coach stood before the media.  Just another aging coach.

Fast-forward through a 9-win, East Division-title-winning season and the Ol’ Ball Coach is back.  Not only was the he #1 hit at last week’s Media Days, but Spurrier’s still talking smack.  And unlike Lane Kiffin — who he spoke of as part of his engagement in Chattanooga on Saturday — Spurrier’s digs are usually pretty funny.

Last week, Carolina’s coach said that coaches who win have more reason to talk.  And while the coach says he still hasn’t won very much in Columbia, he’s clearly won enough to get his tongue wagging again.  Try on these quotes (reported by Mark Wiedmer of The Chattanooga Times Free Press):

On Mike Slive’s proposal to raise academic standards for players — “Some of these guys are not academically capable of raising standards.”  (That’s not exactly brochure material for the University of South Carolina, now is it?)

On the need to get athletes more money — “Marcus Lattimore doesn’t have a car.  He’s probably had a $15-20 million impact on our school.  But he can’t get a car unless a bank qualifies him for a loan.  I told him the other day, ‘Go get a loan.  I think you’re a good risk.”

On Ohio State’s recent rumored issues with a car dealer — “Ohio State has a better car arrangement than we do.”

On former Tennessee coach — and foil — Phillip Fulmer — “They ought to put Coach Fulmer on an NCAA committee (to change college football).  He’s a common sense guy and they need some of that.  We’re really pretty good friends these days.”

On his multiple wins in Knoxville (with Duke, Florida and Carolina) — “If you beat Tennessee in Knoxville, you’ve got to learn how to sing ‘Rocky Top.’  We were fortunate enough to beat them a few times up there.”

On former UT coach Lane Kiffin – “I didn’t think much of him, did you?”

And on Kiffin’s suggestion to then-recruit Alshon Jeffery that he’ll wind up pumping gas if he signs with Carolina (a statement Kiffin denies making) — “Yeah, Alshon was laughing about that when we were getting ready to fly to Birmingham for SEC Media Days.”

It’s been a long while since Spurrier felt confident enough to start throwing jabs.  And that should tell SEC watchers just how good he feels about his 2011 squad.

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A Trio Of Afternoon Headlines – 7/22/11

1.  Tony Barnhart of says no one should underestimate Mike Slive’s ability to push his agenda for change.

2.  Alabama was the people’s choice at Media Days.

3.  More than a 1,000 people were at this year’s Media Days.  Wonder how many of those were actual working media?

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SEC Media Session Grades

For the past three years, we’ve brought you post-Media Days grades for each of the SEC’s 12 coaches.  For kicks, we grade each on

1.  Personality — Is he friendly?  Or does he seem combative or condescending?

2.  Speaking Skill — Is he boring or entertaining?  Was he interesting?

3.  Honesty – Is he evasive?  Does he answer questions or redirect them?

We use a 1-5 scale in each category.  Below are this year’s scores:

Rank Coach Personality Speaking Skill Honesty Total
1 S. Spurrier 5 5 5 15
2 J. Franklin 4 5 5 14
3t D. Dooley 4 4 5 13
3t M. Richt 5 4 4 13
5 D. Mullen 4 4 4 12
6t L. Miles 4 3 4 11
6t W. Muschamp 3 4 4 11
6t H. Nutt 4 4 3 11
6t B. Petrino 4 3 4 11
6t N. Saban 2 4 5 11
11t G. Chizik 3 3 4 10
11t J. Phillips 4 2 4 10

Hardly scientific, I know.  I’m guessing the fans of each school though their guy was a 15.  And that’s fine.

But I’m typing away trying to follow their answers.  I only care if they’re interesting or boring, honest or evasive.

Here’s the breakdown:

Steve Spurrier — Funny what winning will do.  Last summer Spurrier was lifeless.  This time around he was upbeat, funny, not afraid to disagree with the commissioner’s proposal.  He had more than one good line.  And he wasn’t snippy with anyone.  The Ol’ Ball Coach is back and better than ever (’cause he wasn’t snippy with anyone).

James Franklin — It was easy to see why Franklin has been winning fans and recruits over.  The guy is sharp.  He’s focused.  He was the best first-time coach I’ve seen run the Media Days gauntlet.  In the end, I was left wanting to hear more.

Derek Dooley and Mark Richt — Dooley got a boost in the honest category because he didn’t dance around many topics.  He’s an entertaining speaker and he’s intelligent.  Richt once again got a top grade for personality.  The guy would be the best neighbor ever.  Richt danced around the hot seat question just a bit.

Dan Mullen – In his third year, Mullen seemed more comfortable than ever.  But the guy can take a 10-word question and turn it into a 500-word answer.  He’s also a fast-talker in Seinfeld-ese.

