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July 16, 2013

7 at 7: Writer recalls favorite moments from SEC Media Days’ past (and a pair of links)

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com


HOOVER, Ala. — It’s good to be back at SEC Media Days.

The last time I came to the Wynfrey Hotel was three years ago, but it feels much longer than that. Back then, I was still a plucky college journalist getting his first taste of covering an event as large as Media Days. And it’s only grown bigger since then, as over 1,200 media members are credentialed for Media Days this year.


Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell was a hit at the 2010 SEC Media Days.

We’re just hours away from the event kicking off, as per usual, with Commissioner Mike Slive, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my favorite moments from previous editions of Media Days. (Note: This will be 2010-heavy, being that I was there and all.)

1. Before or since, I’ve never seen anything like the “Robbie Caldwell Show” three years ago.  The interim Vanderbilt coach’s Q&A session with media members was almost too good for words. From his first job (which involved inseminating turkeys) to being mistaken for a doorman to reinstating profanity at Vanderbilt after former coach Bobby Johnson outlawed them, Caldwell was a walking, talking sound bite.

When Caldwell was done — and the only reason it did was because the conference’s media rep stepped in, since the coach had gone over the allotted time in the main press room — media members gave him a well-deserved standing ovation. According to veteran scribes of the league, this is the only time such a thing has ever occurred.

If you have time, do yourself a favor and read the full transcript of Caldwell’s show-stealing appearance.

2. During his own time at the podium that year, Nick Saban compared agents to pimps. Yes, it really happened. The quote from the Alabama coach, in its entirety:

“I don’t think it’s anything but greed that’s creating it right now on behalf of the agents,” Saban said. “The agents that do this — and I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp?

“I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. How would you feel if they did it to your child?” Saban said.

3. Former Florida coach Urban Meyer, while not comparing agents to any illicit forms of business as Saban did, said the university he worked at took the “war on agents” to levels probably not seen at other institutions of higher learning.

“At Florida we have security for one reason,” he said. “It’s not for the fans, it’s to keep people we don’t want around our players away. … If you see an agent on the campus at Florida, he’s probably going to be hiding behind a bush.”

4. OK, let me indulge myself a little on this one. After everything that had transpired with Caldwell (and to a lesser extent, former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips) earlier that same day, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier stepped to the podium in 2010 having to put forth a tour de force performance to become the talk of Media Days once more. I, ever the intrepid reporter, asked him if he was worried about losing the title as the league’s “most quotable coach.”

“No, I’m not worried about that at all,” he said with his patented Spurrier smirk. “I don’t think I’ve won enough games lately to have any outlandish quotes. If you win a bunch of games, it’s pretty easy to give all the answers up here. But we haven’t won enough. I’m just another ball coach trying to win a whole bunch of games that we haven’t quite done yet.”

5. Though this happened well before my time as an SEC reporter, who could forget former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer refusing to appear at Media Days in 2004? In a story by Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph I have linked to previously, my colleague provided context behind Fulmer’s no-show.

The longtime Tennessee head coach was absent from media days in 2004, because he wanted to avoid being served a subpoena by an Alabama lawyer. Fulmer had spoken to the NCAA about the Crimson Tide, and a suit had the lawyer on Fulmer’s heels. Knowing that, Fulmer’s own lawyers advised him to stay out of Alabama, which he did, incurring a $10,000 fine from the SEC.

But Fulmer did speak at media days that year, albeit via a conference call. So of course nearly every question was about the lawsuit, Fulmer’s actions and skipping media days.

At one point, after a contentious question, the moderator tried to move on, but Fulmer’s voice could be heard: “No, no I’ll answer that.”

The most awkward moment came near the end, when a young woman near the back of the room spoke up, asking an argumentative question. It still isn’t clear to this day whether that was a media member or an Alabama fan who snuck in.

6. If you want to read some of the best quotes from older Media Day gatherings, AL.com’s Jon Solomon compiled them in one place in this handy article.

