With SEC Media Days kicking off tomorrow in Hoover, Alabama, we thought we’d give you a brief primer of what to expect by way of 10 questions surrounding this year’s event.
And those questions are:
1. How will Steve Spurrier steal the spotlight?
Two years ago, Spurrier was quiet, appearing almost meloncholy during his main appearance at Media Days. The Gamecocks were coming off a so-so season that ended with a disappointing loss to UConn in a Birmingham bowl game. When the coach is losing, he’s quiet.
Ah, but when he’s winning.
Last summer Spurrier was practically giddy during Media Days. From nixing some of the SEC commissioner’s high-minded ideas to pushing his own “let’s pay the players out of our pocket” idea, Spurrier stole the show.
This spring at the SEC Meetings, the ‘Ol Ball Coach trotted out the idea — quickly shot down by everyone else including Les Miles who had at first backed it — of not counting cross-division games in the standings. So what will that be his big splash at Media Days? Will he take shots at Georgia or another SEC program? Will he suggest only USC’s wins be counted in the standings, not its losses? Or will he say something else just to stir the pot? Because with Spurrier feeling good about his team, it’s likely the pot will indeed be stirred in some form or fashion. (Not that that’s a bad thing.)
2. How many “Milesisms” will Les Miles unleash in Hoover?
Take a coach who makes so many bizarrely-worded statements that someone launched a website featuring 632 of them. Now throw in a thousand media types with cameras and microphones and cell phones for tweeting. Finally, add in the fact that said coach just led his team to the most empty SEC Championship ever — thanks to a loss to SEC West rival Alabama in the BCS title game — and you’re guaranteed to get one or two “Milesisms.”
As he tries to guarantee his team won’t have a hangover from January’s loss, we can only hope for a jewel or two like this:
“I think it’s not that we have to do it differently, but that you have to do it with great approach.”
Also watch for the coach to use the word “want” — as in: “We have a real want to run the football” — on multiple occasions.
3. Which question will Mike Slive hear most often: “Will the SEC expand?” or “Who’ll make up the new playoff’s selection committee?”
Last year the commissioner’s state of the conference speech was his “agenda for change” in college football. His main points: provide better benefits to student-athletes, strengthen academic requirements, modernize recruiting rules, and support the NCAA’s enforcement staff. To date, paying players a stipend is still on the table, academic requirements have gotten tougher, and the NCAA just implemented looser recruiting rules for basketball. The SEC has also surprisingly added two schools since last July and a college playoff is now suddenly on the horizon.
Regardless of what points Slive makes during this year’s speech, expect SEC expansion and playoff questions to be tossed to the commish again and again. Followed closely by “What’s the Champions Bowl” actually going to be?
As for our question, here’s guessing Slive is most often asked about the new playoff and how the SEC can get multiple teams into it.
4. How many times will Slive say: “The First Amendment is alive and well?”
This is the commissioner’s go-to quote when asked about any debate he doesn’t really want to weigh in on. The over/under is one use of that statement per interview or speech.
5. Who is more likely to bore the media throng to sleep: Gene Chizik or Dan Mullen?
Chizik has won a BCS crown for Auburn. Mullen has excited the Mississippi State fanbase. But when Mullen’s not throwing barbs at Ole Miss, he’s bo-ring to listen to. (Not an insult, he’s paid to win games, not talk.) And Chizik? I’ve walked by store mannequins I’ve found more entertaining.
So who’ll win this year’s Bore-Off between the two SEC West rivals? We’ll go with Chizik. Because as noted above, Mullen is at least likely to gig the folks in Oxford a bit.
6. How much of the throng will actually be media and how much will be fans?
There once was a day when Media Days was actually a media event. Now it’s become a fan event with hundreds of people wandering the lobby of The Wynfrey Hotel hoping for an autograph. More important, the SEC has chosen to give access to team-specific bloggers in recent years… and we’re not talking about Rivals.com or Scout.com sites. We’re talking about Joe Fan’s “ILoveTheDawgs.com.”
There’s nothing wrong with fan sites or with blogs (how could we say that there is?). But letting just any ol’ writer get a press pass has led to more coaches having to answer questions such as this: “If our offensive line doesn’t come together quick, can we beat Florida in September?”
7. How will Alabama — the team and its players — do in the preseason “media” voting?
No fanbase has more “media” in the house than Alabama. Look at the photos coming out of Hoover this week and you’re likely to see people actually sporting their favorite school’s color. Most that do will be wearing crimson.
That fact has led recent preseason SEC Media Days polls to put Bama at or near the top of the SEC West every year with a truckload of representatives on the preseason All-SEC team, too. Unless the SEC changes its policy this week, expect the “media” from sites like “TheTideRules.com” to swing the preseason votes heavily in Alabama’s favor once again. Sure, Bama’s good, but LSU’s not bad, either.
Last season, several independent, objective media members chose not to vote in the league’s preseason poll at all. Why bother? If that happens again, expect an All-Alabama team come Thursday afternoon.
8. Which coach is making his final SEC Media Days: Derek Dooley, Joker Phillips, John L. Smith or some surprise candidate?
Odds are strong that someone will be making his final appearance in Hoover this week. Last year, Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino stepped to the podium for a final time, though no on would have suspected Petrino’s quick exit.
So who’ll walk the last mile this year?
We’ll list the favorite as John L. Smith simply because he’s got the word “interim” right there in his job title. The last interim coach in the SEC was Robbie Caldwell at Vanderbilt. He didn’t fare too well on the job, but his down-home, folksy delivery – a mix of Lewis Grizzard and Jerry Clower — was the hit of Media Days. If Smith can entertain as Caldwell did, he may at least be remembered fondly come next year’s event… even if he’s not back in attendance.
9. Will Hugh Freeze, Gary Pinkel and Kevin Sumlin bore or entertain?
Last year, the main address from Vandy’s James Franklin served as his coming out party. It was obvious from the first words out of his mouth that Franklin wasn’t going to be wowed by the media in attendance, spooked by the SEC in general, or afraid to promise big changes at Vandy.
This year, we’ll learn if Freeze, Pinkel and Sumlin can stand the heat of all those television lights. You can bet that none of them have seen anything in the past that will rival what they’re going to see media-wise this week.
Freeze will have to explain what makes him the guy to finally turn Ole Miss around for the long haul. Pinkel and Sumlin will be asked ad nauseum whether or not their teams are ready for SEC competition and how they plan to adjust to it.
Here’s hoping these guys — at least in terms of personality — are more Caldwell than Chizik.
10. What can you expect from MrSEC.com during SEC Media Days?
Imagine Twitter on steroids. Rather than get caught in one room listening to a borefest while someone else is saying something witty or controversial in another room, we’ll be in our command bunker just as we have been for the past three Media Days.
Multiple laptops open, DVR running, cell phones for texts and calls.
What it means for you is that you can get live running blogs during the coaches’ main speeches. You’ll get the stand-out quotes from coaches and players as they happen. You’ll get immediate opinion on who’s looking nervous, who’s comfortable, who’s tiring of repetitive questions, etc. We’ll also bring you any breaking news from Hoover or any of the SEC’s 14 campuses this week. It always seems that someone has a player arrested or some scandal come to light during Media Days.
Yep, you’ll get all of that. Up to the minute. But it won’t be limited to 140 characters as Twitter’s tweets are. (Though you can follow all of our news and notes via our own official Twitter and Facebook pages.)
Hope you’ll join us.