Notepad from Hoover: First day of SEC media days

semerson@macon.comJuly 16, 2013 

Live from Hoover, this story were include noteworthy quotes, things heard in the hallway, and personal impressions and opinions.

7:00 p.m.

It was very late in the day. Steve Spurrier was the final coach to go, and when he finally got to the podium, he thanked media members for waiting. It was still a full room. And for those looking for quotes, it was worth it.

The Old Ball Coach/Head Ball Coach opened by his various pleas to fix the world: Pay football and men's basketball players, equality in conference football schedules, and a new one ... Notre Dame having a vote on the playoff.

Spurrier said SEC coaches voted 14-0 that Notre Dame should have to join a conference, and no longer have a separate vote. This is the first time such a vote has been mentioned, in large part because it's unclear why SEC coaches would feel the need to do so.

The stipend has been something Spurrier has pushed for awhile. It's gained traction among other coaches, but does not appear close to becoming a reality unless major conferences pull away.

Spurrier also said that the only person who could get him to shut up about the stipend was President Obama.

Later, Spurrier was asked about his team's recent mastery of Georgia.

"Last year, Georgia didn't play well at all," Spurrier pointed out, before also pointing out that the Bulldogs still won the division. "They came back, and you've gotta give them credit. Gosh, we've beaten them the last two years, and then they won all their (other) conference games."

Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi asked Spurrier if he would ever turn in Florida for a recruiting violation. "There was laughter in the room as Spurrier looked ahead, thinking about it.

"We probably turned in some people here and there. We used to turn it into our compliance people and say, Can they do that? And they could turn it into the league office," Spurrier said. "If somebody was obviously breaking the rules, I would hope somebody would turn us in."

Spurrier was asked about his new friendship with Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze - who last year wasn't happy at Spurrier for saying that it was an advantage to play Ole Miss rather than LSU.

"Well last year when I was here Ole Miss was 2-10," Spurrier said. "Hugh and I have a lot in common. We both play golf, we both wear visors. We both call plays. How can you not like a guy like Hugh Freeze."

Spurrier was also asked if there was any chance his star Jadeveon Clowney would play offense.

"Not really. We've got a bunch of offensive players that are pretty good," he said.

The final question: Spurrier recently went to his the 50-year reunion at his high school. What was it like?

"It was pretty quiet!" Spurrier said. "I looked around at 9:30 and half of them had already left."

5:15 p.m.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze made waves with his recruiting this year, and made even more waves with a chesty reply to the questions over that recruiting success.

He was asked if it causes hurt feelings to have that called into question.

"If you get your feelings hurt at this level you'll always be on a roller-coaster ride. ... Obviously you get tired of hearing certain things over and over," Freeze sad, then cited some similar other programs - Kentucky, for one - having recruiting success.

"Obviously it's well-documented, I have great trust and faith in our compliance stuff. They handle all those issues. Certainly we're human and if mistakes are made, we'll report ourselves. Yeah you get tired of hearing those things. But it looks like it'll go on for awhile."

4:40 p.m.

Where Will Muschamp was an interesting quote and in much demand, Gary Pinkel was not.

The Missouri head coach was only on the podium for 15 minutes. There weren't any memorable quotes to post or tweet, nothing controversial, nothing compelling. Missouri football at this point just isn't very relevant.

Pinkel and the Tigers can only hope to change that this year.

3:15 p.m.

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was asked several times who the Gators' biggest rival is. His answer? Georgia.

"Some people say Georgia, some people say Tennessee, some people say Florida State. In my opinion it's Georgia," Driskel said.

But apparently there's some admiration in that rivalry. Driskel said he's spent some time this offseason studying Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.

"He does a good job in play-action," Driskel said. "He sells it well."

Driskel said Murray is the only college quarterback he studied this offseason. Otherwise, he just watches film of NFL quarterbacks.

Driskel also said he and the team are "excited" to try to end their two-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.

"As bad as we played against Georgia, it came down to the wire both times," Driskel said. "We can't turn the ball over, especially in crucial situations like I did."

2:30 p.m.

Florida's Will Muschamp had some indirect boom for his predecessor, Urban Meyer.

Before he got to the podium, Muschamp was asked about Meyer and Ohio State reportedly turning in Florida for an alleged NCAA violation.

“We appreciate our friends from Ohio making sure we follow NCAA rules. They certainly know something about NCAA rules,” Muschamp cracked, according to SI.com's Andy Staples.

Well then.

When he got to the podium in the main room, Muschamp began with a fillibuster that would unite Democrats and Republicans in seeking an end. But near the end of his question period, Muschamp was asked how responsible a coach should be for the behavior of his players. It was a not-too-subtle question relating to Meyer's handling of Aaron Hernandez.

Muschamp left no wiggle room.

"You're 100 percent responsible," he said.

And he repeated it several times.

