SEC Media days move on to Atlanta

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, July 16, 2018
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

ATLANTA -- SEC media days are being held where all of the participating football coaches and players would love to be when the regular season and their careers end.

In the city that hosts the SEC Championship Game and at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Atlanta has been home for the SEC Championship Game since 1993. The College Football Hall of Fame moved from South Bend, Ind., to Atlanta in 2014.

SEC media days begin today and run through Thursday with the big interview room for newspaper and website reporters at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta and smaller breakout rooms for television and radio at the adjacent Omni Hotel.

Interview sessions in the big room will be televised live on the SEC Network.

It's the first time since the SEC began holding media days in 1985 the event is taking place outside of the Birmingham, Ala., area, including the previous 17 years at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover.

Herb Vincent, the SEC's associate commissioner for communications, said conference officials had discussed for the last few years the possibility of moving media days to a new location.

"It's become such a big event -- and one of our signature events -- so we've been talking about taking it to different parts of the SEC footprint," said Vincent, a North Little Rock native who attended Little Rock's Catholic High School. "We were just trying to find the right time to do it."

Dallas and Nashville, Tenn., also were under consideration to host SEC media days in addition to Atlanta.

"If we were going to leave Birmingham for the first time ever, taking it to the site of our SEC Championship Game was a good starting point," Vincent said. "Having a location like the College Football Hall of Fame also gives it a unique aspect."

SEC media days return to Hoover next year.

"We don't necessarily have a set plan for the future," Vincent said. "I think we'll look at taking it different places if it's successful this year. We want to see how it goes."

In addition to a new location, SEC media days will feature six new head coaches, including Chad Morris at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Other coaches in their first season at a school are Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M; Matt Luke at Ole Miss; Dan Mullen, who moved from Mississippi State to Florida; Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State; and Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee.

One thing that hasn't changed is Kevin Trainor, Arkansas' associate athletic director for public relations, for the eighth consecutive year will serve as moderator for the question-and-answer sessions for coaches in the big interview room.

"We've got to keep something the same," Vincent said with a laugh. "Kevin does a great job. He's familiar with how the day flows, so it's a load off of us to have somebody in that room that can manage it and knows what he's doing.

"Kevin understands the bigness of the event, and he knows the reporters. Not just the Arkansas folks, but he knows everybody from around the league. Plus, the coaches are very comfortable with him."

Trainor first attended SEC media days as an intern for the conference office in 1994 before joining the Arkansas athletic department.

"At that time there was a lot of media coverage, but certainly not to the extent that there is today," Trainor said. "Now when you add in the SEC Network and all the other coverage, it really is a celebration of college football, and particularly SEC football.

"They'll be a lot of eyes on Atlanta and a lot of interest in what these coaches and student-athletes have to say."

Morris, who came to Arkansas from SMU, will be the first coach speaking on Tuesday.

"I think it's a great opportunity for people around the SEC and around the country to get to know what we in Arkansas have learned about Chad Morris over the past few months," Trainor said. "That's his energy, his excitement, his passion for football and for the University of Arkansas and what he and his staff are looking to do here."

Morris has talked to the Arkansas media several times and spoken at Razorback Club meetings and signing day events, but Tuesday will be his first time on the national stage.

"Chad, to me, will be part of a bigger storyline about all of the new coaches in the league and which one will have the quickest impact, which one faces the most pressure right away and which one will have the most lasting impact," said Chris Low, who writes for ESPN.com. "The fact that his offense will be so different than what Hog fans were used to under [Bret] Bielema will also make the transition at Arkansas an interesting story."

Bielema, the Razorbacks' coach the previous five seasons, was considered the best quote among SEC coaches after Steve Spurrier stepped down at South Carolina midway through the 2015 season.

Spurrier was the undisputed top talker in his combined 23 SEC media days appearances at Florida and South Carolina, but Robbie Caldwell stole the show in 2010 when he was Vanderbilt's interim coach and had reporters laughing throughout his time at the podium with his self-deprecating humor.

