“It was good to see our offensive kids having fun again on the field.” So said Will Muschamp Monday afternoon, probably the most important thing he said when he went through the annual dog and pony show that is SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama. Muschamp was talking about what he saw in spring practice when the offense of the last three years was scrapped in favor of new coordinator Kurt Roper’s no-huddle, spread attack.
Experience tells us teams that are having fun usually perform at a very high level, probably because they’re playing loose and confident. There is a swagger about teams that are enjoying themselves on the field. Think back to the Spurrier years (1990-2001). With the exception of that dysfunctional 1999 team that had the talent to win the national championship but wound up losing four games (they won nine so it wasn’t a total disaster), those teams made the game fun. Fun on the field and fun for the fans. In those days the Gators were the most feared team in the Southeastern Conference. Opponents hoped they could beat the Gators. The Gators KNEW they were going to win.
The last time we saw that kind of swagger and confidence was that three year run from 2006 to 2008 when an outscore us if you can 2007 was sandwiched between a pair of national championship teams.
It wasn’t fun in 2009 when coaches and players alike spent the entire season walking around as if they had a permanent wedgie and quite frankly, it really hasn’t been fun since then. Not even 2012. Oh, it was great to see the Gators win 11 games and that defense was really ferocious, but was it fun? Maybe afterward when everybody took their blood pressure tabs and realized that a win is a win any way you can get it in the Southeastern Conference, but when you have to score a touchdown on a blocked punt with two seconds to go to Louisiana-Lafayette, that isn’t fun. That’s a close encounter with a heart attack.
So, it’s good to hear Muschamp talking about his players having fun, particularly those on the offensive side of the ball because the last three years – and you can throw in that 2010 season under Urban, too – have been like having root canal surgery every Saturday in September, October and November. Painful would be too kind a description.
Gator fans need some fun in the worst way and if they see an offensive team that plays with confidence and with a bit of swagger, they’ll get behind this team and The Swamp will be a rocking, intimidating place once again.
Mike Slive says he is confident that the NCAA will make the necessary reforms to keep the power five conferences (plus Notre Dame) happy and in the fold. It could happen as soon as August, but what happens if the NCAA does what the NCAA does best – drag its feet and create a bureaucratic nightmare? At SEC Media Days Slive made it perfectly clear that the power conferences are more than willing to form their own separate division – Division IV? – if they aren’t granted the autonomy to play by their own rules which includes full cost of attendance and providing long term medical benefits to its athletes.
In reality, the NCAA has very little choice in this matter. If the organization digs in its heels and refuses to allow the power conferences to make their own rules, then they’ll secede, form their own organization and keep all the money they’re going to make to themselves. And, the money is going to be substantial. The college football playoff starts this year with four teams but when the final cash calculations are made, there is a good chance $500 million of new revenue will be generated. As substantial as that sounds, consider what happens when the playoff teams double to eight and you add another weekend of football. You could be talking a cool billion. So, the NCAA needs the power conferences more than the power conferences need the NCAA.
Now, as the NCAA has proven in the past, it’s capable of screwing up what can’t be screwed up (see the Miami investigation) so anything is possible but even if there is some initial resistance, Slive thinks the organization will give in.
"There is some angst on the part of many, but I think many realize we're moving into the 21st century, things are different and expectations of student-athletes are different," Slive said. "I think when push comes to shove, it will pass."
If you don’t think Mike Slive is the best commissioner in all of collegiate sports then take a look at what the SEC accomplished in the last school year: seven national championships – men’s golf, gymnastics, equestrian, men’s swimming, women’s swimming, women’s outdoor track and baseball along with six runner-up finishes including football and basketball. The SEC finished in the top five of 13 of the 21 sports.
“Florida basketball player Patric Young is an example of a student-athlete who has made the most of his collegiate academic and athletic experience,” Slive said. “He led the Gators to the 2014 SEC men’s basketball tournament title and the NCAA Final Four. He was named the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year twice; was named the SEC male winner of the Brad Davis Community Service Award then he traveled to Africa where he encouraged children to focus on exercise and healthy lifestyle. While doing all that, Patric maintained a 3.4 grade point average. Student-athletes like Patric, as well as many other student-athletes like him, inspire us to protect intercollegiate athletics, to keep it healthy, vibrant and an integral part of higher education.”
What would SEC Media Days be without a couple of quotes from Steve Spurrier?
About Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: "Hugh and I have a lot in common; we both play golf, we both wear visors, we both call plays. How can you not like a guy like Hugh Freeze?"
About his 50th high school reunion: "Quiet. I thought it would be a little louder. I looked around at 9:30, about half had left."
The SEC has elected to stay with the eight-game conference schedule. Is this a good thing or do you think a nine-game schedule is better?
The Traveling Wilbury’s began as an idea of former Beatle George Harrison, who wanted to form a band with a few friends. What a group: Harrison’s buddies were Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynn (Electric Light Orchestra) and drummer Jim Keltner. Petty wasn’t supposed to be part of the group originally, but Harrison left his guitar at Petty’s house, went to get it and came back with Petty as the newest member of the band. Harrison, Dylan, Petty, Orbison and Lynn shared the song writing for “Traveling Wilburys, Volume I,” a 1988 release that won the Grammy for best rock performance by a duo or group. The Wilburys were in the process of putting together their second album when Orbison died of a heart attack. “End of the Line” is a song from “Traveling Wilburys, Volume II” that is a tribute to Orbison. Watch the video and you’ll see Orbison’s rocking chair as the remaining members of the group sing the song.