Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin speaks to reporters at the SEC media day Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 7:36 PM
The fluffy speeches and the ceremonial ribbon-cutting were actually a couple of weeks ago, but you can consider Texas A&M and Missouri officially welcomed AND indoctrinated into the Southeastern Conference now that both schools have been through the wringer known as SEC Media Days.
The only thing left is to play a game, and the two fine institutions have heard tale for a good nine months now of the physical horrors that await them on the greensward,
For coaches and select players, the walk into the packed media days ballroom can be just about as daunting, unless you’re an old pro like South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
According to the Internet transcript of the event, the Head Ball Coach put it this way about playing in the conference that has claimed the last six national championships.
“It’s easier to win the national championship than the SEC,” he said. “Ask Nick Saban.”
You see, Aggies and Mizzou, that’s the way you do it in the SEC. The Head Ball Coach is the master of it. Notice the subtle dig he took at a rival, Alabama, by reminding everybody that Alabama’s national championship season last year did not include an SEC championship.
And maybe he made some new LSU friends, though the Tigers have never been particularly enamored with him, with his gentle reminder that Les Miles has last year’s SEC championship trophy.
Or sometimes, maybe it’s not so subtle.
Again, I give you Spurrier, who is to media days what Jimi Hendrix was to Woodstock.
Asked if he had a hand in making sure that South Carolina had an open date before this year’s game with Arkansas — which has kind of had his Gamecocks’ number of late — Spurrier could have just said no.
Inserted, once again, from the transcript: “You think I made the schedule? If I made the schedule, Georgia would be playing LSU and we’d be playing Ole Miss.”
It’s the other way around, of course, and Spurrier did pause long enough to sort of apologize to the Rebels. Or at least to say, “I hope Ole Miss doesn’t get mad at me.”
But, the theme on the opening day was the arrival of the newcomers, Texas A&M and Missouri, both of whom took their turns mostly answering questions about if they were shaking in their boots (more about footwear later) at the football upgrade.
Miles, although he doesn’t go to Hoover, Ala., until Wednesday, but came to the SEC from Big 12 Oklahoma State, famously said in the offseason that the new duo “better be ready to strap it on.”
Aggie Coach Kevin Sumlin hardly had time to say “howdy” — the accepted A&M greeting — when he was asked if he realized his schedule this year would include the last six national champions (and if the Aggies had found a way to keep playing Texas, it would have been seven).
“We knew that when we took the job,” Sumlin said.
And he took it anyway? Oh, the horrors.
Sumlin is an even more interesting case for scientists of SEC football.
He’s not only new to the SEC, he’s new to Aggieland, from Houston, and he presumably will be attempting to bring one of those gimmicky, pass-happy offenses into the defensive-intensive SEC.
Sumlin pointed out that he took his Houston pop-gun offensive show to Starkville and beat Mississippi State one time. I doubt that impressed the room much.
But he left hints that’s he’s trying to reform, that it’s the SEC that might be in for a shock if they defend only his slick passing game.
“People say we throw the ball all the time. That’s fine. I’d like for people to think that. That’s not necessarily the truth.”
The truth, he said, is that “We need to be bigger and faster — how is that? — against SEC defenses.
“What’s my assessment. It’s a pretty damn hard league. That’s my assessment.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel seemed to still have one foot in the Big 12, still proud of it.
“Sometimes, people act like we’ve been playing a bunch of high schools,” he said. “We’ve played in a pretty good league.
“’I’d be disappointed if we were intimidated. We understand the great league we’re coming into. We all know how it works ... there’s going to be analysis (of A&M and Mizzou) every single week.”
His wide receiver, T.J. Moe, added, “People talk about how good SEC defenses are but don’t take into account how good Big 12 offenses are.”
Poe figured a lot of the big offensive stars in his former league, including himself, would have wound up on defense in the SEC and, as for those six straight national championships:
“All 12 teams didn’t win it. Just one (per year) did.”
On the other hand, maybe it won’t be that big of a transition.
All three of the Aggies’ players showed up in maroon blazers Tuesday, with two of them also sporting cowboy boots to complete the ensemble.
Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel explained that “These are the only formal brown shoes I own.”
Maybe they’ll get along just fine.