And you know what that means, right? The unofficial start to the college football season is — finally — sitting on our collective doorsteps.
Up until just a couple of weeks ago, though, the 2010 edition of the SEC’s three-day media event was setting up to be, relatively speaking, a rather mundane, run-of-the-mill affair for a conference that has won back-to-back-to-back-to-back national titles and seemingly leads the nation in offseason turmoil/intrigue on a yearly basis.
Then, to use the Southern vernacular, all hail broke loose in the month of July. From bar brawls to investigations involving allegedly unscrupulous agents to an athletic director with a DUI and red panties in his lap, the quiet get-together in Hoover, Ala., has suddenly turned into compelling, must-Tweet TV.
So, with that as a backdrop, let’s cannonball in no particular order into the issues that are certain to be hot-button topics over the course of the next three days.
1.) What do you call a thousand agents at the bottom of the ocean?
Based on Nick Saban‘s comments Tuesday, not even a really good start.
Without a doubt, the most-talked about topic at this event will be player agents and an investigation ménage à trois that threatens to envelop the whole of the media proceedings this week. Three SEC schools — Alabama, South Carolina and Florida — are all wrapped up in probes either in conjunction with the NCAA or, in the case of the Tide, a school-led investigation into players possibly receiving illegal benefits from agents or their associates.
Saban has already threatened to call for a ban of NFL teams on his campus if the NFL and NFLPA can’t/won’t rein in rogue agents; it will be interesting to see if any other coaches follow his lead and call for more action on the part of the professionals.
2.) Am I my brother’s keeper?
One of the subplots to issue No. 1 is Mike Pouncey, who is one of three Florida Gators scheduled to speak to reporters during the first day of the event.
The offensive lineman is the brother of Maurkice Pouncey, the ex-Gator who allegedly received $100,000 from a player agent’s runner between the SEC title game and UF’s bowl game. There’s little doubt that, if Pouncey appears before the media, he will be grilled by the assembled press regarding both any knowledge of illicit payments to his brother and, the key question for Gator Nation as it pertains to the ’10 season, if he was in any anyway involved in any alleged agent shenanigans.
Kudos to both Pouncey and UF officials, though, for still making lineman available given the situation involving his twin brother. If that indeed remains the case, of course.
3.) Derek Dooley and his Tennessee Brawlunteers
Last year at this time, new Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin was defending himself from an offseason full of controversies, most of them brought on by the fact that he had the right to remain silent, but couldn’t. Nearly a year later, new UT head coach Derek Dooley will be on the defensive as well, only for an entirely different set of reasons.
Dooley, who wasn’t the Volunteers’ first, second or even third choice to replace Kiffin in Knoxville, is still reeling from the fallout from a massive bar brawl involving several players in his football program, a couple of whom were arrested and one being outright dismissed from the team. To further exacerbate the situation, the police investigation into a fight that left an off-duty police officer seriously injured is still ongoing, with more arrests possibly forthcoming.
A strong, confident appearance this week for the son of Georgia legend Vince Dooley, who already had a tough enough job rebuilding the Volunteers without this mess, could go a long way in soothing the angst Volunteer Nation feels about their program — both on and off the field — mere weeks before Year One of the Dooley era commences.
4.) The Red Panty Diaries; or, How To Lose a Six-Figure Job in One Easy Step
There is the potential that Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who may or may not be on the hot seat at some point this season depending on which report you choose to believe, could be asked about his now-former athletic director having a pair of red panties that weren’t his wife’s in his lap during a DUI stop.
(Clay Travis, the floor is yours.)
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the departure of disgraced AD Damon Evans will likely be just a minimal voyeuristic sidebar to the burgeoning agent scandal. Or, at least UGA’s hoping it’s minimal.
5.) How you doin’? You OK? Hangin’ in there?
You know it’s been a tumultuous last couple of weeks in the world of SEC football when the first mention of Urban Meyer comes this far into a post.
Any other time of the year, digging deeper into Meyers resigning, then un-resigning, then going on a sabbatical or two or four due to health concerns, then verbally accosting a reporter would be Job One for the bevy of reporters that have descended on Alabama. This year, at this time? Meyer may have lucked out, at least as far as this line of questioning is concerned.
Now, about being Tebow-less and this whole Pouncey thing…
6.) Yes, Vanderbilt’s in the SEC, thank you very much
More times than not, the Vanderbilt Commodores are a mere blip on this proceeding’s radar. This year, however, there’s at least a little bit of intrigue for an institution known more for academic achievement than athletic prowess.
In a more-than-stunning move earlier this month, Bobby Johnson retired from both the Commodores and coaching, leaving long-time assistant and first-time head coach Robbie Caldwell to pick up the pieces and make his national/regional debut as Johnson’s interim replacement this week.
Then again — and no offense Vandy faithful — does it really matter?
7.) Swan song for The Hat?
Just three years removed from a national title, Les Miles‘ backside rests firmly on a seat that, if it’s not outright hot, is getting increasingly warmer. If there’s another fair-to-middlin’ season for the LSU head coach, or the sidelines at Michigan suddenly become available at the end of the 2010 season? If either of those occur, this could be Miles’ final year at a Southern holiday masquerading as a media event.
Soak him in, media types. You just never know.
8.) Don’t worry about that bus, Stephen. It’s for transportation only
For the better part of this offseason, Steve Spurrier has publicly chided, derided and challenged his starting quarterback, Stephen Garcia. Will this ritualistic tossing-under-the-bus continue this week?
Our guess is, the South Carolina head coach won’t be able to help himself once the media gets him on a roll.
(Think “the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor“.)