Wednesday, July 25 -- 1:23 p.m. Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt takes his first question from the print media. His second question focuses on "Cell-phone Gate," and most of the attention focuses on the off-field controversies surrounding Nutt and his players. Nutt deftly spins the negative into a positive, focusing on his team's togetherness, suggesting the off-field distractions serve as a bonding agent.
A leading preseason Heisman trophy candidate is last year's runner-up, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. McFadden reinforces Nutt's comments about the team bonding together. He also reveals that he enjoys dressing up at Halloween, and last year went as a clown. "A big clown," he adds, before anyone laughs. Nobody does.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is next.
Already behind schedule. Spurrier should be here "any minute," according to an SEC assistant. "Any minute" could be this one, or one an hour from now, I think.
Should be close now.
Spurrier's up. Takes him about ten minutes to address the possible officiating/gambling issues. "There has been some games that I thought should be investigated due to officiating," he said with a chuckle. But only a small chuckle.
First contender for "dumb question, dumb answer?" Spurrier is asked how his recruiting will change on August 1 when the NCAA rule outlawing text messages begins. "We'll quit text-messaging on August 1."
Spurrier is asked about Kentucky and Andre Woodson. In a backhanded compliment sort of way, Spurrier acknowledged the eight-win season Kentucky had. "We thought we did something big beating Clemson, then Kentucky went and beat them." Spurrier then added that he did not know what happened to Clemson at the end of the year, but at one point, they were a good team. He did add "I like Rich Brooks and Kentucky. Their quarterback is a good player. Their whole team did a lot of good things last year."
Spurrier believes that most players who make a verbal commitment mean it. But he also analogized it to having an early high school girlfriend. "Six months later, they don't look so good (sometimes)," he added.
Spurrier concludes. Kentucky media still smarting a bit over his comments about the Wildcat team. Good contingency of Kentucky media in attendance today. There are over 800 credentialed individuals at SEC Media Days this week, with many of their voices being heard early.
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville makes his way to the podium. Smart Kentucky media members have changed rooms, so they get a double dose of Rich Brooks. Nobody accused me of being smart, so I'll sit through Tuberville.
First quip from Tuberville--(Auburn quarterback) "Brandon Cox has gotten quicker--he couldn't get any slower." One laugh is audible from the audience. Tuberville will have to try harder; following Spurrier is like the warmup act following the main attraction in the comedy area.
First question to Tuberville is about Cox not being named to any of the preseason All-SEC teams. Tuberville explains that he wasn't upset earlier (referencing an earlier report where he said he thought Cox deserved consideration.) One thing is clear--coaches come to SEC Media Days well-prepared for the questions.
The media is lethargic, with noticeable time elapsing between questions. Tuberville attributes this to following Spurrier. "Steve Spurrier will wear anybody out," he adds. The media is too worn out to agree.
Baton Rouge area media member advises Tuberville that he "used to be" the coach that got under LSU fans' skin the most, and asked him how he felt with the baton being passed across the state (to Nick Saban). Tuberville appeared happy, but first wanted to confirm that it had indeed passed, and sought confirmation that his (Tuberville's) picture had been taken off Baton Rouge billboards.
Tuberville spends three minutes answering the question of what he will do on August 1 when the text message ban takes place. In an answer that would please a politician, Tuberville doesn't answer.
One-time Kentucky recruit Trey Blackmon was suspended by Tuberville last year, for a second time. His future remains in doubt. Tuberville talked about Blackmon: "Trey Blackmon is one of the most productive defensive players I've ever been around. He just plays by instinct, and is fun to watch play. He got into a little trouble with me last year. I suspended him from the team for the bowl game. I suspended him from spring practice. He has done well. I have not decided, and won't decide (whether he'll be reinstated to the team for active play). We will win games whether we have him there or not. But they have to be team players."
Auburn players Quentin Groves and Brandon Cox have their private meetings with the media next. Groves may need two tables to be seated. He's a big boy.
Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks to address print media next. The crowd has thinned, no thanks to the soda machine running out of Diet Dr. Pepper a few minutes ago. No word on when or if it will be replenished.
"I'm back," bellowed by Brooks opening his comments to the media, making reference to previous years when that might have been in doubt, brings a chuckle to crowd that has thinned to about two-thirds of previous groups.
Brooks seemed to set the stage for the team to be better this year, without objectively appearing so. "Even to have the same results, we have to do things better this year," he said. To improve on last year, "we must do things a lot better" he explained. The schedule is difficult for Kentucky this year, and his words may prove prophetic.
"Everybody's thumbs will heal," Brooks quipped when asked about the impact of the NCAA text-messaging ban. "There will be more emailing. The young people will still text us, but we can't text them back. It will complicate the process."
"Thanks guys, hope to see you next year," Brooks joked as he concluded his interview much as he began.
Think Andre Woodson isn't getting some attention this year? Think again. The Kentucky players have not yet entered the room for their interviews. Thirty-four media members await at Woodson's table. Marcus McClinton's table? Two lonely-looking media members wait patiently.
Still waiting on the Kentucky athletes to arrive. Sixteen minutes is a long time to be sitting among media members with no one to interview. We're at a 22 minute delay, and counting, as the players were scheduled for 4:50 p.m.
27 minute delay. Discussion about tomorrow's plans are taking place--Alabama coach Nick Saban is on the morning agenda. Plans are being made by media members to arrive here by 7:00 a.m. by two Alabama reporters, and they will "save seats" when they arrive. This will have to be seen to be believed.
Do you remember "the rule" about your professor in college being a certain number of minutes late to class, and the students being excused? Some members of the media are invoking "the rule" as the delay has now exceeded a half-hour waiting on the UK players.
A near-riot breaks out, as Andre Woodson begins walking to the table at the other end of the room. Media who have staked out their spot for the last half-hour plus nearly revolted, yelling at UK SID Tony Neely that he was going to the wrong place.
Woodson calmly sidesteps questions about statistics. "I don't even think about those," he said. "I just want the team to do better. Last year we were in the Tennessee game--and lost it. We were in the South Carolina game--and lost it. We have to win those games this year."
Interviews have concluded. Stay tuned to KSR for blogs that will begin tomorrow morning, and don't miss the feature stories, premium board posts, and more that you'll see all week long as Kentucky Sports Report brings you the very finest in SEC Media Days coverage.