The opening of S.E.C. Media Days in Birmingham marks the unofficial start to another College Football season.
The headquarters hotel jam packed with hundreds of reporters and photographers from throughout the Southeast..
New Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron is making his debut as a Head Coach among the assembled masses.
The former Defensive Line Coach for National Champion USC says his new position as the Rebels Head Man won't hurt his reputation as a fire-breather on the sidelines.
After having gone through a rigorous Spring Practice with their new head man, Rebel Players say what you see is what you get with Coach 'O'.
By SORAYA NADIA McDONALD
Associated Press Writer
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) - Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, fined
$10,000 for avoiding the Southeastern Conference media days in a
legal tiff last year, returned Wednesday to talk football but had
to deal with lawyer and police blotter issues as well.
"This is the kickoff of the season," he said. "Most of the
issues are over with."
SEC commissioner Mike Slive fined Fulmer for missing last year's
event, which he addressed via speakerphone. At the time, lawyers
representing two former Alabama assistant coaches in a lawsuit
against the NCAA had vowed to subpoena him if he crossed state
lines to attend.
"Last year, it didn't have anything to do with subpoenas. It
was a jurisdiction issue," said Fulmer, who declined to discuss
details of the legal cases.
SEC officials had said they would have a "heightened
awareness" but did not plan any extra security to protect Fulmer,
who was a confidential witness in an NCAA investigation that landed
Alabama on probation. All appeared to go smoothly Wednesday for
Fulmer, who appeared in a hotel room before credentialed news
reporters, not the general public.
Senior quarterback Rick Clausen said the riff with Alabama
wouldn't heighten the rivalry between the two schools.
"Whenever you play anybody in the SEC, you've got to bring your
A-game or else you'll get beat," Clausen said.
Whether or not he wanted to talk about football, Fulmer had to
address the off-the-field actions of his athletes: Thirteen
Tennessee players have either been cited or arrested for offenses
ranging from aggravated assault to underage drinking since February
"We've lost a couple good players because of that," Fulmer
said. "We're working really diligently to get those issues
Athletes getting arrested has become almost commonplace, but, he
said, "We've had more than our share, and more than we intend to
Tennessee players participate in a program the SEC is installing
called MVP - Mentors in Violence Prevention - and Fulmer said his
staff has been proactive in preventing athletes from embarrassing
the school by getting into fights. "There's places that our kids
go on campus, and we frequent those places from time to time just
to let them know we're there," Fulmer said.
Most coaches, Fulmer said, have about five players who create
bad press for a team of about 85 players.
"It's tough putting 17-, 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old guys in a
situation where every decision they make is a life-changing
decision," Clausen said.
Though Tennessee is viewed by many as a favorite in the
conference, Fulmer isn't taking rival coach Steve Spurrier, who
returned to the SEC to coach South Carolina, for granted. Fulmer
and Spurrier enjoyed a heated rivalry when Spurrier coached at
"We didn't beat him enough in Florida. When I first heard he
was coming back, I said 'Aw crap,"' Fulmer said jokingly.
Fulmer isn't dishing advice to the four new coaches in the
conference, least of all Spurrier. "He's got all the answers
anyway," Fulmer said.
Urban Meyer will coach his alma mater at Florida, Ed Orgeron
will start at Mississippi and Les Miles enters his first year at
"The thing that we've done the best is we've stayed good as a
staff and the recruiting base has pretty much stayed the same,"
Steve Spurrier's return to the Southeastern
Conference drew reactions ranging from excitement to curiosity to
Not surprisingly, the latter response came from Tennessee's
Phillip Fulmer, Spurrier's chief SEC rival during his days with the
Yep, Spurrier is back in the SEC East, this time at South
Carolina. He brings the charismatic swagger, the winning track
record and a steady supply of one-liners.
But despite Fulmer's initial reaction to the return of Spurrier,
the ol' Ball Coach knows the 2005 Gamecocks aren't going to strike
fear in SEC foes the way his Mighty Gators did.
Unlike the old days when Spurrier's poormouthing drew chuckles
from skeptical audiences, he had a little more credibility when he
described modest short-term prospects Wednesday at the SEC media
days. Tennessee, Georgia and, yes, Florida are all more highly
rated in the SEC East.
"We need to beat somebody first before those guys are going to
worry about South Carolina," Spurrier said. "Some people are
trying to make us one of their rivals.
"Hopefully we get a little respect, but we've got to earn it.
You can't just say 'Spurrier's coaching South Carolina.' That's not
going to mean much to the players."
He's one of four new coaches in the SEC. Florida's Urban Meyer
and Mississippi's Ed Orgeron also took the podium Wednesday while
LSU's Les Miles gets his turn Friday.
None generated quite the attention Spurrier has been getting
after an ill-fated turn in the NFL.
The Gamecocks went 6-5 under Lou Holtz last season after two
straight losing years. The offseason has taken a further toll on
A string of arrests, suspensions and dismissals cost the team
leading rusher Demetris Summers and defensive star Moe Thompson,
among others. Plus, the university has proposed a two-year
probation and loss of four scholarships over two seasons because of
NCAA violations committed under Holtz.
Still, Spurrier is happy to be back in the college ranks where
he had his greatest triumphs - including a national championship in
1996 - after a two-year foray into the NFL with the Washington
Redskins. Not that he used the words "Redskins" or "NFL" much
in addressing reporters.
"It's a lot more fun hanging around the SEC than it was in the
other league I was in a couple of years," Spurrier said.
Jokes aside, he's not shying away from talk about turning South
Carolina into a league contender, as he did with the Gators after
arriving at Florida in 1990.
"South Carolina is a school with all the resources to be
successful," Spurrier said. "It has not done that much in the
past, but everything's there as far as the stadium, the facilities,
the fans. We have absolutely no excuses to getting it done."
Neither does Meyer, the latest coach trying to live up to the
Spurrier-created expectations at Florida.
Meyer said he's not dwelling on the expectations in Gator
Country. He said he enjoyed watching Spurrier's Gators on
television but called that era "over," "old news" and
"history" in rapid succession.
"I think the fact that Coach Spurrier is back in the conference
is great for national exposure, great for the game," Meyer said.
Fulmer said simply, "We didn't beat him enough at Florida."
Meyer has impressive credentials of his own, including a 12-0
record at Utah last season and his own innovative, prolific
He has inherited some advantages on the field: an experienced
quarterback in Chris Leak and a deep and talented roster. Meyer
said Leak's experience running an offense out of the shotgun should
help make for a quicker transition to his complex system, which
produced top overall NFL draft pick Alex Smith of Utah.
"On offense, if you look at our history, the first year has
been OK and the second year has been really good," Meyer said.
"We need to bypass that first year. We have intelligent players
that have had success in the shotgun offense, so I think we can put
the system in much quicker."