With their dueling Media Days last week, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast conference vied for attention but also fired a few salvos – mainly from the ACC side – about which is the “best” conference in college football.

The “best conference” crown is unofficial, of course, a topic for fan debate and offseason conversation. However, schools do use it in recruiting and there might be a small subliminal effect on the various early-season rankings that seem to infuriate some people to no end. Certainly, the SEC has both claimed the title and exploited it for publicity for several years and can’t feel too defensive when another league fires backs.

I think the overall results in 2016 favored the ACC clearly – their 10-4 head-to-head advantage over the SEC was its most decisive edge in inter-conference games between the two since 1990. Five of those wins were by two teams – Clemson and Florida State, of course – but they are ACC members so you don’t just blame scheduling. Wins are wins. The Big 10 also entered the conversation loudly last year but faded badly in postseason play.

One interesting note came from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, when asked whether he would be pulling for conference compatriot FSU or alma mater Alabama in the marquee opener of the 2017 season.

Swinney opted for pragmatism over old-school sentiment.

“I’m pulling for a great game and I’m pulling for the ‘Noles,” Swinney said, an answer that makes sense in that a subsequent Clemson win over FSU would then look that much better on the Tigers’ resume.

For some unfathomable reason, no one at SEC Media Days asked Nick Saban the parallel question – would he be “pulling” for Auburn or Clemson in Week Two? The logical answer would be the same as Swinney’s – you pull for the team in your conference and an Auburn win would be better for Alabama (if not Alabama fans.)

The actual answer, had Saban been queried, probably would have contained the word “hypothetical,” possibly modified by any of a wide range of adjectives.

A quick reminder: Alabama will open its season against ACC opposition in (at least) each of the next three seasons, facing FSU this September, Louisville in 2018 and Duke in 2019.

Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant coached dozens of great players in his career but one can argue that the first was eventual College Football Hall of Fame quarterback Vito “Babe” Parilli, the former Kentucky great who passed away Saturday at the age of 87.

Parilli, who went on to a successful pro career in the old American Football League and earned a World championship ring as Joe Namath’s backup in Super Bowl III, was, as most former Bryant players were, a lifelong believer in his college coach. As recently as last January, Parilli said in an article in the Ashland (Ky.) Daily Mail that Bryant deserved to be credit with a seventh national championship for the 1950 Kentucky team that knocked off No. 1 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. The Associated Press named its national champion prior to the bowl games until 1965, a policy that may have deprived UK in 1950 but benefited Bryant’s 1964 Alabama team.

The Alabama men’s basketball team is scheduled to begin its NCAA-permitted practice period for its upcoming trip to Canada today. The practices might not get quite the coverage that the NBA Lonzo Ball Summer League is getting but anticipation is high for the upcoming season.


Reach Cecil Hurt at cecilhurt@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.