SEC Media Days Event Is Upon Us

Every sports journalist who covers Southeastern Conference football probably hears a similar comment a lot beginning in early July. “Your work is about to pick up now.” That depends. If you cover Alabama football, May and June are the hard months because nothing is going on. (One hopes not, at least, since news at that time is mostly bad.)

As one who covers Alabama football year-round, I have reason to look forward to SEC Media Days. Now there will be some substance, some access to players, some quotes from Coach Nick Saban, and also to players and coaches from the other 13 SEC schools.

Theoretically, one could write enough to fill a book this week.

Unfortunately, not all is worthy of the time and effort. Coaches, particularly, have become wary of touching on anything resembling real news. The players who represent the school have been “coached up” on subjects to avoid. In some cases (including Alabama) each player will be accompanied by a handler who may interrupt the interview process with an admonition that the player won’t discuss the issue.

The event in Hoover, suburban Birmingham, is Monday-Thursday. About 10 per cent of the attendees will vote on a pre-season All-SEC team and guess at the final league standings and champion.

Coach Saban and Crimson Tide players Ryan Kelly, Kenyan Drake, and Reggie Ragland, appear before the media Wednesday.

I am almost certain that I am the only journalist who has attended every SEC Media Days event. That is not cause for celebrity status. It means I started young and have gotten old and the others who were in that pioneer era have retired…or worse.

I’ll have some help. writers Cary Clark and A.P. Steadham will be on our coverage team.

The first one or two were not “Days” but “Day.” It was held in order to end the SEC Sky-Writers Tour, a couple of dozen reporters who made a whirlwind tour of the (then) 10 teams of the conference. I was on the other side of that Sky-Writers Tour as sports information director at Alabama when the traveling group arrived.

There were fewer than 100, perhaps no more than 50, reporters at that first SEC Media Day (I don’t think it was called that) in a downtown Birmingham hotel banquet room. Each coach had about 30 minutes and even with lunch thrown in, it was over in a day.

At the first one, Doug Layton, who was a Birmingham radio personality as well as a member of the Bama football radio broadcast team, set up his mobile equipment in the back of the room and the entire event was heard live in his broadcast area. That ended the next year when print journalists protested.

The first event was so casual that I remember Georgia Coach Vince Dooley coming in and sitting next to me while Auburn Coach Pat Dye was speaking. I think Dooley actually asked Dye a question.

I have always enjoyed being around sports reporters and sharing information with them, so I look forward to the event. True, it has gotten so big that there are many there I do not know. Some are not really journalists -- radio talk show hosts and message board managers. (That is an observation, not a criticism.)

Still, it’s a good time to have a little time with my fellow reporters. I can learn a lot from the likes of Mark Murphy and Jason Caldwell at Auburn, Bob Redman at Florida, Dean Legge at Georgia, “Ben Love at LSU, Chuck Rounsaville at Ole Miss, David Murray at Mississippi State, and Josh Woodward and Randy Moore at Tennessee.

SEC videographer for, Annabel Stephan, will have interviews with players and coaches and publishers. There will be some national and regional Scout reporters there, too, such as Jamie Newberg and Chad Simmons, along with some of the administrators – Joel Cox, Ben Beachler, Jay Torrell.

I’ll get to see some non-reporter types, such as SEC Executive Director Mark Womack, who was one of my student assistants at Alabama, and Wright Waters, longtime friend who runs all the bowl games except for the College Football Playoff.

And I’ll visit with some reporters who cover the SEC and who I see only occasionally, but consider to be friends, men like Glenn Gilbeau in Louisiana and David Climer in Tennessee, Tony Barnhart of Atlanta, and Jack Arute of Siriius radio. I also have plenty of friends in the talk radio business and I’m sure I’ll have conversations – some on air – with several of them on Radio Row.

And after it’s over, I’ll probably take a day to play golf and then get ready for non-stop coverage through the season, hopefully into early January.


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