Looking at the 2004 SEC Football Season

One man's impressions after three days of talking football at Southeastern Conference Media Days...

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't blame Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer for staying home.

It was a bizarre scene Thursday when reporters surrounded the black box from which Fulmer's voice would finally be heard. But can you imagine what it would have been like if Fulmer had been in town and Tommy Gallion had arrived in the middle of his talk to give him a subpoena?

Fulmer was clearly angry Thursday, which comes as no surprise. He has been ridiculed, called names and generally vilified for months.

It's certainly possible that former Alabama assistants Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams could have a case against the NCAA, just as former Auburn basketball assistant Shannon Weaver could if he chose to pursue it. The NCAA investigative process left all three unconvicted and unemployed.

Phillip Fulmer

But the idea that the Fulmer, the University of Tennessee, former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, the NCAA and even the federal government conspired to bring down Alabama football is just downright silly.


For many years, six teams have been the "haves" of SEC football. For the past 40 seasons, every SEC champion has come from the group that includes Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU.

Now, three of those six are threatening to separate themselves. Like it or not, Florida, Georgia and LSU have advantages the other teams don't have because they are in the states that produce the most players. LSU might have the biggest advantage of all, because there is no other recruiting power in the state of Louisiana.

LSU was the national champion last season. Georgia was 13-1 and won the SEC championship the previous season. Those two are heavily favored to play again this season in the SEC Championship Game.

Florida is as talented as any team in the league and maybe in the nation, but it remains to be seen if Ron Zook is going to be the coach who can pull that talent together. If he can't, could the return of Steve Spurrier be closer than we think?

Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee have advantages of their own, but year in and year out, they are going to be fighting longer odds than the other three.


Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom made quite an impression on the crowd at Media Days. I wasn't surprised.

I've known Croom well since he was a player at Alabama. He's a class act in every aspect of his life. The Bulldogs won't be as talented as most in the SEC, but opponents who take them lightly will do so at their own risk. You can rest assured they will play with purpose, effort and enthusiasm. That will be a big change from last year, when they played with little purpose, effort or enthusiasm.

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore may come to rue the day he turned his back on Croom in favor of Mike Shula.


South Carolina coach Lou Holtz couldn't help but wonder about the voter in the preseason poll who made the Gamecocks his choice to win the overall SEC championship.

"He probably voted with crayon," Holtz said. "I can't believe they'd give him a sharp instrument."

On another matter, Holtz' opinion made me want to stand up and cheer. "I'd like to see holding defined," Holtz said. "Somebody finally gave me a definition. Holding is when the official throws a flag and calls you for holding."

The inconsistency of holding calls, which can impact the outcome of games, is a big problem in college football officiating and one that could easily be fixed. Simply bring the officials together and agree on what is holding and what is not. If it's there, call it. If it's not, don't.


For what it's worth, here's the way I voted in the preseason poll:

West: 1. LSU, 2. Auburn, 3. Ole Miss, 4. Mississippi State, 5. Alabama, 6. Arkansas.

East: 1. Georgia, 2. Florida, 3. Tennessee, 4. South Carolina, 5. Vanderbilt, 6. Kentucky.

Overall Champion: Georgia.


Vanderbilt could be one of the more interesting stories in the SEC this season. The Commodores have 21 starters back and believe they can make a run at a bowl game.

If it doesn't happen this season, you have to wonder if it's ever going to happen again.

Until next time…

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