Circus in Town

HOOVER, Ala. -- Mike Slive isn't shy when touting the accomplishments of his conference.

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He's a pro at selling his brand, even amongst a packed room of print, internet and television journalists inside the Wynfrey Hotel for the circus that is SEC Media Days.

Media Days is a grandiose affair, and Slive is the master of ceremonies. He opened his kickoff speech rattling off the accomplishments of the league over the last 10 years. He even quoted Muhammad Ali, Churchill and Shakespeare.

Finally, he turned to more pressing matters. National headlines, at least in college football, have centered on the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, including the role of former head coach Joe Paterno.

"Last week's headlines remind us that we must be ever vigilant on all issues of integrity and that our primary mission is to educate and protect young people," Slive said. "We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration. There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves."

And then there's "Project X," an SEC Network development plan referenced by Slive at the SEC's annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., in May.

Slive confirmed Tuesday the plan will soon become a reality.

"Is it still a secret? I don't think so," Slive said. "But we now call it Project SEC. Our objective long term is to work with our television partner to provide fans with greater access to favored teams, more opportunities to watch rivals and more insight into who we are: a conference of 14 great universities.

"I'd love to say more. I know you want me to say more. I will, though, before I get too much older and before you get too much older."

Texas A&M tackles SEC Media Days:

Kevin Sumlin
Associated Press

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin didn't need SEC Media Days to realize his team, his program, was officially a member of arguably the toughest conference in college football.

No, Sumlin was dealt his dose of reality once he arrived for the SEC meetings in Destin. He was surrounded by the rest of the league's head coaches, four of which with a national championship ring to his name.

"When you walk into the room with 13 other head coaches and Mike Slive, that's when you know it's real," he said.

But SEC Media Days was a nice reminder of the caliber of conference he's jumping into. Sumlin, a two-time national coach of the year finalist, led Houston to a school-record 12 victories and the program's highest finish in the BCS standings in 2011. Sumlin compiled a 35-17 overall record in his three seasons in Houston.

"For us, coming into this year, it's going to be a real special time for us," he said.

"Our student section is really excited," senior linebacker Sean Porter said. "Our students, that's all they've been talking about since we found out we were coming to (the SEC). They'll be standing every SEC game we play at home. They love it. We're excited."

The competition is fierce and the stakes are higher. Texas A&M is one of two new schools -- the other being Missouri -- to be added to a league that has produced three straight national champions.

"It's a pretty damn hard league," Sumlin said. "That's my assessment."

Fair enough.

He's excited. The same can be said for his players, namely senior wide receiver Ryan Swope, who posted the greatest receiving season in school history as a junior, with 89 catches for 1,207 yards.

"The SEC is the best conference in the country," he said. "You can tell the best recruits in the country go to SEC schools. Every player wants to compete at the highest level possible. This is a great place to go play. It's a very special conference, and it's an honor to be part of it."

Sumlin can already tell a difference in recruiting. The Texas A&M brand, according to Sumlin, has improved nationally with its move to the SEC. The Aggies have already secured 24 commitments for the recruiting class of 2013, including 21 prospects from Texas.

"There's no doubt that being in the SEC has improved our footprint nationally," he said. "Our primary state is always going to be Texas, but in order to be the program we want to be, we're going to have to have a national recruiting prowess. I think we've hired coaches with that background and understand it, and our numbers are starting to bear that out."

Ole Miss reveals Freeze-centric media guide cover:

Ole Miss has released its 2012-13 media guide, with head coach Hugh Freeze prominently featured on the cover.

Freeze is entering his first season as Ole Miss head coach. So, naturally, he's the one pictured, holding a football, with a quote.

Hugh Freeze
Ben Garrett

"Our daily actions have to be our spoken goals," the quote reads. "You can't say that you want to be an honor roll student and not go to class. You can't say you want to be an All-American athlete and not practice hard. You have to win the day, every day."

Freeze and select players, including safety Charles Sawyer, will arrive in Hoover for the event Thursday. Sawyer, a junior, was recently named to the preseason All-SEC third team.

Spurrier, unplugged:

When Steve Spurrier was hired as the head coach at South Carolina in 2005, he envisioned coaching the Gamecocks 8-10 years.

Fast forward to 2012 and Spurrier is entering his eighth season.

Spurrier acknowledged the ticking clock. On his side is arguably his most well-rounded team. However, his schedule is certainly difficult, opening with an improved Vanderbilt team August 30.

As far as SEC West foes, South Carolina has LSU and Arkansas on the schedule. The Gamecocks finish their season at Clemson, and Missouri, new to the SEC, has been added.

"If I made the schedule," Spurrier said, "Georgia would be playing LSU and we'd be playing Ole Miss."

Shots fired.

Spurrier, always entertaining at SEC Media Days, rolled on, even talking Penn State and a playoff in college football. He's a fan of an eight-team playoff, by the way.

But Spurrier was visibly troubled when asked of Penn State and Paterno.

"It's a terrible mess," he said. "The only thing I'd say about Joe Paterno is when he coached college football, he did everything right."

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