While the annual event, which draws hundreds of media members from each SEC market, is the traditional introduction to the new season, this year’s festivities will be a bit of a departure from year’s past.
Following SEC commissioner Mike Slive’s introduction today, representatives from ESPN will be on hand to discuss the conference’s new 15-year television deal with the network. The conference announced Tuesday that it had teamed with ESPN Regional Television to create a new regionally syndicated package as well, which is expected to reach more than 73 markets.
Dubbed the SEC Network, the coverage will include a game of the week broadcast each week during the regular season as well as a live studio show that will be co-hosted by former Georgia offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb.
“The SEC Network, through the efforts of ESPN, will be the largest college sports syndication television package in the country,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement released by the league Tuesday. “The comprehensive market coverage in the nine-state SEC area combined with the out-of-market reach gives us significant additional exposure for our programs.”
Beyond the big business of the SEC’s new television deal, a trio of new coaches will greet the media, too, starting with Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen this afternoon. Auburn’s Gene Chizik and Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin won’t arrive until Friday, and Kiffin’s news conference will likely be a hot ticket after an offseason full of verbal sparring between the new Volunteers coach and SEC mainstays like Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier.
The arrival of Kiffin and Chizik also underscore the departure of two longtime coaches – Philip Fulmer and Tommy Tuberville. While Kiffin brings his own dose of controversy to the event, Fulmer had long been an annual media favorite after twice being served with subpoenas in the hotel’s lobby. His legal issues even forced him to skip the event in 2004.
Still the stars of the event will remain the same – Florida head coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Tim Tebow, who will arrive in Hoover with a second national championship in three years under their belts.
The Florida contingent shares Thursday’s spotlight with Mark Richt and Georgia’s player representatives, quarterback Joe Cox and defensive tackle Jeff Owens.
Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Kentucky join Mullen’s Mississippi State crew for today’s opening round of meetings, with Alabama and Mississippi completing Thursday’s quartet. South Carolina and LSU team with Tennessee and Auburn on Friday to complete the event.