DESTIN, Fla.—Welcome to the SEC spring meetings, which this year seems like a mini-SEC Media Days with a now-14 schools having time set aside for their coaches to speak to about 45 media members here.
The new guys on the block didn’t exactly hit the ground running here at the Sandestin Hilton.
While about 30 reporters waited on Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel in one meeting room he was scheduled to be in, Pinkel was in a different meeting room chatting with just two reporters.
The rest of the pack quickly headed over to where he was sitting.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin was supposed to meet with the media at 11 a.m. CT, but it was about an hour and a half later that he arrived.
Sumlin said the reason for the change is was he was at theIndianapolis 500 with his kids and returned to Texas with them before heading to this Florida coastal town.
“We go every year,” the former Houston coach said. “Usually Conference USA’s deal is here the week before so it’s never really butted up against us. I didn’t want a 10- and 8-year old flying back by themselves. I flew back to Houston and jumped on a 6 o’clock flight this morning.”
Georgia’s Mark Richt and Mark Fox were on time, but moved to a different meeting room because Pinkel was still holding court.
Here’s some of what Richt had to say:
On moving the South Carolina game to week six: “That would be interesting I would think. Every single year I think it’s been the first SEC game for us. Usually game two for us. I knew when we did play that game in the past everybody was healthy and everybody was undefeated (Georgiaactually was 0-1 overall entering last year’s game). I’m hoping in game six we’re undefeated and still healthy. That would be nice. You want to get to that game where it’s very meaningful. It should be. It’s still relatively early in league play, a lot of games to play. A lot of games to play. I just think in terms of winning this Eastern Division. That’s how I think. All games do count in league play. And that’s one of them. We know that the last couple of years, it’s been more meaningful for us.
On South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier pushing for only division records to determine division champions. “I think every man has a right to his own opinion. If it gets changed, then good for him I guess this year. I don’t know if he’d feel that way every year. This year he’d probably feel good about it. I don’t think it’s going to change. I’ve always said for me personally tell me what the rules are at the beginning of the year and let’s go play by them.
On his opinion on the proposal: “I’m used to what we do. My mind’s ingrained that every game counts. The reality is in our league play if you lose to somebody head to head or if you beat somebody head to head you’ve basically got a two game lead on that team. So there is an advantage to that still. It’s not like there is no advantage or difference.”
On if in some year’s he’s look at other division teams and thought they had it made with their schedule: “I think everybody looks at the schedule. Earlier on in my career, I might have done that a little bit more. Now I know that you really don’t know until the end of the year who had the toughest schedule, you know what I mean? Some people going into it might think a certain thing and when the year is over they might be like `Maybe this other team had a tougher schedule.’ I’ve been in the league long enough to know that in the East, every single opponent has beaten us. You can look at any game and say `that’s a good one, that’s a bad one.’ You’ve got hook it up and take care of business.”
On best playoff setup: “If you’re talking about four teams, I would personally say find a way to decide who are the best four teams inAmerica: 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 and play.
On how that should be determined: “I don’t know. The way we do it now. If you want to just to take the top four teams in the BCS instead of the top two, that’s one way of doing it that’s already in place. You wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Because change is here it sounds like, I suppose that it’s worthy of discussion of how to do it. I’m not for making it a prerequisite that you have to be the winner in your league.”
On what a Final Four playoff bracket would be like: “It would definitely generate a lot of excitement, a lot of revenue I’m sure. TV, I would imagine TV stations would be fighting for that opportunity I think. It would definitely generate a lot of excitement. Those four teams would probably not get any bowl type experience I would get. It would be hard to build that around the bowl. My guess is it would be tough to somehow build a bowl experience. If you did it, you would probably have to do it in the semifinals. You could maybe do it that way, but I think after that you’re not going to do another bowl game.”
On how a Fnal Four would impact the SEC’s chances to compete for championships: “It depends on how you do it. If you take the top four teams, I think we would all be in favor of that in our league. If you take four teams that have won a conference championship, it will be a guarantee that only one of us could go. If you had it the other way, we’d have a shot of two going. You can say it any way you want, but that’s kind of what everyone’s talking about. We also could be shutout in that scenario as well. That’s a possibility as well.”
On 2007: “We might have got in that four-game scenario. We probably would have. We wouldn’t have if you had to be a league champion. That was the issue. If you go back to that time, a lot of people in the media we’re like `They should be a conference champion in order to play for the national championship. That wasn’t a prerequisite, but everybody tried tried to make it like it was, but this year all of a sudden that wasn’t a big deal.”
On impact to bowl system of playoff: “I don’t think a four-team playoff would change the bowl system much at all if any. I think you’d still have a bunch of teams going to bowl games is what I’d hope. I think if you go more than four, I think we’ve got to be careful of what we wish for. If you have too many teams in postseason play (like a 16-team playoff), I think the bowl system will be very difficult to manage and I think, No. 2, you would diminish the importance of certain games in the regular season.
On biggest change in his now 12 seasons in SEC: “Everybody wants to win so bad that everybody is finding ways to get better. When somebody does something a little bit better, you learn from that and try to get better. It’s kind of like iron sharpens iron. We sharpen each other in the desire to be great, in the desire to win, the desire to win. I think everybody’s game has risen, quite frankly.”
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