A sign that college football is just around the corner is that coaches and players from across the Southeastern Conference will be gathering in Birmingham next week for the annual SEC Media Days. It is always a highly anticipated event by fans of SEC football and it is an event that I enjoyed being a part of when I was coaching at Auburn.
As a head coach one of your jobs is to build excitement about the upcoming season with your fanbase and draw positive attention to your program through the media. It would be hard to find a better stage to do that than SEC Media Days with a large group of sportswriters, TV reporters and radio show hosts at the event looking for meaning in every word uttered by the coaches as well as the players the coaches bring with them.
As a head coach I felt one of the things I?needed to guard against was always giving the same old answers to the same old questions year after year. I always tried to have something different to say at media days that would generate interest whether you liked what I had to say or not.
Over the years the league has had a lot of different personalities as head coaches and I hope that never changes. You can always count on Coach Spurrier to say something that gets people talking. Steve is good for a comment or two at SEC Media Days that people usually have a strong opinion about either for or against.
Coach (Will) Muschamp from Florida will likely keep things lively although nobody in recent years has matched Robbie Caldwell when he was at Vanderbilt. He was a coach who was fresh and entertaining.
Coach (Les) Miles is usually good for a comment or two that people will write about at media days. Derek Dooley from Tennessee has been wise and has said all of the right things. His big assignment is to win more football games.
You will get a generic overview from Gene Chizik. The Auburn coach is not one who is going to say anything overly controversial and have to eat his words later on. His in-state rival, Coach (Nick) Saban, approaches the media days setting the same way.
You have got a new coach (Hugh Freeze) at Ole Miss and he will be trying to pump up the Rebels. Coach (Dan) Mullen at Mississippi State may have a comment or two about Ole Miss because he’s trying to take over and become the dominant program in the state.
I would expect that Coach Mark Richt will get some hard questions about his Georgia program and will give some soft answers. His personality isn’t going to change.
With Missouri and Texas A&M joining the league there will be 14 head coaches and 42 players attending SEC Media Days so there will be plenty of folks to be interviewed. I am sure the Mizzou Tigers and Aggies will be in the spotlight this year as they make the transition from the SEC to the Big 12. I think the folks at Texas A&M and Missouri will find out that being in the SEC offers great exposure for their players and programs in general.
The players can get a tremendous education on how to handle themselves under pressure next week as they are being interviewed by people who are going to scrutinize and nit-pick everything they have to say. As a head coach you hope they handle it well and don’t give a wrong answer or say something that is going to upset folks. You can give them some training on what to expect, but you can’t anticipate all of the questions and you just hope they say the right things.
I have been a head coach in North Carolina and out west in Wyoming in addition to Auburn. I certainly haven’t been everywhere in college football, but I know that there is no place in the country like the SEC area when it comes to interest in the game. In fact, I would say there is 10 times the excitement and interest in what is going on at media days in Birmingham than there is at any of the other conference preseason events around the country.
With all of the new faces in the league, both coaches and players, this is a fun time of year for SEC football fans. Once media days wrap up that means the season is right on top of us and it won’t be long before the Auburn Tigers are heading to Atlanta to open the season vs. Clemson. Let’s just sit back and enjoy it.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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