My first SEC Media Days was in 2002, and there were less than 500 media hacks here to cover the event. Back then each school only brought two players to Birmingham (Hoover, whichever you want).
That year Jon Stinchcomb and Terrence Edwards represented the Dawgs. The media picked Tennessee to win the SEC that season, and the Vols finished third in the East. Georgia went on to win the conference that season. It was the first time since 1982 the Bulldogs won the conference.
There are a few different things that have changed from 13 years ago to today about this event. There are tons of so-called homers who are part of the media now. The best example was when I was in the Internet/Radio room in 2010 and a radioman told the room that it should applaud every time one of the coaches or students left the room.
I’m assuming that person was drunk.
The other thing is that the pre-season voters (I don’t making voting on All-SEC or placement of the teams in the upcoming season a priority of mine) seem straight up clueless about what they are doing. Example: The media at SEC Media Days has only correctly picked the conference champ that season four times since 1992 (Florida 1994, Florida 1995, 2007 LSU and 2008 Florida). The local media seemed to only know better than the national media once – in 2008 when the Gators were picked over Georgia even though the Dawgs were ranked #1 in the country later that summer.
Several times the media has been way off – Alabama was picked to win the SEC in 2010, but finished 4th in the West. Tennessee was picked to win the conference in 2005, but finished 5th in the East. Alabama was picked to win the SEC in 2000, but finished tied for 5th in the West.
Alabama and Florida have been the media darlings since 1992. The Tide and Gators have been picked to win the SEC 13 times since 1992. But Bama has never won the SEC title having been picked to win it by the media that summer (1993, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2013).
The media has never correctly picked Georgia when it comes to winning the SEC title, either. Georgia won it in 2002 and 2005. Tennessee was picked to win the conference both of those years. The only year the Bulldogs were picked to win the SEC since 1992, 2004, Auburn won it.
So picking winners (and losers) is difficult to do in July. That SEC Media Days has grown from less than 500 members of the media to more than 1,200 speaks to the fact that no one is losing their job for being incorrect. Actually, it just means that the “media” is no longer what it once was.
(Here comes the rant)
Any idiot with a computer is a member of the media these days. I see some of these folks walking around (with an Alabama shirt on no less) and you wonder how they are credentialed. The truth is the SEC will let just about anyone into this thing, and just about every outlet in Alabama makes the quick trip to Birmingham, so that very much makes it an Alabama event more than anything else. Don’t believe me?
I feel for the TV cameramen and the pretty-young-thang blonde reporters who are running around like cavemen looking to get that one shot or bite from the shenanigans on the second floor of the hotel. The players and coaches are just walking from one room to the next… I understand you have to get B-roll, but someone is going to get hurt. Those cameramen are really in danger of getting injured, and I am not being sarcastic.
And now ESPN and its three-ring circus has come along as well. You used to be able to duck in and hide away from the madness that is media days, but you can’t do that any more. Nearly every inch of the second floor is being documented by someone.
I also wonder why this event is now FOUR DAYS LONG. It used to be about two-and-a-half days. The answer is that this has gone from a media-driven event to what now appears to be a promotional event. And the SEC is hoping to herd all of the cats to an event on Wednesday night for the SEC Network. Why do some in the media feel like they must trumpet for their competition? I won’t be making that one.
The sad part about this year’s media days is that it seemed like all of the fun left after last year. Johnny Football, Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarran and his girlfriend and Jadeveon Clowney and his money have left the conference. And the SEC, after all, didn’t win the BCS title last year.
But right on cue we in the media and you consumers at home get what you want – controversy. Auburn QB Nick Marshall got in trouble last week for possessing less than an ounce of weed. He was scheduled to be in Birmingham on Monday. I would have been a frenzy if he had showed up, but he’s not. Now it’s going to be a frenzy that he didn’t show.
Witch-hunt! (We have to write about something)
At Georgia, Marshall would likely get suspended at least one game for the ticket. Will that happen at Auburn? The bigger question that should be asked this week is why the SEC doesn’t have a standard suspension policy for this sort of off-the-field stuff. It would be complicated considering that you are talking about a slew of states and jurisdictions, but in a conference where you share millions of dollars it does seem to make sense to get on the same page on stuff like suspensions for drug possession.
But Marshall has opened the door to a media frenzy in Birmingham – not because being he caught with one ounce of weed, but because he was caught with one ounce of weed THE WEEK BEFORE MEDIA DAYS.
There is nothing to talk about right now. Media Days is certainly the kickoff to the season, but football is still another nearly six weeks away. SEC Media Days used to take place the week before pre-season football starts. The start of SEC Media Days is 19 days before Georgia’s first pre-season practice, which is nearly three weeks.
But if you are the SEC why not start Media Days as early as possible? You can drag out the attention of your conference, which is the best conference, longer than anyone else – and do it the week before anyone else starts. It’s a smart move to be sure, but it is excessive.
Then again, this is the SEC – we kill trees, sexually assault other fans and shoot each other if we aren’t “fan enough” – we love excess. We have the biggest stadiums; the largest TV contracts; the best players; and the most trophies.
We do what we do because we are crazy, and because we are crazy we care more – and caring more (i.e. cheating) means we win more. Everyone else across the country can judge us (and I judge us, too) if they want to, but they know the scoreboard.
And that’s what this week is about – making sure everyone knows the score… all 1,239 (or more) of us members of the “media”.