SEC Media Days: Day 1 - The Feathered Warrior returns to high school

Prior to my arrival in Birmingham, I had this nagging feeling that my first SEC Media Days would be a lot like my first day of high school. I imagined setting up my laptop in a conference room the way a nervous teen might look for an open spot in the lunchroom. I imagined all the print and radio media snickering as I walked by to find a seat next to the rest of the former marching band geeks and journalism nerds. The night before, I could practically feel a knot of anxiety welling up in my stomach. And while I was right that the SEC Media Days is just like high school, all of my reasons were wrong*.

For one thing, the SEC Media Days are exactly like high school in that everyone there is too self-involved to really give two shakes of a rat's tail about what you are doing, no matter how much you may think the contrary (let that be a lesson to you young'ns out there). I may have felt out of place (because I was), but everyone rushed on past me like so many seniors on their way to fourth period algebra. In fact, one eager correspondent (who looked suspiciously like Joe Schad but I'm pretty sure wasn't) was apparently so smitten with himself that he boxed me out of one of the player interview tables. He must have been afraid that I was going to scoop him on his insightful questions like "What NFL player do you model your game after?" and "What are your goals for this season?"

For another thing, Media Days is set up like the world's largest geography class. There are rows upon rows of people all staring the same direction, eyes focused on a single lecturer at the front of the room. Well, "eyes focused" might be a bit of a stretch. The reality is, just like in high school, attendees run the gamut from devoted teacher's pets to slackers goofing off in the back of the room. It is truly remarkable how little our habits change as we age. Yours truly took his usual spot in the second row, center column. What can I say, I've always liked to have a clear view.

And, just as in our formative years, the class will groan if you ask an obvious, leading question. Woe is the man who asks Steve Spurrier about Stephen Garcia's status with the football team the second time. Like any good professor, he will tolerate your ignorance once, but (by God) don't ask him the same question again. "Are you even listening to my lecture Mr. Bleacher Report???"

Then, of course, there is the food. The SEC must have learned long ago that well-fed reporters are happy reporters. The SEC treated us to a seafood luncheon prior to commissioner Mike Slive's opening remarks. If my high school had served mini crab cakes and hush puppies for lunch instead some God-awful rectangular pizza monstrosity, I might not have suffered the indignity of having a Capri Sun rupture all over my biology homework in the 9th grade.

If you still need more proof that the SEC Media Days are an older version of high school, consider this: the abundance of unattainable super-attractive women is an extremely under-reported phenomenon. They are hott (the second "t" is required by statute in this situation), they know it, and you will stay far away from them because they are: a) 17 years old, b) an FSN intern, or c) a coach's daughter. Oftentimes all three. Oh, and also, you are a media member and therefor probably wearing cargo shorts (warning: that cultural reference is stepping over the line of good taste).

I'm not going to rehash everything that every coach and player said this afternoon. There are plenty of reputable news outlets that will probably do a better job, anyways. I would like to hit the high spots from each school with you, though.

Arkansas:

I got nothing. I was a total n00b sauce and set up in the wrong room. Silly me thought the room labeled "Internet/ radio" was where I belonged. Turns out I wanted to be in the big room next door. By the time I realized my mistake, Arkansas had already ceded the floor. Did I mention this was my first SEC Media Days?

 

Florida:

Will Muschamp was easily the most combative of all the school representatives I saw. He's like that guy who is married to your wife's best friend from undergrad and doesn't care if all the women at the dinner party want to play Scattergories. He thinks that game is for nancies. Don't you women ever get tired of Scattergories? If you need him he's going to be in the den watching video tape of himself working out. And no, he will not talk about this later - how many times a week do we have to talk anyways. Gah!

 

South Carolina:

Spurrier is still getting a lot of mileage out of the reputation he built for himself in the 90s. A quip that might draw a wry smile from me garners an uproar of laughter from the room at large. That's the thing about Spurrier, people are unwilling to let their perception of him change. Georgia fans still hate him for being an arrogant prick even though he has been anything but since arriving at South Carolina. Florida fans still love him to death for some reason. And reporters still cling to the notion that he is the best quote in sports. The Spurrier y'all grew up with and the Spurrier I know are two completely different people.

One thing you might not have heard is that Spurrier quoted South Carolina as only paying recruiting services $12,000 last year. Compare that to the $200,000+ that some schools spend and you start to get an idea that our coaches trust their own evaluation skills. That's great to know because, as Spurrier noted, it helps keep USC's budget in line.

With regards to over-signing, Spurrier noted that USC has had up to seven walk-ons on scholarship in his time at USC. He has always been upfront with walk-ons that their scholarships are for one year only. Without mentioning Bryce Sherman specifically, Spurrier said:

We gave him a year and a half, which I thought was pretty nice of us. This is a young man who wasn't recruited by us. We do have one year renewable scholarships, and sometimes we choose not to renew them."

 

Mississippi State:

Dan Mullen looks like he could be a 1940s mafioso. He literally has no neck. The only thing he needed today was a fedora to complete the ensemble. Coach Mullen didn't say much worth repeating in this space. Most of it reads like the diary of Tony Robbins. Mullen has the ability to take a question and run with it - both a blessing and a curse. If he were a little more cavalier in his comments, it might make for a good interview. Instead, I'm contemplating switching on my voice recorder so I can let the dulcet tones of his voice lull me to sleep.

 

That's pretty much it for Day 1 of the SEC Media Days. I'll leave you with this thought. If you ever find yourself at SEC Media Days and need to kill some time, talk to radio guys. They can carry the whole conversation by themselves, have the best stories, and know all the inside information. They are easily personable since that's pretty much in their job description. You're never very far from a new friend when radio guys are around. Consequently, I might be on some radio station in the middle of Louisiana tomorrow afternoon. Look for me on Twitter tomorrow (@FeatherdWarrior), although the Wi-Fi here is just as bad as advertised. I'll do my best under the circumstances.

 

Go 'Cocks!

 

*Special thanks goes to my face for truly committing to the metaphor by breaking out for the first time in years (OK, months)

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