The 2012 Southeastern Conference Media Days began on Tuesday in Birmingham, AL and will last for three days concluding on Thursday. Though the Florida Gators contingent will meet the media on Wednesday morning, below are some highlights from the first day of the event, which featured SEC commissioner Mike Slive and representatives of South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
COMMISSIONER MIKE SLIVE
» On improved minority hiring in the league: “Today we have three minority head football coaches, eight minority head basketball coaches and five minority women’s basketball coaches, all bucking a national trend as outlined in a recent [Associated Press] article. I am very grateful that the hiring of minority coaches in the Southeastern Conference is no longer a story; it is simply part of who we are.”
» On providing student-athletes with a true “full ride” scholarship: “It remains important for us to continue to focus on increasing the amount of a full scholarship to provide student-athletes with financial resources to meet the full cost of attendance. And we also need to eliminate rules, for example, that are hurdles for former student-athletes to come back after their eligibility is exhausted. And if they’re committed to getting their degrees, we need to have financial aid rules that allow us to do that.”
» On avoiding a situation like what recently occurred at Penn State: “We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration. There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves. No one program, no one person – no matter how popular, no matter how successful – can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.”
» On the current SEC Network and plans for a national network: “The SEC Network syndicated package that now reaches 80 million homes and includes such markets as New York, Chicago, Boston and LA, amongst others. On a Saturday afternoon, it’s ESPN’s third most widely distributed platform behind only ESPN and ESPN2. […] There has been a whole lot of speculation about ‘Project X.’ Is it still a secret? I don’t think so. But we now call it ‘Project SEC.’ Our objective long term to work with our television partner to provide fans with greater access to favored teams, more opportunities to watch rivals and more insight into who we are: a conference of 14 great universities. I’d love to say more. I know you want me to say more. I won’t say more. I will, though, before I get too much older and before you get too much older.”
SOUTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH STEVE SPURRIER
» On how things have changed at USC: “A lot has changed at South Carolina in seven years. Yeah, I got a couple good friends that have been there for 30, 40 years and so forth. One of the guys said, ‘We used to come to the ballpark hoping for a good game. If we’re playing Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, we were just hoping for a good game, not get blown out. Now we sort of come to the ballpark thinking we’re going to beat those guys. We’re sort of mad if we don’t.’ I said, ‘That’s the way you’re supposed to feel, mad or a little upset if you don’t beat them.’”
Read the rest of this post (including more from Spurrier)…after the break!
» On the importance of getting better each year, setting new goals: “Yeah, I think it’s a tremendous feeling for all of us, all of us, when you do something for the first time in school history. I didn’t realize we did so many at Florida. I don’t think we talked about it that much. Did we? I said, gosh, second year there, we won 10 games. First time in school history. We were so happy to beat FSU – because I think they had beaten us five years in a row – we forgot about 10 wins first time ever. Next year was 11, I think [nine, 11 two years later in 1993]. We didn’t write about it. These writers, they didn’t think it was a big deal, I guess.”
» On what it would mean to win an SEC Championship: “We were talking earlier – when Commissioner [Roy] Kramer started this back in ’92 – we had six teams on each side, you could play for a division championship. One out of six, those were pretty good odds. I remember the first year, we went into that at Florida, ’92, it was really the weakest team of 12 that we had at Florida. We were in a period where all the best players left after 1991. Recruiting was so-so. We lost our first two games but came back. Tennessee managed to lose three games that year somehow. We beat Georgia then had to beat Vandy to win the division.
“Our guys, we took a picture at Vanderbilt stadium, we were a happy bunch because we won the first ever division. We were a happy bunch of Gators. That’s fun playing for any kind of championship. That division is the first thing. Then, of course, if you win the game in Atlanta, that’s to me maybe just as big as a national championship. We won one national championship. But the feeling coming out of Atlanta, winning the SEC – very similar, very similar for me. I don’t know how the other coaches would say, but that game in Atlanta is really something special.”
Spurrier being Spurrier…
» On how much longer he is going to coach: “Every time some sportswriter asks me how much longer I’m going to coach, I think I need to ask him, ‘How much longer are you going to write?’”
» On how he feels about South Carolina’s schedule: “You think I make the schedule? If I made the schedule, Georgia would be playing LSU and we’d be playing Ole Miss.”
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH KEVIN SUMLIN
» On beginning his team’s SEC schedule against Florida: “There is no doubt our fans are extremely excited about the home opener against Florida. All you got to do is look at our season ticket sales to gauge where we are as a university and as an athletic program as far as ticket sales and excitement level. That’s going to be a big game for us. For us as a team or as a head coach to have your home opener at Texas A&M be an SEC game is a big deal, there’s no doubt about that.”
» On his assessment of the SEC West: “What’s my assessment? It’s a pretty damn hard league. How is that? That’s my assessment.”
MISSOURI HEAD COACH GARY PINKEL
» On earning respect in the SEC as a new member of the league: “I’d be disappointed if we were intimidated. We played in a pretty good football league ourselves. We understand the great league we’re coming into. It’s all going to play out. We all know how it works. It’s in the process. How [are] Missouri and Texas A&M going to do in the SEC – there’s going to be an analysis every single week. You have to go out and play and compete. That’s the way it should be. It’s going to be decided on the football field. We’re excited about doing that.”
» On his relationship with Alabama head coach Nick Saban: “First of all, he’s older than me. I want to make that very clear (smiling). We played college football [at Kent State]. We’re Don James guys. I think Don James walked in there right after my freshman year. […] When Nick was a head coach at Toledo for one year – then he decided to go with Bill Belichick to the Cleveland Browns – [he] called me up and asked me if I was interested. I said I was. He put me in a position to get an underneath opportunity. That’s very important – an opportunity. I’m appreciative to him.
He’s a great football coach. I have great respect for him, always have.”
» On the fan base’s excitement: “Our fans, to say that they are excited about us being in the SEC would be a complete understatement. They’ve become fanatical about it. It’s exciting to see. I think that says so much for the great respect nationally that the SEC has.”
VANDERBILT HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN
» Opening statement (portion): “It’s amazing the difference year two compared to year one. The last year when we arrived, I wanted to get a feel for the place; walked right through Radio Row, ended up in the mall, walked back. Not one person said one thing to me. Things have changed a little bit since then. There’s a buzz about Vanderbilt football right now that there hasn’t been for a long time. I think our fan base and the community is really excited about where we’re going, what we’re doing. […] We also know we have a long way to go as a program and we continue to take it one step at a time.”
» On selling Vanderbilt and where he can take the program: “The sky’s the limit with us. I truly believe that. I think for the right kid from the right family, we can beat anybody. I truly believe that. If you have a son…he’s a Division I player, he’s coming to Vanderbilt. We have too much to sell. We have too much to sell. If you truly respect a world class education, there’s very few schools that can compete with us. I know what Vanderbilt can do for your son for the next 40 to 50 years of his life. An opportunity to play in the greatest football conference in the America. If you’re truly the best and the brightest, where else would you go? You have an opportunity to chase both of your dreams at the highest level.”
» On if he and Vanderbilt are getting more attention his year: “A little bit different. Last year I walked in with Coach Saban. People were throwing babies to him to autograph and everything else. […] It’s just changed. But we also know you’re not going to earn everybody’s respect in one year. You have to do it day in, day out, week in, week out, year in, year out, and on a consistent basis. Take a lot of pride in our football in this part of the country and in our conference.”
Quotes courtesy of transcripts created by ASAP Sports.