Birmingham–Wednesday’s first session of SEC Media Days was relatively calm. But here are a few nuggets I’ll bring your attention:
SEC, ESPN invade Big Ten, Big 12 Country. The SEC and ESPN finally began to reveal some details about their television plan for the fall. One of the things it revealed was an SEC Network that will be produced by ESPN at its regional production center in Charlotte. That network will show the early game on Saturdays and will include other extensive programming on the SEC. But here is what’s interesting in that deal. The network will reach into the territory of aother conferences, including the Big Ten and Big 12, where stations have been cleared to telecast SEC football. It’s just another example of how the SEC is using this new deal to spread its brand throughout the country. Its competitors cannot be pleased.
The Commish warns his coaches–again. Commissioner Mike Slive said he has had another discussion with his head football coaches about their behavior. This one dealt with secondary recruiting violations. Simply put, if coaches are intentionally committing secondary recruiting violations because the penalties are viewed as relatively minor, eventually there is going to be some price to be paid. “What we don’t want is coaches weighing the risk/reward and making a conscious decision to commit the violation,” said Slive. “Secondary violations happen inadvertently. We know that. But to commit them intentionally is not proper conduct.” Without telling me the specific schools, Slive said that schools and coaches who have shown a pattern in secondary violations have already been restricted in their recruiting activities. Guys, the commissioner is serious about this.
Beyond that, we had:
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, who is trying lead the Commodores to a second straight bowl for the first time in school history.
Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, who will make history if the Wildcats go to their fourth straight bowl in 2009.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who was much more upbeat than he was at this event a year ago. It looks like he has a chance to go to a bowl.
New Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, who will be picked a solid last in the SEC West when the media votes on Friday. The former Florida offensive coordinator could really use a Tim Tebow in Starkville. He might have one in the making with incoming freshman Tyler Russell of Meridian, Miss. “I tried to get him (Tebow) to come with me,” Mullen said. “There were some young ladies on our campus who wanted that as well. No luck.”
So all in all, Wednesday was just a warm-up for today, which will have as much star power packed into one day as any single session in the history of this event. SEC officials told me late Wednesday that just under 600 media people showed up for the first session. That number today could eclipse 1,000.
“It is going to be pretty wild in here,” an SEC official told me. “But it’s a good thing.”
Consider this lineup:
In the early morning session we have Alabama and Georgia. The Alabama head coach, regardless of who it is, is always a rock star at this event. Nick Saban has taken that sizzle up several notches. He’ll have offensive lineman Mike Johnson and linebacker Rolando McClain, who is one of the best in the country.
By comparison, Georgia and Mark Richt will be the low key entry into this session. New quarterback Joe Cox will get the largest media exposure of his career. I’ll be anxious to see what is written about the senior from Charlotte. DT Jeff Owens is back after injury. He is a favorite of the media because he knows football and he is funny.
The second half of the morning will feature Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, whose team is getting a lot of love to win the SEC West for the first time since the league went to divisional play in 1992. The question Nutt will get the most is whether or not his team can handle the pressures of being EXPECTED to do great things. The Rebels have a shot because of quarterback Jevan Snead, who is also here.
And to top off this day we’ll have Florida, the defending national champions, and the two players many believe will allow the Gators to defend that title. Quarterback Tim Tebow who, along with Peyton Manning, is the biggest rock star to hit his event in my time of covering it, will make his last appearance at SEC Media Days. That is just hard to believe.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who could have turned pro but wanted to come back to pursue another national title, will represent Florida’s very talented defense.
And of course there will Florida coach Urban Meyer, who will certainly be asked to declare once more that he is not going to Notre Dame–ever! The man has a chance to win his third national championship in four seasons.
So there you have it. Today is going to be one of the more special ones that we’ve ever had at SEC Media Days. It will be hectic but it will be fun. When I finish with my assigned duties, I’ll come back this afternoon and recap the day.
Until then I have a homework assignment for you. Pick a player or pick a coach who will be before the media today. If you could ask them just one question, what would it be?
Enjoy your morning and I’ll get back to you this afternoon.
Programming note: Please join me with my partners Bob Neal, Mark Schlabach, and Sandra Golden tonight for our daily “Talkin’ Football” show on CSS. We’ll have interviews with all of the coaches and players and bring you up to date on the news at SEC Media Days. Our special guest will be syndicated radio host Paul Finebaum, recently named by the Orlando Sentinel as one of the 10 most powerful people in the SEC. It should be fun. The show airs at 6 p.m. with a replay at 11 p.m.
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