HOOVER, Ala. — Lane Kiffin is gone, but he’s not forgotten at SEC Football Media Days.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive avoided mentioning Kiffin by name when talking about the coaching turnover in the league last offseason, taking a veiled shot at the former Tennessee coach who left for Southern Cal.
Smiling slightly, Slive referred to Kiffin simply as “Derek Dooley’s predecessor (who) left to return to his Western roots.”
The comment was met by muted laughs in the auditorium.
Slive followed by welcoming Dooley, the new Vols’ coach, back to the SEC, adding, “And when I say welcome, I mean welcome,” emphasizing the final word.
Kiffin was a constant thorn in Slive’s side during his brief tenure at Tennessee, committing a number of secondary recruiting violations and constantly pushing the envelope with his comments to the media.
Slive issued Kiffin a public reprimand after he falsely accused Florida’s Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation.
Meyer, no longer muzzled from talking about Kiffin, was asked Wednesday what his honest reaction was to news that Kiffin had taken the job at Southern Cal — where he was, what he did, if he high-fived anyone?
“I’ll let the commissioner handle that one,” Meyer said, smiling. “No comment.”
During the conference expansion blitz earlier this summer, Slive said he was ready to do what it took to maintain the SEC’s standing as one of the country’s premier leagues.
He said Wednesday he hoped such matters are treated carefully in the future, holding to the values of intercollegiate athletics.
“This assessment needs to go beyond television sets, contract revenues and market share,” he said. “It needs to include the potential impact on conference cultures, on the lives of the student-athletes, on the impact to our respective communities and on the collegiate model as we have come to know and appreciate.”
Slive added that the conference is not currently interested in pursuing expansion or membership changes.
Parker to play football
Auburn’s football game against Clemson this fall just got a little more competitive.
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, who was selected by the Colorado Rockies with the 26th pick in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft last June, announced he will return to school and play football this season.
The two-sport standout, who has been in negotiations with the Rockies for weeks, did not rule out still signing, but he said playing only baseball is no longer an option.
“I was in a situation where I couldn’t make a bad decision. All my options are still on the table at this point,” he said in a release from the school. “The only option I have ruled out is playing baseball exclusively for the Colorado Rockies right now. Negotiations will continue with the Rockies, but I will play football at Clemson this fall.”
Parker was reportedly seeking a $3 million bonus to give up football and concentrate solely on baseball.
He threw for 2,526 yards and 20 touchdowns as a freshman last year, leading the Tigers to their first ACC Atlantic Division title. He also batted .344 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs for the baseball team, which beat Auburn in the NCAA regional en route to the College World Series.
Auburn hosts Clemson on Sept. 18 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. ET.
Auburn sets game times
Auburn announced two game times Wednesday, setting the kickoff for its season opener against Arkansas State on Sept. 4 for 7 p.m. It will be televised by Fox Sports South.
That means the Tigers’ first three games will be at night. They travel to Mississippi State for a Thursday night game Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. before hosting Clemson the following week. Both games will air on ESPN.
Auburn also announced a 2:30 p.m. start time for the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 26. The game will be televised by CBS.
Meyer isn’t telling his freshmen to hurry up and wait.
The Gators brought in the top-rated recruiting class in the country to help replenish a team that lost three players to the first round of the NFL draft, including quarterback Tim Tebow.
“There was no discussion about redshirting,” Meyer said. “If that comes up, we don’t get that young man and move on. We’re gonna play you.
“If you don’t play at Florida, it’s because you’re not good enough to play, it’s not because we’re saving you for down the road.”
The Gators certainly brought in some highly regarded players, including defensive end Ronald Powell, who was rated the No. 1 prospect in the country by Rivals.com.
“We lost some key players, but we’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to step up and prove themselves this year,” offensive lineman Mike Pouncey said.
Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen thinks both his team and quarterback Chris Relf have taken a big step forward going into the coach’s second season.
The Bulldogs coach said finishing his first year with a win over Mississippi — or, as he says, “that school up north” — helped his players believe they can win any game they play.
“They’re not just going to play hard and battle teams for four quarters, they’re going to find a way to win games and get us to championship level this season,” Mullen said.
Offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry said there’s more of a comfort now.
“Everybody is more confident,” he said. “People are playing under control and not just going wild, going 100 percent but not going in the right place. Now we’re going in the right direction to the right place and doing the right things, at 100 percent.”
Mullen said that Relf returns as a completely different player, while redshirt freshman Tyler Russell is also expected to vie for the job at quarterback.
He also might try to get more tailbacks involved after the departure of Anthony Dixon.