HOOVER, Ala . — During an opening address at Southeastern Conference Media Days that marked his 10th year as commissioner, Mike Slive’s message was one of triumph and progress.
“How far we’ve come,” Slive said.
Slive pointed to 62 national championships in 16 sports (nine in 2011-12); the success of women’s athletics; the rise of minority head coaches; revenue that has nearly tripled; expansion; and a college football playoff as examples of major successes during his tenure.
But in a speech that quoted Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, and Muhammad Ali, Slive also looked to the future.
The league is still discussing a possible SEC television network, which is now being called “Project SEC” instead of “Project X,” but Slive declined to divulge details.
“I know you want me to say more,” Slive said. “I won’t say more. I will, though, before I get too much older and before you get too much older.”
He also said the league is focused on trimming the NCAA rule book and increasing the amount of full scholarships to provide to student-athletes.
In football, Slive said the playoff format is far from finished, with decisions left to make about revenue distribution, playing sites and a selection process. As for the Champions Bowl, the game between the SEC and Big 12, Slive said it “will be placed into a bowl yet to be determined,” meaning the inaugural game on Jan. 1, 2015, will replace an existing bowl.
V is for Vandy
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin joked that he was glad Missouri coach Gary Pinkel didn’t bring his quarterback — also named James Franklin — to Media Days.
It might have made him feel a lot like he did here a year ago.
“Last year when we arrived, I wanted to get a feel for the place,” Franklin said. “Walked right through Radio Row. Ended up in the mall (attached to the Wynfrey Hotel). Walked back. Not one person said one thing to me.
“Things have changed a little bit since then.”
Since then, Franklin and his Commodores have made a splash. He became the first Vandy coach to lead his program to a bowl appearance in his first season, and despite losing the Liberty Bowl to Cincinnati and finishing 6-7, the Commodores recruited well.
“There’s a buzz about Vanderbilt football right now that there hasn’t been for a long time,” Franklin said. “ I think our fan base and the community is really excited about where we’re going, what we’re doing.”
Apparently, Vandy isn’t just going shopping.
Gamecock a fan of Mathieu
With Alshon Jeffery gone, there are plenty of receiving yards up for grabs at South Carolina.
That’s good news for wideout Ace Sanders, who’s also looking forward to measuring himself against the SEC’s best defensive backs. On that note, Sanders has an Oct. 13 trip to LSU circled on his calendar.
The Tigers boast one of the nation’s top secondary units and one of the best defensive players in cornerback Tyrann Mathieu — whom he’s especially excited to play against.
“His knack to find the ball is unbelievable,” Sanders said. “Anytime he’s around the ball, some kind of way he always comes up with it and is in the end zone. It’s real rare that you can find somebody that does that.
“He’s somebody you really have to watch the whole time he’s on the field. You have to pay attention and know where No. 7 is.”
Elvis starts comeback tour
Missouri offensive lineman Elvis Fisher is just excited to be able to play football again.
Fisher missed the entire 2011 season with a patella tendon injury, one that had his leg completely immobilized for 5-6 weeks. He was finally able to walk with a brace more than two months after surgery.
“I definitely had to learn how to walk again,” Fisher said. “It was terrifying. I couldn’t move it. They (rehab workers) had to move it for me.”
Fisher, who started 40 games for Missouri from 2008-10, was able to return this season after being granted a sixth year from the NCAA, a ruling similar to the one this year for LSU offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk.
Both Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and wide receiver Ryan Swope rocked cowboy boots during their interview sessions to go with their Aggie maroon-colored suits.
“I don’t think I actually own any brown shoes,” said Joeckel, whose twin brother Matt Joeckel is an A&M quarterback.
Tigers make watch lists
Two more preseason watch lists have been released, with a total of five LSU players listed.
LSU defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, along with offensive tackles Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk, were named to the Lombardi Award watch list. Meanwhile, middle linebacker Kevin Minter was named to the Butkus Award watch list.
The Lombardi goes to the nation’s top interior lineman.
Crunching the numbers
Missouri is one of just six BCS schools and one of only two in the SEC to win at least eight games every season since 2006. LSU is the other.
Former LSU recruiting coordinator Josh Henson is now in his fourth year at Missouri. Ex-LSU special teams coach Joe Robinson is entering his first season as special teams/tight ends coach at South Carolina.
The SEC approved a record 1,142 credentials for this year’s event as of Monday night. Last year’s Media Days drew slightly more than 1,000 media members.
Tiger Town Wednesday
LSU coach Les Miles and three players — quarterback Zach Mettenberger, safety Eric Reid and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — are scheduled to travel here Wednesday for their turn at SEC Media Days.
Also here will be players and coaches from Florida, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn.