HOOVER, Ala. — It was what Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive didn’t say.
In his annual address Wednesday that kicked off football media days, Slive mentioned Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Vanderbilt’s Robbie Caldwell as two of the league’s three new coaches.
When it came time to discuss Tennessee’s transition from the brief Lane Kiffin era, he said, “the other coaching change took place at Tennessee when Derek Dooley’s predecessor left to return to his western roots. I want to welcome Coach Dooley back to the SEC, and when I say welcome, I mean welcome.”
Slive was smiling throughout the dialogue, as it was no secret Kiffin’s antics in his one season in Knoxville provided continual headaches for the SEC office.
Yet Kiffin wasn’t the only noticeable omission. Mississippi State second-year coach Dan Mullen continued to refer to Ole Miss as “that school up north.”
Asked why he chooses such a reference, Mullen said, “because they’re located north of us.”
Mullen believes it adds to the rivalry and enhances the importance of that game to his players. The Bulldogs rolled to a 41-27 win in last season’s Egg Bowl, and players don’t mention their rivals by name either.
“We call them the team up north,” quarterback Chris Relf said. “We call it the same thing Coach calls it.”
Said safety Charles Mitchell: “They don’t like it, but we don’t care.”
Defending the spread
Alabama coach Nick Saban said the spread offense may be difficult to defend but that players could be hurting themselves from an NFL standpoint. Mullen disagreed with that assessment.
“I’ve coached the spread offense, and I have a lot more first-round quarterbacks drafted than he has in his career as a head coach,” Mullen said. “In the last six years, I’ve had two of mine get drafted in the first round. The NFL Rookie of the Year last year, I think, was in the spread offense, Percy Harvin.
“I guess statistically a lot of coaches like to say that, but factually, I think the spread offense is developing players for the NFL at a little higher rate than other offenses.”
From Joe to Joker
So, how did Joker Phillips get his name?
“My name is Joe, and my dad’s name was Joe before he passed away,” he said. “My grandfather, just so when he called one Joe that both of us wouldn’t come running, deemed me as Joker. It’s the only name I’ve ever known.”
Tee joins the Wildcats
Phillips has two former Tennessee quarterbacks on his staff with offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and receivers coach Tee Martin. Martin guided the Vols to the 1998 national title and coached last season at New Mexico.
“The number one thing is Tee understands Facebook, which a lot of us don’t understand,” Phillips said. “I mean, he is not that far removed from winning the national championship. These kids know him. He and Randall Cobb were already friends on Facebook.”
Odds and ends
Georgia’s opener Sept. 4 against Louisiana-Lafayette will kick off at 12:21 on the SEC Network. ... Florida coach Urban Meyer said sophomore receiver Frankie Hammond, who was arrested last month on a DUI charge, has been taken off scholarship and must pay his own way if he wants to return. ... Since the Bowl Championship Series was instituted in 1998, the SEC is 6-0 in BCS title games.
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 ...