"You're 100 percent responsible for every player on your football team," he said.

Muschamp also had a good, quick line when asked about Jadeveon Clowney, and whether he'd like to see a defensive player win the Heisman.

"I'd like to see him come out early, before our first game," Mushcamp said.

Muschamp didn't take the bait when asked to respond to Bob Stoops' comments about the SEC being overhyped.

"If I were Bob I'd probably say the same thing," he said.

2:05 p.m.

How about some recruiting tidbits on SEC media days? I can swing that: Corey Miller, the father of potential Georgia recruit Christian Miller, is here in his capacity as a Columbia, S.C., radio host.

Miller said his son, a four-star linebacker, "really likes Georgia," and is set to announce before the season between the Bulldogs, Alabama and Florida.

"His mom likes the proximity of them being two-and-a-half hours (away)," Corey Miller said. "And the 3-4 defense fits what he does. We went there Friday. They made a great impression. It's gonna be hard. But Georgia's right there, no doubt."

1:40 p.m.

"Here comes the brag bag."

That's how SEC commissioner Mike Slive put it as he began his customary speech kicking off SEC media days.

Seven straight national BCS titles. Four of the past six Heisman trophies. Six teams in the AP top 10 at the end of last season. And Slive also detailed NFL draft choices and academic All-Americans.

But then he turned more somber and brought up the "negative behavior" of current and former athletes. He didn't specifically mention Aaron Hernandez, but the meaning was clear. Slive also didn't mention specific remedies, but said it would remain a focus.

"We are not naive enough to think we can end unacceptable behavior," Slive said. "But that doesn't mean we will not try, try, try."

Slive also once again pushed for NCAA reforms. The full cost-of-attendance, which amounts to a stipend for players, is one such item.

"Conferences and their institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes," Slive said.

There's also the antiquated NCAA rulebook, which Slive said still needs work. He cracked that it's as relevant in the age of Facebook and Twitter as Gutenberg's printing press would be now to us media hacks.

Finally, Slive wondered aloud whether the NCAA's current makeup - specifically the size and structure of the board of directors - was proper. This is kind of an inside baseball thing, but it's a good bet Mark Emmert and the people in Indianapolis are not happy to have Slive wondering this aloud.

A few other tidbits from Slive's speech:

- The conference is still looking at the pros and cons of 8 and 9-game scheduling, with an eye on a resolution for the 2016 season.

- The SEC Network, launching for the 2014 season, will have a two-hour pregame show, which will rotate from each campus.

- He brought up men's basketball scheduling, despite this being football media days, another sign that the sport is important to Slive even if it's not very important to the fans of the league. The commish didn't mention anything new, just the recent appointment of an associate commisioner just for men's basketball, and the overall emphasis on stronger non-conference scheduling.

12:45 p.m.

Don't look for the 2014 football schedule to be revealed this week. An SEC spokesman just told me those aren't ready to be released yet.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive may address that when he speaks in a few minutes here. Slive is walking around with his infant grand-daughter right now, leading me to ask if that was his way of dodging tough questions.

"Try and come at me now!" Slive playfully responded.

11:20 a.m.

Well, there will at least be some news today.

The SEC will announce kickoff times and TV coverage for the first three weeks of the season. That means we'll find out the start time for Georgia-South Carolina on Sept. 7. That's the only SEC game that day, and the only marquee non-conference game is on the road (Florida at Miami), so it would be pretty surprising if it's not the 3:30 p.m. game on CBS.

Georgia has a bye on Sept. 14, and we already knew that opening week game at Clemson will be at 8 p.m.

10:45 a.m. ET

HOOVER, Ala. - Greetings from the ballroom at the Wynfrey Hotel. The madness doesn't begin officially for a few hours, but already the media is streaming in, and true to the expected attendance record, the line to register was as long as I've ever seen it.

Georgia doesn't make the rounds until Thursday, but two notable former Bulldogs are already here:

David Pollack and the ESPN crew are set up in the lobby, just outside this media room. ESPN will be covering portions of this live, a fact that seems both unnecessary, and inevitable.

Matt Stinchcomb is also here. The former Georgia offensive lineman is helping promote the AllState good-works all star team.

As I arrive here, a veteran of this event, a few things strike me about this year:

1. It just feels weird and empty to not have Gene Chizik here this year. Who else will provide us with warm insight, colorful quotes and general charisma?

2. Will Jadeveon Clowney fit through the double doors to this room? Well, Steve Spurrier's ego always does, so there must be room.

3. This whole event is a spectacle, ultimately. It would be wonderful if a coach, player or commissioner decided to make some actual news. Perhaps they will. But there's a reason the word "circus" keeps getting mentioned in relation to SEC media days. That's what it has become, for better or worse. That's what the SEC wants, because it helps build excitement for the league. I suppose there's no real harm in that.

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