10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after SEC Media Days
Talking season never, ever disappoints.
From Mike Leach’s 7-word intro to Jimbo Fisher’s 7-words-per-second stand-up act, SEC coaches and players again gave us great insight into their personality, style and world-class ability to filibuster.
Here are 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to after a week of Media Days in and around the SEC.
10. Clark Lea: Eternal Optimist
He said it, but there’s no way he actually believes it, right?
Vanderbilt’s coach, without prompting and somehow with a straight face, said the following during his pace-setting, grammatically-correct, 2,340-word opening remarks:
“We know, in time, that Vanderbilt football will be the best in the country.”
I had to rewind, quickly, to make sure he didn’t say “county.”
And even then I had to double-check to make sure East Tennessee State was safely beyond the Davidson County borders. It is, thank goodness.
We all get it. If Lea doesn’t preach it, nobody’s going to buy it. And much of what Lea said absolutely is true. Vanderbilt is a world-class university. Nashville is the best home-school city in the conference. NIL opportunities abound, but much like 98% of those lyrics echoing from every corner of Broadway, they aren’t always happy tunes.
9. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips tells Lea to hold his beer …
School pride is one thing. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips took it one step further Wednesday.
“It remains my belief there is no better conference in the country.”
It remains my belief that some things are better left unsaid.
8. Mike Leach, the legend
After SEC commissioner Greg Sankey spent 258 words praising and introducing Mike Leach, here was the Mississippi State coach’s 7-word response.
“All right, I appreciate that. Any questions?”
And off they went as only Mike Leach can.
The funniest exchange?
Q. With all of the conferences growing, 16 teams, maybe bigger, are you optimistic for your 64-team playoff to ever get here?
“That may be a conference championship you’re referring to (laughter).
“I don’t know. At some point, I mean, I’m beginning to lose track of what’s a league and what’s a conference, what’s a division, you know?”
7. Billy Napier’s bromance with Kirby Smart was … odd
Florida’s first-year coach came off as the most genuine, most real, most-like-us coach at SEC Media Days. Watching him get emotional talking about the impact his father had on his life and career was moving. You just don’t see coaches reveal those types of raw emotions in a public setting.
But his effusive praise of now-rival Kirby Smart certainly raised some eyebrows in Gainesville.
Napier has a long relationship with Smart. They worked on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama.
“Nothing but respect for Kirby. I mean, the guy’s an unbelievable football coach, leader. He’s a fantastic person. Unbelievable competitor,” Napier said when asked a simple question about their background together.
“I’ll tell you, first time I saw him was at our first SEC meeting. I told him, I said, ‘Congratulations.’ I mean, I know what goes into that, right?
“I’m proud of the guy, to be quite honest. He’s done it, and he’s done it the right way. It’s going to be great to compete against him.”
Can you ever imagine Steve Spurrier saying that about Bobby Bowden or Phil Fulmer?
6. Nick Saban … the Intimidator
This was reporters’ first chance to ask Nick Saban about his famous dust-up with Jimbo Fisher.
Oh, the drama. Can’t wait, right?
So of course reporters asked 9 softball questions better suited for Jocelyn Alo — and didn’t dare utter a single one about the Fisher skirmish.
I literally laughed at the lack of courage.
Reporters showed no fear, however, when Fisher took the stage 2 days later.
This was the first question Fisher faced:
Q. When you look back at the press conference in May, do you have any regrets over how that was handled? Do you feel like you owe Nick an apology? How do things stand between you and him?
So, to recap … nobody on the main stage dared ask Nick Saban about Jimbo Fisher, but that’s the first thing they asked Fisher. And asked if Fisher should apologize, too.
Thank goodness for Laura Rutledge (Part 37,397). She finally asked Saban about the situation with Fisher, and it led to a funny exchange with Saban, who basically said you should have seen our arguments when were coaching and playing basketball together.
5. Bryan Harsin … Bring it, baby
Say what you want about whether Harsin will win enough games to return to SEC Media Days in 2023, but he showed again why there is nobody else you’d want beside you when all hell breaks loose.
So many coaches choose to avoid and evade confrontational questions during Media Days. It’s art, actually.
Not Harsin. He opened by letting Auburn boosters know who, exactly, is running the show.
He didn’t wait for a question, either. He attacked the issue during his opening remarks.
“Going back to what happened back in February, what I’m going to do now is address it. Moving forward, that will be the last time I talk about this subject.
“There was an inquiry. It was uncomfortable. It was unfounded. It presented an opportunity for people to personally attack me, my family, and also our program. And it didn’t work.”
No wonder Auburn’s players love that guy.
4. Josh Heupel with the line of the week …
Lane Kiffin joked earlier in the week that he had signed a lot of mustard bottles and golf balls — both of which Tennessee fans threw at him at the end of his return visit last fall.
Kiffin could laugh, of course, in part because the fans missed and the Rebels won.
Thursday, Tennessee coach Josh Heupel delivered his own dagger when asked about what items he likes to sign.
“I didn’t sign any mustard bottles or golf balls,” Heupel said. “Maybe wish I had had a golf ball that night, you know what I mean? I’m only kidding.”
Josh Heupel asked about Lane Kiffin signing mustard bottles:
“I didn’t sign any mustard bottles or golf balls – wish I would have had a golf ball that night.
“I’m only kidding” pic.twitter.com/jW5Ga5Mf4Y
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) July 21, 2022
3. Does Peter Burns’ mustache have a Twitter handle?
— BMillz (@bmillz09) July 19, 2022
Goodbye sweet prince.
— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsESPN) July 21, 2022
It’s his face, his choice, and we love him here at SDS, but …
2. Kirby Smart’s contract …
I loved the timing.
After so many SEC and ACC coaches used their pulpit to opine about NIL, the evils of conferences chasing money, changing landscapes, transfer portal problems, the preciousness of amateurism, etc., etc., news broke Thursday that Kirby Smart just signed a 10-year deal worth $112,500,000.
How much did Joe Paterno make in his final season? I digress …
How about we just accept every single bit of this for what it is, OK?
Everybody’s trying to get theirs. All the time.
1. I’d roll with just about all of these SEC QBs …
We’ve enjoyed a few “Year of the QBs” lately. This SEC crop won’t reach Joe Burrow-Tua Tagovailoa rare air of 2019, but it’s deep and talented.
Bryce Young needs no more praise. But how could you not be impressed with Vanderbilt’s Mike Wright’s confidence? Or questioned national champion Stetson Bennett’s smirk and swagger. Or Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, the definition of a leader? Or Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who made a smart decision to rebrand himself. Or Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson, who’s keeping a list of every doubter and challenging it twice?
So much of the Media Days experience is rehearsed and repeated.
It was refreshing that these guys — and others — were anything but.
Amid all of the noise and cash registers ringing, thanks in large part to this quarterback crop, we’re in for another entertaining and exceptional year of SEC football.
Can’t wait to watch it all unfold — as long as somebody gives Burns a razor. That’s not how we want to start Saturday mornings.