Update: SEC media days notes, Mike Slive opens with his 'brag bag'

sports@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 16, 2013 

HOOVER, Ala. -- SEC Commissioner Mike Slive kicked off the unofficial start to the 2013 football season by opening his "brag bag." Slive harped on the remarkable accomplishments the league has enjoyed during his time at the helm. The most notable are the seven straight BCS national championships. Last season, six teams SEC teams finished ranked in the top 10, a college football first.

Slive also mentioned that the SEC set a record with 63 NFL draft picks, more than double any other conference.

Off-field issues

In light of recent off-field stories -- including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's string of maturity hiccups, the dismissal of four Vanderbilt players for an unspecified sex crime, LSU running back Jeremy Hill's guilty plea to misdemeanor battery and former Florida star Aaron Hernandez's murder charge -- Slive spoke out Tuesday. He lauded the "vast majority" of athletes who don't get into trouble and prevention efforts by the conference and member schools, but expressed disappointment. "We cannot ignore the recent off-the-field incidents involving both current and former student-athletes," he said. "… It is a crushing disappointment when, despite all of these efforts, a young person throws away the opportunity for a promising future."

Shots fired

Florida coach Will Muschamp was the first coach to speak at media days. Muschamp was on fire from the start and didn't take light of someone from Ohio State reporting the Gators to the NCAA for a secondary recruiting violation.

"We appreciate our friends in Ohio making sure we comply with NCAA rules," Muschamp said. "They certainly know about NCAA rules."

Player conduct

Muschamp pulled no punches during his time at the podium. Muschamp, who is entering his third season with the Gators, was asked if coaches are responsible for players off-the-field actions to which he replied, "Well, you're 100 percent responsible. When you sign a student-athlete to come to the University of Florida, I look at his parents, guardians, whoever is important to him in his life, tell them it's my job to be an extension of what's already happened at home. But you're a hundred percent responsible for the young man. Everything that happens."

Elston, Year 2

Trae Elston became a starting safety for Ole Miss as a true freshman in 2012, and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says the former Oxford High standout looks primed for a big sophomore year.

"I think Trae is a phenomenal player," Freeze said. "He's physical. He can run. He is an SEC safety, and we're glad he's on our football team.

"He's had a great summer. He looks, physically, as good as I've ever seen him. I hope he can stay healthy, because we don't have many backups at that position."

Elston finished fifth on the team in tackles in 2012 with 55. He also had a sack, six pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

Just being Hugh

One wonders how South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier feels, knowing that a coach who has won multiple championships wants to be like him.

Freeze's journey to becoming a major-college head football coach included time as a high school football and girls' basketball coach at Briarcrest High School in Memphis, Tenn. He won four state championships in girls' basketball and two in football.

Spurrier is one of the SEC's greatest coaches, but his one national title came at Florida in 1996. A year ago at SEC Media Days, he also managed to tweek Ole Miss while panning Georgia's schedule.

Thing is, Freeze wanted to be so much like Spurrier, right down to wearing a visor.

"When I was a high school coach, I wanted to be like Steve Spurrier," Freeze said. "That's the truth, and Steve and I have become real good friends."

Health matters

After stumbling through its first season in the SEC, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel just wants to make it through 2013 healthy. The Tigers went 5-7, including 2-6 in the SEC, in their first season in the league. The Tigers had multiple players banged up last season, and while the team isn't using it as an excuse, quarterback James Franklin admitted it affected the players mentally.

Pinkel uses precautionary steps to keep his players on the field and off the training table, like avoiding two-a-day practices.

Home cooking

Pinkel was also asked about the Tigers having to travel to College Station to face Texas A&M for the past three years. Rarely does a team face an opponent on the road twice in a row, let alone three consecutive years. This season, Missouri will host the Aggies.

"That's been a blast, going down there three years in a row," Pinkel said, sarcastically. "We won the two before, and last year they really got after us. Kevin did a great job, and, obviously, the quarterback is a great player.

"It's nice to have them come up to our place. In college football, how can you ever play three times in a row anywhere? I whine and nobody listens."

Spurrier goes "14-0"

SEC commissioner Mike Slive led off Day 1 of SEC Media Days by revisiting his "Agenda for Change" from 2011, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wanted to let assembled media know how the league's coaches feel on certain issues.

He said the league's coaches voted 14-0 on several issues during their gathering at the SEC meetings in Destin, notably giving players in the revenue-producing sports of football and basketball expense money.

Spurrier suggested $300 a game for football players, "a little less" for basketball players, who play more games.

"We believe those two sports, the income producers," he said. "Those players, most of them come from lower-income families. … We should provide some expense money so their parents can go to games, lodging, travel, meals, what have you."

Spurrier said all 14 coaches offered to pay the money "if it was a financial burden for our universities."

After noting that Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick had a seat with conference commissioners in discussions about the new four-team playoff format, SEC coaches voted 14-0 that the Fighting Irish should have to play in a conference.

"Somebody said, 'Why was he there?'" Spurrier said. "He's equal to all the commissioners. Nobody had a good answer, except that's the way it's always been done."

Spurrier said the SEC coaches also voted for a fair scheduling, as opposed to imbalanced scheduling. He noted that 2012 SEC West Division champion Alabama didn't play the top three teams in the East during the regular season, and East champion Georgia didn't play the top three in the West.

"LSU and Florida, I think, have the most legitimate gripe of all of us," Spurrier said. "Since they play each other, they're annually top-10 teams. That's tough on both those schools."

Spurrier lauded the Big 12's schedule.

"Ten teams, they all play each other," he said. "That's pretty doggone fair."

Spurrier's old DC

Spurrier was asked about whether his former defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, will have equal success now with the same job at Auburn.

"If he's got the players we had, certainly he's got a chance to do it," Spurrier said. "Melvin Ingram, first-round pick at San Diego. Stephon Gilmore, first-round pick, Buffalo Bills.

"We've had a lot of good players at South Carolina. If he's got that kind of talent, he can be pretty good. I'll put it that way."

Class of '63

Spurrier was also asked about his 50th reunion at Science Hill High School, which happens to be in Tennessee, where he's not real popular.

"It was sort of quiet," he said, drawing laughs from the room. "I thought it was going to be a little louder. Looked around at 9:30, half of them had already left.

"I said, 'Where did everybody go?'"

Spurrier, of course, tweaked rival Tennessee quite a bit while coaching at Florida.

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