HOOVER, Ala. — Mike Slive never mentioned Penn State or Joe Paterno by name during the commissioner’s address at the podium to start Southeastern Conference’s Media Days, but everybody in the Wynfrey Hotel ballroom knew what he was talking about.
“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.
An investigation released last week concluded that Penn State’s top leaders — including longtime late football coach Joe Paterno — shielded former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky amid allegations that he was sexually abusing young boys to protect their own reputations. Sandusky was convicted in June on 45 criminal charges.
“We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration,” Slive said. “There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who came in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves.”
He added: “No one program, no one person, no matter how popular, no matter how successful, can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier called the Penn State scandal a “terrible mess.”
“I don’t have the answers for this, that and the other,” he said. “The only thing I would say about coach Paterno, when he coached college football, he did everything right. As a college football coach, he was a guy who did things right. His teams played fair, fundamentally sound. He was always revered for doing the right things.
“I don’t want to get into the other side of a terrible, terrible situation. But as a college football coach, I remember him that way also.”
Ten years ago when Slive first addressed media days, the Southeastern Conference never had a minority head football coach.
Two of the four coaches that spoke Tuesday — Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin — are part of three now at the top of their programs. Kentucky’s Joker Phillips is the third.
“I am very grateful that the hiring of minority coaches in the Southeastern Conference is no longer a story,” Slive said. “It’s simply part of who we are.”
Slive noted that there are eight minority men’s basketball coaches and five minority women’s basketball coaches.
An SEC “Storied” documentary on ESPN this fall will be about Sylvester Croom, the former Mississippi State coach who was the first African-American head football coach in the league.
Franklin brushes aside `bad blood’ with Georgia
The Georgia-Vanderbilt game this year will have more anticipation than usual.
That’s because of how last year’s game ended with Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham having a heated on-field confrontation.
Someone asked Franklin Tuesday about the “bad blood,” from 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.”
Franklin said he was hardly noticed when he walked through the Wynfey Hotel last year as a rookie head coach.
One big reason was he came in with Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“He was like a rock star,” Franklin said. “People were throwing babies at him.”
Vanderbilt went from 2-10 the previous two seasons before Franklin arrived 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.
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers said the Commodores are “not going to be a one-year wonder. Everyone believes that we can contend in this league.”
This and that
Another James Franklin—Missouri’s quarterback—is on track to be ready for the start of the season as he returns from a shoulder injury. “We expect, without question, for him to be a hundred percent,” Missouri coach GaryPinkel said. The Tigers play their first SEC game on Sept. 8 against Georgia. “He’s starting to throw the football around a little bit,” said Missouri receiver T.J Moe, who said Franklin is not yet taking part in 7-on-7 drills. …South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier on the four-team playoff coming in 2014: “I would have eight teams go play.” He wants six conference champions and two at-large teams. …It will be a marathon Wednesday with six schools lined up for the day: Florida, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky, Auburn and LSU.