In SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey's first Media Days address as commish last year, the newly minted league helmsman openly praised Ole Miss' and Mississippi State's condemnatory statements regarding the Mississippi State flag. This year, deep into a summer again tarnished by nationwide violence, Sankey opened his remarks with words of condolence and solidarity for the recent tragedies in Baton Rouge, La., Falcon Heights, Minn. and Dallas, Texas.
The sadness from the past few days remains on all of our minds, and it's appropriate to make that observation up front as it remains in our hearts as well ... This is one of those times in our nation where we weep, we mourn, for those families and cities who have experienced loss.
The commish went on to quote the Book of Ecclesiastes -- "To everything there's a season, a time to laugh, a time to weep, a time to dance, a time to mourn" -- before citing Nelson Mandela's 2000 pronouncement that sports have the power to unite and change the world. Not earth-shattering stuff by any means, but engaged and sincere nevertheless.
During Sankey's question and answer period with the media, most questions focused on the SEC's national image with respect to how its member institutions are addressing and punishing athletes accused of sexual assault and other violent crimes. The second person to ask him a question, in fact, seemed to ask about the Jeffrey Simmons case without naming him outright. Here was Sankey's response:
Well, I think, first, I'm always cautious to people to be careful of judging one's character on ten seconds of video. Our working group spent a lot of time teal dealing with that. A couple of concerns that were consistently identified, which is what can you know? What can you learn if there's something particularly in one's juvenile past, and can you access information in a consistent way.
For all his talk on either side of this response about getting tough on player assault cases, Sankey's answer regarding the Simmons case is woefully soft on a very visible player assault case.
CFB Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock says the College Football Playoff will not expand beyond four teams.
Q: Do you think there will be an addition to the playoff system, like adding two more teams?
A: We are -- there's no discussion of expanding. We set the four-team tournament for 12 years, and there's no discussion in our group about any kind of expansion.
Thanks for clearing that up, Bill. Now, as for those less-than-hoped-for television viewing numbers during last year's playoff games on NYE of all nights ...
The issues are what day is the best to allow the most number of people to watch the games, and, yes, we were disappointed with the viewership, although millions of people watched those games.
We know we face the challenge with New Year's Eve. We also know that we face the challenge with the games not being as competitive as they were before.
CFP exec dir Bill Hancock: We pledge after this year's games we will be looking at semifinal schedule." Semis on NYE haven't been embraced.— David Caraviello (@dcaraviello) July 11, 2016
NO MORE DRUNKEN CHAMPAGNE TOASTS AT MIDNIGHT FOR YOU, SABAN.
Jim McElwain really wishes you would stop asking him about Nick Saban.
Here's the third question asked of Florida head man Jim McElwain:
Hey, Coach, I notice all the Nick Saban assistants to get SEC jobs are always in the other division. Is that by coincidence, or is that kind of by design? And what do you think it will take for one of you guys to beat him, and do you guys ever talk about that amongst yourselves?
After giving some boilerplate ho-hum about the HONOR and PRIVILEGE of coaching under Saban, some brave soul asks three straight questions about ... Florida's kicking. Then:
Coach, Nick Saban took a chance on you, bringing you in from Fresno State to run an offense, and of course did very well with that. A couple of national championships. Of course now you're with Florida, had a ten-win season last year. What are some of the things that you value from being around Coach Saban, whether was in the film room, on the field, in telephone conversations? How much did you really value that experience?
He valued the experience very much, thank you. And then this exchange immediately after:
Q: I'm so sorry, I'm going to ask you another Saban question.
A: That's okay.
Q: At this point in his career, what do you think continues to drive him and how much longer do you think he can keep doing it?
I CAME HERE FOR A MCELWAIN PRESSER AND A DAMN SABAN EULOGY BROKE OUT.
The real hero of Monday's press pool, however, was SI's Andy Staples, who one can only assume noticed that McElwain wasn't wearing any socks to the meeting.
BREAKING: Jim McElwain says even his daughter's wedding will not force him to put on socks.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) July 11, 2016
Swamp-foot is real, people.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason would like you to repeat the question, and please actually ask a question this time.
Reporter asks question that lasts about 30 seconds.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmersonAJC) July 11, 2016
Derek Mason: "Re-state that again."
Also, he dropped a Matrix reference?
Derek Mason says your first SEC game is like Neo's first fight vs Agent Smith, so at least one coach has seen a movie in the last 20 years— jason (@JasonKirkSBN) July 11, 2016
Yes, he dropped a Matrix reference.
Gus Malzahn cited the SEC's elite dietary scheduling as reason for the conference's national dominance.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn why he thinks SEC is the nation’s toughest conference: "You have to bring your lunch every week"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 11, 2016
Word is still out on whether Auburn pays for every player's and his family's lunches like they do over in Oxford, though. Further, someone come get Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; I think he got lost on the way to Daytona for vacation.
"Hi Bob."— Seth Emerson (@SethEmersonAJC) July 11, 2016
"Yeah I'm Bob Holt from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette but you probably know that."
"Yeah Bob, I know that."
Wonderful. SED Media Days 2016 are so, so lit.