Scooter Hobbs column: SEC Talkin’, Season about to get real

Published 6:43 am Monday, July 18, 2022

The Southeastern Conference’s annual summer show of stage-hogging, scene-stealing brute force — aka Football Media Days — should be quite interesting this year, beginning Monday in Atlanta.

It will be staged and choreographed at the College Football Hall of Fame building, the history of which the league seems intent on rewriting before the ink dries on its 13 national championships in the last 19 years.

At last count, there will be 14 head coaches on hand spread out over most of the week, to discuss various topics, hopefully not a recitation of a depth chart. But stay tuned. That number could change before the whole shindig winds up on Thursday.

But you never know. Texas and Oklahoma won’t be there officially — not yet anyway — but with both schools in the SEC’s on-deck circle, it would shock no one if those rascals drop in spies to get a sneak preview of the sport’s best and most unapologetic example of media excess on steroids.

It was this affair a year ago, you may recall, when seemingly out of nowhere on a relatively slow news day the bombshell dropped that Texas and OU would be leaving the Big 12 for the riches of the SEC.

It might be worth keeping an eye on the sidewalks outside the Hall of Fame to see what Power Five schools might be loitering around, hats in hand, but begging and posturing while looking for a way to get in and join the big boys party.

Surely the SEC will not stand pat after the Big Ten’s recent takeover acquisition of Southern Cal and UCLA.

Even without another Texas-OU shocker, frankly it might be a challenge to get the whole show done in four days.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will kick things off with his state of the league address, and if the media does its job that Q&A alone could last until Wednesday night.

What, pray tell, is the master plan he and Big Ten counterpart Kevin Wagner have for the future and geography of college football?

And that doesn’t even take into account yesterday’s news, the hot topics of navigating the turbulent waters of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) and the Transfer Portal. Who knows. Maybe the Hall of Fame will have a Star Wars-type interactive model of that latter contraption on hand as part of the fan experience.

Presuming there’s time to hear from the actual football people, LSU’s first-year head coach Brian Kelly will be first among them at the big podium (11:35 a.m.-12:05 p.m. Monday, live on the SEC Network).

Kelly was no stranger to media coverage while at Notre Dame, but he has never experienced anything like he will Monday, with his appearance on the main stage just one part of the hectic experience known affectionately as the “car wash.” He’ll get rushed to other media stops on a madcap tour not for the faint hearted.

Three players — in LSU’s case receiver Jack Bech, linebacker Mike Jones and defensive lineman BJ Ojulari — will tag along for their own thrill ride.

And one more reminder, coach: This is no place to be running through the entire depth chart.

It’s way too early for that in what all-time SEC Media Days MVP Steve Spurrier always referred to as the Talkin’ Season.

What the event begs for each year is a quirky but fairly unconsequential story line, one that appears out of nowhere, grows legs and squirms through every coach’s appearance.

Impossible to predict in advance, but It Just Means More, or something like that, and is no place for coach-speak.

If the SEC had a finer-tuned sense of humor, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher would be scheduled the same day.

But sadly that’s not the case, so there will be no face-to-face escalation of that dust-up the two got into over the spring when Saban accused (and later apologized to) Fisher of using NIL to “buy” this year’s best recruiting class.

Just a hunch, but both will be asked about it repeatedly, which should be fun.

Perhaps on Tuesday Saban, the smartest man in college football, will explain to everyone what in the world is going on in the sport right now.

No one else seems to have a clue.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com