Some say SEC Media Days isn’t what it used to be, but there’s still some excitement if you know where to look.
Gone are the days of former coaches Steve Spurrier and Les Miles dazzling the media with wisecracks, and players spend the weeks leading into the annual meeting being coached by university officials on what not to say when the bright lights come on.
In their place are some less-than-obvious characters who made the four-day event in Atlanta worth its while.
As part of our service for football fans who are thirsty for something to talk about in July, we waded through hours of coach-speak and non-answers to deliver the moments you’ll want to remember:
1. Nick Saban didn’t actually run out of gas during his now infamous boat excursion with players
The Alabama coach and his players made national headlines this offseason when some players started posting videos of Saban captaining a boat that appeared to run out of gas on the lake with Crimson Tide stars on board.
As it turns out, Saban did not forget to fill the tank before taking the team out on the water during one of his annual retreats.
“We had a brand-new boat, and it was our first time out on the boat and the fuel pump went out,” Saban explained. “So we did not run out of gas.
“Now, there has been some benefit to everybody thinking we ran out of gas. I’ve got at least a hundred gas cans (sent from fans). So if anybody needs one, just let me know because I can’t use them all.”
2. Reporter erroneously believes Jacob Eason is still on the Georgia roster, asks Kirby Smart painfully awkward question
The downfall of so many credentialed media personnel at SEC Media Days is that sometimes people get in who have not done their homework.
An embarrassing moment played out for one Kentucky-based reporter during the nationally televised portion of Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s address to the media.
Apparently unaware of the very public offseason transfer of former Bulldogs starting QB Jacob Eason, this reporter asked Smart to assess his quarterback room as if it included the new Washington transfer.
It went a little something like this:
Reporter: “With Eason, Fromm and Fields, have you ever seen a better stock of quarterbacks in your career?”
Smart: “Yeah. If we had all three of them, we'd be sitting pretty good. Eason is gone. He transferred.”
Like a true pro, Smart smoothly transitioned into talking about Fromm and Fields.
3. Florida coach Dan Mullen invokes the president in attempt at swamp-themed humor
We don’t want to mix politics with our SEC football, but Florida coach Dan Mullen made a Donald Trump joke that supporters of the president and opponents alike can appreciate.
Kicked back in a chair with his Gators-themed Air Jordan shoes on full display for all of the media to see, Mullen addressed his initiative to fill up Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this fall with a quip about swamps.
“I’m the opposite of Trump,” Mullen said, per CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. “I’m here to fill The Swamp, not drain the swamp.”
Tip your waitresses, folks. And, Dan, it’s probably a good idea to keep your day job.
4. LSU coach Ed Orgeron says hiring former Tigers OC Matt Canada was a “mistake”
The Matt Canada experiment lasted exactly one season at LSU, and it didn’t end well. The somewhat polarizing offensive coordinator arrived in Baton Rouge from Pittsburgh and didn’t wait long to wear out the patience of Orgeron, who replaced Canada (who now is calling plays at Maryland) with Steve Ensminger shortly after the Tigers' 2017 season concluded.
Orgeron was asked to address the quick hook during his media days appearance, and he stunned some folks with how frank he was about the miscalculation of Canada.
“Here's the deal. It's tough when you make a mistake, but it's even tougher not to admit you made a mistake and it's just not a good fit,” Orgeron said. “And I had to do the best what I thought was for the LSU program, and that's why I did it.”
5. Former Georgia QB Aaron Murray stirs up drama with new Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt
Not all the action happens in front of the television cameras at media days. Sometimes the juiciest drama come from quotes gathered on radio row.
During an interview with 102.5 The Game in Nashville, former Bulldogs QB and current CBS Sports analyst Aaron Murray caused quite a stir with some comments he made about new Volunteers coach Jeremy Pruitt.
"I don’t know if his personality is fit to be a head coach. I don’t," Murray said on the air Tuesday afternoon, via transcription from the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Blake Toppmeyer. "As a head coach, there’s so many things that go into it. It’s not just going out there and coaching. You have to deal with front office. You’ve got to go talk with the president of the university. You have to deal with boosters. You have to deal with the offense, the defense. It’s not just going in there and dealing with the kids and scheming up. There’s a lot that goes into it.
"I don’t think he’s the right guy to kind of be the CEO of a corporation. He’s really good managing just a defense and being a defensive coordinator. He needs to prove to me that he can handle the whole ship. For right now, I don’t think he can. We’ll see what happens this year. I don’t think it helps that he doesn’t have a lot of talent at Tennessee.”
Pruitt, who was a defensive coordinator at Georgia after Murray graduated, had his chance at a rebuttal on Wednesday when he took the stage in Atlanta.
He kept his response short and sweet:
“Fifteen years ago, I was a kindergarten teacher,” Pruitt said via DawgNation’s Mike Griffith.
“Now, I’m the head coach at Tennessee. You probably don’t make that ascension without knowing how to treat people.”
6. Nick Saban has “no idea” whether Jalen Hurts will be with Alabama in Week 1
Saban was predictably tired of the Hurts vs. Tua Tagovailoa debate for the starting quarterback spot in Tuscaloosa, but he raised a few eyebrows with his initial response to a question on whether or not he expected Hurts to be on his roster when the Crimson Tide takes the field against Louisville in Week 1.
“Well, I have no idea,” Saban said about Hurts being on the team. “I expect him to be there. I think it's our job to give both players a very fair opportunity to have a chance to win the team at their position. I think that one of the two guys -- obviously, both are capable. We'll create a role for one or both of those guys on our team, and they'll all have to make a decision based on what that outcome is as to what their future is, you know, at Alabama.
“We certainly would love for every player on our team to stay at the University of Alabama and graduate. Jalen has a great opportunity to do that in December. So, we are hopeful that he will stay there and be a graduate regardless of what his circumstance is as a player. But that's not to minimize his chances of being a starter and making a great contribution to our team in some way, even if he isn't a starter.”
7. Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald reveals bold Heisman-related text message he receive from new Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead
Talk about an introduction!
Fitzgerald shared the contents of the first text message he ever received from Moorhead during his appearance at SEC Media Days, and it was one worth waiting eight months to hear about:
"Hey, this is Joe Moorhead and I'm going to be your new head coach,” Fitzgerald said the text message read. “For starters, I want you to clear off a spot on your mantel piece for the Heisman Trophy. And I want you to learn what your ring size is right now, because you're going to need it."
8. Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham reveals he wanted to go to Texas A&M, but former Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin appeared uninterested
How much different would the SEC West race look this season if Tigers star Jarrett Stidham instead was suiting up for Jimbo Fisher in College Station?
Aggies fans likely cringed when they heard Stidham explain that he went harder after the Aggies than they went after him when he decided to leave Baylor:
“Coach Sumlin-- he didn’t recruit me too hard,” Stidham said on Thursday. “I probably tried to recruit myself to A&M a little bit harder just because it was in state and it was right down the road from where I was in Waco. And I had some family who went to A&M, so you know, ideally A&M was a close spot. I could see my family whenever I wanted and that kind of thing, but I honestly kinda knew from the get-go that I was probably going to end up at Auburn.”
-- Written by Nick Cole, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has spent the previous seven years covering SEC football for SEC Country, Saturday Down South and The Tennessean. Follow him on Twitter @NickColeSports.