HOOVER, Ala.–Greetings from the Wynfrey Hotel, where the biggest and baddest college football conference in the land holds its three-day talkfest called SEC Media Days.
The now 14 teams will be represented from today through Thursday. There are so many folks here now (the number yesterday was 1,115 credentialed including 818 media) that they are serving the media lunch in not one but two rooms now.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive is up first. He will be followed today by Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. Good thing that Missouri quarterback James Franklin isn’t a player rep today or things could really get confusing.
Georgia’s turn at the podium doesn’t come until last on Thursday, making Mark Richt the 14th of 14 coaches to speak.
–Mike Slive spoke for about 20 minutes. It was the 10th time he has addressed reporters at media days.
That gave him a chance to trumpet the 62 national titles in 16 sports that conference teams have won. This past school year, there were nine national titles and seven runner-up finishes.
Slive didn’t mention Penn State or Joe Paterno by name but referenced the scandal there.
“Last week’s headlines reminds us that our primary mission is to educate and protect young people,” he said.
He added: “There must be an effective system of checks and balances. . …No one program, no one person no matter how popular or how successful can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”
–The takeaway from Sumlin’s Q&A with reporters? He sure likes to drop a “damn” into his answers.
On playing in the SEC West: “What’s my assessment? It’s a pretty damn hard league.”
On what he thinks people perceive the program is capable of doing. “I wish the potential was we’re damn good at football.”
Sumlin threw the ball with success at Houston, but he dispelled the notion his offense is a one-trick poney.
“People say we throw the ball all the time,” he said. “That’s fine. I’d like people to think that. Our percentages is closer to 55-45 than 70-30…Being called pass-happy is fine by us as long as people want to defend the pass all the time.”
It took a while into South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s time at the podium before he had the opening to pounce on Georgia’s easier schedule.
He was asked about a favorable open date before playing Arkansas, which has had South Carolina’s number.
“You think I make the schedule?,” Spurrier said. “If I made the schedule, Georgiawill be playing LSU and we’d be playing Ole Miss.”
Later, Spurrier was talking to a group of reporters when he added: “We’ve got LSU andArkansas. Georgia’s got Auburnand Ole Miss. Whether or not that will be a factor—it was a factor last year—but we’re not complaining about it. That’s just the way it is. That’s just the way it is. No excuses. No excuses.”
His players didn’t want to voice any complaints about the schedule.
“It is what it is,” quarterback Connor Shaw said. “It’s out of our hands. I think at some point you’re going to have to play the best teams anyway so it doesn’t really matter.”
Said safety D.J. Swearinger: “It doesn’t matter whoGeorgiaplays. I think we only worry about who we play. When we play LSU, we’ll be ready for it.”
Here’s a cliff notes version of Missouri coach Gary Pinkel:
On playing in the SEC: “Your’re new. You have to prove yourself. You have to earn respect and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
More on that: “I’d be a little disappointed if we were intimidated. We’ve played in a great league ourselves.
He called the first SEC game against Georgia on Sept. 8 as big because of the historical signifciance, but added: “It’s going to be a big game for us, but there are going to be a lot of big games.”
On Missouri’s wide open offense in the SEC: “We do what we do and we believe in what we do. It will get tested and that’s fine.”
On quarterback James Franklin’s shoulder injury: “James Franklin is doing well. We expect without question for him to be 100 percent,” in time for start of the season.”
The other James Franklin, the Vanderbilt coach, talked about the progress his team made.
Vanderbilt went from 2-10 the previous two seasons to 6-6 in the regular season before losing to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl.
“We still have a long ways to go, but we’re taking steps in the right direction,” Franklin said.
Someone asked him about the `bad blood’ at the end of the Georgia game last year.
“We have tremendous respect for all of the programs in this conference, all the coaches, all the players,” he said.
He added: “You play Vanderbilt. You better be ready to play from the beginning of the game until the end.”
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer