Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SEC Spring Meetings... Circus and a Half

It's not a surprise to anyone following the SEC that this year's edition of the Spring Meetings had a real possibility of fireworks. There was Urban Meyer and Lane Kiffin, who were publicly feuding over remarks made by Kiffin regarding Meyer and the Gators. There was Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, who have seen assistants switch sides, and public remarks made about their new allegiance. There was Les Miles, fiery, feisty, coming off a disappointing season. Houston Nutt, always good for a batshit soundbite. Bobby Petrino, he of always looking for a new job fame. Rich Brooks coming off his third straight bowl win and a player just ruled ineligible for a failed drug test. Bobby Johnson coming off his most successful season at Vandy. New coaches like Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen. And of course, there was Steve Spurrier, who seems to relish the opportunity to make snarky smarmy comments about the opposition. Suffice to say this Spring Meeting had all the potential needed to make it deliciously awesome.

However, most thought like everything else in college football, this was all hype with no substance. Clearly no head coach would address another head coach directly. I mean, that simply can't happen. Right? No? Oh...
Earlier in the day Kiffin was asked whether he intended to apologize again to Urban Meyer for accusing the Florida coach of breaking NCAA recruiting rules. The 34-year-old Kiffin responded by pointed out he never heard from Spurrier after Spurrier questioned whether Kiffin had taken the NCAA recruiting test before calling prospects at Tennessee.

“I’m still waiting for coach Spurrier’s apology for calling me out on the first day I was there, saying I didn’t take my test,” Kiffin said. “I haven’t gotten that yet, either.”

Told of Kiffin’s comments, Spurrier shook his head, paused and spun around and faced Kiffin, who was waiting to get on an elevator.

“I didn’t accuse you of cheating,” Spurrier said, pointing toward Kiffin. “I said, ‘Is it permissible to call recruits before he’s announced as head coach, before you take the test?’ ”

As Kiffin turned red in the face, Spurrier told reporters he did not realize coaches could take the test online before arriving at their new school, as Kiffin did.

After Kiffin, Kentucky’s Rich Brooks, Auburn’s Gene Chizik and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino filed into the elevator, Spurrier stepped on and again said: “I didn’t say he broke the rules.”

All the while, Kiffin remained silent — for one of the few times in his six months as the Vols’ coach.

My God in heaven above. Yes, this was simply a conversation outside an elevator. But in the world of college football, in the sports industry larger than life known as the SEC, this is rare. Sure, coaches take jabs at opposition, fans, and rival schools in the media or press junkets. But rare is the instance when a coach actually squares off with another coach. And even rarer is the person who wants to challenge the master of coach smackage, Steve Spurrier.

This has gotten so out of hand that even conference commissioner Mike Slive stepped in and addressed the coaches. He spoke of the general idea that what's good for one is good for all, and what makes one look amateurish and immature makes everyone look like a jaded 6-year old. The key component of Slive's pleading and commissioner edict was professionalism:
"The final analysis, what's good for one institution in this league is good for all institutions in this league, and what's not good for one institution is not good for everybody in the league. We're all in this together," Slive said.

Slive addressed the SEC football coaches and told them to end the smack talk. He talked to the coaches about "principles" the league adopted several years ago concerning coaches' behavior. He said coaches should remember "what's in the best interest in the league long-term."

I would argue just the opposite. Love him or hate him, think he's unethical or not, Kiffin stirring the pot and spouting off has kept SEC football on the national stove for months past normal now. It's the doldrums of May, soon to be June, and folks are still talking about the upcoming SEC football season, even more so than normal. Kiffin has his problems, but the man is sheer entertaining. Sort of reminds me of a visor clad coach back at Florida in the mid-90's, who apparently has forgot this little part of his own past.

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