I depart Hoover with a bucket list checkmark and a better understanding of all things SEC. First, the league puts on a first-class event in Hoover. Equating the event to herding cats, there was law and order amongst organized chaos.
— The most underappreciated football support departments are the Sports Information folks. Susan Lax and Tony Neely had a monstrous task of managing four schedules that stretched over four hours and six separate interview rooms. Hat tip to UK’s SID Department.
— The student athletes impressed. Nicely dressed, their remarks were heartfelt, compassionate, and articulated with composure. Given the troubling state of American current events, these young men were asked difficult societal questions. They inspirationally answered with thoughtful remarks. Was extremely proud of the student-athletes.
— SEC Football is a monster. The media horde numbered 1,500 registered hacks, television talking heads, and an immense number of Radio Rons. As the league’s economic engine, football flexed its collective muscles to remind the rest of college athletics that SEC Football reigns supreme.
— I’m still disappointed in Mississippi State. This bothers me greatly. Dan Mullen is a brilliant, tremendous football coach. AD Scott Stricklin is a Barnhart disciple that I highly respect. The Jeffrey Simmons situation remains systematically worrisome. However, it was a mere precursor to the win at all costs theme that resonated throughout SEC Media Days.
— Deservingly so, Nick Saban is the undisputed King of the SEC. Five national championships and being the unofficial host university earned royal treatment. I questioned how he would handle the offseason issues involving All-American OT Cameron Robinson and Hootie Jones. While in the main media room, church league type softball questions were served up to Coach Process. That was until the now viral Finebaum Show blowup. I get it. Nick was taking up for his players and I appreciate internal corrective actions that are in place to educate both Robinson and Jones, but come on, Paul was merely stating the obvious when referencing suspensions. As much respect as I have for Saban the football coach, I felt that Finebaum was absolutely in the right.
— Given the serious nature of Suspension Season, I started to debate the feasibility of appointing a college football commissioner. On one hand, I support university and league autonomy, but with the advent of the college football playoff, I can only foresee more and more deviant behavior leading to lesser and lesser suspensions. Synchronizing corrective action by a singular committee or individual could help even the playing field. At a minimum, the Power 5 conferences should be on the same page as far as admitting student-athletes and approving transfers when dealing with players with legal issues. I’m all for second and, at times, third chances. This slippery slope is only going to get slicker.
— The crazy lobby folks were fun, but, I caught on to a few of their scams. I saw the same folks dressed in different team gear on separate days. These cats had bags of hats, footballs, pictures, you name it. I’m no detective, but I’d guess that autographed items may already be on eBay.
— The food was amazing. From grits to fried chicken, the SEC knows how to feed the masses. Kudos.
— Boss Hog Bret Bielema has been by far the most entertaining coach. Kentucky’s own JoJo Kemp currently owns the title belt as the media’s favorite player. JoJo was funny, original, honest, and even showed off his dance moves.
— There were several future professional football players in attendance. These elite athletes had distinct commonalities: defined focus, seriousness, motivation, and a glowing aura of humble accomplishment. From Auburn’s Carl Lawson, A&M’s Myles Garrett, Mizzou’s Charles Harris, to UK’s Jon Toth and more; there was just something different about these folks that is hard to describe. The old saying applies, elite athletes don’t have to tell you that they are elite, you can just see and feel it.
— I’d like to thank Matt Jones and Kentucky Sports Radio for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Words can’t describe how much this trip meant to me. Bucket list item checked.