7. Brad Locke, who covers Mississippi State, tweeted out the photo you see below this morning. Things will be a little busier in the main press room at the Wynfrey very soon.

Hope you’ll join War Eagle Extra for all the happenings in Hoover over the next three days.

November 20, 2012

History not on Coach Chizik’s side

AUBURN, Ala. — One of Gene Chizik’s go-to mottos when asked on a weekly basis about his job security as Auburn’s head coach is, “it’s not about me.”

Chizik, the eighth-highest paid college football coach in the country ($3,577,500 salary) per USA Today’s annual survey Tuesday, prefers to place the focus on grooming his players, giving and receiving support from the Auburn fan base, and gameplanning for the Tigers’ next opponent.

This week, there’s a high emphasis on all three phases. Auburn (3-8, 0-7 SEC) will need nothing short of a miraculous 60-minute effort to compete with second-ranked Alabama (10-1, 6-1) in the Iron Bowl Saturday, one of college football’s most intense rivalries.

A look at history says there’s even more than that on the line for Chizik, who is widely presumed to be out the door shortly following the Tigers’ final regular season game of his fourth season Saturday.

Chizik is on record as believing this bounce-back project starts with him. That he should have an opportunity to fix this.

However, if the Tigers can’t upset Alabama — favored by more than four touchdowns in the Iron Bowl — they’ll be losers of all eight SEC games for the first time in school history.

That bodes far from well for Chizik’s job security, though athletic director Jay Jacobs has been silent on the subject and university president Jay Gogue has maintained he’ll make no decisions until after Saturday.

In the five seasons preceding this one, three SEC coaches went 0-8. None of them lasted another game.

Ole Miss’s Ed Orgeron (2007) was dismissed on Nov. 24 of that year, the final straw served by blowing a 14-point lead to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.

Vanderbilt’s Bobby Johnson (2009) retired the following July from coaching.

Ole Miss’s Houston Nutt (2011) resigned Nov. 7, sticking around for the final three games.

Fast forward to this season, with two SEC teams besides Auburn currently winless in league play. Since Kentucky (2-9, 0-7) visits Tennessee (4-7, 0-7) Saturday, one of them will definitely get on the board.

Both head coaches, however, have been told they will not return — Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, fired Nov. 4, agreed to finish out the year, while Tennessee’s Derek Dooley was ushered out Sunday and will not coach Saturday’s game.

Auburn’s history is just as ominous for Chizik, who won National Coach of the Year accolades just two years ago.

Since Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s retirement in 1975, the Tigers have won less than three SEC games in a season eight times in 37 seasons. Two of those tough years were part of rebuilding projects under first-year coaches Pat Dye and Tommy Tuberville.

The other six? 1980, an 0-6 slate. Doug Barfield was fired … 1991-92, a pair of 2-win seasons. Dye was done after that … 1998, a 1-7 effort. Terry Bowden mysteriously resigned midway through the year … 2008, back to 2-6. Tuberville resigned.

The sixth is 2012. Time will tell — likely, within the next week to 10 days – what’s in store for the future of Auburn football.


Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt, 2002

Had inherited a 0-win team in 2002, his first year; remained coach until 2009

Jackie Sherrill, Mississippi State, 2002

Coached the 2003 Bulldogs to 1-7 in SEC, retired following that season

Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss, 2007

Fired on Nov. 24 after blowing 14-point lead to Mississippi State

Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt, 2009

Retired in July 2010 from coaching

Houston Nutt, Ole Miss, 2011

Resigned on Nov. 7, allowed to coach the rest of his fourth season

Joker Phillips, Kentucky, 2012

Fired on Nov. 4, allowed to coach the rest of his third season

Derek Dooley, Tennessee, 2012

Fired on Nov. 17, not allowed to coach final game of his third season

Gene Chizik, Auburn, 2012

Widely rumored to be dismissed at end of his fourth season