SEC Media Days over the years has taken on a life of its own.
years ago after the old Skywriters tour became overloaded on the plane due
to TV equipment & coverage, the event has morphed into one of the major
events hosted by the conference office. Charles Bloom, the superb SEC Media
Relations Director who formerly plyed his sports information trade at Ole Miss, stated emphatically that SEC Media Days was considered as big an event
as the SEC championship games or the SEC hoops tourneys. The conference
even took the unprecedented step of bringing in a court reporting service
(ASAP Sports) to quickly transcribe the print media Q & A with the coaches
The 2005 SEC Media Days had the highest attendance in history with 643
media members registered breaking last year's mark of 550. There was
speculation among SEC staff members that the event may pull in 700 media
members. On the first day, which featured the return of Steve Spurrier &
Phil Fulmer and rookie head coaches Ed Orgeron and Urban Meyer, a record 554
media members registered which also shattered a SEC Media Days record.
Here's a glance on how SEC Media Days shaped up and impressions of the
coaches and players as they moved through the media gauntlet unlike any
other in college football:
Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss: Coach O stunned some media folks by the manner in
which he rolled through the day. Heck, he even impressed acid tongued
Birmingham radio talk show host Paul Finebaum, who took Coach O off the
bottom of his SEC coaches ratings in the wake of the appearance of the new
Rebel boss at Media Days. In much the same way as Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Coach O made sure that he went down "Radio Row" where the talk
shows set up in the Winfrey Hotel lobby. He stayed as long as he could on
the air with talk show hosts across the South. Nice move and that will get
him lots of bonus points in the years to come. You could tell that Coach O
was comfortable with the media and handled it well. While he may have been
overshadowed to a degree by Spurrier, Fulmer and Meyer, there is no denying
that he made quite the good impression on the media masses.
Philip Fulmer, Tennessee: Fulmer pulled the old "Fulmerbuster" as he headed
off questions on the NCAA/Cottrell/Williams/Culpepper litigation that
happened recently in Tuscaloosa. Interestingly enough, it was only recently
revealed that Fulmer did not appear last year at SEC Media Days (costing
Tennessee a $10,000 dollar fine) on advice of counsel because of a
jurisdictional question in the Kenny Smith case. Smart lawyering, since the
case was dismissed in Alabama and is now on file in Knoxville. As for his
team, you can tell that the Vols mentor is under a shade of pressure to get
back to the SEC title game since there has been no crown in Big Orange
country since the 1998 national title team. He has the talent to do it and
the media voted his team to win it all. Fulmer's opening comments went
nearly three and a half single space pages before the print media could open
up on him and the same thing happened in the radio room. Phil's best line
was when he was asked his reaction to the return of his old nemesis, Steve
Spurrier: "When I first heard he was coming back I said, oh, crap,
something like that."
Urban Meyer, Florida: The slicked down media savvy new head coach of the
Florida Gators took everything in stride, but longtime Media Days observers
could tell he was a shade overwhelmed. The passion and interest of SEC
football surprises him. As he told the print media: "All the Gator clubs
and speaking issues didn't look so bad back in the month of May. I will
have to look that over because I am a person that enjoys being around my
family and my players." Well, welcome to the SEC, coach. Gator safety
Jarvis Herring was asked about the Meyer offense and described it as a
"Chinese Fire Drill." When told of Herring's comments in the radio room,
Meyer jokingly said he would have to talk to Jarvis about those comments.
Make no mistake, this is a dangerous Florida team with talent on both sides
of the ball. Meyer knows it and that's one of the reasons he is now in
Gainesville instead of the peaks in Utah.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: OK, when is the last time you saw the word
"humble" used in connection with Coach Steve Spurrier? How about 2005 when
media members to a person described Steve's demeanor as humbled after his
NFL experience with the Washington Redskins and owner Dan Snyder. For the
first time since his days at Duke, Steve is going to have to reconstruct a
college program and deal with recent NCAA woes. He was clearly disappointed
with the work ethics of his new Gamecocks and began yanking scholarships to
the protests of a handfule of South Carolina high school coaches. All of
that aside, Coach Spurrier was clearly the media darling of the week and
said "It was a lot more fun hanging around the SEC than it was the other
league I was in a couple of years." Spurrier really bulked up the defensive
staff with three former Southern Miss veterans: Tyrone Nix, John Thompson,
and Dave Wommack. Steve also likes the new instant replay system the SEC
will use since it takes the coaches out of the loop. Overall, Steve did
appear to be humbled by his days in the pros and seemed to be genuinely glad
to be back in the SEC.
DAY TWO: Anticlimatic after the hubbub of Day One.
Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State: For a change, Coach Croom talked
football and not historical significance of his being in the SEC as he made
the media rounds. At every stop, Croom proclaimed that nearly all of his
incoming freshmen would be playing and the only position that might be up
for redshirting would be the quarterback slot. The head Bulldog also stated
that his job was tougher than he thought. He enters the fall drills with 75
scholarship players and some last minute off the field problems that just
recently made headlines.
Mark Richt, Georgia: You can really tell the veteran coaches and how they
handle Media Days by the manner in which Coach Richt handles things. After
five years at UGA, Mark knows how to answer the tough questions. After
losing star QB David Greene and superb DL David Pollack, he will have to
rebound a bit, but he will have another loaded veteran team. Despite losing
a large number of recruits with only 13 true freshmen arriving in August, he
remained optimistic about his team's depth: "As we sign some of these young
men, we knew that they were going to end up going to a certain route. We
were pretty certain that they were, so it didn't bother me as much as some
people might think." Dawg DT Gerald Anderson won best dressed player of the
day as he wore all of his championship rings he has received over his years
in football, quite a show on some large fingers.
Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt: Johnson arrived armed in a sling thanks to
falling off a bicycle and breaking his collarbone, but he was in a good mood
about his QB, Jay Cutler, who the coaches voted to 1st team All SEC
preseason. The media didn't go along with the coaches, who placed Florida's
C. J. Leak on the first team, but it is clear that Coach Johnson has more to
work with than in any other seasons he has been head coach of the
Commodores. After coming so close last year in so many games, Bobby was
fairly philosophical about things, saying you still play them one at a time.
Coach Johnson has also had to deal with the senseless death of talented RB
Kwane Doster, an event that has had a tragic effect on his squad. When
asked about his selection as coaches preseason All SEC QB, Jay Cutler said,
"I'll bet it won't be that way when I leave here." He was right, but this
can be one dangerous ballclub trying to get over that hump.
Tommy Tuberville, Auburn: The media star of Day Two was Tommy Tuberville,
who made his second round on Radio Row before hitting the schedules usual
rounds at Media Days. This was a confident relaxed coach with 15 straight
wins and an SEC title under his belt. He was anxious to talk about his new
QB, Brandon Cox, and the unfair system that kept his undefeated Auburn team
from playing for the national title. In fact, the Tiger coach stated that
this year's team is actually better than last year's team. Time will tell,
of course. When asked a question about being able to stand up and say if
you go unbeaten, you will play for a national title, Tommy said: "That's
hard to swallow, really is.....Why in the world can't we have a playoff
system?" Debate for another day, coach, there's a new season on the
DAY THREE: When the Alabama coach arrives at SEC Media Days, things are
always popping, nothing different this year.
Mike Shula, Alabama: Following Phil Fulmer's lead, ironically enough, the
young Bama coach droned on and on about the depth chart to start his
sessons. When he finally got to questions, the first one he fielded was
about instant replay and QB Brodie Croyle. As for being on the hot seat,
Shula answered: " When I took this job my name was on the hot seat from Day
1." Well, just wait, coach. If you don't win 9 or 10 as the local Bama
media folks claim you will do, that hot seat will no longer be hot, it will
be scorching hot. The most interesting Bama news besides how they are
expected to win and win big surrounded Brodie Croyle who had to respond to
interet reports that he had died in the offseason. It will be life or death
for the Tide season, however, as long as Brodie stays healthy.
Rich Brooks, Kentucky: Another year for the Cats. Another year on the hot
seat mainly because UK suffers from such a high profile championship
basketball program. Coach Brooks does feel some pressure to produce,
however, and talked about bringing in a new QB and finishing off games.
With NCAA probation over, the Cats will be able to sign 25 this recruiting
season, so Brooks will suffer from one less handicap. Expectations are low
for the program, although they can sport one of the best dressed DLs in
America as Muhammad Abdullah showed up in a baby blue UK suit with silver
pinstripes, fancy white dress shirt, and cream colored alligator shows
picked out for him by a teammate. Look out, GQ, the Cats are coming. The
print media gave Rich a lot of rope before asking the hangman question about
job security. Brooks responded by saying it amazed him how long it took for
someone to ask the question. He may be even more amazed by his Kentucky
football team if they manage some victories.
Les Miles, LSU: The new head Tiger coach came in as "Saban Lite" and quite
the contrast to his predecessor. When asked about what areas need
improving at LSU, he responded: "One of them is on offense, one of them is
on defense, and one is special teams." Hope he didn't use that line on the
LSU fan tour he just completed. Fans at Les' speaking engagements kept
upping the ante from 9 to 10 to 11 to 12 wins. Sure you wanted this job,
coach? Nick Saban's shadow loomed just beyond Miles' fancy LSU colored tie
as the SEC even had Saban's name in the LSU slot on early schedules. Ooops.
Coach Miles had his best moments when asked about Saban's recent rough
encounter with a Miami Dolphin player: "Boys will be boys, and boys cry."
Just don't make your fans, cry, Coach, since they and the media anticipate
the SEC West title to return to Baton Rouge.
Houston Nutt, Arkansas: Houston quickly commented that his was his 8th trip
to Media Days and that there had been 24 coaching changes since his arrival
to lead the Hogs. Uhh, coach, make that 25 and no 9th appearance if you don't find a capable replacement for QB Matt Jones. Coach Nutt has a three way
battle for the field general of the Razorbacks. He has running backs and
receivers, but not a lot more depth. Nutt expanded on his desire to be the
first coaching staff at Arkansas to appear in 7 straight bowls and falling
short: "It is a terrible feeling." It could get worse if the defense doesn't take quickly to a new defensive coordinator. The Hogs schedule is a
killer early with back-to-back games at L.A. to take on USC and at
Tuscaloosa to play Alabama.
SEC MEDIA DAY TIDBITS: No Rebels were named first team All SEC, however, DL
McKinley Boykin, LB Patrick Willis, and OL Tre Stallings were all named
second team All SEC by the 87 SEC Media Day members who took the time to
vote before the deadline.....The Rebels received one vote to win the SEC and
finished 5th in the West in the media poll behind LSU, Auburn, Alabama, and
Arkansas. Miss. State was picked last in the West. In the East, Tennessee was
picked first followed by Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and
Kentucky.....The new instant replay system features three monitors with one
technician, and two replay officials, one of whom will have the finger on
the button to buzz the officials. Field goals, plays involving called
penalties, and other infraction calls will not be reviewed and every play
will be examined and possibly reviewed although you may not know it's
happening. Coaches have no say-so in asking for a replay. All SEC games,
televised or not, will have the system. In non televised games with SEC
teams, the conference will provide their own production crew to use the
system. DV Sport of Pittsburgh, PA, is the company in charge of the tech
Media Days recap
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