HOOVER, Ala . — The only person to draw a larger crowd at Southeastern Conference Media Days than Alabama coach Nick Saban was SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.
Unlike Slive, Saban dismissed the notion that his football program wields too much power. Like Slive, Saban had plenty to say.
The most thought-provoking proposal by Saban was a general idea that a surcharge could be placed on tickets to Penn State athletic events this year in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the proceeds given to organizations that fight child abuse.
Saban reasoned that would be a better solution than penalizing the Penn State program.
“What I always try to think of is, you know, what do we want the outcome to be?” Saban said. “If there’s some kind of way that we could create a win-win — I just threw out a tax on every ticket at every athletic event and donate all the money to organizations that prevent child abuse — would be more of a win-win than worrying about punishing someone.
“Probably not a very good idea, and I probably shouldn’t have said it. I just think that more focus on outcome is always more beneficial that might create a situation in the future that would be beneficial to someone.”
Saban also said the time has come for the SEC to expand from an eight- to a nine-game conference schedule.
“The No. 1 priority should be that every player should have the opportunity to play every school in the SEC rather than being so divisional-oriented,” Saban said. “I think that should be the No. 1 priority in scheduling.”
Spurred by Spurrier
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wisecracked during his media session Tuesday that if he made the schedule, he’d have LSU playing Georgia and his team playing Ole Miss.
Everyone laughed — except Ole Miss.
The Rebels know their program is in the SEC basement — Ole Miss went 2-10 last season and has lost 16 of its last 17 conference games since the end of 2009 — but there is still pride in Oxford, Miss.
Thursday, Spurrier’s sound bite met at least muted fury from first-year Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
“My thought would be that in 2013, they’re on our schedule,” Freeze said. “We will circle that date and maybe change his perspective about what he thinks about Ole Miss football.”
Rebels linebacker Mike Marry had a different reaction.
“It’s our fault. We haven’t been winning,” Marry said. “We can’t be mad at him. The only way we can change that is to start winning.”
Williams puts play in past
There were some eye-raising decisions on which players to bring and not to bring at this year’s Media Days.
LSU left Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu at home and brought popular but untested quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Georgia didn’t bring 3,000-yard passer Aaron Murray, who is at an Elite 11 camp. And Alabama left behind its BCS championship game hero, quarterback A.J. McCarron, but brought tight end Michael Williams.
Williams famously got stripped of the ball at the goal line for an interception by LSU safety Eric Reid on a trick pass from Marquis Maze (Reid was at Media Days), helping the Tigers to their 9-6 overtime win in November in Tuscaloosa.
Not surprisingly, Williams was asked to revisit the play Thursday.
“In the SEC, plays are going to happen both ways,” Williams said. “That one didn’t go my way. I was down that night, but we have a 24-hour rule. I got up the next morning to run, got it out of my mind and finished the season.”
The way Alabama finished the season probably also helped.
Lacy ready to lace ’em up
Saban said junior running back Eddie Lacy from Dutchtown is recovered and ready to play after being slowed by a turf toe injury last season that eventually required surgery.
“Eddie has done extremely well over the summer,” Saban said.
Lacy played in 12 games last season and is Bama’s top returning rusher with 674 yards and seven touchdowns on 95 carries.
“He’s back to doing everything he was doing before,” Williams said. “The spin move is back.”
Mettenberger draws raves
Georgia wide receiver
Tavarres King was on the team with Mettenberger when he was a quarterback there, and said LSU fans should expect big things from the junior signal-caller.
“He’s a hard worker and wants to perfect his craft,” King said. “And he can throw it eight miles. He’s got a cannon on him.
“I think he’s ready. He knows what it’s like to play in the SEC and be a guy who’s counted on.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt said he’s be pulling for Mettenberger this season — unless the Tigers play the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game.