Les Miles, Will Muschamp, Houston Nutt, Bobby Petrino, and Nick Saban — Miles was friendlier than normal but he still has a tendency to ramble around.  It’s better to hear him than to read a transcript of him.  Muschamp wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t the warmest guy either.  There’s a bit of Saban in him.  Saban took some shots at the media and let his guard down only once.  But his answers regarding the Iron Bowl rivalry were perfect.  Nutt was himself.  Part coach, part evangelist, part used car salesman.  He was friendly, but he redirected one MSU question after another.  Petrino was more affable than he usually gets credit for being.  But he’s got a monotone voice that prevents him from being a real good listen.

Gene Chizik and Joker Phillips — He might have had good reason to be a block of ice, but Chizik showed little warmth.  He also must do a much better job in living rooms and locker rooms than he does behind a podium.  Pretty bland speaker.  But we’ll credit him for not losing his composure while dancing around NCAA questions.  Phillips seems like a very likeable fellow.  He’s just not much of a public speaker.  I didn’t mourn his exit from the stage.

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“I Hate Auburn” Guy Compares Being Called Out By Saban To Being Called Out By God

Earlier today, after asking Alabama and Auburn fans to show more respect to one another, Nick Saban was asked specifically about a Tide fan attending Media Days who was wearing an “I HATE AUBURN” t-shirt.  Saban said that he would tell the man, “I would tell him it’s not personal, that it really isn’t personal” and that “That is not really the way that we should respect the opponents that we have.”

As soon as Saban’s media session ended, the press members raced to the lobby to find 28-year-old fork lift operator Eric Blackerby.  When told of Saban’s rebuke, Blackerby said that he “felt this big,” holding his fingers an inch apart. 

“It’s like I went to church and God told me He didn’t approve.”

As Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News writes — perfectly, I might add — “Only in Alabama.”

So will Blackerby become a household name like Harvey Updyke?  If so, it won’t be because he’s poisoned trees.

“I’m not going to poison no trees.  I don’t agree with that.  I wrote a blog condemning the destruction of any landmark at any university.  It’s not cool.  I’m just extremely passionate.  SEC football is a religion, and that’s the difference to me.”


(UPDATE — Originally we attributed the above column to Kevin Scarbinsky.  Our apologies.  It’s been a long week.)

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SEC Headlines – 7/22/11 Part Three

1.  Expectations are high for Alabama in 2011.

2.  Gus Malzahn’s offense may make up for inexperience at Auburn.

3.  Freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier is already impressing his AU teammates.

4.  This year’s Florida-Tennessee game will have an LSU feel to it.

5.  The value of recruiting services varies from school to school.

6.  Derek Dooley keeps UT fans laughing, but he’ll need to start winning.

7.  In case you haven’t heard, Mark Richt needs to win now.

8.  Could Auburn really go from first to worst?

9.  The MSU hoops team will play Baylor in Dallas in December.

11.  Ole Miss is about to kick off a major capital campaign.

12.  Charlie Weis says he’ll adapt his offense to fit John Brantley’s strengths.  (Too bad last year’s coaching staff didn’t.)

13.  Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel weighs in on Chizik’s plight in the Cam Newton affair.

14.  Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery was the SEC’s leading vote-getter on the media’s all-conference team.

15.  James Franklin says quarterback Larry Smith’s performance at Media Days won’t have much to do with his completion percentage.

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Miles Says Lyles Video Was Helpful

LSU’s Les Miles told a Tiger booster club last night that the much-discussed DVDs his program bought from Willie Lyles did have value:

“What I need to have is film.  Because we make all the decisions ourselves on whether the guy’s good enough to play, nobody else.  As long as they give us the video, that’s all we need.”

The fact that some of the video showed players already enrolled at other schools is a bit odd, but it could just be that LSU paid for poor quality video and information.  Or the school might be willing to pay for any video at all, not caring about quality. 

Still, Miles will be asked about those DVDs and his connection to Lyles again and again at Media Days today.

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SEC Headlines – 7/22/11 Part One

Let’s get Day Three of SEC Media Days kicked off with some news and notes from around the league…

1.  Ivan Maisel of writes that the Cam Newton story just won’t go away… and that the court of public opinion will have the final say in the matter.

2.  Here are some highlights from Day Two of Media Days.

3.  Gene Chizik simply said, “Oh, Danny Sheridan… there you are,” when he ran into the accusatory oddsmaker in Hoover.

4.  There are still a lot of questions for Auburn’s Tigers.

5.  LSU’s Russell Shepard will miss Media Days today for “personal reasons,” and the school says he has not been suspended.

6.  Georgia’s Mark Richt validated Boise State yesterday.

7.  Now he needs to beat the Broncos to right UGA’s ship.

8.  Andy Staples of says the Longhorn Network is setting off “another Big 12 Missile Crisis”… and that a large chunk of the Texas A&M fanbase wants to move to the SEC.

9.  Aggie AD Bill Byrne commented on Texas’ TV network yesterday.

10.  Auburn tipsters have led to a possible Alabama rules violation involving star tailback Trent Richardson.

11.  There will be no entertaining monologue from Robbie Caldwell this year and that’s just fine with him.

12.  Crazy, but true: For just $12,000 Florida fans can by themselves a Tim Tebow statue.

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