ATLANTA—Since 1985 the SEC has fielded its annual football media days as a way to get its fans excited about the upcoming season.
It has worked. As it turns out, people in this part of the world need no prompting to get excited about football season.
I’m fortunate to say that I’ve missed only two of 33 SEC media days, those coming in 1985 and 1986 when I temporarily lost my mind and thought I wanted to be an editor. I came to my senses and returned to writing in 1988. Since then, the ritual of driving from my home in Atlanta to Birmingham for these annual meetings marked the end of summer and the beginning of another work year.
And every time—every single time—I made that drive I was excited because football season, my old friend, was back. And man, I had missed him.
[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
This year I don’t have to make the drive because the SEC has moved media days to Atlanta and the College Football Hall of Fame. Starting Monday morning with an address from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, over 1,200 credentialed media will interview 14 head coaches and 42 (three per team) players to get their thoughts on everything under the sun.
By the close of business on Thursday we’ll all be exhausted. The media will have made its preseason picks for the division and championship winners (Note: The media has correctly picked the championship only six times in 33 years).
Now I know my Alabama friends are not thrilled about this move because they always turned out en masse and in costume when it was the Crimson Tide’s day. Coming off their fifth national championship in nine years, it was going to be quite a scene. Take heart, Alabama fans. Media Days will be back in Hoover next year but may move around after that.
None of us ever thought this event would get to be this big. In fact, it actually kicked off Sunday night with a two-hour SEC Network show at Centennial Park, which is just across the street from the CFBHOF.
Most of what will be said here this week is fairly predictable. But over the past 33 years we’ve had some unforgettable moments like:
**--The year (2013) SEC Commissioner Mike Slive used his opening remarks at media days to put the NCAA on notice: The Power Five schools were getting tired of common-sense things—like the full cost of attendance stipend—not getting done. The money quote:
“As Albert Einstein said: ‘We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’”
Today the Power Five basically run the show in college athletics. But it all began with Commissioner Slive’s oratory. Slive retired in 2015 and passed away in last May. We miss him.
**--The year (2004) Nick Saban’s dog, Lizzy, got out of his hotel room and walked into the main media room while the LSU coach was making his remarks.
**--The year (2010) Bobby Johnson retired at Vanderbilt right before media days. Robbie Caldwell, Johnson’s offensive line coach, was elevated to the job and had an unforgettable session with the print media, who gave him a round of applause. Caldwell said, that one of his early jobs was working on a farm where he inseminated turkeys. Yes, you read that right.
**--The year (2004) that Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer did SEC Media Days by speaker phone because he was being threatened with a subpoena in a defamation lawsuit by an Alabama booster. So he phoned it in and was fined $10,000 by the SEC. Karma came four years later when Fulmer arrived for media days and was successfully served a subpoena.
**--The year (2001) Florida coach Steve Spurrier was asked why there wasn’t a playoff in college football. Spurrier, a big playoff guy, answered the question by calling out SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, who was standing in the back of the interview room.
“Is that the way it is?” Spurrier said to Kramer, the godfather of the BCS. “Is that the answer?”
Kramer just shook his head.
It promises to be a fun week.