Dear Aggies and Tigers,
You're in the SEC now, and that means it's time for you to get acquainted with some of the more esoteric aspects of life in the conference. We're going to try to help you with understanding those things, and it begins this week with SEC Media Days.
You may have heard some things about SEC Media Days, and they're probably true. It's the biggest annual media circus this side of the Super Bowl media day, with this one a step down only because it doesn't draw Univision employees in ridiculous costumes or gossip programs. In general, only a handful of notable things come out of SEC Media Days. Primarily, they are the coaches' and media picks for the preseason All-SEC teams and for the order of finish in each division.
It takes place at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, which is just outside of Birmingham where the league offices are. It had probably outgrown the hotel already, and now it will be even more packed with a couple more schools added. It's not just the media that cover the member schools who descend upon the site. Alabama fans always pack the lobby to catch a glimpse at their head coach as he comes and goes. This phenomenon has only gotten worse as Nick Saban has won more and more games.
Every year, just about, there is some kind of big story that has nothing to do with the upcoming season. To wit:
- 2011: Danny Sheridan takes to radio row and tells Paul Finebaum that the NCAA had found the bag man for Cam Newton and was just waiting on a source to confirm it for them. Apparently the source didn't want to be questioned.
- 2010: Then-interim Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell charms the media with his homespun wit, heavy Southern accent, and tales of a former job that involved turkey insemination.
- 2009: There is a mystery afoot, as one of the coaches did not vote for Tim Tebow as first team All-SEC quarterback. Steve Spurrier admitted to being the guy, explained it was a mistake, and changed his vote to make it unanimous.
- 2009, again: Clay Travis does a very Clay Travis thing by asking Tebow if he is a virgin.
- 2008: Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer was served a subpoena by the lawyer of an angry Alabama booster who was suing the NCAA for defamation over a recruiting violation from 2002.
- 2004: Fulmer attends by speakerphone only to avoid a different subpoena. A former Alabama assistant coach obtained this one because he was convinced that Fulmer conspired with the NCAA to bring the Alabama program down in the Albert Means scandal while getting UT's own violations forgiven. The judge found that such a conspiracy didn't exist, by the way.
It's too early to say yet what this year's pointless hullabaloo will be about, but that is one of the fun aspects of SEC Media Days. You never know what it'll be.
It will also be interesting to see which coach "wins" this year's media days. Vanderbilt is on a two-year winning streak thanks to Caldwell in 2010 and James Franklin having every scribe in the room ready to run through a wall for him in his first appearance last year. Arkansas is a contender after trading Bobby Petrino, who never could quite hide his contempt for the media behind his bland delivery, for John L. Smith. Kevin Sumlin and Gary Pinkel have a shot at it (more Sumlin than Pinkel, based on what I heard at the Atlanta event) because newcomers always have a leg up in that regard.
As much as anything, SEC Media Days is an important milestone during the summer. It means that the start of the season is less than a month and a half away and that the popping of pads in fall practice is closer still. Read all the good quotes, laugh at the sideshow, and rest easy knowing that football really isn't that far away.