See you next year, Hoover: Final observations from SEC Media Days 2016

HOOVER, Ala. — I’ve covered about every football event imaginable, from high school 7-on-7 tournaments to the Super Bowl.

Previously, I attended ACC Media Days when I was covering Florida State. Held in Pinehurst, N.C., one of the regular U.S. Open sites, it was a country-club atmosphere for the most part. We even played 18 holes.

SEC Media Days, conversely, is a dog of a different breed — a Bulldog rabidly rattling a cowbell right in your ear at the mere sight of someone walking past in maroon and white. Believe me, this is a media event. It’s really not that exciting. But tell that to the throng of Southern fried fanatics in the hotel lobby.

More coaches. More players. More radio stations. More television networks. More writers — some of them asking preposterous questions, too — from more newspapers and every conceivable address on the internet.

Commissioner Greg Sankey debuted a new conference slogan this week: “It just means more.” He is so right.

day 1

Upon arrival, the first thing I saw was a ‘Bama fan proudly displaying a WWE-fashioned championship belt.

As Sankey made his opening comments to begin the proceedings, I realized how many titans are departing the best conference in America. Steve Spurrier is already gone. Jeremy Foley and Verne Lundquist will be soon.

Jul 11, 2016; Hoover, AL, USA; Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during SEC media day at Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has to find a new quarterback. Jeremy Johnson was a disaster last year. Malzahn has good things to say about John Franklin III — a JUCO transfer. Johnson? Meh. This past season’s other passer? Sean White? Nobody asked Malzahn about him in the main media room. He didn’t mention him, either.

The most interesting thing we learned about Florida coach Jim McElwain is he’s not a fan of wearing socks. His daughter is getting married soon. He has zero plans to wear socks for the occasion. Well, he’s paying.

I asked Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason a question. He asked me to repeat it. Translation? He didn’t like it.

day 2

It was Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s first Media Days, but he was more relaxed than several of the veterans.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, for example. He did everything possible to distance himself from the wrist slap administered to controversial recruit Jeffery Simmons. “Can we talk about my Yeezys, please?”

If there was ever a time for Tennessee coach Butch Jones to get a little chesty, it was Tuesday. The Vols are almost everyone’s pick to win the SEC East. But Jones still came off as humble and hungry. So did his players. While the Gators ran their mouths the day before, Joshua Dobbs and Co. refused to take the bait.

Jul 12, 2016; Hoover, AL, USA; Tennessee player Joshua Dobbs speaks to the media during SEC media day at Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Few people like to talk about the quarterback position more than Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. So long as that quarterback is anyone other than Johnny Manziel. “Once an Aggie, always an Aggie. But next question.”

No, the graduate-transfer rule isn’t perfect. But after listening to Trevor Knight, you’ll take his side.

day 3

Jack Ronilo, an 11-year-old representing SI Kids, asked better questions than half the “pros” in the room.

Alabama coach Nick Saban was welcomed at the hotel like Bear Bryant, Elvis Presley and Jesus Christ rolled into one. It was a great time to rob a bank in Hoover. All of the armed security was in Saban’s motorcade.

No one asked Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to be the new Spurrier at Media Days, but he was happy to oblige anyway. As quote-friendly as all the other coaches in the league combined, Bielema is a genuine pleasure to talk to in a media setting. He rescued what was looking to be quite a sleepy afternoon at the podium.

Poor Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. No matter how hard he tries — he tries hard, too — nobody in Big Blue Nation really cares. His Q&A didn’t run out of time. Writers just stopped putting their hands in the air.

Jul 13, 2016; Hoover, AL, USA; Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops speaks to the media during SEC media day at Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

But better to be Stoops than Missouri coach Barry Odom. Imagine your new boss quitting on your first day.

day 4

Yes, you can find an Uber at 5:00 a.m. in Hoover to take you to CrossFit J19 at 5:15. Front squats today.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp made a convincing case that lining up at linebacker and facing today’s run/pass options — better known as RPOs — is an unenviable task. And if playing zone, “It’s impossible.”

If only I could be a kid again and go to summer camp one last time. I’d want LSU coach Les Miles to be my counselor. We’d be “shanghaied in Austin, Texas.” We’d always get to “eat big.” We’d even head to Cuba. In case you didn’t know, “Cuba is a communist country.” We’d circle the globe. Get free history lessons, too.

Jul 14, 2016; Hoover, AL, USA; LSU head coach Les Miles speaks to media during SEC media day at Hyatt Regency Birmingham-The Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Social media is “evil.” Just ask Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. It’s a “danger.” What it can do to young men, it’s “saddening.” That being said, five-star recruits seem to like it. I guess it’s not so bad after all.

Shula’s, right in the Wynfrey. Old fashioned. Wedge salad. New York strip, medium-rare. See you next year.

John Crist is the senior writer for Saturday Down South. You can send him an e-mail directly at jcrist@saturdaydownsouth.com or follow him on Twitter @SaturdayJC.


Source: Saturday Down South

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