Wait. Scratch that last sentence. Because my heart rate definitely went up as I trucked the two tons of textual verbiage (otherwise known as football media guides) to my truck.
One bit of good news in that regard. With Steve Spurrier long gone to the NFL, Florida's media relations department no longer feels compelled to support the local forestry industry all by itself with a guide so massively large it defied description. The Gator guide this year was a mere 348 pages. By the end of his tenure in Gainesville, the Spurrier bio section alone ran that long.
Speaking of length, when it comes to chronicling their respective school's achievements, don't expect sports information directors to possess any sense of historical perspective, because most definitely do not. Since a media guide is basically a compilation of the school's football history, it's logical to expect that programs with the deepest traditions would lead the way in length.
Logical, but not likely.
The University of Georgia was this year's "champion," taking up a whopping 416 pages to tell their tale. Following closely behind were LSU (380 pp), Tennessee (372 pp) and South Carolina (368 pp). Because... Well... Uhhh... Everyone knows that the Dawgs, Bengal Tigers, Vols and Gamecocks are the top four SEC programs in terms of tradition, right?
For the record, Alabama (with twice as many national titles than any other league member and a ridiculously high 21 conference titles) needed just 308 pages for its guide.
And to give credit where genuine perspective obviously exists, the Vanderbilt Commodore effort took up a fittingly humble 188 pages.
Most garish cover? Georgia's, hands down. The Dawg SID got special permission to use a faux 3-D cover, picturing Sanford Stadium in the background, alternating offensive and defensive players (depending on which way you tilt your head) in the middle, and in the foreground, Head Coach Mark Richt with the 2002 SEC trophy. The fake 3-D effect takes you back to the early ‘80s when such photos were considered unique (coincidentally also the last time Georgia won a conference title).
Most subdued? Believe it or not, LSU's. From the people that proudly proclaim purple as a school color, it's unexpected. But true. Their 2003 front cover is dark royal blue, with a tiger's head embossed in the background. Not bad.
Most riveting cover? My vote goes to Florida's, which makes good use of a gorgeous shot of a bull gator's opened mouth, flashing long rows of menacing teeth. Just above, Ron Zook runs onto the field with his players following behind. (Coincidentally, Zook's mouth happens to be open as well, but his incisors aren't nearly as impressive.)
Best editorial choice regarding your cover photo? Tennessee. In a move that bespeaks great wisdom, the Big Orange Man himself is nowhere to be seen on the Vol front photo. Good move.
Best cover that wasn't? Alabama's. The Tide media relations director wanted to use a simple photo of Mike Shula on the cover. (After all, Shula is easily the best looking head coach in the conference, right? And as the saying goes, if you've got it, flaunt it.) But the young coach nixed the idea. Bama's leading man head man is still on the guide's cover, but only as part of a collage that includes key Tide seniors.
(Any fans saddened by the choice, by the way, can solve the problem by purchasing Bama Magazine's Football Yearbook. Editor Kirk McNair knows a winning cover when he sees one.)
Media guide cover most likely to tick Bama fans off? Arkansas', easily. In the bottom right corner underneath a smirking Houston Nutt, the Razorbacks proudly picture their 2002 Western Division Championship rings.
For those uninitiated in the goings on of football writers, 13 free media guides are one of the genuine good things about Media Days (besides the all-expense-paid golf outing, of course). Certainly writers don't show up expecting to hear a scintillating speech from Mike Slive.
Those that know him say he really is a smart man--and I'm certain his mother loves him. But the current SEC commissioner's speaking ability rates just slightly ahead of his predecessor in the job. And that's not much of a compliment.
Tuesday Slive regaled us with talk of his conference's largesse. For those that hadn't heard, the SEC distributed a record $102 million to member schools last year. But unless you're an employee in line for a bonus (I'm not), the "news" isn't likely to matter much one way or another.
Slive went on to detail progress toward several laudable conference goals. Increase diversity, improve communication, push forward toward better academics, etc., etc. All good goals, no question.
But when he got to the one about how every conference school will one day be in complete harmony with NCAA regulations, my ears naturally perked up a bit. (Has the NCAA visited Vandy yet?) Slive's analogy about the SEC's current standing in regard to compliance issues would have been funny--were it not so pointedly painful.
The conference's journey toward ultimate cleanliness is like a mammoth aircraft carrier, was how he described it. At first when you're trying to get underway, progress would be so slow as to be almost imperceptible...
Give the man credit at least for speaking the truth.