COLUMN: HOOVER, Ala. — College football’s unofficial start to the 2011 season gets underway today at the Wynfrey Hotel. The Southeastern Conference’s annual Media Days event is always a big draw and this year is no exception as over 900 credentials were issued to various writers, TV reporters and radio announcers. (Last year’s total was approximately 900 and that was a record that many felt couldn’t be topped.)
Blogs and Twitter accounts will be buzzing over the next 72 hours, and will get especially hot when that first juicy story breaks. Last year the early talk involved questions about rogue agents and players and how schools can combat illegal payments made to their players that would in turn end their eligibility and likely penalize the school in the process.
Three SEC schools were involved in last year’s agent maelstrom and the topic was punctuated when Alabama coach Nick Saban referred to agents as “pimps” during his time on the podium.
It’s not often you hear that word used a moment after talking about a returning player or an incoming freshman standout, but if there was a coach that could pull it off, it was Saban.
Two years ago, the most uncomfortable question of the week was asked to former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. A blogger said he would ask Tebow if he was saving himself for marriage prior to the event and when the Heisman Trophy made his way around the hotel, he followed through on his promise.
A few years before that, every reporter tried to figure out if former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer had been subpoenaed by an Alabama attorney in the parking lot of the hotel. That was an interesting storyline even if it didn’t have much to do with how the Volunteers were going to do that season.
Media days is our first chance to really get excited about football, although the times have changed a lot since they were first created. The information cycle never stops, not much really, and football is discussed more now than it was even just five years ago. Ole Miss media relations allows us to talk with as many Rebels as we can handle during the summer, as do other schools, because players rarely leave campus anymore.
The summer workouts are more organized, harder, longer than they were in the past and so are the demands by the media who are trying to pinpoint optimism for the fans.
Preseason magazines used to be one of the only ways one could find out about the upcoming season, but even they are outdated due to the Internet and newspapers which have dedicated time to constant updates on their gridiron heroes.
Information about the start of the summer drills, the season and beyond is scrutinized so much sometimes it’s hard to find stories that are new and interesting. But that’s also one of the great challenges of being a writer and why the experience of coming never really gets stale.
(Editor’s note: Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi State will be the first four schools to make an appearance at Media Days. Thursday’s slate includes Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, while Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU and Vanderbilt round out the event on Friday). (July 20, 2011, Page 6A)