Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin looks on during practice at Neyland Stadium. It was the first practice in pads for the Vols since Kiffin was hired to succeed Phillip Fulmer.
The Ohio Valley Conference, Southern Conference and Sun Belt Conference have done away with their football media days events this summer in cost-containment measures, replacing them with conference calls and video feeds.
Not so in the Southeastern Conference.
The SEC's three-day extravaganza is scheduled Wednesday through Friday at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., and league associate commissioner Charles Bloom said nearly 900 media members have been credentialed. The media total will be a record for the SEC and any other league for that matter, surpassing the 836 media members who attended the SEC function last July.
"We want a large media days to where we can sell our message to as many media in as large of a setting as possible," said Bloom, who has coordinated SEC media days since 1996. "When we have 900 people, no matter if they're a daily or a weekly or on a 100,000-watt station or a 10,000-watt station, this is a way to get our word out."
The SEC never discussed canceling media days, which continues to draw larger throngs because of a continuing increase in Web sites that cover college teams. SEC officials admit they are far more lenient in issuing credentials to media days than to Saturday games due to the substantial space the Wynfrey provides compared to press boxes around the league.
Still, Bloom believes the day is coming when the league will have to crack down on media days credentialing.
"It's hard to quantify the Web numbers like you can with circulation in newspapers or with radio or television households," he said. "We're going to have to derive a bar that we set for ourselves as far as credentialing the Internet. There is more than just Rivals.com and Scout.com.
"I've heard from several this year that I was not familiar with before, and they've all presented good cases to get coverage to media days."
Wednesday's lineup contains Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Kentucky. It's the only day without a top-tier program, which is the result of LSU and Mississippi State switching spots a couple of months ago.
Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and defending national champion Florida could be ranked in the preseason top 15, and all four are on Thursday's schedule. The event will wrap up with Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU on Friday, the day the media voting will be released.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik, Tennessee's Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen will be making their media days debuts. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier will be making his 17th appearance, having made his first 12 with Florida from 1990 to 2001.
Though Kiffin has made some brash statements since replacing Phillip Fulmer last December, Bloom doesn't believe this week will top the 2004 event in terms of wackiness.
"That year we had the speakerphone with Coach Fulmer," Bloom said. "Nick Saban was next that day with LSU, and his dog got loose in the hotel. One incident in itself would have been weird, but to put that back-to-back was definitely something I'll never forget."
Fulmer skipped the '04 media days to avoid the possibility of being forced to testify in a case involving the NCAA's investigation of Alabama. The SEC fined Fulmer $10,000 for missing the event and later denied Tennessee's appeal.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...