SEC hosts its annual kickoff for media

SEC hosts its annual kickoff for media

July 19th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz (56) stops South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore, left, during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game at Williams Brice Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, in Columbia, SC. (AP Photo/Rich Glickstein)

For a second consecutive year, the Southeastern Conference football media days event is up for grabs in Hoover, Ala.

Will there be more questions about football, or the problems infecting it?

Alabama, Florida and South Carolina entered media days a year ago amid investigations into allegations of improper dealings with agents, and Georgia joined in on the opening day by announcing that the NCAA had requested permission to conduct an on-campus inquiry. Alabama was picked by the media to defeat Florida's Gators in the 2010 SEC title game, but the voting had long been upstaged by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban saying of agents, "How are they any better than a pimp?"

With media days set to begin Wednesday afternoon, there may by too many NCAA-related topics for the allotted time considering the various situations at Ohio State, Auburn, Georgia Tech and Oregon, just to name a few.

"I expect that we'll have those questions, but I also expect that a multitude of those questions will be on the 30,000-foot level and not addressed to specific cases," SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said. "I suspect that the coaches will have their opinions on the landscape of college football and college athletics, and I believe you can have those discussions without getting to specific cases.

"The commissioner addressed the agent issue in his opening remarks last year and talked about how we had to have a national bylaw on reviewing rules and the issue, and I expect those types of conversations will remain the same with these other issues that are out there."

The Southeastern Conference is preparing to issue about 900 credentials for its football media days, which begin Wednesday afternoon in Hoover, Ala.

Included will be media, institutional staff, corporate partners and student-athletes. Like last year, each school will have three players accompanying the coach instead of two.

"That works out really well on a couple of fronts," SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said. "Now there is less pressure on the coach to have to decide one player over another for the second spot. In turn, we're getting more high-profile players than we've been getting in the past."

Here are five questions entering this year's event:

1. Will the West be best again?

When Auburn walloped South Carolina 56-17 in last season's SEC championship game, it gave the West Division a commanding 16-3 record against the East in 2010.

Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State each finished last season ranked among the top 15 teams nationally, and all five were well ahead of everybody in the East. Alabama, LSU and Arkansas likely will be the league's three highest-ranked teams entering this season, but will the dominance be as profound?

2. Is it South Carolina's time?

The Gamecocks earned their first East Division title last season, but will they be picked for a very first time to win the East?

They seem to be the most logical option with tailback Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery returning for coach Steve Spurrier. Also, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee went a combined 20-19 last season and have suffered some attrition this year.

3. What's up with Auburn?

Gene Chizik's mood will be interesting to track, because this will be his first notable appearance since the New York Times detailed him going back and forth at the SEC spring meetings with an NCAA official, who said the Cam Newton investigation remains ongoing.

Will he be asked if last season can truly feel like a national championship until the Newton case is resolved? And how about some of those gloom-and-doom preseason projections of the Tigers slipping from 14-0 all the way to 4-8?

4. Is this it for Richt?

Georgia coach Mark Richt will make his 11th consecutive media days appearance, but will it be his last?

Richt's Bulldogs were the preseason national No. 1 just three years ago before going 10-3 in 2008, 8-5 in '09 and 6-7 last season - the program's first losing record since 1996.

Sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, junior tight end Orson Charles and the senior kicking tandem of Blair Walsh and Drew Butler are bright spots, but the departures of tailbacks Washaun Ealey and Caleb King and a thin offensive line are not. Expect some "hot seat" questions for a second straight year.

UT coach Derek Dooley talks to the press.

UT coach Derek Dooley talks to the press.

5. Will Dooley entertain?

Tennessee has lost 20 games over a three-year stretch for the first time in school history, and the Volunteers have fallen further than any league program compared to a decade ago.

Lane Kiffin provided a brief jolt of adrenaline in 2009 but left behind a chaotic signing class, and Derek Dooley is in his second year of picking up the pieces. Dooley certainly established a good demeanor and sense of humor last year, and four consecutive wins to end the regular season may be a sign of better days to come.

If this year's media days gets bogged down by the sport's plethora of problems, perhaps Dooley, who has inherited his share at Tennessee, could provide some levity this event may need.