"I go from lining the field to being the head coach in the SEC," Caldwell said. "Nobody knows who I am. Last night I held the door open for someone at a restaurant and he gave me a tip."

Pat Forde, who writes for Yahoo Sports, said he believes Mullen can take over as the best quote among SEC coaches.

"I have some confidence in Dan Mullen," Forde said. "He may not deliver like Spurrier or Bielema -- and nobody will ever top one-hit wonder Robbie Caldwell -- but Mullen has some wit and often isn't afraid to ruffle some feathers."

Dozen of fans filled the Winfrey lobby at media days to see the coaches and players and try to get their autographs. Fans will be allowed into the College Football Hall of Fame lobby, Vincent said, to continue the tradition of greeting the coaches and players.

"We didn't want to eliminate that aspect of media days," Vincent said. "We want the fans to still be able to participate."

Luke served as Ole Miss' interim coach last season, but didn't speak at media days. Hugh Freeze was still the Rebels' coach and faced several questions about an NCAA investigation before resigning under pressure on July 21 -- eight days after he spoke at SEC media days.

"Certainly there are some years where coaches have to address tough issues and things that are going on in their program," Trainor said. "You try to allow them to do that in a professional way.

"This year really is about a lot of new coaches and a lot of new opportunities. I think there will be a lot of curiosity in getting to knows these guys."

Vincent said the SEC office hopes Trainor will continue to be the moderator for many more years.

"Kevin's got a lifetime appointment, like the Supreme Court," Vincent said. "Once you've got it, you're there as long as you want."

Sports on 07/16/2018

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SEC Media Days schedule

TODAY All times Central

10:30 a.m.-2:10 p.m.: SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey; Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher and DL Kingsley Keke, OL Erik McCoy, RB Trayveon Williams

1 p.m.-5:50 p.m.: Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops and LB Josh Allen, TE C.J. Conrad, RB Benny Snell Jr.; LSU Coach Ed Orgeron and TE Foster Moreau, DE Rashard Lawrence, LB Devin White

TUESDAY

7:30 a.m.-7:50 a.m.: Steve Shaw, SEC Coordinator of Football Officials

8 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Georgia Coach Kirby Smart and WR Terry Godwin, DE Jonathan Ledbetter, DB J.R. Reed Ole Miss Coach Matt Luke and DT Josiah Coatney, C Sean Rawlings, QB Jordan Ta’amu

1:30-5:45 p.m.: Arkansas Coach Chad Morris and OL Hjalte Froholdt, LB Dre Greenlaw, S Santos Ramirez; Florida Coach Dan Mullen and LB David Reese II, OL Martez Ivy, DL Cece Jefferson

WEDNESDAY

7:30 a.m.-7:40 a.m.: David Fletcher, Football Bowl Association

7:40 a.m.-7:55 a.m.: Bill Hancock, Executive Director, College Football Playoff

8 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Mississippi State Coach Joe Moorhead and QB Nick Fitzgerald, DE Gerri Green, S Mark McLaurin Tennessee Coach Jeremy Pruitt and DL Kyle Phillips, WR Marquez Callaway, TE Eli Wolf

12:30 p.m.-4:45 p.m.: Alabama Coach Nick Saban and RB Damien Harris, LB Anfernee Jennings, C Ross Pierschbacher; Missouri Coach Barry Odom and QB Drew Lock, DL Terry Beckner Jr., LB Terez Hall

THURSDAY

7:30 a.m.-7:40 a.m.: Football Writers Association of America

7:40 a.m.-7:55 a.m.: National Football Foundation

8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.: Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn and QB Jarrett Stidham, LB Deshaun Davis, DL Dontavius Russell Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason and QB Kyle Shurmur, OT Justin Skule, S LaDarius Wiley; South Carolina Coach Will Muschamp and QB Jake Bentley, WR Deebo Samuel, DL D.J. Wonnum

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