Notes on SEC Football Media Days 2009:
- For those unfamiliar with the format of media days, the Wyfrey Hotel (in Hoover) hosts the event. The compact Wynfrey lobby has an escalator that leads to a second floor of meeting rooms, and a fairly long hallway connecting the hotel to a large mall. During media days, the upstairs area hosts print/internet and television media (the print/internet area is by far the largest room), while the hallway downstairs becomes “radio row” with various tables set up for shows from across the South (28 radio stations are broadcasting live from media days in 2009).
- The hotel lobby is often the most enjoyable place to people watch. Fans gather to catch a glimpse of the coaches or players, and their numbers swell when a Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, or Tim Tebow is scheduled.
- Each school is represented by the head coach and two players, and four schools are scheduled for each of the three days (the schools are paired together for two hours of media time). While coaches and players from one school visit with print/internet media, the other school reps meet with television media. The head coach makes general comments then takes questions. Players are made available after the respective coaches finish.
- The 2009 event kicked off Wednesday with the focus on four teams expected to finish in the lower halves of their divisions. BobbyPetrino (Arkansas), Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt), Dan Mullen (Miss State), and Rich Brooks (Kentucky) and their players spoke to assembled media. As usual, there was little news made from coaches or players. All of them are typically so media savvy that their answers are plain and non-controversial.
- You can always tell new coaches … they talk significantly more than the veterans. Dan Mullen of Miss State followed Petrino and Johnson to the print media podium. Each of those two made about a minute’s worth of an introduction, then took questions. Mullen, who seems a personable fellow, talked about his background, his welcome to the state of Mississippi, his offense, defense, coaching staff, strength staff, the spread offense, and more … about 20 minutes before taking questions. Next year, I expect he’ll go about a minute then take questions (I enjoy the coaches talking longer because there is a slim chance they’ll slip and say something of real substance instead of boilerplate “coach speak”).
- Thursday’s session (underway as I type) is the most star-studded in several years … Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Ole Miss are arguably the SEC’s glamor teams for 2009 (LSU could be included too) and the session is far more highly attended than yesterday.
- Nick Saban has been the star the past couple of media days gatherings, but Tim Tebow challenged him last year and surpassed him this season. The big Florida QB will go down as a conference cultural hero the likes of Archie Manning, Herschel Walker, and Bo Jackson. I doubt most fans and media realize how much the league will miss him when he’s gone (I know fans of Florida’s competitors will be glad he’s gone, but every true fan will miss him … we won’t see his like again for a while – if ever). He also draws crowds (and groupies) and needs what I guess would be called body-guards to lead him from session to session. Last year I rode down the escalator behind Urban Meyer. The Gator coach was alone and unnoticed (at least for a minute or two) while at the bottom Tebow was surrounded by a horde of fans and media. I enjoyed seeing that.
- I’m a Georgia grad, so Mark Richt always makes me proud. He handles himself humbly, answers questions thoughtfully, and is the kind of guy you’d like your son to play for … now, if he could just get that defense fixed this season.
- The coaches most enjoyable to listen to? Easy … Steve Spurrier is my favorite by far (he’ll be in on Friday). Bobby Johnson is funny and self-deprecating; Saban is interesting and a bit more relaxed than one might expect; Meyer pretty much bristles with intensity all the time, but gives pretty good answers. Houston Nutt is always upbeat although sometimes prone to rote answers. I miss Tommy Tuberville … he was smooth with his responses so didn’t give you much, but was also insightful and smart. He could be an outstanding announcer/analyst in my opinion.
- For anyone interested, all sessions are carried on ESPN-U. The sessions they show are from the print/internet room.