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December 13, 2017    
July 17, 2016

What We Learned From Media Days

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SEC Media Daze have come and gone. The annual run up to the SEC football season was, as usual, long on style and short on substance. Nick Saban ranted and I, for one, missed the humor and bombast of Steve Spurrier, Bret Bielema tried, but . . . .

What we know is that on paper and in the minds of the media assembled in Hoover, Alabama is the team to beat. The vote wasn’t close; no Alabama wins the west and Auburn wins the SEC type thing. Does that mean the Tide will be in a confetti shower in Atlanta in December, well of course not? However, I wouldn’t bet against it.

  Some of the more interesting things that happened included: Saban going a full blown profanity filled rant. Well, of course he did. Everybody who follows SEC football knew somebody was going to ask him to explain the Cam Robinson and Hootie Jones thing. First of all, you have to give Paul Finebaum credit for having the cohones to ask that question and then to continue probing. That’s what we used to call journalism. Saban didn’t like it. He told Finebaum as much. In the end, Saban had his players back. The men in question showed poor judgement at best and at worst broke some laws, but, and it’s a huge but, no charges were filed. It doesn’t look good for Saban or the Alabama program, but both will get over it.

  The Mississippi mess – there’s some stuff going on in world of Mississippi football that doesn’t look good. Mississippi State signed a five star player who was caught on video beating up a woman. Jeffrey Simmons, a highly touted player, will suit up for the Bulldogs this season, though he will sit out the first game against South Alabama, wow! State’s coach Dan Mullen says the university investigated the situation thoroughly. OK then, got that. They looked it over, they talked to people and he’ll sit against South Alabama. Moving right along.

  Then there’s that stuff at Ole Miss. We all heard about it when Laremy Tunsil said that while a student athlete he received money from Ole Miss coaches. That probably wasn’t a good thing. Then Hugh Freeze tweets that he wants people to report NCAA violations. Ole Miss has already done a bunch of stuff that they hope will mitigate the situation. They’ve reduced their football scholarships by ten over the next three years and fined themselves over $150,000. How the NCAA will handle all of this is, of course, unknown. It could get ugly. This will dog the team all year long. It could either bring them together or the whole thing could go south. Only time will tell.

  Hot seat coaches were another big topic in Hoover. The big three seem to be in alphabetical order: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn; Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Word on the street is that Malzahn has to win eight games to keep his job. The whole concept is mind numbingly insane. Auburn just extended Malzahn’s contract, which would mean if they fired him they would be paying him over two million dollars a year through 2020. That hasn’t stopped them in the past, but still . . . . The question is can Auburn reach the eight game plateau? It’s possible it all depends upon how good Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Georgia are this year. Beating one or two of those teams will be the key, unless Alabama goes south, in which case, the urgency to get a new coach would not be so profound.

  For several years Kevin Sumlin was the sexy choice as the coach who could take the reins of the SEC west away from Nick Saban Then Johnny Manziel went into the NFL and his ability to coach came into question as things unraveled in Texas. Given that Sumlin will have a better than average defense and a graduate transfer quarterback in Trevor Knight, who has experience beating Alabama, things might not be too dire in College Station. The Auburn game on September 17 should be a good barometer for both teams.

  Mark Stoops came to Lexington with much fanfare. The locals were very excited to get a “name” coach. Unfortunately, the best Stoops, is Bob and he’s still at Oklahoma. To Mark Stoops’ credit he has recruited better than any coach at Kentucky in a long time. That’s the good news the bad news is the bar was pretty low. The other thing is the Wildcats have not been to a bowl since 2010. This year there’s all sorts of talk about how the culture has changed in Lexington and how they have all of the pieces in place to take the next step, which at this point in time, the next step would be winning six games! Recently, Mitch Barnhart, UK’s athletic director, has been touting that there are still a few more tweaks that will be made at Commonwealth Stadium to make the fan experience better. I mean, I’m not an athletic director or a football coach, but it seems to me that the best way of making the fan experience better is to win more football games. But then what do I know.

  Well we’ve gotten past the beginning of the serious talking part of the football season. Fall camp starts in August and then much ink both real and virtual will be spilt to cover every aspect of every practice until kickoff on September 3. Woohoo, at least once you get to this part you’re within spitting distance of the real thing.

  Roll Tide!

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